News Archive 2009
"Oh Winnipeg!" on YouTube, December 28 2009
I've posted the entire play, "Oh Winnipeg! A Surprising Musical Memoir" on YouTube.
See my "theatre" page for more background on this play of mine. I'll be performing it in Winnipeg in July 2010 at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. The video was produced and edited by Andres Salas. It was taped during the run at the Firehall Arts Centre in October.
"This City" with Karina Morin on Vocals, November 27 2009
Karina Morin and I wrote a song called "This City". My version is on my eponymously titled CD. Just voice and guitar, recorded at home.
But here's a whole new take on the same tune. Recorded at Saga Recording and produced by Michael Nowak. Besides Karina on vocals, you can hear me on acoustic guitar and the amazing slide guitar work of Robert Steininger and double bass playing of Graham Clark. Have a listen. Hope you have as much fun listening as we did recording it!
It's Friday in Vancouver, October 23 2009
And the dark, winter gray days have set in. Managed to get in a run on the Seawall this morning though, before the rain started.
The Firehall run is underway, three shows down. I've got it under my belt now, that is, I don't have to have it rattle around in my head all day. I know it well enough that I can show up at the theatre and do it. It's still fresh, and it's still fun. And most of the performances build on what's come before, in other words, it gets better each time. I've performed "Oh Winnipeg!" twenty-one times now. First the Victoria Fringe (8 shows), then the Vancouver Fringe (8 shows), then 3 shows at the Pick of the Fringe. And we opened on Wednesday night at the Firehall so that's - checking my math, right - 21 shows.
The houses have been small. My fear that folks might be 'fringed out' seems to be coming true. It's a shame because it's a great venue and the play really works well in this space. And I expect when I do it next summer at a couple of Fringes (hoping for Edmonton and Winnipeg at least), I'll probably have large audiences (given the press and 'Pick of Fringe' status I've earned). I know it's a good play, so I'm not down about having small audiences to play to.
Meanwhile, creatively, new projects are showing signs of lfe. A couple of play ideas to develop. A screen play (maybe, unless I can wrestle it into a play format). Some new songs that are taking shape. And I'll be doing my first straight music gig (at a pub out in White Rock on Nov. 19th) since August. It's good to get back to my first - but now, not my only - love.
"Oh Winnipeg!" Goes Legit, October 5 2009
We're getting geared up for our eleven show run at The Firehall Arts Centre on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
The Firehall is in its 27th year of bringing Canadian plays to Vancouver audiences. Donna Spencer, the Firehall's Artistic Producer, saw "Oh Winnipeg" during the Vancouver Fringe Fest and invited us to her 150-seat theatre. More about the play below, also on my theatre page. Starts Oct. 21st. Tickets $14 in advance, $16 at the door. "Pay what you can" Saturday matinees.
Fringe Audience Picks "Oh Winnipeg!", Sept 21 2009
It's Monday morning and I'm still shocked after being awarded one-of-four "Pick of the Fringe Awards" at last night's closing event of the 25th Annual Vancouver Fringe Festival. The audience picked their four favorite shows from among 68 plays and - are you ready for this? - "Oh Winnipeg!" is one of them!
This means that we get to do an additional three shows this coming weekend. And it also means I get to put "Pick of the Vancouver Fringe" on my handbills and press info for next year when we take it on the road. Not bad for a guy that's never written a play before, or acted before. Thanks to my director Rachel Scott for taking me under her wing and to my wife Pamela for her love, guidance, and patience.
"10 out of 10" says ReviewVancouver!, Sept 14 2009
ReviewVancouver.org's Theatre Critic Ed Farolan writes: "I like this show. It's full of vigor. Pippus gives his all as he sings and narrates his life as a musician, as he travels from his roots in Winnipeg to settle in Vancouver, but then takes his career to Montreal, and back again to Vancouver and raises a family. I can identify with the songs--the era of the Beatles, the Blues, and the hippies. His songs have heart and he connects easily with the audience. Great performance from this solo performance. 10 out of 10!"
Buy your advance tickets at: vancouverfringe.com
"Engaging" Review in The Georgia Straight, Sept 13 2009
The Straight's Theatre Critic, Kathleen Oliver writes: "John Pippus didn’t exactly grow up in a musical family, but his grandfather liked to sing hymns and his great-aunt Edie was a music-hall performer in London. Most fateful was his mother’s decision to buy John a guitar when he was 12. Pippus walks us through his youth and its defining moments—watching the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, learning to play blues harmonica while hitchhiking—in this warm and tuneful production. Pippus’s acting skills don’t quite match his musical chops, but he’s an openhearted and engaging performer, and director Rachel Scott adds a strong visual complement to his storytelling with beautifully integrated projections."
Five shows remainging at Havana Theatre on September 14th (7:15 p.m.), Sept.16th (7:15 p.m.), Sept 17th (7:15 p.m.), Sept. 18th (8:15 p.m.), and Sept. 19th (8:45 p.m.). Tickets at the door or advance tickets at vancouverfringe.com
Back Home, Sept 7 2009
Got the ferry home today. Great to be home after twelve days away. The Victoria run was a success on many fronts. Three sold out shows, the rest all had good numbers too. Great reviews and feedback from those who saw the play. I learned the best way to draw a crowd is to work the lineups. I learned: that the world doesn't' end when you forget what comes next (thanks to Stage Manager Pam's prompting); that discovering your fly is wide open halfway through the performance has its own challenge, like how do you do it up with a room full of people watching you; that breaking a guitar string early in the show and playing the rest of the tunes with five strings also has its own particular challenges. And I learned that you get paid in cash. After each show if you can't wait. And that wad of dough is better than any paycheque you get from working a straight job.
And I learned that playing to a full house that is clapping and laughing at all the right places is more addictive than anything I've experienced before. And that I've written a damn good play and I love performing it. OK, enough. Time to rest up and then do it all again for the home crowd, starting Friday Sept. 11th at The Havana Theatre.
Three More Shows in Victoria, Sept 3 2009
Got a 4.5 star review in Monday Magazine. (You gotta scroll down to the "o"s to read it). The reviewer said she would have given it an extra half star (for a perfect rating) if she was old enough to remember seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.
Lots of buzz happening with the play. Needless to say, I'm delighted. I mean it's my first time writing a play, and acting and so it's like right out of the gate going at a full gallop. I'm grateful too, knowing there's always an element of luck involved.
Want more horn blowing? Check out the front cover of The Province newspaper today. Also page C-4. That's my famous sparkler photo (thank you photographer Graham Vickers - link to his site below). Come on and see the play. I'll make you laugh, cry, and hopefully inspire you to dust off your own particular dream and go for it.
First Review is in and it's Boffo!!! Aug 29 2009
Modesty prevents me from quoting from it (yah right) so you have to read it for yourself. It's written by Adrian Chamberlain of the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper.
Pretty much a sold out show last night. My mum was there. And sister and cousins. And five reviewers. And I got a, what do you call them, when you go off stage at the end and they keep clapping so you have to go out and take another bow. Taking a bow. That's a whole new concept too. Reminds me of being four years old again. Bow to your corner, curtsey to your left. We're just having a super time. We do not suck!
IT'S SHOWTIME!!! Aug 27 2009
Pam, Rachel and I are in Victoria. Together, we're Bit By Bit Productions putting on my musical memoir, "Oh Winnipeg!" Last night I did a two-minute scene from the play to a packed audience for a preview event. About 30 companies did the same. It was a hoot and a great way to guess which plays might be the ones to see. I did a scene where I show how I learned to play blues harmonica by hitchhiking a lot. In other words, you've got a lot of time on your hands when you're waiting for a ride.
Tonight is our first show. I'm stoked. Got my picture on the front page of the Times Colonist today. Also in Monday Magazine. Heading off to CBC radio in a few minutes for an interview. So let's hope that all translates into 'bums in seats'. The holy grail, I take it. I've got to give a shout out to Graham Vickers. He's the guy who took the publicity photo (me and a sparkler) that is getting a lot of attention. Graham's originally from Victoria coincidentally. OK, gotta go. Tech rehearsal at 2PM. That's getting the lights and sound and stuff all in order.
Dress Rehearsal Tonight, Aug 25 2009
Here we go. Almost there. Dress rehearsal tonight. I'm feeling pumped. Rachel the director has worked so hard to mould me into an actor.
Yesterday we decided to use the full band version of my song "Better Days" in the fantasy sequence. So instead of me playing air guitar and singing, now it's all air guitar and miming the words. I've got this tune I wrote and recorded last year in Wisconsin. Get this. The cowbell is played by Victor DeLorenzo, founding member of the legendary Violent Femmes! Check it out:
"Oh Winnipeg!" Oh Rehearsals, Aug 20 2009
A 4.5 hour rehearsal today. We use the aerobics room in my apartment complex. Handy. Good size, and acoustics. I'm lucky to have this space.
Linda and Pam (the stage managers) were there today. Working the LCD projector. Cut some more stuff. Wish I could have kept in the part of my great aunt dying in the wings, waiting for her encore. But we're getting the message across that a long lost letter (from her to my grandmother) motivates me to return to my first love of being a singer/songwriter. So gotta be ruthless. We've added in an extra day of rehearsals on Sunday. Four hours. Plus Monday, then the dress rehearsal on Tuesday. Then it's over to Victoria on Wednesday. I'm doing the scene about learning-to-play- harmonica-by-hitchhiking at the Fringe Preview on Wednesday night. Everyone who signed up gets two minutes to do a bit from their play. I follow Jem Rolls. Unfortunately! He's a legend on the Fringe circuit. Well damn the torpedos and commit, commit, commit. Debut at Venue 6 on Thursday.
Getting Close to Show Time, Aug 18 2009
OK. The play debuts in nine days. I feel fatalistic. Not nervous (except it's hard to focus on anything - all I want to do is rehearse). Rachel is cool, keeping me grounded. I asked her after rehearsal yesterday, "Is it any good?". And she gave me this steely look and said, "I don't get involved in projects that suck". Water to a dying man.
I've got so many people pulling for me. I don't want to let them down. I want them to like this goddam play. We've cut a bunch of stuff. It was too long. I feel that it moves better now, and I'm hoping we haven't lost vital bits that make the audience a) care about the characters and b) get what's going on. I'll be glad when we finally open. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. That's all I can do. And stay calm. Breathe.
"This City" CD Reviewed in SoundProof, Aug 12 2009
Man it feels good. A four-out-of-five star review for my CD. Reviewer David Ball has all sorts of complimentary things to say about the various tracks (except for the acoustic rap tune called "Yes We Can (Dream)", admittedly a departure in feel from the other twelve tracks). He even compares my old pipes to Warren Zevon on his last album, which I'm taking as a compliment.
Regarding the play, at the rehearsal on Tuesday, Rachel brought along an actor friend from NYC. Brian really opened my eyes on what I have to do be an actor with a capital "A" and not just an amateur goofing around. Rachel's been telling me the same stuff for months, but hearing it from a new set of eyes, really made me wake up. Transitions from one scene to the next, letting the pauses 'speak'. Maintaining focus. Getting in the characters and not just letting them all be gray. Stuff like that. Already I can feel it helping.
Coming down to the Wire, Aug 6 2009
Rehearsing with Rachel tomorrow. Two weeks or so left before the first performance. I know from performing as a singer/songwriter that you can practice til the cows come home, but once you're in front of an audience it's a whole new thing. Audiences make you stupid. You forget words, bridges, chords that you can nail in your living room. So I'm glad I know that much. The remedy? Practice and practice some more. And try it out on an audience. Even if it's one or two people.
We have yet to integrate the visuals we'll be projecting on a screen behind me. I don't want to lose the audience's attention on what I'm doing by having them look at the screen. So I'm wary about how that's going to work. And we have four or five recorded audio cues to work into the rehearsals too. Running today, I came up with the idea of having a toothpick for a prop. When I'm playing the part of my dad, I think it might work to have him sucking on a toothpick. Just like I remember him.
More about the play and other stuff at my blog just posted on Myspace.
A Tale of Two Gigs, July 27 2009
Last night I finally got to play the Railway Club. I was sharing the evening with two great acts: Mojave and Sam's Falling . I was a last-minute fill in for an act that couldn't make it. I called up bass player Babak Hazrati and he was able to join me for my 45-minute set. It was one of those nights where you know you're hitting some home runs. It was hot and sweaty on the stage, the monitors were perfectly set so I could hear everything and the crowd was with me.
In contrast, I played a few nights before at the Vancouver City Limits series now being held each Thursday at the Sin Bin Sports Bar. And I just couldn't get going. I was sloppy and forgetful. I was just coming off two weeks of minimal guitar playing because of a bad shoulder, so that was a factor. Still, no excuse for a bad performance. On Friday I was ready to quit performing and this morning I can't wait to do it again. Funny how it goes...
"This City" Charts on CJSF Radio, July 7 2009
I'm delighted to see my CD "This City" is currently charting at #20 on the CJSF charts, for the week ending July 6th. CJSF is Simon Fraser University's radio station (Vancouver).
By the way, I now have the location for my play "Oh Winnipeg!" at the Victoria Fringe Fest. It's a perfect little 50-seat theatre right in the heart of the Fringe action. Dates and show times to follow in a day or two. Check out my "theatre" page for details. In Vancouver, the Havana Theatre will be the location. This theatre is connected to the Havana Restaurant on Commercial Dr. First show will be Friday Sept. 11th, and continuing through the following week.
Me and Van Morrison and a CD Review from Belgium, June 16 2009
Legendary Canadian DJ Terry David Mulligan has a show on CKUA called "Mulligan Stew". Recently he played my song "Oh Oh Oh". Which was great in itself. But what gave me a rush was seeing the next song on the program was Van Morrison doing "Cypress Avenue" from his "Live In L.A" CD. See the complete playlist.
And it was good to see my CD "This City" getting a review (in Dutch) at Freddy Cellis' RootsTime in Belgium. Again, alongside reviews of Dylan's new album, U2, Springsteen, etc. Makes a boy proud.
For Those Interested in Making the Trek to Nashville, June 13 2009
A young singer/songwriter was asking about Nashville. I told her she should go. And then I went back through my Myspace blogs because I know I posted entries after three of my trips there.
So for anyone interested, head over to my Myspace page (via my "links" page) and scroll through my blog to these dates: March 19, 2008, December 10, 2007, and a three-part blog starting on April 2, 2006. You'll get a flavour for what it's like there for a wide-eyed singer/songwriter. And hopefully pick up some useful tips.
Update, May 26 2009
The rehearsals for my play, "Oh Winnipeg" continue to be fun and challenging. It's all blocked out now so tomorrow we do a run through from beginning to end to get a sense of pacing and how it all goes together. I love this whole process of "let's pretend" aka acting. See the theatre page for where and when, and a link to Rachel's page.
"This City" continues to get airplay on various stations around the world. Check out my Myspace page (via my links page) for an ever growing list of who is playing cuts from the CD. And if you want to order a copy, it's available at the usual places, either digitally or hard copy.
CD News: April 29, 2009
My CD "This City" is getting picked up by various college stations across the country. Also Music Resources at CBC Headquarters is sending it digitally to their 30 regional libraries. So now I contact the individual producers and give them a nudge. Marketing is a slow, hard slog. But necessary in order to be heard out there.
BTW, next show is a month away. At the historic Yale Hotel on Granville St. where some of my favorite blues heroes have played over the years. See the 'shows' page for more.
Added to a Music Site in France: April 20, 2009
I had a request this past weekend to have my songs and bio added to a site called L'Abripom based out of somewhere in France. There are some excellent artists represented there in various genres. Folk legend Tom Rush is one of them.
Latest Edition of the "Pippus Newsletter": April 12, 2009
I just sent out my latest newsletter to the folks signed up on my mailing list. You're invited to join. Just click on the "mailing list" page over there on the right.
The latest details on my play, our trip to New Zealand, photos and more.
A New Month: April 1, 2009
Looking forward to the show in Richmond on Saturday. I'm playing with my full band, as well as opening with a three-song solo set. This venue is good because the audience is there to listen. ALSO, minutes ago I got word I'll be playing a half hour set live on CITR radio next Wednesday. Details on my "shows" page. AND, the play rehearsals are going well. The title is, "Oh Winnipeg! A Surprising Musical Memoir". Details to come on my "theatre" page. We made it in the Vancouver Fringe at the last minute. Lucky break.
I posted a new blog on my myspace page on what I've learned so far about marketing my CD. The big thing, well one big thing, is follow up. Sending it out is one shoe dropping, the other shoe drops when you follow up.
Post Mortem on Last Night's Gig at Cafe Deux Soleils: March 19, 2009
A big public 'thanks' to Karen, Pat, Babak, and Petra for being part of such a fun and musical and high energy show last night.
The gig was at Cafe Deux Soleils and Pat (keyboards) and Babak (bass) signed on to play with me. In the end, Karen came along and provided djembe and bg vocals. And Petra was there after a few months layoff and on the spur of the moment, came on stage (at my urging) and did 4 songs with us.
We started off with a full house. Noisy because a lot of them were there for the short films that were shown before us. But halfway through the hour+ set the crowd thinned out to about half full and those that stayed were into the music.
I broke two guitar strings (playing too hard I think). Screwed up the instrumental in "Born A Genius". Otherwise, things went well. And became downright magical in places. "Statesboro Blues" went into uncharted territory for example. "Some Days" sounded sweet with Karen's harmony. And Pat added a lovely vocal harmony to "Oh Oh Oh" which I wasn't expecting. Listening for, and playing off Babak's tight bass lines was a blast (I'm used to playing solo so it's a whole new world o' fun).
Petra was awesome. She did "Man's World", "Inside and Out", and we dueted on "I Didn't Know" and "Volcano" (the Damien Rice tune). She didn't remember every word (it's been three months since she's done these tunes) but it didn't matter. I prompted here and there but mostly she just nailed it.
We wrapped up the night with maybe the best version of "Just Need A Friend" I've ever done. Pat's keyboard solo was outstanding. The extended ending with Karen singing along on the chorus line ('...let you light shine in...') brought the big musical bird in for a safe and comfy landing.
The Sweetheart Band. That's what I christened it onstage because these guys are a bunch of sweethearts. Lots of good comments afterwards from the audience too.
We're doing it again in Richmond on April 4th!! Can't wait!! xo, John
First Review of "This City": March 12, 2009
It was great to open the Province newspaper and see this review of my CD:
"A fixture at singer/songwriter haunts such as Trees Coffee House, Pippus is a refined tunesmith with serious pop hooks worked into tales of love, longing and the like. From the sexy urgency of "Oh Oh Oh" with the sultry Nat Jay to the lilting "Little Things," this disc is varied and impressive."
Stuart Derdeyn, The Province Newspaper. March 12/09
"This City" is Here!: February 18, 2009
My long-awaited (by me) full-length CD is finally here. It's been a long process. Lots of hard work by a lot of talented folks to make it all happen. It's available for digital download on iTunes. And for now, hard copies can be ordered by emailing me. $10 plus $2 postage. Or $10 at gigs.