South Shore music lovers were treated with a slate of singer-songwriters on Dec. 15 at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s Vinyl.
Nationally known performer Lee DeWyze headlined the evening’s entertainment. Well known for winning the ninth season of the popular television show “American Idol” in 2010, DeWyze hails from Mount Prospect, Illinois. He was signed as a teenager to WuLi Records in 2003, and has gone on to release six studio albums in his career, including 2013’s “Frames” and “Oil & Water,” released in 2016.
One of the openers for DeWyze was South Shore’s own Todd Christensen. The former bassist for South Shore and Southern California-based bands Weapon and Strange Weather, Christensen has increasingly devoted his time and energy to appearing solo in the last year or so, playing at Base Camp Pizza, the Naked Fish, and California Burger, among other venues. He is keen for this opportunity to open for a nationally known act in DeWyze.
“His music is good, I can relate to it,” Christensen said. “It’s got a little darkness, hues to it.”
Onstage, Christensen crafts intricate solo performances using a loop pedal, an acoustic guitar, and a variety of percussive effects. This will not be the case Friday however, as the Vinyl show was strictly guitar and microphone, a stripped down approach that the guitarist has been working on lately.
“Once a week, I try to do one gig like that, just get to the bare bones,” he said. “Sonically butt naked is what I like to call it.”
Christensen will perform a set of original tunes that date back a decade, before his arrival in Tahoe.
“That’s a song that I’ve never really opened up, and I want to showcase it,” he said of his oldest tune. “If I’m playing a straight up singer-songwriter night this is the perfect time to do it. But it’s about packing two bags and a guitar and moving to Tahoe on a one-way ticket, it’s called “One Way Ticket to Tahoe.”
Known for garish outfits and garrulous antics onstage, Christensen definitely incorporates a steady stream of humor into his music.
“I guess with songwriting I like to keep things a little bit lighthearted, not take myself too seriously,” he said, noting a song of his entitled “Does a Bear Sit in the Woods” about a bear that lived in a tree in his backyard in the Ski Run neighborhood.
“Even just during the day, if you walked out there at 4 o’clock (in the afternoon) you could just talk to this bear,” he said.
Another colorful-sounding song, “Lesbian Cheerleader Wedding Down in Mexico,” chronicles his failed attempt to attend the same-sex nuptials of an NFL cheerleader and her betrothed south of the border.
Despite this trove of original and intriguing tunes, Christensen has no plans to record a solo album, opting for dynamic and creative new approach to sharing his music.
“I want to go against the grain of the music industry, ’cause I think it’s time for a revolution and I think people are just trying to hold onto archaic means of the music industry,” he said.
Noting the short attention span of today’s consumers and the ubiquitous availability of digitized music, Christensen doesn’t expect today’s average listener to sit down and listen to a full-length album. He aims instead to grab their attention in another way.
“Instead of doing produced music in a studio, on an album, I want to do individual songs, but instead of releasing them as produced songs, I want to do music videos for myself,” he said. “I want to travel, I want to do more emphasis on the live musician aspect. I want to play a rad show and bust into the produce section at Raley’s and get security to try to throw me out while I’m playing song. I want to go down with some Tiki torches and do a show on the beach in San Diego.”
The key to this approach for Christensen is abandoning any expectation of financial returns on the actual sale and acquisition of his songs.
“The emphasis is, I’m not trying to make a single dime off the music,” he said. “I want to put the music out there for free and then work completely based on gratuities.”
A man of many talents, the singer-songwriter has his own grass roots jewelry business as well, selling handcrafted rings and necklaces made from twisted guitar strings. He can also be seen live with South Shore Band the Connor Party, notably in an upcoming opening performance for Scott Pemberton at Tep’s Villa Roma on New Years Eve.