If you're old enough to remember the 70s, or a connoisseur of the
"Austin Powers" cinematic trilogy, the word "shag" may conjure up images
of thick, boldly-colored carpet... or, perhaps more accurately, thoughts of
a debauched nature on which we need not elaborate (groovy, baby).
However, if you’ve been around the Milwaukee music scene recently, "Shag"
will mean more to you than ugly flooring or cheap fornication.
Shag is a musical group, a "band of brothers," four guys who exude a
magical energy when they perform as a unit. Shag pushes their capabilities
as a four-piece outfit to the absolute limit while appealing to the
broadest possible spectrum of humanity. Yes, they are primarily a cover
band... one of many out there. So what makes Shag so special? What sets
them apart from the typical run-of-the-mill, garden-variety,
you-see-one-you've-seen-'em-all cover band? Well...
REPERTOIRE: Shag has well over 300 different songs that they can pull
off on any given night, and the list continues to grow. Most bands
follow a strict regimen of set lists each time they play, with little
to no deviation. If you happen to catch Shag on two consecutive nights,
it's unlikely that you'll hear them repeat more than a couple songs.
It's not uncommon to hear Shag play a selection of oldies from Elvis
or Buddy Holly, country chestnuts by Johnny Cash or Eddie Rabbit,
mullet-inspired arena rock by Styx or Journey, R&B hits from James Brown
or Stevie Wonder, one-hit wonders like "Brandy" or "Black Betty," 80s
new-wave by Duran-Duran or Flock of Seagulls, late-80s hair/leather metal
from Bon Jovi or GNR, early-90s jam-band favorites by Phish or Dave
Matthews Band, later-90s rockers by the Chili Peppers or Rusted Root,
and plenty of "AOR" classics by Steely Dan, Rush, The Beatles, Rolling
Stones, The Police, The Eagles, David Bowie, Tom Petty, Queen, AC/DC,
The Cars, Pink Floyd, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin... the
list literally goes on and on.
TALENT: Shag consists of the time-honored instrumental line-up of guitar,
bass, drums, and keyboards (with the keyboard player doubling on sax
when appropriate), and each member is well adept on his respective instrument.
But not only are these guys good individually, but they know how to play
great together. Not only that, there isn't a member of Shag that can play
less than four different instruments. When the mood strikes them, they
just might switch instruments... maybe even in mid-song. And, if that
wasn't enough, there's no bona-fide lead singer... they each take turns with
the lead vocal, and there's plenty of four-part harmony. Not many bands
can make that claim.
AUTHENTICITY: Unlike many bands today, Shag has never once resorted to
the conveniences of technology to augment their sound. There is no
sequencing, sampling, artificial harmonizing, or any such supplementary
mechanical gizmo used to replicate the sound of a human voice or a person
playing a musical instrument. Sure, they could succumb to the temptation
of using such electronic devices, or even adding more members to the fold.
But the sound that would ultimately blare out of their speakers would be
considerably less exciting... less abandoned... less real. When Shag plays,
they never "go through the motions." They don't have that luxury.
Simply put, what you see (and hear) is what you get.
Blaine Anderson (Guitar/Vocals) -Spirited. Soulful. Expressive. Instinctive.
In addition to being a versatile and intuitive guitarist, Blaine has an
incredible singing voice that leaves people dumbfounded as to how such a
powerful voice can possibly emanate from such a little guy. To see him
doing a heartfelt acoustic ballad one moment, then suddenly switch gears
and do a staggering James Brown funk-fest shortly after... it boggles the mind.
There aren't many guys out there who can interpret a song's attitude and
intent, and then deliver it with such heart & legitimacy the way Blaine does.
While his primary instrument is guitar, Blaine is also well-skilled on the
bass, lap-steel, and pedal-steel guitar.
Jake Blake (Bass/Vocals) - Stoical. Articulate. Fastidious. Mysterious.
Perhaps the most subdued member of the band, Jake was born into a musical
family, and he also seems to have been born with perfect pitch. Cutting
his musical teeth on a plastic guitar at the tender age of 5, he'd already
showed signs of having a unique musical gift. A few years later, his father
started telling people that "Jake could hear a church-bell ring and tell
you what note it is." While Jake maintains that this has never actually
been field-tested, he will admit that he was blessed, or perhaps cursed,
with impeccable hearing. "On one hand, it's a blessing because I can detect
subtle anomalies within the ensemble and attempt to correct them,"he says.
"On the other hand, I've also been labeled a 'perfectionist @$$#?!&' by our
drummer... affectionately, I presume." In addition to the bass, Jake is also
proficient on guitar, drums, and keyboards.
Dave Cywinski (Drums/Vocals) - Engaging. Boisterous. Resolute. Uproarious.
"Cy" was born to be a drummer. Not only does he have a seemingly effortless
& innate ability to create a delightfully thunderous sound with those sticks,
he has the vigor and vivacity that is utterly suited for the drummer's throne.
When he's behind the drums, he radiates as much energy as a nuclear power
plant, all the while interjecting his personality and hilarious sense of humor.
That said, he is by no means a mere jocular jester who wants to simply bang on
the drums all day. Just watch Dave play "Tom Sawyer" by Rush chop-for-chop,
and you'll see for yourself that this guy is deadly serious when it comes to
his craft. Though the drums are his forte (no pun intended!), he also dabbles
with guitar, bass, and recorder.
Chuck Travis, Jr. (Keyboards/Sax/Vocals) - Reliable. Incomparable. Steadfast. Extraordinary.
By all accounts, Chuck was a child prodigy. Like Jake, he too was born into
a musical family, getting his start on the drums at 3 years of age. Then,
incredibly, he performed on national TV only a year later (that's right...
4 years old, playing drums on national TV). While Chuck's primary instrument
eventually became the tenor sax, he is also well-versed on the keyboards,
alto sax, flute, bass guitar, and (of course) drums. For a truly inconceivable
display of talent and dexterity, watch Chuck playing a melody on the sax with
the fingers of his left hand, while simultaneously playing a keyboard part with
his right hand. One must see it to believe it. Furthermore, there aren't
many guys out there who can sing Led Zeppelin or AC/DC the way he can. His
talent is simply immeasurable.
Click on the band member to learn more about them.