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Mike and the Magic Pipe

By Gary Wien


When a club owner handed Mike Silverman fifty bucks for his band's set, he knew he could do better. Rather than find another place to play he asked the club owner if he could come back the following week by himself and keep the entire $50. The owner agreed and That 1 Guy, Silverman's new stage name was born.

Silverman, a classically trained bassist, was not content with being just another singer-songwriter - he wanted to fully replicate the sound of a band by himself. So he started bringing different effect pedals and experimented with looping and sound processing to see what he could come up with. After a while he began bringing his upright bass to the mix - singing on the body like a drum and doing a lot of improvisation work. Sometime later he removed all of the strings from the upright except for one. It was at this point that he started to realize the potential of using just one string.

All of his various experiments back then led to the creation of his Magic Pipe, an instrument literally created from parts found at Home Depot stores. The Magic Pipe takes Silverman's music and stage act to a level that really needs to be seen to be understood. Standing nearly seven feet tall, The Magic Pipe is a chaotic collage of galvanized steel, duct tape and electronic gadgetry, run through an array of samplers and effects boxes. He'll be bringing his unique act to Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park on Saturday, March 3rd and to the North Star Bar in Philadelphia on the 4th.

"I had never built an instrument before and I really had no idea how I was going to do it," explained Silverman. "The thing that I had going for me is that I knew what I wanted it to do. I just didn't know how I was going to do it. It took me a few trips to the hardware store just pulling things off the shelves - just trial and error and going for it."

Unfortunately for Silverman, the heightened security at airports since 9/11 has made touring abroad much more difficult when you're traveling with suitcases of plumbing supplies. He says he's getting used to negotiating with the airport security and staff, but it's still a hassle for him.

"It's getting harder and harder which is a real drag because as musicians we don't have a choice, we have to travel with our equipment," he said. "I carry on my electronics and my real fragile stuff. They're not very big, but they're super heavy. It's really a strange thing because none of the rules are new, they're just enforcing them now."

It's amazing just how much sound Silverman is able to create with the use of just one string. When people imagine the idea of a one-man band they inevitably conjure up an image of a guy playing a guitar with a ton of strings - maybe a 12-string guitar modified to have even more strings - rather than to go the route Silverman chose.

"It seemed really insane at the time, like what am I going to be able to play with just one string?" he recalled. "What I essentially did was take all of the strings off my electric bass and started out that way. I found out right away that it actually opened me a lot. There's a lot of harmonic stuff I couldn't do, but it forced me to focus on real important notes. Rhythmically it opened up a lot more possibilities because I didn't have other strings to get in the way so I could just kind of wail on the string and play it a lot more aggressively.

"It was hard because I put so much time and energy into the upright bass. I went to school for it and had developed a lot of styles on it and was able to cover a lot of ground. Taking the strings off of it was kind of tricky because it forced me to give up all of my riffs. I had to kind of go back to square one and start all over again stylistically."

Silverman's father was a professional jazz bass player who hoped his son would follow in his footsteps and for a long time it looked as though he would. He was in promising ensembles, won a Dave Brubeck Jazz Scholarship competition and studied classied upright at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and jazz bass at Los Medanos College. But he never quite fit in with the lifestyle or his school.

"I always had this really unorthodox way of playing," said Silverman. "And people were always teasing me about it. I did really percussive, slappy stuff. I didn't have much place there at the Conservatory! I didn't go there to study weird techniques, I went there to study the classical stuff because I really liked the discipline of it. But by the time I actually left school I was totally going off the deep end with this weird music. I was sort of the black sheep over there!

"My advisor told me that less than 20% of the people in the school end up having a career in music. He said, why don't you just go off and do your weird stuff? He was actually very supportive of it."

One person that didn't quite understand what Silverman was up to was his father. When That 1 Guy first came about, his parents pretty much avoided going to the shows. But his father's interest peaked once the Magic Pipe was added. He was curious to see what was going on and now, his father is his biggest fan. The uniqueness of That 1 Guy is something that Silverman had to overcome and still struggles with a bit when booking shows.

"When I started booking this thing I called these clubs and tried to explain it to them and they were like 'You've got to be kidding. I have no idea what you're talking about. I can't book this.' They just didn't get it. I'd say just let me play, you need to see what it does. So I'd play and they'd say 'Wow, that's really cool' and they'd hire me back and it would build from there."

With a giant Magic Pipe, song titles like ""It's Raining Meat" and "Weasel Potpie," and a man flinging his body around while playing at light speed, Silverman's right - you really do need to see it to understand. Whatever you do, do not miss this show. It's our pick for the month.



For more by this author, click here






Riverside Rhythm and Rhyme Presents Patrick Fitzsimmons On December 16
(SUCCASUNNA, NJ) -- Riverside Rhythm and Rhyme (RR&R) presents Patrick Fitzsimmons on Sunday, December 16 from 4:00pm to 6:00pm at the Investors Bank Theatre in Succasunna. Tickets are $20 for general admission; $15 for RAA/SSG/JAM members; and free for those under 18.
Outpost in the Burbs Presents Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams
(MONTCLAIR, NJ) -- Outpost in the Burbs presents Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams on Saturday, December 8th at 8:00pm at the First Congregational Church, 40 South Fullerton Avenue.  Opening the show will be New York City-based singer-songwriter Leslie Mendelson. Outpost volunteers will be accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys for the holiday season for Toys for Tots at the show.
Jann Klose and The Voice's Josett Diaz To Perform At Ethical Brew To Benefit A Cause Close To Home
(TEANECK, NJ) -- On Saturday, December 8th, singer-songwriter and recording artist, Jann Klose will perform at Ethical Brew on behalf of Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center, a community arts and cultural center for children and teens located in Bronx, New York.  Doors open at 7:30, show begins at 8:00pm.
Kenny Chesney To Perform At Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- Focusing on smaller venues and markets not directly impacted by his massive stadium tours, Kenny Chesney sought to make his Songs for the Saints 2019 Tour mirror the intimacy of its namesake album. Inspired by the resilience of the people around him, Chesney doubles down on the human connection for his 2019 tour by seeking those members of No Shoes Nation who have spent the past decade and a half making the trip to stadium markets for what is now a summer tradition. On Saturday, May 11, 2019 he brings the tour to Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena in Atlantic City, NJ.
State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze on Friday, December 7 at 8:00pm, Saturday, December 8 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday, December 9 at 2:00pm. Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a division of Cirque du Soleil, has become a critically acclaimed, state-of-the-art Broadway musical, and a fun-filled, holiday family show. Tickets range from $35-$98.


"Great Music!" Tavares and Harold Melvin's Blue Notes LIVE! at the Strand Theater
The music of the 1970s is alive and well this Saturday, November 3, 2018 at Lakewood, NJ’s Strand Theater with a concert by the ’70’s R&B and soul groups Tavares and Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes!
"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre
In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.
Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.






Event calendar
Tuesday, Nov 20, 2018


THEATRE
The Madness of George III @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm and 7:00pm


MISC

Warren Miller’s Face of Winter @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 7:30pm

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