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June 21, 2014
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The Record Company to start Music on the Half Shell season

The coming Music on the Half Shell season starts Tuesday, with an upbeat blues-rock trio whose singer says it’s firing on all cylinders.

This year’s Half Shell lineup features three returning acts — Pink Martini (Aug. 12), The Wailers (July 15) and Shemekia Copeland (Aug. 5) — and is heavy on the blues. That style has strongly influenced three of this summer’s Half Shell acts.

The lineup, announced in May, also includes Josh Ritter (July 29), Dervish (July 22), Playing for Change (July 8) and Rick Estrin and the Nightcats (July 1).

With the Douglas County Fair again hosting four major music acts, there will be five straight days of big-name entertainment in Douglas County, with Copeland playing the Half Shell the Tuesday of fair week.

But the Half Shell’s 23rd season starts with The Record Company, at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Nichols Band Shell in Stewart Park.

Frontman Chris Vos says he’s finally playing the music he’s always wanted.

In 2011, after more than a decade playing in the Milwaukie music scene, the singer and guitarist decided to try a larger market. After he settled on — and in — Los Angeles, Vos’ wife, who works in advertising, wrote him a “lovingly fraudulent” Craigslist ad seeking like-minded musicians. It yielded a call from bassist Alex Stiff, who goes way back with a drummer named Marc Cazorla.

At first, Vos said he was content having friends in town who listened to the same music (they bonded early over the 1971 John Lee Hooker/Canned Heat collaboration “Hooker ‘n Heat”). But what Vos really wanted was to start a band with Stiff and Cazorla, who had other musical commitments.

When they did finally pick up their instruments together, Vos said, it felt like coming home.

“Playing with Alex and Marc is the single most rewarding experience in music I’ve had in years,” he said. “They are an absolute pleasure to play with.

“This is the band I’ve always wanted to be in, period.”

The union has been popularly successful, as well. In just two years, The Record Company has gone from playing living room get-togethers for friends to sharing the stage with B.B. King and Buddy Guy, playing the Montreal Jazz Festival, and others, and recording two albums.

Vos admits to being thrown by some of the band’s success. A memorable example was when a friend emailed him a link to a trailer for the 2013 film “Last Vegas,” featuring Record Company song “Feels So Good.”

“There’s Morgan Freeman on the screen and my song is playing. I’m thinking to myself, this is crazy,” he said. “It’s a thrill, I mean, I’m a Wisconsin kid. This L.A. stuff is crazy.”

Though its list of influences is long, The Record Company’s sound is simply blues and rock, period. The word “gritty” is often used to describe it. “My favorite bands always sound like they could come off the rails at any time,” Vos said.

The musician said he’s not taking commercial success for granted. He still tries to make time after a show for anyone who wants to talk.

“I did a lot of struggling, just like everybody else,” he said. “There was a good four, five years there where I was playing in bands that couldn’t draw 15 people to a show. So I appreciate very much playing a show for a big crowd of people who are into it.”

The vice president of the Half Shell committee, Lani Kimoto, said all indications are it will be another good season. Generous volunteers and donors have helped make the nonprofit concert series the success it is, she said.

“The Half Shell can almost move on its own at this point. It’s this little machine, and it just goes and goes and goes,” she said.

For the benefit of any early birds, Kimoto clarified the Half Shell’s Blanket Rule: No claiming space overnight.

“The rule is dawn the day of the show, then you can put them down.”

• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at gandrews@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Jun 23, 2014 10:27AM Published Jun 25, 2014 09:57AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.