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Stumbling Across Musical Gold At A California Open Mic

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California Open Mic

Guest Post By Sammy Milone

Open mic nights are like yard sales. With few exceptions, the quality of the merchandize is generally pretty inconsistent with a smattering of eclectic vanity pieces designed for individual tastes. But every once in a while – and usually by compete accident – you uncover a gem.

A few weeks ago, I accompanied friend who lives in the Bay area to an open mic in Mill Valley, California at a venue called Sweetwater Music Hall. As someone born and raised just outside of Philadelphia, I don’t get out west as much as I’d like. I’ve been to Sweetwater exactly once before a few years ago to check out Johnette Napolitano (formerly of Concrete Blonde) as she delighted a packed house with an inspired solo set. Sweetwater is a great sounding little venue for live music. And it’s pretty rare to find an open mic being hosted by someone as accomplished as Austin de Lone. With my expectations set to mediocre, I agreed to come out that Monday night.

sweetwater in the sunMy friend tells me that there was a time when Sweetwater’s open mic nights would regularly include many of the world class musicians who lived in the area: Sammy Hagar, Jerry Harrison, Huey Lewis and Carlos Santana would often sit in for a song or two – much to the delight of the ever adoring locals. While at least one of those casual gods could be spotted in the back of the room that Monday night, I’m sad to report that none of them took the stage.

On this night, it was mostly like other open mics you may have been too. Some talented performers, a group from the local high school shrieking into the microphone like Yoko Ono and at least one unfortunate soul who made the unforgivable sin of forgetting the words and/or the chords to their favorite Beatles song. Just your typical, ordinary, for the love of god please keep the drinks flowing Monday night open mic.

open mic
And then something special happened. The house lights dimmed and a six-foot tall, maniacal ball of energy appeared on the stage. The people at the table next to me whispered to us: “that guy was here last week, and he was fantastic!” But neither of them seemed to know who “that guy” was.

Turns out – that guy’s name is Alan Chapell. Chapell has a quirky stage presence that could easily hold the attention of a much larger room and combined with the charm and intimacy of someone who was playing in your living room. I’ve never seen someone command a room full of strangers to enthusiastically sing a song that they’d never heard before. But that’s exactly what happened when Chapell began singing “Soul Man”. From the very first song, Chapell had this crowd in the palm of his hands.

Chapell mostly plays the piano and sings. I say “mostly” because he kept getting up in the middle of songs or in between them to direct the crowd or share an aside off mic. He stood up and got the audience clapping during the third verse as Chapell sang a cappella on the song “Waiting”. Sort of reminded me of the great Jonathan Richman minus Tommy Larkin on drums as Chapell got the entire room clapping along.

Chapell did four songs that night – remarkable in that its sort of an unwritten rule at open mics that everyone is allowed to play only one or two songs. Getting asked to do another song by the host is almost the equivalent of a stand-up comic being called to Johnny Carson’s couch after their set. (Yeah, I’ve probably been watching too much of Showtime’s “I’m dying up here” – sue me.) Chapell most certainly did not squander his additional songs and closed with a haunting etude called “I’m Coming Over” – one which really drove home how vulnerable and sweet Chapell’s voice can be when he’s not screaming off mic.

guitar live show
I caught up with Chapell briefly after he left the stage. Turns out that he’s an east coast guy too. Chapell hails from New York City but occasionally spends time in the houseboat community in nearby Sausalito. He started coming out to the Bay area a few years ago to record an album with Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads fame and now views Sausalito as second home.

Chapell has a seven-piece band back in NYC, but has started playing shows with a smaller lineup – which is one of the reasons he was at Sweetwater that night. “I was initially reluctant to play without my full band, but I kept getting asked to play places where it wasn’t practical to bring everyone,” says Chapell. “We were invited to play a show in Sandpoint Idaho with the Flobots earlier this year and my violinist Lorenza Ponce and I were the only ones from my band who were able to make it. When that concert went over so well, I realized that I could be a bit more flexible in my approach.” So, while Chapell still mostly plays with the full band, he’s done stripped down shows opening for bands like Big Head Todd and the Gin Blossoms as well.

So, what’s next for Chapell? “We’re currently mixing my third album and are making plans for later this year to start recording my fourth. And we’re in discussions to play a show or two with the Bacon Brothers in August. Finally, I’ll have my whole band with me at City Winery in NYC on August 16th.”

chapell
I’ll be there at City Winery on August 16th. If you want to catch Chapell before he completely blows up, I suggest you be there too.

Sammy Milone is a part-time author and full-time skeptic. He lives with his wife Wendy and dog Niko in Lower Gwynedd Township, PA.

Hi, my name is Erick Ycaza. I have a BA in Advertising & Graphic Design. This blog is to provide you with daily music news and share my personal style.

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Blind Season Drop “The Dark Bedroom,” Watch This Lyric Video Here

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Blind Season - The Dark Bedroom
Do you consider yourself a life-long fan of Rock? If your answer is an affirmative yes, then check out Blind Season‘s lyric video for “The Dark Bedroom.” Defining its concept, the band from the Metro Detroit area thinks it represents a schizophrenic feeling. Moreover, lyrics capture emotional anguish. In other words, there’s a palpable sense which gives you the idea of being trapped in an isolating situation.

Here’s a bombastic original cut that maintains a core of heavy guitars from the very beginning. Most importantly, it’ll be featured on their upcoming album described as an ode to loneliness and toxicity. Somehow, this vision is a real reflection of today’s society. Influenced by Nirvana and Alice In Chains, “Dark Bedroom” gives listeners stellar moments with its striking instrumentation. Without further ado, Blind Season is more ready than ever to take their every musical ambition to the next level.

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Rock

Stream In Full: Space Of A Day’s Psychedelic Rock Song, “Popster”

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psychedelic rock song "Popster"
Positively, there are many reasons to hear Space of a Day‘s new Psychedelic Rock song, “Popster. As a matter of fact, the indie band wakes up a lot of nostalgia with a fantastic 1960s style. Winter is getting close, however, this track brings to your mind nothing but beaches and oceans. Those music lovers of Mamas & The Papas or The Cars will be glad to discover it. Undeniably, its concept is quite the opposite from their previous single, “The World Is Watching, which yields within a futuristic territory.

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On a side note, the cover art was designed by the legendary photographer Frank Melfi. All those bright colors make justice to the song’s message that motivates you to live happily in the present moment. Written by Ben Trexel, Autumn Yatabe, and Daniel Coyle, I think most of you will get hooked onto the upbeat chorus for something singable. Layered with groovy percussion, explosive guitar work, and punchy beats, Space of a Day provide an energizing sound like never before. What else could you ask for?…

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Rock

RYNO’s Brand New Single “Powerlines” Is Coming Out Tomorrow!

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Powerlines by RYNO
Hailing from New York City, RYNO shows no signs of stopping. His brand new single, “Powerlines” hits streaming services tomorrow, Friday, November 13th. The indie artist who opened the main stage of the Hard Rock Calling Festival for Sir Paul McCartney is back! On this occasion, his approach to music goes in a modern Pop-Rock direction. Fortunately, I already heard the preview, and I must confess he pours all his energy into it like never before.

There is so much emotion and power in his vocals that he doesn’t fail to induce a shiver down your spine. Nowadays, songs can be made in a D.I.Y. style and still be considered as chart-sounding material. A clear example of this is Billie Eilish and his brother Finneas O’Connell who won a Grammy early this year. Beyond any doubt, RYNO’s upcoming composition follows the same line as it was recorded during lockdown at his home studio. His creativity has no limits, and trust me, the final results have surpassed expectations. You can pre-save “Powerlines” on Spotify to have it immediately added to your library.

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Rock

Take Just 3 Minutes To Watch By Small Ruin’s “Like Heaven” Music Video

By Small Ruin’s “Like Heaven” music video keeps on receiving praise from the Rock community. He’s so passionate and you can hear that in every element of this new song.

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Joe Biden Presidente 2021

By Small Ruin‘s “Like Heaven” music video keeps on receiving praise from the Rock community. He’s so passionate and you can hear that in every element of this new song. Beneath the crunchy guitar riffs and drums, his lyrical narrative expresses romantic feelings. Without any exaggeration, this tune reveals the signs of someone that has found their soulmate. In other words, he’s referring to that special one you love and hence change your life completely for good.

It is common that By Small Ruin’s solid songwriting is relatable. Well, this seems to be an integral part of his artistic style, and it’s simply brilliant. Add to this, that most of his singles are actually inspired by real-life events, which is always a plus. On another note, the visuals show Bryan playing solo at his own studio like never before. He devoted so much of his time and energy to this project that is impossible not to like it. Stay tuned for more updates soon.

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Rock

Get Into The Shoegaze Pop World Of The Migraine Aura With This Debut EP

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the migraine aura
Hailing from Tacoma, WA, AJ Dudick has a very interesting artistic project called The Migraine Aura. Growing up as a music lover, he became obsessed with Rock, Punk, Metal, and his favorite hobby of playing the guitar became his passion. Interestingly enough, the present-day pandemic motivated him to write and record his debut EP. This ear-pleasing material features the collaboration of five trained vocalists for each track.

You can discover his Shoegaze Pop world (Gloom-Pop style) with high-quality cuts produced by the artist himself. Most of these tunes are 100% radio-friendly, plus, the raw vibrant energy truly gives you goosebumps. In terms of versatility, you’ll enjoy strident, blistering guitar chords, different tones, and lyrics that push an attractive narrative about relatable things. Believe it or not, it took him just 4 months to complete this album. Furthermore, listeners will feel a strong The Smiths, The Cure, and New Order influence throughout. Seriously, there’s a classic vibe to it as well. Above all, I highly recommend you support this project especially because The Migraine Aura is donating a good portion of his earnings from this new EP to the American Civil Liberties Union. Learn more on his website.

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