April is looking like a concert-riffic month. I started off by seeing Antsy McClain (blog post here) as part of the Listening Room Festival (LRF), and I experienced the music of many of the LRF artists at the finale.
Last night I had the pleasure of experiencing 8 Ball Aitken‘s music.
8 Ball is an award winning musician who’s earned his way to the top of the Australian country charts. According to the ever reliable source, Wikipedia, his style is a little blues, a little country, a little Americana, and a little swamp. Aside from not knowing what the heck swamp music is, I’d say I agree.
I even wore my red cowboy boots in honor of the show!
8 Ball started off playing a sparkly, silver Telecaster. That let us know we were in for a unique house concert treat. It’s pretty rare to see electric instruments as part of house concerts, with perhaps the exception of keyboards.
Because of this, there was a bit of a problem getting the vocals loud enough compared to the guitar in the space we were in. Early on some of the lyrics were a bit drowned out. After some tinkering, the magic continued.
In general 8 Ball’s songs are upbeat and, well, funny. Song titles ranged from “$7/hour in a Chicken Suit” to “Never Mix Chocolate, Jack Daniels, and LSD” to “You go to hell, I’m going to Texas.” His #1 Australian country radio song is “She’s going to Mexico, I’m going to jail.”
His lyrics are quite witty.
He ended up changing instruments a few times through the night. From the sparkly Telecaster to an acoustic guitar. Then to a 3-stringed, cigar box guitar. He shredded to his song “You don’t need a parachute to skydive” and broke two of the three strings by the end of the song.
He’s also a mad kazoo player. He had a duel with a fan who played harmonica. While 8 Ball did a fine job on the kazoo, the harmonica player most definitely won the duel.
At the end of the show, 8 Ball had us clear some chairs away to make a dance floor. We did so he played a rockin’ song, and most people huddled around the outside of the dance floor. I was reminded of 8th grade and high school dances where no one wanted to be the first one to shake their bootie.
I took it up to myself to try to encourage people out to the center. The ladies started moving out and dancing. I pulled a couple of guys out there as well.
I don’t have too many complaints about house concerts. I really love them. But if I had to name one it would be the lack of movement at the shows. I almost always stand in the back of the room during house concerts so I can move. Normally I’m not doing a full-on bootie shake, but I sway, I move my feet. When I look in the crowd I see some swaying, but mostly people just sitting. Listening is great, but to me music is a full body experience: ears, brain, body, heart, and soul. It moves all of the parts of me. So I thought it was really cool that 8 Ball specifically made room for his highly danceable music. It was awesome to be a part of it.
Rather fittingly, 8 Ball ended the night with “Outback Bootie Call.” There may not have been bootie calls happening during the song, but booties were certainly shaking.
One of the fantastic things about house concerts is the people you meet. You get to meet the artist and have real conversations with him or her. Certainly this isn’t something that often happens at other venues. You also get to meet people you might not otherwise interact with in a more public setting.
Before the show I spoke with 8 Ball. He said he’s been touring for about 12 years now. He’s maintained the pace of about 220 shows per year for all of that time. His ultimate goal? To play in front of bigger crowds at festivals around the country. House concerts are great, but for him he likes the feel of being in front of that big crowd.
Which is part of the reason house concerts are so important. We can support artists like 8 Ball and all of the other touring artists that are out there to help them reach or maintain their goals. Right now 8 Ball is making connections that might help him get into some of the Tampa Bay area festivals next time they come around. He asked that we call WMNF, the local independent radio station in the area, and asked that 8 Ball be invite to next year’s Heat Wave festival. I did so. I hope others in attendance last night did or will do so, and maybe we’ll see 8 Ball back in town again next year.
I recently saw the below meme on Facebook. Listening to the oldies but goodies is great. That music feeds our soul too. But there’s no way to give back to an artist that is dead and gone. They don’t know you are buying their album. We have to pay it forward to keep the current and future generations of musicians alive and thriving too! (This is true for other forms of art as well.)
Support independent art and artists! Go to a show. Maybe buy a CD or T-shirt. Maybe I’ll see you there!