Grand (public) opening at Valley Smokehouse
Ten days ago, on January 20, I had a gig at the brand-new Valley Smokehouse in Staunton, and in fact it was the very first public musical show there since they formally opened around the middle of this month. In preparation for the grand opening, they have hosted a few private events over the last few months, most notably a show by Michael Allman -- the son of Gregg Allman, who died in May of last year. My show all came about rather suddenly, and thanks to local businessman, radio host, and concert promoter John Huggins, I was the one slated to fill the bill. The requested genre of music was "Americana," preferably with an upbeat tempo, and I know plenty of songs that fit that description.
To my surprise, there were at least a dozen people already at Valley Smokehouse when I arrived at 5:20. The owner of the Valley Smokehouse, Gary Ingram, wasn't sure how many customers to expect on his first Saturday night, but it was evidentally more than satisfactory. Unlike my previous four public performances (all at Bedlam Brewing), I didn't have to bring my own sound system, since they have a very impressive such system already set up. That greatly simplified things for me, and I was able to get started playing just about at the designated time of 5:30.
With only one full day to prepare for the event, I was a little rusty on some of the songs. For example, on "Witchy Woman," I didn't have all the right chords until I had gone through the first verse, but it was pretty good after that. The harmonica part sounded pretty good, at least. I was told later on that the sound quality was very good compared to when I played in Bedlam Brewing back last June. (That was my first show there inside, and I was too cautious about the amplifier volume.) As you can see in the complete set list below, I stuck to my standard Eagles and Ozark Mountain Daredevils tunes, with several country songs and several rock songs mixed in along the way. I was pleased that I was able to reach the high falsetto notes on Chris Isaacs' song "Wicked Game," along with a harmonica that adds a soulful element. I thought I did very well on Billy Joel's "Piano Man" (on which the harmonica is prominent), but didn't elicit as much audience response as I had hoped. You never know. Around 7:30 or so, I took a break lasting about 10 minutes.
By the time the second half of the show got started, I realized that I just wasn't going to be able to fit in many of the songs that I had planned. I tried to focus on getting ready for each new song (getting the right harmonica, etc.) and making sure that I drank enough water. I recently figured out that the harmonica part in the Ozark Mountain Daredevils' song "Standing On the Rock" is played in "cross-harp" style using a C harmonica, rather than a G harmonica as I had been doing, and for the first time, I played it in public like it's supposed to be played! I was also proud of the way Sheryl Crow's "My Favorite Mistake" and Tom Petty's "Here Comes My Girl" sounded. Some of the folks in the audience asked me where they could leave a tip, and I was embarrassed to have forgotten to bring a suitable tip jar. On several occasions I got strong applause, and everyone seemed very satisfied by the way the music sounded. At first I was a little nervous about playing a new venue, but I was getting comfortable toward the end.
This was my first public performance (other than the usual open mic events at Queen City Brewing) since November 17; see my (typically belated) December 31 blog post.
I was very impressed by the appearance of the Valley Smokehouse. They really put a lot of effort into decorating the walls with musical memorabilia and building a carpeted stage with a first-class sound system. They serve great barbecue food and a variety of beer, and I think they have an excellent chance to become a big success. (The one drawback I noted is the lack of visibility from the adjoining street; they need a big flashy sign, and they need to get all those U-Haul rental trucks moved out of the way.) In any event, I was proud to serve as the first musical performer for the general public, and I truly look forward to playing there on more occasions in the future!
Set list: HYUGE!
Over the course of well over three and a half hours, I did 41 songs altogether, one of which (the Allman Brothers' "Melissa") I did a second time, on request, just as I was about to pack up at 9:05 or so. It's a beautiful song, and I was happy to play it again. Because I had to skip over many songs due to lack of time, and the list of songs that I prepared ahead of time was not in the same order as the pages in my binder, I'm frankly not certain exactly which songs came when. But aside from the precise sequence, the following list is pretty accuate at least.
|Seq-uence||Group||Song title||Harmonica? (key)|
|2||Eagles||Certain Kind Of Fool|
|6||Johnny Cash||Ring Of Fire||G|
|7||Waylon Jennings||Luckenbach, Texas|
|8||Ozark Mountain Daredevils||Standing On The Rock||C|
|9||Creedence Clearwater Revival||Proud Mary||D|
|10||Creedence Clearwater Revival||Green River|
|11||Doobie Brothers||China Grove|
|12||Doobie Brothers||Listen To The Music|
|13||John Cougar Mellencamp||Paper In Fire||A|
|14||Hootie & the Blowfish||Only Want To Be With You|
|15||Simon & Garfunkle||Mrs. Robinson|
|16||Kansas||Dust In The Wind||G|
|18||Soggy Bottom Boys||Man of Constant Sorrow|
|19||Doobie Brothers||Long Train Running||C|
|20||John Denver||Take Me Home, Country Roads|
|21||John Denver||Back Home Again|
|22||Billy Joel||Piano Man||C|
|23||Chris Isaacs||Wicked Game||A|
|24||Eagles||Train Leaves Here This Morning||E|
|25||(traditional)||Blue Ridge Mtns of Virginia|
|26||Andrew Clem||Better Left Unsaid||G|
|27||Bob Seger||Turn the Page||G|
|28||Steve Goodman||City of New Orleans|
|29||Stone Temple Pilots||Interstate Love Song||A|
|31||Eagles||Love Will Keep Us Alive||A|
|33||Ozark Mountain Daredevils||Leatherwood||A|
|34||Ozark Mountain Daredevils||Homemade Wine||A|
|35||Ozark Mountain Daredevils||If You Wanna Get To Heaven||F|
|36||Sheryl Crow||My Favorite Mistake|
|37||Gin Blossoms||Follow You Down||G|
|38||Tom Petty||I Won't Back Down||G|
|39||Tom Petty||Here Comes My Girl|
|40||Plain White T's||Rhythm of Love|
Other open mic events
For the record, here's a quick roundup of the times I have played at Queen City Brewing so far this year. The lists are based on my somewhat feeble memory, however, and may not be 100% accurate.
January 3 was marred by a harmonica flub on "Bennie and the Jets," due to dry lips and (perhaps) lack of practice. I really should do that one better. There weren't many musicians that night, so we each got to do extra songs, and some of the ones I did were not really that impressive.
- New Year's Day -- U2
- The Old Man Down the Road -- John Fogerty
- The Teacher -- Jethro Tull
- Cat's In the Cradle -- Harry Chapin
- Bennie and the Jets -- Elton John
- Year of the Cat -- Al Stewart
- Doobie Brothers -- Listen To The Music
January 10 was a little better but not as good as I'd like it to be. I played two David Bowie songs in recognition of the second anniversary of his passing. I made several changes to the chords in "Space Oddity," and surprised myself with a pretty effective rendition of "Golden Years." The two Moody Blues songs were a tribute to one of their members who had just passed away, Ray Thomas. (See below.)
- Space Oddity -- David Bowie
- Nights In White Satin -- Moody Blues
- The Story In Your Eyes -- Moody Blues
- Golden Years -- David Bowie
- I'm Not In Love -- 10 CC
[ CORRECTION: I originally included "Wild World" (by Cat Stevens) in the January 10 list, but later realized it was in December that I played that. ]
January 17 was indeed, according to host Fritz Horisk, "a superb night of music..." It was a relatively full slate of performers (me, Kimball Swanson, John Dull, Den Frumen, Calvin Stoltzfus, and Robin Shaw), so we each got to do just four songs. The first two songs I did were in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., since Monday was the official day of remembrance for him.
- Abraham, Martin, and John -- Dion
- Pride (In the Name of Love) -- U2
- The Voice -- Moody Blues
- Rebel, Rebel -- David Bowie
I passed on the January 24 open mic event because I had aggravated a small cut on my left index finger while playing at the Valley Smokehouse, and needed to let it heal. In fact, it's still bothering me...
R.I.P. Ray Thomas
The flute player for the Moody Blues, Ray Thomas, passed away on January 4, apparently due to complications from prostate cancer. He was the vocalist on many Moody Blues songs and wrote several of their lesser-known songs, of which my favorite is "For My Lady." I'll have to learn that one now. As a tribute to him and his wonderful group, I learned "The Voice," and relearned "The Story In Your Eyes," correcting some of the chords. (The Washington Post published an obituary on January 10, but I couldn't locate it using their online search function.)