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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.

Rock

Shaun Mykal Walker, An Alt-Rock Singer You Should Be Listening To

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Shaun Mykal Walker, An Alt-Rock Singer You Should Be Listening To
There’s something captivating about Alt-Rock singer and multi-instrumentalist Shaun Mykal Walker‘s music. On his newest gem, “Baring My Soul” he brings roaring electric guitars, vibrant energy, and powerful vocals. What’s more, the sensation you get from hearing lyrics that talk about starting over in a new city is reflective. In fact, it was written based on his own personal experience after relocating from Australia to San Diego. Taking this into account, the song takes listeners to put themselves in other people’s shoes, raising thought-provoking questions about the need and experience of belonging. This release follows his last single, “Send In The Hero”. Press play below and watch this awesome clip.

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Lyrics

Sometimes these stories are trapped within my mind
And the words that follow are cold and unkind
It’s not about you it’s just how I sleep at night
And I know it’s not the best thing but
It’s gonna’ be alright

I feel like this city don’t know me at all
Or care for my troubles
When I’m down on my luck
Baring my soul

Please help I’m sorry, I apologize
This heart decaying gets lonely sometimes
If I’m a lone wolf that’s howling in the night
Then the city should listen, open it’s ears and eyes

I feel like this city don’t know me at all
Or care for my troubles
When I’m down on my luck
Baring my soul

Sometimes these stories are trapped within my mind
And the words that follow are cold and unkind
It’s not about you it’s just how I sleep at night
And I know it’s not the best thing but It’s gonna’ be alright

I feel like this city don’t know me at all
Or care for my troubles
When I’m down on my luck
Baring my soul I feel like this city don’t know me at all
Or care for my troubles
When I’m down on my luck Baring my soul, yeah

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Rock

Introducing Bedroom Ceilings’ Chill Indie Rock Music

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Bedroom Ceilings Release “Clairvoyance Is Never Simple” — LISTEN
Look no further, high-quality chill indie rock music is what Bedroom Ceilings has to offer. Recently, the American duo unleashes “Clairvoyance Is Never Simple”, a third single featured on their 8-track album, ‘Another Bulb Burned Out’. What’s more, you can instantly feel a relaxing sense due to the great vocals that complement the song’s acoustic-folk vibes.

With a lot of emotive verbal imagery, you can tell these lyrics can blow your mind in mere seconds. The Michigan-based artists that have an active 5-year career always keep harmony in their distinctive and versatile productions. Plus, they adopt a more evolved and polished sound than in the past. Incredibly, “Clairvoyance Is Never Simple” surpasses 14K streams on Spotify. Listen in full below.

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By Small Ruin Drops Alt-Rock Music Easy To Sing, “Feel Your Breath”

Whenever By Small Ruin drops a new tune, he gives you a good reason to sing his alt-rock music out loud. With “Feel Your Breath”, the indie artist from Athens, Georgia gets inspired by a true story of two lovers.

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By Small Ruin Drops Alt Rock Music Easy To Sing, "Feel Your Breath"

Whenever By Small Ruin drops a new tune, he gives you a good reason to sing his alt-rock music out loud. With “Feel Your Breath”, the indie artist from Athens, Georgia gets inspired by a true story of two lovers. He has never let go of the songwriting sensibilities which transform his lyrics into relatable poems.

The acoustics makes you feel good, plus, his emotionally direct message revolves around a long-distance relationship. Moreover, the music video perfectly captures the spirit of travel and love. Above all, I believe the more you hear “Feel Your Breath”, the more it grows on you, and the more it gets better. If By Small Ruin keeps on putting out releases of such exquisite caliber, he will definitely go far!

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Lyrics

Months alone
Long distance love with just our phones
I’ve traveled through the night
To knock on your door, turn on the lights

Now we’re face to face
And closer to the edge
Our hearts are racing fast
And I can feel your breath

My memory
Won’t serve me well, I had to see
The smile that always gave me comfort
That soon one day, I could say

Now we’re face to face
And closer to the edge
Our hearts are racing fast
And I can feel your breath

When morning comes
I’m headed back, don’t worry, love
I won’t be sad
I’ll play in my mind this time we had

How we are face to face
Slow dancing to the edge
Our hearts are racing fast
And I can feel your breath

Now we’re face to face
And closer to the edge
Our hearts are racing fast
And I can feel your breath

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Exclusive Premiere: RIZ Unleashes A Headbanging Rock Song, “Tribe”

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Exclusive Premiere: RIZ Unleashes A Headbanging Rock Song, "Tribe"
If this hard rock song entitled “Tribe” doesn’t get your head banging, then you ain’t human! Hailing from LA, RIZ has evolved musically with a fast and aggressive sound. There’s no doubt, he’s an artist with an undeniable energy and an amazingly strong voice. His comeback single, “Tribe” is included on his upcoming album, ‘The Bronx Bomber’, which will be available later this year.  Certainly, it’s pure fire, mostly due to his brilliant guitar work and heavy riffs, that is not to forget the ‘hey, yeah yeah’ catchy chorus… According to RIZ, the concept behind this masterpiece, represents the battle cry of the underdogs, the forgotten, and the ones who are getting the power back in their souls. In short, it’s about all of us who are interconnected in this world.  Isn’t that impressive? Stream in full below.

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Mark Henes’ Guitar Work Shines On “What Could You Be Right Now”

For those not familiar with Mark Henes, you’re about to relish his fantastic guitar work. Plus, the heavy riffs on his single “What Could You Be Right Now” hit you right in the feels.

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Mark Henes' Guitar Work Shines On "What Could You Be Right Now"

For those not familiar with Mark Henes, you’re about to relish his fantastic guitar work. Plus, the heavy riffs on his single “What Could You Be Right Now” hit you right in the feels.On this occasion, he’s betting on an energetic rockish vibe, which sounds way different than the great ballad “Arm Full Of Roses”. Conversely, the new song plays a different sonic concept. On the other hand, it’s literally an ode to the joys of domestic life.

The emerging Nashville-based artist invites us to think about commitments in relationships. Moving in with your lover is a big step forward in your life and this composition becomes the desires and the plea of the heart. I like the way he builds meaningful connections with listeners, as his authentic lyrics are always 100% relatable. Beyond the strings and the staccato hook, his melodies speak straight to the soul. Here I’m talking about a simple but brilliant song that makes you wonder if it’s time to settle down with your couple or not. At the end of the day, happiness is the ultimate goal.

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