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Songwriters Showcase October 2007

Showcase_table_cardIT WAS EPIC!!!!  I don't know how else to say it.   The enthusiasm of the crowd, the energy of the performers....it was truly a special Showcase to put down in VOCAL's history books.  The Showcase counter rang up #195 as the near capacity crowd approached a head count of 50.  The TapHouse was hoppin', the sound was hot, and electricity was in the air!  It was a reunion of sorts, harnessing some of the talent that has been with VOCAL over the years.  It all happened October 15, 2007. 

Richbrau's Taphouse Grill www.richbrau.com/menus.shtml has been home to the Showcase for over two years now.  Be sure to join us every 3rd Monday of the month at 1214 East Cary Street for fine food and home brewed beverages!

The first act to get the crowd worked into a frenzy was Steve Smithson with fellow songwriter and special guest Mark Fitzgerald, who has worked with Steve since the mid 1970's.  Steve is a long time VOCAL member who has returned to VOCAL recently to get back in touch with his songwriting cohorts.  And what a treat for the Showcase attendees to be in the crowd this night!

Mark Fitzgerald and Steve Smithson - VOCAL Songwriiters Showcase October 2007 Mark Fitzgerald wrote many of the songs in the set including ‘All She's Wanting Now’, ‘Cowboys’, ‘Give Me Comfort’.  Mark took a solo spot to perform his song ‘January Song’ with just his vocal & guitar and a dash of vocal harmony from Steve.  Throughout the set, Mark's acoustic guitar was lively, but light as he finger picked the six-string.  Steve alternated between electric guitar lead and bass guitar rhythm while the duo worked their way through the play list.  Some of the songs had a touch of jazz, many of them had a great rhythmic quality to the instrumentation.  

‘Puppy in the Microwave’ a Smithson/Fitzgerald composition is a humorous song that is visually disturbing, but a sonic delight, full of good vocal harmony and great musical composition.  The performers had the crowd's full attention with much laughter, applause and cheering as they played.  Towards the end of the set, the duo performed Steve's ‘Gender Blues’ – as Steve noted “it's a thing that just happens.  If it hasn't happened to you, it's happened to someone you know” – the song has a story line about a female companion who leaves when she's found her own female companion.

Thanks to Steve Smithson and Mark Fitzgerald for a fantastic performance!

If the first set worked the crowd into a frenzy, the second set mesmerized them, and lulled them into a heavenly trance.  It was an immense pleasure to welcome back a good friend of VOCAL and long time member, the lovely and incredibly talented Pamela McCarthy.  Pamela was in fantastic form as she worked her way through a set list that included two of my favorites ‘Trance Called Love’ and ‘No Big Deal’.  Pamela's voice was passionate, and strong, but had the tenderness and warmth that compliments her songs so well.

Pam McCarthy - VOCAL Songwriters Showcase 2007 Pamela dedicated ‘Hell Must Be Freezing’ to good friend Gary Shaver who enjoys this song so much.  When Pamela reached the instrumental portion of the song, she noted the missing guitar lead, so Norman Roscher kicked in a vocal scat to fill in for the absent instrument!  The rest of the set included ‘Just a Kiss’, ‘Let Me Be’, ‘Over You’ and ‘Set You Free’.

After such a great set of original music, the audience just had to hear one more, so as she tried to leave the stage, Pamela was called back to the microphone for an encore performance of ‘Sun & Moon’.

Very much gratitude to Pamela for her outstanding performance!

Then there was Norman – if you've seen him on stage before, then the first name alone recalls so many memories that you need say no more!  VOCAL was proud to host Norman Roscher on the Showcase stage for the final act.  If you weren't having fun before Norman took the stage, you should consult your physician – and if you didn't have a smile on your face after his show, well you had passed away in the preceding 2 hours of entertainment.

The crowd grew increasingly restless in anticipation of Norman's unique musical constructs, as well as their opportunity to participate in Norman's own Kazoochestra!  That's right, many of the audience members were enlisted in the back up band!

The set started off with Norman's solo vocal and piano self-accompaniment for ‘You're Beautiful’ an uplifting song about inner beauty and its affect on outer beauty.  Norman then invited his first guest Glenn Habel for acoustic guitar and vocal accompaniment on ‘Dog's New Clothes’, which was followed up by ‘Did I Hear You Say’.

Norman Roscher - VOCAL Songwriters Showcase October 2007 Norman's most special guest, his daughter Deanna, was co-vocalist on ‘How Many Butterflies’.  She brightened up the vocals and provided a nice counterbalance to Norman's bold vocals.  This was her Showcase debut - what a great way to introduce her to the crowd – thanks to Deanna for being part of the show!

Gary ‘Blade’ Shaver and Peter Aiken provided additional instrumentation on ‘I Don't Play Doctor Anymore’, ‘Roamin' Eye’, and ‘Someone's Droolin' Somehwere’.  Gary was hotter than an August day in Richmond, nearly blowing the roof off the TapHouse a couple of times with his quick finger work and the searing highs of his solos.  Peter added deftly executed bass guitar lines and vocal reinforcement to the musical gumbo – thanks to Peter for his contributions to the show.

In the spirit of the month of Halloween, the songs turned a little spooky, but still fun-loving as we marched to ‘Ghouls on Parade’ and saw the horrors of ‘Mr. McCalls Big Pink Balls’.  Mr. McCall's tribute included an outstanding kazoo solo from the Kazoochestra.

As Norman concluded his set, I reflected, as I have done so often, that no evening is complete without ‘Boobs’ and the audience seemed to agree.  Indeed, women shrieked and grown men cried at the very thought of ending the night without this fan favorite – but the crowd calmed quickly upon the presentation of ‘Boobs’.  So, Norman closed out the evening with this encore performance and all was once again as it should be!

It's rare to see someone who can blend musicianship, humor, thoughtfulness and plain old fun so masterfully.  Well done, Norman!

As we bring this month's review to a close, I would like to give special thanks to Mark Fitzgerald and Gary Shaver for assistance on the sound board.  We would be quite impolite to forget the talented and dedicated Mr. Larry Cody for his monthly play bill contribution and, of course, a huge thank you to all of the fans of live original music who turned out to make the night so special.  Thank you all and we'll see you next month at the VOCAL Showcase!

- John Ellis