Locals Only: : Workshop 'Til You Drop

Two performers look to enhance the local singer/songwriter community

 
Katherine Sontag


Andrew Geonetta (left)and Tristen Shields



Until last year, Allyn's Café in Columbia Tusculum on a Tuesday night was a sort of Bohemian musical workshop. Bustling with creative songwriters and musicians (and the music fans who loved them), local songwriters Brian Lovely and, later, Eric Diedrichs hosted a loose, yet nicely structured outlet for new and veteran songwriters from around the region (and beyond). If a bomb was detonated at Allyn's on a Tuesday, the local music scene would be vastly different — and possibly less developed — than it is today.

Last year, the showcase abruptly ended, but there are still plenty of open mic and songwriter nights around town to keep the writers on their toes and sharpening their skills. One of the more promising is presented by local singer/songwriters Tristen Shields and Andrew Geonetta (aka .andrew.) at Cody's Café in Corryville every Tuesday. The two young performers met when Geonetta participated in Shields' songwriter showcase at Cody's. Not long after, Geonetta was hosting a similar event at the same venue. Seeing many of the same people at both, they eventually hatched a scheme to collaborate and focus on one night.

The typical Tuesday night event kicks off with a guest artist (from any number of genres) followed by short sets by Geonetta and Shields, which feature their unique approach of combining a solo-acoustic base with "electronica drumbeats" (in Shields' case) and layered pedal-effects (Geonetta).

The duo recently procured the first Saturday of every month at Plush (above Carol's on Main, Downtown) to host even bigger happenings. The series kicks off on March 1 with guest Brian Lovely.

CityBeat recently asked Geonetta and Shields a few questions about their increasingly popular event.

CityBeat: You've mentioned that you kind of wanted to keep the vibe of the old Allyn's Café songwriter nights alive? What about those do you think was so attractive to local songwriters?

Andrew Geonetta: Allyn's had a great thing going because of its own general atmosphere which lent to a vibe that could almost not be replicated. The main thing I liked about it was that the music community was involved, and that there was a general sense of "togetherness." It wasn't just another social gathering. In other words, it was something you went to to actively listen ... rather than just let it go in the background. That's what we're attempting to re-create at Cody's. So a combination of this community thing and a nice in-your-living-room-unplugged sense are the things we're borrowing from Allyn's and trying to breathe new life into.

CB: There might be some confusion between what is an open mic and what is a songwriters showcase. Can you explain?

Tristen Shields: An open mic is where anyone can sign up on a given night and get 10 minutes or so to express themselves for a captive audience. That is a valuable part of music, but is much different from what we are doing. We book the best songwriters in the area, region, (and) sometimes country to showcase their talent for an educated music audience — other musicians, writers, photographers, tech people, fans. We are generally booked months in advance.

CB: I think these events are the lifeblood of a local music scene. Songwriting can be a very isolated activity, and these type of shows are a great outlet for feedback and development. Then there's the added aspect of creating a sense of community. What, to you guys, is the best thing about your type of event?

AG: Songwriting being an isolated activity is an understatement! The development potential is, however, amazing. (Being a solo singer/songwriter) inspires the unique feeling of being able to bolster your ego an incredible amount ... but it can also be about as ego-harming as it comes. With a band, there is safety in numbers, even if one guy is writing the music and others are playing. (Being alone), you are very exposed to the element of criticism. You'll generally find that people either really like you or really don't ... no in-between. And that can be so hard. But when you write a genuinely good tune that people like, you'll find that it's so much easier to captivate people's attention.

TS: I attain greater skills as a songwriter by every interaction I have with members of our scene, including the writers and the fans. Sometimes it even takes on a workshop vibe where we give each other advice and feedback on material and ideas ... fans too. I have had the opportunity to cavort with some of the best in the area and I am always listening and learning. The coolest thing about the event is the sense of community among us all who just want to be heard. Any Tuesday night you know that you can come down and hear live original (music) and be among others who want the same thing.



TRISTEN SHIELDS and ANDREW GEONETTA host their Songwriters Showcase every Tuesday at Cody's Café. For more info, check

 
Katherine Sontag


Andrew Geonetta (left)and Tristen Shields



Until last year, Allyn's Café in Columbia Tusculum on a Tuesday night was a sort of Bohemian musical workshop. Bustling with creative songwriters and musicians (and the music fans who loved them), local songwriters Brian Lovely and, later, Eric Diedrichs hosted a loose, yet nicely structured outlet for new and veteran songwriters from around the region (and beyond). If a bomb was detonated at Allyn's on a Tuesday, the local music scene would be vastly different — and possibly less developed — than it is today.

Last year, the showcase abruptly ended, but there are still plenty of open mic and songwriter nights around town to keep the writers on their toes and sharpening their skills. One of the more promising is presented by local singer/songwriters Tristen Shields and Andrew Geonetta (aka .andrew.) at Cody's Café in Corryville every Tuesday. The two young performers met when Geonetta participated in Shields' songwriter showcase at Cody's. Not long after, Geonetta was hosting a similar event at the same venue. Seeing many of the same people at both, they eventually hatched a scheme to collaborate and focus on one night.

The typical Tuesday night event kicks off with a guest artist (from any number of genres) followed by short sets by Geonetta and Shields, which feature their unique approach of combining a solo-acoustic base with "electronica drumbeats" (in Shields' case) and layered pedal-effects (Geonetta).

The duo recently procured the first Saturday of every month at Plush (above Carol's on Main, Downtown) to host even bigger happenings. The series kicks off on March 1 with guest Brian Lovely.

CityBeat recently asked Geonetta and Shields a few questions about their increasingly popular event.

CityBeat: You've mentioned that you kind of wanted to keep the vibe of the old Allyn's Café songwriter nights alive? What about those do you think was so attractive to local songwriters?

Andrew Geonetta: Allyn's had a great thing going because of its own general atmosphere which lent to a vibe that could almost not be replicated. The main thing I liked about it was that the music community was involved, and that there was a general sense of "togetherness." It wasn't just another social gathering. In other words, it was something you went to to actively listen ... rather than just let it go in the background. That's what we're attempting to re-create at Cody's. So a combination of this community thing and a nice in-your-living-room-unplugged sense are the things we're borrowing from Allyn's and trying to breathe new life into.

CB: There might be some confusion between what is an open mic and what is a songwriters showcase. Can you explain?

Tristen Shields: An open mic is where anyone can sign up on a given night and get 10 minutes or so to express themselves for a captive audience. That is a valuable part of music, but is much different from what we are doing. We book the best songwriters in the area, region, (and) sometimes country to showcase their talent for an educated music audience — other musicians, writers, photographers, tech people, fans. We are generally booked months in advance.

CB: I think these events are the lifeblood of a local music scene. Songwriting can be a very isolated activity, and these type of shows are a great outlet for feedback and development. Then there's the added aspect of creating a sense of community. What, to you guys, is the best thing about your type of event?

AG: Songwriting being an isolated activity is an understatement! The development potential is, however, amazing. (Being a solo singer/songwriter) inspires the unique feeling of being able to bolster your ego an incredible amount ... but it can also be about as ego-harming as it comes. With a band, there is safety in numbers, even if one guy is writing the music and others are playing. (Being alone), you are very exposed to the element of criticism. You'll generally find that people either really like you or really don't ... no in-between. And that can be so hard. But when you write a genuinely good tune that people like, you'll find that it's so much easier to captivate people's attention.

TS: I attain greater skills as a songwriter by every interaction I have with members of our scene, including the writers and the fans. Sometimes it even takes on a workshop vibe where we give each other advice and feedback on material and ideas ... fans too. I have had the opportunity to cavort with some of the best in the area and I am always listening and learning. The coolest thing about the event is the sense of community among us all who just want to be heard. Any Tuesday night you know that you can come down and hear live original (music) and be among others who want the same thing.



TRISTEN SHIELDS and ANDREW GEONETTA host their Songwriters Showcase every Tuesday at Cody's Café. For more info, check andrewmusic.net and tristenshields.com.

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