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Oxygen, Columbus, GA, November 16, 2005

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Copyright 2005 by Music Morsels,
a Serge Entertainment Publication.
Editor: Sandy Serge
Contributing Columnists/Writers:
Mark E. Waterbury, Scott Turner

So maybe it wasn't the largest crowd these folks have played in front of. When you have the cumulative drawing power of Dokken, Winger, Warrant, Firehouse and Ratt, and if this was 1988, you would be calling stadiums and amphitheaters. Well, this is 2005, and the venue receiving the call was Oxygen; a club in the west Georgia burb of Columbus that lies a ninety minute drive from Atlanta or Birmingham. Most of the bands were represented by their frontmen with Firehouse being the only act to bring their entire contingent. The VH-1 Metal Mania Stripped Tour's stop here may not have been the same as the larger venues of the Northeast that were packed with hundreds of fans of the 80's rock icons. The numbers at Oxygen were more around the one hundred range. For the most part, the size of the crowd did not matter to the musicians on stage. They gave their utmost to rock those in attendance in the more intimate stripped down acoustic setting. Perhaps this was personified in the most intense way by Kip Winger.
Kip was one of the poster children of the 80's hair rock era. As the grunge, alt metal, and rap metal eras overlapped each other into the twenty-first century, many bands fell by the wayside. Some have persevered, while having to be less choosy about the size of the venues they perform at. Where Kip may differ from a lot of his contemporaries is that he has realized that even bands and musicians who were immensely popular at one point in their careers now have to do whatever they can just to maintain some sort of notoriety. Kip has done this by placing the music first. He has continued to write, recorded several solo albums and works with several other musicians on projects including his recent collaboration with Turkish guitarist Cenk Eroglu titled Xcarnation, and a power trio project with members of his first band Blackwood Creek.Kip continues to perform live and even reformed Winger to tour with Poison in 2002. More often, he tours as a solo performer as he did on the 2003 Rock Never Stops Tour headlined by Whitesnake. He often loads his own gear in and out, gets himself to the shows and sets his own equipment up just like the local bands do. That's what most call hands-on management proving that Kip has a tenacious work ethic.
Back to that chilly evening in Columbus, Georgia. While it looked like all of the musicians performing at the Stripped concert were enjoying themselves, Kip seemed to be having a blast. He has always been this way with his acoustic shows. This time around, he had company on stage - Winger-mate guitarist Reb Beach. Reb was having a lot of fun, too, and the chemistry between Kip and Reb seemed to eclipse even the onstage vibe present during the zenith of the band Winger's career. Former pop classics like She's Only Seventeen, Miles Away, and Headed For A Heartbreak seemed to emanate a more mature energy. Blind Revolution Mad and Down Incognito from the unfortunately overlooked rock masterpiece Pull (and yes I said masterpiece!) really brought the house down. The house was only about half full, but that didn't matter to the boys on stage or the crowd they were entertaining. It could have been the Hollywood Bowl, the Georgia Dome or Madison Square Garden with all the energy they exuded. Reb Beach (who pulled double duty on this tour joining Don Dokken on stage) proves that his guitar prowess is even more noticeable as he infuses his pyrotechnic soloing into his acoustic guitar. While Kip has done excellent solo performances in the post Winger era, this show makes us hungry to see more from the Kip and Reb duo, and we hope an album project is in the works.
Fledgling musicians can learn plenty from people like Kip Winger. This guy used to play in front of thousands of adoring fans. Now sometimes he plays in front of only a hundred or so. He keeps doing it because as exemplified by his show in Columbus, he has a pure love for creating, recording and performing music. He busted his butt from day one of his career to get to where he could play with multi-platinum acts - remember he was a bassist for Alice Cooper before forming Winger - and he keeps on working hard to this very day. That combination of love for what you are doing and stellar work ethic is paramount to success in any walk of life, and particularly in the artistic fields. Many musicians seem to get very frustrated if they don't receive instant gratification or success. They let their egos get in the way of their work ethic and feel their music is so good they don't have to go through the hard work it takes to achieve notice for it. When you truly have a passion and love for doing something, you should want to do everything possible to make sure that you are able to continue following that passion throughout your life. With music, that means you keep playing, you keep recording, and you always love doing it. When you look at someone who has experienced huge success such as Kip, someone who continues to perform, record, gives his utmost to the fans and to works religiously to pursue his life's passion, musicians who are just starting out have no excuse to turn down anything they think is beneath them or unnecessary for their career growth. If you do that, thenyou probably don't have the true passion that is prerequisite to having a successful music career.
Another example Kip sets is that you really have to do whatever possible to hone your craft and make sure you are not just relying on your God-given talents, but work diligently to be the best musician you can possibly be. Kip has always been a student of music, continuing his studies to this very day under highly-regarded composer Michael Kurek at Vanderbilt University. Part of what can keep your passion flames burning is having that lust for learning, to realize that you don't know everything and can always improve, while having the childlike wonderment of discovering something new. This helps keep your music perspective fresh, and it translates into your performance and writing. Keep your equipment in top shape, too, and, in Kip's case, this is represented by how stellar his vocals sounded at the Stripped show. He obviously has done whatever possible to keep his voice in fighting trim, which is very difficult when you consider the vocal gymnastics necessary in his music.
Maybe you won't get to play in front of thousands of people on a worldwide tour or sell millions of albums. You can however make a living, enjoy what you are doing, and continue to touchand entertain people, just as Kip did that evening in Columbus. Remember that with all of Kip's successes, he had to start from square one just like everyone in this biz. He had the passion and work ethic to sustain success for his entire career which continues to grow, and you can do this, too, if you just apply yourself and remember why you are a musician in the first place. Use that as your fuel. :->
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