Smile Politely

Treat or Treat: an evening with sweet tooth Zach Vinson

Zachary Vinson’s coming to town, bringing along his indie sensibilities and a little Nashville flare. Mike ‘N Molly’s is the place to be, the doors open at 8 p.m. and Vinson goes on at 9:30 p.m.. $5 at the door. His tour is called the Treat or Treat tour, and for a sweet reason: he is handing out free candy at all of his shows, because he is a sweets fanatic (his favorite candy is Nerds) and it’s almost Halloween. Make sure to bring your candy catching apparatuses.

So, I’m pretty jealous of Zach Vinson. There, I said it. Maybe it’s the romance of hitting the road in an old van and living the inglorious life of a rock star that enchants me, or living in the depths of Nashville’s music scene, submerged in the life of a struggling artist. Not going to lie — I crave this life sometimes, and I bet you people out there do, too. Talking to him, I felt like that kid from Almost Famous (if you haven’t seen it, immediately stop reading my article and watch it. You won’t hurt my feelings).

However, I digress. Vinson is coming to C-U tonight, accompanied by bassist Mike Shannon and drummer Isaac Tucker, in a station wagon with 200,000 miles on it with a trailer on the back bearing all the music gear. If anything, you should come out and congratulate him for making it here and give his van a pat on the hood.

I think a brief telling of his history is necessary to get an idea on what kind of guy he is. For one, he’s smart. He nailed the ACT, getting nearly a perfect score, and was immediately inundated with college suitors. But he turns down many lovely and alluring institutions for a fiercer mistress: rock ‘n roll. A small college in Michigan lured him back into the world of books and boredom to study piano performance for four years, and now he pounds away on the keys and guitar in Nashville.

His current LP is entitled The Streets Will Turn the Streams, which he will be playing, but also he has some new material that he’ll be revealing at the show.

Here’s a sampling of his piano playing in his cover of the Wallflowers’ “One Headlight” at a place called the 5 Spot in Nashville.

Pretty groovy, right? He shows off some of his chops and his vocal ability too. Here also is an original of his, which is apparently about “Russian literature and a little piece of wood that’s in my house.” Well, that’s interesting inspiration for a song.

His piano playing in this one almost sounds like a banjo, and he maintains rapid sixteenth notes as he sings at the same time. It’s a sophisticated sound that isn’t quite explainable in light of other bands. So I went to the source to find out how to describe his style.

I had the honor of chatting with Zach on the phone and asked him about his musical influences. He stated that he is “drawn to anybody writing interesting piano parts,” citing Ben Folds, Regina Spektor, and Fiona Apple as a few, and describing his genre as “indie-pop-rock.”

He seemed very excited to come to Champaign, particular Mike ‘N Molly’s, saying that playing there was “one of the coolest shows I’ve played in the last few years.” That’s a high honor, considering how many gigs this guy plays per year. “You have to play a bunch of crappy shows before you play any good ones” said Vinson. Kudos to Mike ‘N Molly’s for rising above the bevy of crap venues around the U.S. He spoke highly of our cool, quaint little music scene, that none of his fellow musicians seemed to know about or disregard.

I asked him for advice for people (like myself) who daydream about being a musician and want to go off in a dilapidated van in pursuit of musical recognition. He said it “takes so much more work than people realize” and it’s a lot of “playing to empty rooms.” Throughout our conversation, he was very down-to-earth guy, and revealed to me that music isn’t about all that American Idol / MTV bullshit, but about hard work, dedication, and struggle. This guy is a real musician.

Zach Vinson plays at Mike ‘N Molly’s tonight with An Evening With Your Mother and Year of the Bobcat. Check out the Facebook event for all the details.

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