P. D. Kelley
I feel privileged to join the Rogue Theatre family where I plan to review musical performances, to perk up interest in upcoming events, get some background info on the artists (maybe some interviews…uh, first dibs on Jonny Lang!) and, in general, promote the jewel of our fair city and the Rogue Valley, this marvelous gem of a theatre that has survived the end of the Great Depression, a World War, Vietnam, the protests of the Civil Rights era, Women’s Liberation, and, (gasp!) DISCO! The architecture and décor of the Rogue is Art Moderne and was one of the era’s state of the art movie venues; also that her “futuristic” look was a conscious departure from the more ornate theatre designs of the 30’s and 40’s. I just know that I feel like I’m stepping into the elegant past when I enter the lobby. She’ll be 80 years old next year and she’s had a few face lifts over the decades. Here’s hoping she can get a bit more than that in the near future if funding comes through. I’ve heard more than one artist admire her style and say onstage something like, “You’ve got a thing of beauty here.” I agree.
I know more about theater than I do musical performances but I’ve been around music and musicians all my life. My instrument has been my voice but I’ve played piano and am a novice bass guitar player. Growing up in the sixties means I got to hear some music icons (The Who, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Jimi Hendrix, etc.) I even remember most of it. So this blog will be the work of an aficionado with more enthusiasm than knowledge but I got peeps who have promised to keep me from wandering off into the weeds.
I was lucky enough to have a seat in the house Saturday, August 12th when The Weepies came to town. I knew nothing about this husband and wife duo but am now a fan. According to their social media pages they have an “Aw shucks” story. Girl (Deb Talan) admires the work of Boy (Steve Tannen) and vice versa. The two singer/songwriters finally meet up, play music, fall in love, become The Weepies, record music in bedrooms, get a record deal, make CD’s, develop a following, get their music on the soundtracks of television and films, go on tour and presto! Some years (and three kids) later show up in Grants Pass. No big tour bus, just them, the kids, a nanny, a mini -van and two guitars. They used the house equipment for the most part, and were unassuming, funny, clearly still gob-smacked with each other and lots of fun to watch and listen to. The music is a mix of folk, pop, and indie and consists mostly of original material. Both are talented guitarists and Steve did a turn on the house piano. He is an excellent story-teller, and has no trouble making fun of how unstylish they are. Which, of course, makes them very stylish indeed. They seem to have a loyal fan base and inspire folks to come up to them later and relate how a particular song “changed my life.” If this sounds like your cuppa, be sure to catch them next time as I’m guessing they’ll be back.
Opening for The Weepies was a local duo, Verbs and Nouns, featuring Jared Masters on electric guitar and Emily Turner on the standup (or upright) bass. I gathered from Emily’s Facebook page and some local reviews that they have been together a little more than a year and have local fans sending out lots of positive chatter. I can see why. Smooooth is the word I would use for their blend of jazz and blues with a hint of Latin swing. Turner’s voice is made for a slow and sultry delivery and she even did a bit of scat. And oh, man, she rips on that bass which is taller than she is in heels. Masters has a bright, intense sound on his strat style guitar and the combination is the definition of easy listening with an edgy surprise every once in awhile. If I have one complaint it is that every number had almost the same tempo. They played original songs and put their spin on some old favorites (Summertime and Fever) but if they called and asked, I would tell them to mix it up a bit. Also I would beg Turner for some bass lessons. Watch social media for where they will be next.
Catch you on the flip side…