Travel Well, Travis Lund

Our first LLOMC Monday winner ever was Jesse Dee, who is now a main stage caliber artist headlining The Paradise here in Boston, as well as consistently touring Europe and back.  And me?  I have the best job in the world. I’m lucky enough to see artists of such talent in their earliest days of performing. Every new face that hits the LLOMC stage could be the next big thing. As an open mic host I’ve had the opportunity to set the stage for Ryan Montbleau, David Wax, Low Anthem, Amos Lee, and so many others. Not a bad job at all

As I’ll say on any given night, Travis Lund is a huge reason I run these shows. A few years ago I met Travis at TOAD when my band, Baker Thomas Band was playing there. He would come out to see many shows, not just the BTB.  He was a real nice guy and very supportive of music. One night he finally asked me, “Hey, are you the guy that runs the open mic?” 

He had not come by yet. I guess the “Contest” aspect of our show sometimes scares away young talent. “I’m not ready for that” or “I don’t want my music to be judged”. Reasonable statements, but if I’m lucky enough to meet someone and describe to them what the show is all about I can usually change their minds.

“Dude, it’s not about the contest” I said. “It’s about the stage, and the show, and the community.” Travis mentioned he was looking to jam with other artists. Well.. the open mic scene can expose you to 20 brand new performers in one night. Done!

Travis Lund came in to our Monday show with raw talent and some great songs. Playing guitar, banjo and a resonator from time to time he started solo and soon collaborated with other artists as well. Mission started. Off the bat he was nervous, you could even see his hands shake a little. A few drinks took care of that. Sometimes a few too many drinks would stop the hand shaking and start the swaying and stuttering as well, but many artists go through that…. (no comment from the writer here…) Somewhere along the line the artist must find the balance.

As this man developed his skills he also developed his confidence. One night Travis was picked for our ‘Final Three’ round at midnight. Nice. Humble and honored he played one more song. He did not win.

More Mondays passed and Travis would break into that final three from time to time until one day he went home with our prize. Now, not winning for a while may not be a measure of talent at our show. I often will say from the mic that our show is inherently ‘unfair’. One judge? One person’s opinion? It could never be fair. I try not to let anyone get too hung up on the contest aspect of Mondays.

But, what does this mean for an artist like Travis?  Simple: hard work, humility, graciousness, focus and drive pay off. In a relatively short period of time, Travis Lund went from a green artist to a confident top notch performer who has shared bills and collaborated with great talent, and now has the accolade of “LLOMC Winner” under his belt.

Again, the Travis Lunds of the world are why I love doing this job. Teeth cut and raring to go, Travis is moving back to his home town in Atlanta. Travel well sir!

Okay then! The man I just wrote 9 paragraphs about was not eligible for our Monday prize, but he sure as hell played a killer two song ‘goodbye’ set for us!

A two song set from Noel Smyth is always a good thing on Mondays. I always raz Noel… the kid writes songs every day – tons and tons of material. Rock tunes, swing tunes, ballads, stories of love and loss, drinking, winning, loosing… he never runs out! Noel just put out a record and he’s halfway done with another! Cut that out Noel! You’re making the rest of us look bad!  

Emad Younin from Australia played two songs written by his brother, Jesse, on this evening. Jesse was an artist who was just peaking with national attention in his country when he was tragically struck down early by Leukemia. Emad has learned his brother’s songs and he’s been touring the states and sharing them. The talent must run in the family because Emad could really shred with his finger picking guitar style and sing with skill and emotion. For anyone who knew Jesse, this performance must bring up a whirlwind of emotion, conflicting happiness and pride with tears and tragedy.

Joe Kowan played for us, and Joe is always a hit. He can touch on so many different versions of humor; quirky, ironic, awkward, introspective, parody and of course, just flat out funny! Tonight Joe shared an a-cappella song about an artist’s fears and self-doubt. Kind of a ‘do you think they’ll like me?’ ballad. Funny stuff, and something every performer can relate to.

Two standouts were Matthew Pezone and Sarah Louise Pieplow. Matt is a regular. A 12 string guitar player instrumentalist who is blazingly fast and precise while also focusing on melody and a heavy groove as well. Always a hit.

Sarah Louise Pieplow from Colorado is surely my kind of artist. Edgy and powerful, aggressive and then sweet, with constant and complete control over her performance. Sarah was a hit and if she finds her way back to Boston we’ll book her for sure!

Our list was completed and it was time for Midnight Madness, our final three!

  Tonight’s judge was Fred Bement, a tremendous harmonica player who has been on stages and recordings with some of the finest performers in Boston. In his past he’s worked for WBOS as music director for some local shows and even placed in the top 3 for the “Derek Trucks Remix Contest” of  “Get What You Deserve” in 2010. Fred is a great dude and he had his work cut out for him on this evening.

After some discussion Fred picked his final three; Aaron Shadwell, Corrina Melanie and Juan Marcos.

Juan Marcos kicked us off. A three piece band with strong 3 part harmony, bass and guitar, they had 3 killer pop tunes for us this evening. The kind of tunes that are simply hits, simple brilliance. There’s no prog rock or crazy solos, just catchy hooks and lyrics you can grab, the kind of songs that stay in your head and sell records. These guys are awesome.

Corrina Melanie, who played earlier in our night took advantage of our piano (only open mic in town with a real deal acoustic piano! Hell yeah!) and shared three very sweet and gently melodic songs. Her voice hits the heart, and the songs would swing and swoon with her delivery. Corrina is a very promising up and coming artist for sure.

The only artist who played earlier than Corrina was Aaron Shadwell, slotted #1 at 8pm. Aaron shared a few stories of inspiring the muse in between his songs and did something that always impresses me: brought the room to a completely still ‘pin drop’ silence during his songs.

Way too many male writers will talk about how a female artist ‘looked’, before talking about how she ‘sounds’. (creeeepyyyy…) Man or woman, I appreciate when someone hits our stage looking the part, or any part for that matter, point being: try. It ain’t that hard. Aaron, dressed primarily in black with a sharp blazer on, ‘looked’ the part. Dressed as a rock star, maybe not duds for a main stage, but surely a rock star on a semi-casual day off, it’s simply easier to take him as a pro. His stage presence securely backed up his straight forward guitar delivery and well composed songs that were all lead by a strong melodic and at times smoothly haunting tenor vocal. What I’m getting at is Aaron Shadwell is a consummate professional, and on this night it payed off!

Fred Bement had great things to say about everyone, especially our final three, but his choice for our prize came quick. Aaron Shadwell’s positive attitude, stage presence and performance blew him away.  Aaron Shadwell was the winner of the 248th LLOMC!!!

Thank you for another great show! Thank you Fred Bement, and congratulations Aaron!

Thank you for making it through another LLOMC review at www.thebackstagebeat.com Please do come down and take in a show anytime. Every Monday night at The Lizard Lounge. 1667 Mass Ave. Cambridge, MA. Doors @ 7:30, show @ 8pm. Final three at midnight. See ya!

ToM

Tom Bianchi
Singer/Songwriter/Bassist
Baker Thomas Band
Host of The Burren Sunday Night Music Series
Host of The Lizard Lounge Open Mic Challenge