Adams Avenue Unplugged: Is your name on the list?

From the Union-Tribune:

At least 109 solo artists, duos and groups have been confirmed to perform at the debut edition of Adams Avenue Unplugged, the free festival that will feature 170 performances on 24 indoor and outdoor stages along a two-miles stretch of Adams Avenue on April 21 and 22.

Among the confirmed artists are Jack Tempchin, Tomcat Courtney, Sara Petite, Gregory Page, Lisa Sanders, Roy Ruiz Clayton, the Bayou Brothers, Veronica Rose and Bart Mendoza.

The festival is both a new start and a continuation, as the two-day event replaces the 18-year-old Adams Avenue Roots Festival. As its title implies, most of Adams Avenue Unplugged’s festival’s performers perform with acoustic instruments. A good number are veterans of previous editions of the Roots Festival, which — like the new Unplugged event — is produced by the Adams Avenue Business Association.

To check out the full lineup, go here.

Local Songwriter Interview: Amanda Cogan

Amanda Cogan is a San Diego native who grew up in Mira Mesa.

Now living in Normal Heights, she’s a regular at Open Mic at South Park Abbey, where her strong voice is always a crowd favorite. She’ll be playing some upcoming showcases, too.

After confidently and happily strumming her Taylor 314ce through five or six songs one random Wednesday night, Amanda sat down with me and answered a handful of questions about music, songwriting, and what she plans on doing next:

How long have you been playing guitar?
Nine years, but I hate saying that because I feel like I don’t know enough chords. I just use the same ones over and over, and move my capo around. That’s the secret, folks; a capo!

When did you start writing music?
I’ve been making up music since I can remember; way before I started learning piano or guitar. I remember when I was a little kid, I would sit on the middle of the staircase and just sing—writing some silly melody and lyrics as I went. I’ve just always loved music. Only in the past few years have I concentrated on actually writing and improving my songwriting.

Who are your biggest musical influences?
It’s a weird question to me. When I started playing music, I wasn’t trying to emulate anyone. But now that I play out, I get a lot of, “Oh, you sound like Jewel.” That’s the biggest comparison other people make.

Who do you love listening to?
For great lyrics, I really do love Jewel. Jason Mraz is awesome. I’m mostly drawn to lyrics. I think Bruno Mars is a great songwriter, even though he is a little too “pop” for me, and say what you want about Lady Gaga, but her songs are so well written. She’s a great songwriter, but she is crazy.

How much do you play out?
[laughing] Right now? About once a week. But my goal is four to five times a week. I’m working with Samantha Love right now, to try and book more shows. Ultimately, I would love to make my living as a musician. Not famous. Just a living.

What gear do you use?
I usually just have my Taylor. I also have a portable Fender PA system that I rarely bring out. I have two more acoustic guitars at home: Ibanez acoustic/electric, and an Alvarez acoustic. I’ve played an electric guitar, like, once ever. I’d like to try playing on one more.

Where does songwriting fit into your life?
Every aspect of my life. Songwriting is my diary, but I’m singing it out instead of letting it sit on a page. To answer your question literally, though, I just work on songs when I am inspired. I was trying to write every other day a while back, but now, the last song I finished was about a month ago.

Do you write lyrics first? Music?
Sometimes I write the melody first, sometimes I have the lyrics. It’s an organic process. I never try to do it a certain way. I might have a page of lyrics that morphs into something completely different than what it was at first.

Do you have any desire to go on tour?
In the back of every musician’s mind is the idea of playing in front of thousands of people, riding a bus from city to city and traveling around. If the opportunity presented itself, I probably wouldn’t turn it down. But my ultimate goal isn’t to be an international star and tour.

So, does that mean you just want to write songs that other people will sing?
I’ve thought about that before, but because my songs are so personal it would be hard to hear someone else sing them. I want to sing and play my own stuff. I don’t know if I’m poppy enough to be on the radio, but let’s see how much money they pay me! [laughing]

Where can people hear your music?
Facebook has some videos and songs, and my full demo is on Myspace, yes MySpace!

San Diego Open Mic Review: Train of Thought, at Queen Bee’s

Two hundred feet north of where Ohio Street intersects University Avenue, is Queen Bee’s Art & Cultural Center.

On Tuesday nights, host Gill Sotu, and DJ Redlite put on Train of Thought, “an all inclusive open mic experience. We are a family of poets, storytellers, singers, songwriters, comedians, musicians.”

It’s true.

Doors open at 8:30pm. If you want to play, tell the lady at the cash register and she’ll put your name on the list. She was really nice, and explained how it all worked. (More on that in a second.)

If you just want to watch, that’s cool too. Either way, it’s five bucks. This is one of San Diego’s few open mics that costs you money to play. Don’t look at it as paying to play though; it’s a cover to get to see all the other talented performers.

And there are plenty.

How It Works

Some people get to play in the order their name is written down, and other people are picked to play at random. You never know when you’re going to be called, so it keeps you paying attention. Be ready.

The craziest part is that you only get six minutes to play! You can shoehorn a couple short songs together, or take your time with just one (that’s what I did).

When Gill calls you up, first timers need to dance a bit when DJ Redlite drops the beat. This was my first time at Queen Bee/Train of Thought, so I went with my standby move: The Stanky Leg.

It was a hit.

Gill and his team really make you feel supported. They lead the crowd in a “We got you!” cheer, and are super nice.

Like I said, you get six minutes to play. At five and a half minutes, Redlite scratches a couple times so you know to hurry your ass up! I never saw anyone get the scratch-warning.

Remember to watch your mouth. This is an all ages show.

The Location

Queen Bee’s is built like a grade-school cafeteria. It’s a large room with a stage on one end. There’s even a glass-door fridge with refreshments for sale…non-alcoholic of course.

There are chandeliers and velvet banners. There are rows of comfy armchairs lined up facing the stage. If those fill up, there are folding chairs in the back, and two-top high-chair tables set running along the East wall.

Right above the tables is an intriguing painting series. I noted some of my favorites while I was waiting for the show to start:

— standard werewolf
— a woman wearing a serpent as a scarf
— guy playing saxophone made out of a squid tentacle

Finally, the sound system is killer; Redlite makes the whole place feel like a unique nightclub.

The Crowd

Super cool. Really cool. Everyone was attentive. Quiet. Supportive. Participatory. And a quarter of spectators are street poets or some other wordsmithy type. These dudes (and lady) know how to freestyle & flow, and will impress the hell out of you.

I’d say there were 37 people in the room. Total.

Recommendations

It would be nice if Train of Thought went in a certain order so people can be ready to play at the right time. If you hit up the restroom, you might miss your name being called. That sucks. Especially if you waited nearly two hours to play.

Other than that, Gill & Redlite & Train of Thought is a worthwhile show to see, to play or to do both. Check it out on Tuesdays.

Contact Info:
Queen Bee’s | 3925 Ohio Street | San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 255-5147