Salem, Oregon’s blues rock guitar god, Ty Curtis played an incendiary show last Saturday night, November 24, 2018 at the “Half Penny Public House.” This time of the year as the temperature drops and the fall and winter rainy season begins people are reluctant to leave the dry warmth of their homes to unnecessarily venture out. That being said, it was a cold and rainy night when we pulled into one of two parking lots adjacent to the venue, which held a couple of hundred people, only to find it filled to overflowing. After being trapped in the North lot we entered the South and found it just as packed, when a car miraculously pulled out in front of us leaving a space.
It was 8:45 PM, when we entered the packed club. The show was to begin at 9:00 PM so I went up to the stage and made copies of the two set lists in back of one of the microphone stands. When Ty and the band came out he introduced me to the two new band members, Mike Renwick on percussion and Ryan Stadler on bass, along with his long time drummer Jerry Jacques.
Over the decades “The Half Penny” has had nearly a dozen different names as it changed hands and catered to different age groups and musical genres, including pop rock, gangster rap, classic rock and blues rock. Tonight the roof was being raised by the impeccable talent of Ty Curtis’s tight blues rock quartet. The band led off with “Thief of Hearts” from 2014’s Water Under The Bridge, giving Ty a chance to dive right into a fast driving number as he moved back and forth while viciously attacking his axe. Four of the next five songs were from the same album and kept the adrenaline flowing. It’s always more enjoyable, visually, to watch an animated band and that’s what it was, with Ty leading the assault.
Ty Curtis began performing professionally immediately after graduating from High School and has continued to successfully do so since 2005. He spent a year in Austin, Texas to hone his skills and record a couple of albums, but now he was back in Oregon, except for occasionally performing out of state, which will be happening next month when the band plays in Texas for three shows. Tonight, blues rock fans in Salem were enjoying some of the best of the genre as Ty shredded his guitar, which emanated sonic ear splitting peals, as he played selections from all six studio albums.
Songs like “Come On” and “I Lit A Fire” from Stubborn Mind gave Ty a chance to show off the vocals that made him the two time winner of the “Cascade Blues Association’s” “Curtis Salgado” vocalist of the year award. I called Ty a “triple threat” in the first article that I wrote about him years ago because of his ability to not only play incredible lead guitar and sing lead vocals, but also write his own music. His repertoire is impressive and performances are only lightly seasoned with covers.
This performance was no exception as the crowd gyrated on the dance floor while the band pumped out over two dozen tunes with a rapturous enthusiasm. From “That Good” to “Blame Me” from the album of the same name, Jerry Jacques and Mike Renwick kept perfect time and provided the primal beat that transformed the carnal to the spiritual, with Ryan Stadler driving it home with his resonating bass. Ty’s vocals are as infectious as his mesmerizing guitar.
“With my back against the wall
I don’t know you at all…”
“Don’t Know You At All” from 2012’s self titled album is a discovery of a failed relationship and Ty sang with the emotional intensity that it deserves. After an hour set the band took a break for about twenty minutes before they came back and played another hour. The second half was as intense as the first and provided the enthusiastic audience ample opportunity to exhaust its energy on the dance floor. Songs like “Some Kinda Situation,” from the same self titled album, took a jazzier turn as the tempo slowed down. One of the last songs for the night was “Blame Me” the title song from the album of the same name, that gave those with enough energy left to occupy the dance floor the opportunity to finally exhaust themselves.
Review by Bob Gersztyn