Stumbling Across Musical Gold At A California Open Mic
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.
My 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.
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.
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.”
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.
Check Out Zachary Campos’ New Video From ‘The Prophet’ Album
Are you looking for fresh music that not only tells a compelling story but also delves into themes of love, heartbreak, and purpose? Look no further than ‘The Prophet’ album by Indie Rock artist Zachary Campos.
The 10-track material revolves around the fictional narrative of a prophet named Jeremiah who is sent to San Francisco by God to warn people about the apocalypse. But, his mission is derailed when he can’t resist the temptation of falling in love.
In order to find his goals, Jeremiah must confront his inner demons and overcome the obstacles.
Additionally, this album draws inspiration from the classic book ‘The Prophet’ by Khalil Gibran and features song titles named after its chapters. Nevertheless, ‘The Prophet’ also serves as a metaphor for the artist’s tumultuous past relationship.
In my opinion, there’s no denying that “Pain” is among the top tunes in this record. You will experience the steady and repetitive rhythm of drums, while his verses tell you how his chaotic drama started.
Most importantly, the frenetic and rebellious nature of his sound is due in large part to his collaboration with Josh Zuckermann and Tim J Abbott. Both producers bring their own perspectives to the table by delivering raw punkish energy.
What’s more, Zachary Campos achieves a lot for his visuals on a low budget, using a straightforward concept and a modest shooting location. Although it’s true creating chart-topping hits takes effort, today his art stands out due to its introspective tone.
In short, he writes compositions you can relate to.
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Pepé Willie’s Captivating Memoir Gives Insight And Inspiration
Pepé Willie has spent six decades in the music industry solidifying himself as the Godfather of the Minneapolis Sound. Most popularly known for his work as Prince’s first producer, Willie’s influence in the music industry reaches far deeper and wider than his Minnesota roots. His new memoir, “If You See Me: My Six Decade Journey in Rock and Roll.”, is filled with insightful views of the music industry and the amazing personal stories that have helped define Pepé Willie as an icon.
From Brooklyn Beginnings to the Music of Minneapolis
Pepé Willie has been immersed in music from an early age. With a family as deep in the music industry as Willie’s, it can be said that music was in his blood. At 15 he began working backstage at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater where he learned the ins and outs of the industry firsthand from artists like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Little Anthony and the Imperials. He began working on his music during this time.
Willie later moved to Minneapolis where he began the journey of creating his first demo. It was at this time that Pepé Willie started working with his wife’s cousin, Prince. He mentored the young guitar player and invited him to record with his group, 94 East. The rest, they say, is music history.
After decades of influence in the music industry as a producer, songwriter, and musician Pepé Willie started his own company Pepé Music Inc and his label, Reo Deo. His memoir, “If You See Me: My Six Decade Journey in Rock and Roll.”, is his latest legendary contribution to the music industry.
A Memoir of More than Memories
While “If You See Me: My Six Decade Journey in Rock and Roll,” is filled with six decades worth of stories and anecdotes featuring a never-ending list of legends of the music industry, it is Pepé’s insights and interjections that make the book so special.
Willie’s memoir is filled with insightful looks into the music industry. Throughout the memoir, Willie provides context for the evolution of the industry and the part he played in each step. Not only does he look back at six decades in music, but he looks forward to the future and provides his thoughts on where the music industry is headed. His account is a roadmap for any young musician looking to make it.
“If You See Me: My Six Decade Journey in Rock and Roll” is a beautiful and inspiring tome for those who want to know the ins and outs of the music industry. From the creative process of making music to the business savvy required to make it profitable, Pepé Willie covers it all. The memoir is filled with valuable insight into the industry with captivating stories of hard work, dedication, and inspiration woven throughout the pages from cover to cover.
“If You See Me: My Six Decade Journey in Rock and Roll” is published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press and is available wherever books are sold.
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Zachary Campos Addresses Depression In New Song “Uninhibited”
Zachary Campos has just released “Uninhibited,” a head-bobbing song that tackles difficult themes such as depression, sadness, and hopelessness. Finding the inner strength to be the person you are meant to be is the message he hopes listeners take away from this jam.
After several months, the long wait for his ‘Mandela Zen’ EP is over. Of course, the 5-track collection material includes “Uninhibited,” which was created during a time of uncertainty and self-doubt.
Certainly, this composition conveys the struggles and challenges faced by many, but also the resilience and determination to overcome them. It’s remarkable the way he executes his flow with a vocal range similar to his idols, Rakim and Johnny Cash.
According to Zachary, this is the best tune he has ever written in years, and it’s sure to resonate with music enthusiasts of all ages. Moreover, the rising talent from San Jose, California blends for the very first time smooth Indie Rock instrumentals with rhymes and raps.
As a matter of fact, “Uninhibited” is the beginning of his promising career now that he has adopted his authentic name and shed the former pseudonym of Mr. Johnny Ba$h.
Don’t forget to check out more emotional and thought-provoking pieces on all major streaming platforms.