Category Archives: Tribute Bands

Shaun Hague pays homage to Eric Clapton

BY JULIA CIRIGNANO

Shaun Hague of Journeyman - A Tribute to Eric Clapton (PHOTO BY ERIC SCHMIDT, SUBMITTED BY SHAUN HAGUE).
Shaun Hague of Journeyman – A Tribute to Eric Clapton (PHOTO BY ERIC SCHMIDT, SUBMITTED BY SHAUN HAGUE).

There are a lot of similarities between former Kenny Wayne Shepherd and John Waite guitarist Shaun Hague and the legendary Eric Clapton. Hague has recently made a name for himself as a proficient blues guitarist and has gained enormous success from his band Journeyman: A Tribute to Eric Clapton. Although Hague currently lives in Chicago, Illinois, he will be returning to southeastern Massachusetts with his band on March 30, 2017, with a gig at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Mass. Purchase tickets HERE.

Hague, who was originally from Somerset, Mass., started playing music at a young age. He has been inspired by some of the greats, including his top three favorites – Eric Clapton, The Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen. Hague talked about how Journeyman: A Tribute to Eric Clapton, fell together.

“Everyone has that main influence, and Eric became mine…I had every Clapton record, and I was learning all of them,” he said. “And then I became such a huge fan, and I knew all of his songs inside and out. And now with my guitar techniques that were somewhat like his and my vocals; I just happen to have a bluesy, raspy voice. So it just seemed like a good fit, and it was always something I’ve wanted to do.”

Hague attributes both his success and his passion for music to Clapton, saying that he may have never fought and worked so hard to be such an incredible guitar player if it wasn’t for Clapton. Hague also talked how he was affected by the presence of The Beatles and Springsteen when he was growing up.

“[The Beatles] really turned me onto music,” he said. “Bruce Springsteen kind of showed me what an entertainer is, songwriter, you know he’s just kind of the ultimate package of musicianship, live entertainment, and stage presence.”

Now that we know how Journeyman formed, how did the journey men come together? Hague talked about the creation of The Journeyman featuring Robert Monroe (keys/vocals), Andy Taylor (drums) and Sheldon Dukes (bass).

“After moving to Chicago a few years ago from LA, I befriended musicians,” he said. “There were a couple of guys I knew in town and then after that we just became friends and I said, ‘Hey I’ve got this idea,’ and they were totally into it.”

Hague explained that the tribute band is named after one of his favorite Clapton albums, “It has a lot of great hits and a lot of great non-hits too.”

Hague also mentioned his top three favorite Clapton songs which are “Pretending,” “Bell Bottom Blues,” and “The Core”.

Hague talked about the success he has gained from Journeyman, attracting a multitude of fans — with growing success that even Hague hadn’t expected.

“I went into this hoping for the best and it’s been more than I expected,” he said. “The first show we did was kind of hush hush. It was done here in Chicago. 130 people showed up or something and our second show was in Iowa.”

Even though the first show was low key, they had instantly caught the attention of many fans. This led to a sold out show in Iowa and many more people were turned down at the door. From there, Journeyman rocked a number of stages, attracting their largest audience to date at the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville, IL, on Nov. 25, 2016, in which 315 attended.

Hague was surprised at the immediate success of Journeyman and at how fast tickets for future shows are selling out.

As he tries to understand his own success, Hague has come to the conclusion that Journeyman has become a favorite out of all the Clapton tribute bands for two reasons. The first, they are willing to travel and play just about anywhere. Second, they are younger than the other bands. Hague reminds people of a young Clapton, one they might have seen before, instead of an older version.

Hague jokingly questioned if he and Clapton are related somewhere down the line, then added, “I look like him from the 70’s.”

Although Hague’s main focus nowadays is covers, he has somehow managed to make a name for himself as a blues guitarist. Hague said it all started in 2001 when he was 17. He had never performed in front of anyone before, but he was chosen to play at the House of Blues in Boston and was named “The Best Young Blues Guitarist”.

“I love the blues. Always been influenced by it,” he said. “I think everyone does at some point in their life. But I understand it and connect with it.”

Along with Hague’s passion and skills, the Narrow Center for the Arts helped kick start his career. Hague has a great relationship with The Narrows and started his career there playing open mics. He is looking forward to returning in the spring to headline the Journeyman show.

“I love The Narrows, I love [Narrows Executive Director] Patrick [Norton]. I go all the way back to the Narrows Center when it was in a different spot,” he said. “It was this little art gallery and downstairs there was this kind of makeshift music venue. There were tables and chairs and a stage that wasn’t very high off the ground [with] very minimal lighting [and] minimal sound equipment. And they had open mics. Occasionally they would book a small show.”

After winning the contest at the House of Blues, Norton called Hague and invited him to play at one of their open mics.

“So I went down and sat in with Patrick. I played the blues or something, and I kept going back every week or every other week or something. And then I was in a little cover band. So we would show up and sit in on the cover nights and play,” said Hague.

Since 2001, The Narrows and Hague have grown both separately and together. Hague has played at The Narrows many times, both at The Narrows old location and their present location. Hague will be back at the Narrows Center as a headliner on March 30th (which also happens to be Eric Clapton’s birthday). Hague talked about why this show will be better than any show he’s ever played at The Narrows before.

“The first time I played The Narrows it was all acoustic. That was just the setup that was there. Last time, I came through with my band, the band I had. It was kind of unrehearsed. It was a good show though. Everyone’s always wanted me to play guitar, play blues, and the last two times I was in there, that’s not what I was doing. So, next time around, it’s going to be all about guitar work and my vocals and stuff. The band I have now is absolutely amazing. Each guy is super proficient with his instrument.”

Since Hague grew up in Massachusetts, many of his friends and fans are anticipating his return to Fall River. Hague is also looking forward to being back, especially coming back a new, more successful man. He is proud to have done what he set out to do when he lived there, “which was do music for a living. A lot of people laughed at me when I was 16, 17, but I’m proud to go back there and headline this venue that overlooks the town I grew up in.”

Hague also talked about growing up in Massachusetts, “I remember myself as a kid, being over in Somerset, playing my guitar in my room non-stop. The neighbors called the cops on me at night. Being a kid from a small town, I didn’t have many friends. I just spent all my time playing guitar,” he said.

Hague is proud of his success. He took a risk by not going to college and playing music instead. Yet, it’s obvious, that this risk paid off for him. He has had success playing original music, but prefers to play Clapton’s songs.

“To be honest with you, I feel more freedom and I feel more comfortable playing Clapton’s music because I’ve been doing it so long,” he said. “I feel much more comfortable playing his stuff than my own original music. You know it’s a bit more naked when you’re out there…so playing his music I feel more free. I play better than I’ve played in years. I sing better than I’ve sang in years. These songs have been in my head since I was 14, 15 years old. So for twenty plus years I’ve been listening to Eric Clapton non-stop.”

Hague acknowledged that he’s also managed to be creative within his tribute band.

“The original part we’re playing, in the tribute, obviously the vocals are word for word. The main guitar riffs are note for note,” he said. “But when I go solo or my keyboard player goes to solo, it’s not always the exact solo that was there, sometimes. So we’re getting to show what we can do through his music. I get the opportunity to showcase my skills, the piano player’s skills, even my drummer gets a solo on a song, so does my bass player, he gets a solo too.”

The Narrows Center is located at 16 Anawan Street. Tickets to the Journeyman show can be purchased online HERE or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. For those wanting to purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.

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Nutshell to recreate legendary performance

By GEORGE AUSTIN

Craig Naso had always wanted to do a recreation of the legendary acoustic concert that Alice in Chains did for MTV’s famous “Unplugged” show. The Alice in Chains tribute band that Naso founded, called “Nutshell,” went back and forth in negotiations with Skyworks Productions and Showcase Live in Foxborough before agreeing to do the show at a most appropriate time around the 15th anniversary of the original performance.

“It does not get old and we are so proud to get asked to do this,” Naso said. “It’s like an honor.”

Nutshell will be recreating the Alice in Chains Unplugged set on Aug. 12, starting at 10 p.m. at Showcase Live.

Nutshell is a four piece band that tries to stay true to the original live sound of Alice in Chains.

“We’re going to try to have candles on the stage, not the ones you light, but the ones that are flickered,” Naso said. “We may add a couple of songs to it, though, as well as the songs they did. It’s going to be a great show.”

Naso said the original show was very plain and raw with the musicians so close to each other on a small stage. He said the audience could see vocalists Jerry Cantrell and Layne Staley looking at each other a lot during the performance.

Naso said Nutshell will play the songs from the show straight as they sounded. He said the band wants the lights to be low and the audience to be seated, just as the atmosphere was when Alice in Chains did the taping at Brooklyn Academy of Music on April 10, 1996. Naso said he wants the atmosphere to be very relaxed and for people to sing along.

“It will be a nice mellow show with really good music,” Naso said. “Hopefully, people will enjoy it and feed off the love we have for the music.”

It’s not like Nutshell, which consists of Naso on lead guitar and the vocals of Cantrell, Doug Merrill as frontman singing the vocals of Staley, Pete Gelles on bass and Pete Keoplin on drums, is not used to playing acoustically. The band usually includes about 45 minutes of acoustic music in its regular show. With the show stripped down, Naso said the audience can tell how good the late Staley’s voice was.

“When we play, everybody loves the acoustic sound,” Naso said. “They like it better.”

For the acoustic show at Showcase Live, Nutshell will have another musician sit in on rhythm acoustic guitar which Alice in Chains did on Unplugged with Scott Olson. Nutshell has picked a fan of its tribute band, Tom Toye, to play Olson’s part at the recreation show.

“He’s come to all of our shows and he really shows his love for us and I found out he can actually play,” Naso said.

In April 1996, Alice in Chains emerged from a three-year hiatus by performing on the MTV Unplugged show, the acclaimed acoustic mini-series that allowed viewers to experience popular rock bands performing their material in its basic, purest musical form. The Alice in Chains episode turned out to be one of the most memorable editions of the series, and fans and critics alike hail it to be one of the best live acoustic performances of all time by a rock band.

The band’s highest charting singles and heavy duty grunge-rock opuses such as “Rooster” and “Heaven Beside You” went over beautifully in their new, tight and emotionally-charged acoustic delivery. A live album of the performance was released in July 1996, which debuted at number three on the Billboard Top 200 chart, and was accompanied by a home video release. The album received platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America and the home video received gold certification. While the performance was one of Alice in Chain’s final appearances with vocalist Layne Staley, Nutshell keeps the spirit alive by capturing its essence and presenting an authentic “unplugged” tribute show that honors the raw talent of this amazing band.

Naso said he thought the songs “Nutshell,” “Frogs” and “Down in the Hole” sounded best on the Unplugged show. He said “The Killer in Me” could have been better. But he said the flow of one song to another on the live album meshes together like a story.

To prepare for the show at Showcase Live, Naso said he has watched the video of the Unplugged performance a lot and listens to the Unplugged album on the way to work.

“I think we’re going to come as close to it as anyone could,” Naso said of recreating the Unplugged set of Alice in Chains. “We don’t look like them. We just want to play their music, put the passion into it the way they did and give the respect to the music the way they did.”

He said the members of Nutshell are excited about the concert at Showcase Live. The band has played the concert facility at Patriot Place before.

Naso said Alice in Chains was outside of the grunge band circle of its time, but said every single album they came out with had a different sound. When the band came out with “Jars of Flies,” an album made with acoustic guitars which had its first number one single, he said no other group was doing what Alice in Chains was doing, which was combining heavy metal music with acoustic sounds.

Naso said he fell in love with the album. He said the vocals of Staley on “Jars of Flies” really touched him.

He said it made sense for Alice in Chains to play the Unplugged series which has featured artists, like Eric Clapton, Nirvana, R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen, among many others over the years. Naso said the sound of Alice in Chains on its Unplugged show cannot be matched. He said the acoustic sound really amplified the beautiful singing voices of Cantrell and Staley who did not have their vocals drowned out as much by guitars as during an electric show.

Nutshell was started about six years ago after Naso discovered how much he loved performing Alice in Chains music during open mic nights. Naso said he is a friend of the Layne Staley Fund and has been introduced to Staley’s mother.

Naso said a lot of retakes had to be done during the MTV taping because of mistakes. He said Nutshell’s vocals are very tight and the band will not play a song if it does not sound right.

Nutshell has played in a lot of clubs and bars in the past. Naso said it will be nice to play the recreation of the Unplugged set at Showcase live where the venue has very high quality sound. But he said playing acoustically really shows the talent of a band because the musicians cannot hide errors.

“We’ve played a lot of big shows, but I’d say this is the biggest one because this is how we started,” Naso said.

TSO tribute band tours for charity

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

With a nine-show holiday tour that kicks off tonight at 8 p.m. at Stadium Theater in Woonsocket, R.I., the 11 members of Ornament, Southern New England’s premiere rock orchestra, are ready to get their fans in the spirit of the season. Performing the music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the band is touring in order to support several local organizations.

“This is our fifth tour and we’re hoping to make it the best and biggest one,” said Chris Nunes, who plays bass, sings, and produces for Ornament. “We hope everyone can come see us to help raise money for good causes. We use a small portion of the money to cover our expenses, but everything else goes to the charity.”

Nunes, who also works as Band Director at Westport Middle School and helps out with various musicals within the district, said Ornament will also be performing at Twin River Casio in Lincoln, R.I., at the Lighthouse Bar on Saturday, Nov. 27th at 8:30 p.m. Their third gig is at Westport High School on Friday, December 3rd at 7 p.m.

“It is to benefit the Westport Music Boosters Association,” he said. “We want to help raise money for music programs in local schools.”

The next night, Saturday, Dec. 4th at 7:30 p.m., they will take the stage at the Seaport Inn and Marina in Fairhaven, Mass.

“The Seaport Inn show will feature a toy drive with the Salvation Army,” Nunes said. “We’ll be at Keith Junior High School in New Bedford on December 10th at 7 p.m. to support the Veterans Transition House. On December 12th, our show is at Mansfield High School at 4 p.m. The money will go towards the Mansfield High School Youth Hockey league.”

While their Dec. 17th performance at the Whites of Westport in Westport, Mass., at 6:30 p.m. is a regular gig, The Plymouth Memorial Hall show on Dec. 18th at 7 p.m. will feature choral members from both Plymouth North and Plymouth South High Schools. Thirty to forty members will be in attendance.

“They will do a few numbers with us,” said Nunes. “Part of the proceeds will help restore the piano they use. We are going to be finishing up the tour at LaSalete Shrine Auditorium in Attleboro, Mass. on January 2nd at two in the afternoon.”

Since they toured last year, Nunes said Ornament has had a few line up changes. One of the new members includes violinist, A.J. Salvatore.

“For me, playing in this band is an opportunity to work with some really talented musicians,” said Nunes. “Not only are they very skilled, they are just dedicated to perfecting our craft. I don’t play out with any other bands because we rehearse year-round.”

Nunes said they each work hard to be authentic to the music. They are getting to the point where they are starting to be recognized in the area.

“People have told us that if they close their eyes, we sound just like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra,” he said. “That’s what we’re going for and I think that’s the biggest compliment we can get. People are getting to know what we do and we are finding a lot of new fans, as well.”

Every year, Ornament changes up the set list to keep their show both interesting for their faithful followers and exciting for people who are seeing them play for the first time. Nunes said the light show is completely different, too.

“We are up to 56 lights now,” said Nunes. “It’s fun to play this music. It’s the best of both worlds for me. I get beauty of the classical music with the power and energy of rock and roll and it just combines together to give the music something special.”

To find out more about Ornament and their upcoming tour, visit their website at www.ornamentband.com. Friend them on MySpace at www.myspace.com/ornamenttso and find them on Facebook by searching for Ornament Fan Club.