News Column

Sweetwater to kick off summer concert series

June 27, 2013

YellowBrix

Chris Vipond said that after his mother died, she actually helped him move on with his life and pursue his music on a new level.

Vipond, 37, heads Chris Vipond and the Stanley Street Band, which will perform its brand of funky roots rock at 6 p.m. Friday in the Sweetwater Center for the Arts' Summer Music Series in Sewickley.

The Altoona native said he tried to help keep the family appliance business open after his mother died, but it didn't work out. After the business closed, he wrote a song inspired by his mother.

He said "Shine" led him to form the band that has been more successful than any other band he has performed with in more than two decades.

"'Shine' sends the message that people don't have to be related to be family," he said. "The song is about pulling support from everyone around you when you need it. Tragedy brings people closer, where there may not have been a connection before. It's about shining light on the darkness in life by having that support system."

Since that first song, band members have made two albums, recording and producing them on their own. Their first album, simply named "Self-Titled," was released in 2009 and the other, "Tupelo Tree" released in 2011, is named after a tree that produces blooms to help bees make "the best honey."

Vipond, who is engaged to the band's photographer, Amber Treese, said the song "Tupelo Tree" is about finding that place of your own with someone else -- "your own little tree house."

Along with writing songs, Vipond also sings and plays the Hammond organ, Hohner clavinet, ukulele and harmonica. The organ and clavinet, which together weigh about 500 pounds, are a bit of a spectacle on stage, he said,

The organ was made in 1955, and the clavinet, a type of piano with 66 guitar strings used by Stevie Wonder for the song, "Superstition," has not been made since the 1970s.

Vipond started out by playing guitar for the band. He said he could have purchased a modern keyboard but likes the sounds of the instruments, which he taught himself to play.

The band also also includes: Michael Stanley, 37, on bass guitar and vocals; Randy Servello, 45, drums, percussion and vocals; and C'Jay Castello, 23, lead guitar.

They perform about four to six times each month in the summer at outdoor festivals.

Elysia Cecchetti, Sweetwater artistic director, said she wanted something that would catch the audience's attention for the music series.

"After the first few minutes of listening to them, I knew that they would be perfect and appealing to all audiences," she said.

Vipond said many of the songs he's written for the band, now in its eighth year, were inspired by events in his life. Stanley told his best friend of almost 20 years that he almost looks forward to bad things happening.

"He said he can't wait to see how I process that as an artist, because I don't let anything bother me. It all goes into the music," Vipond said.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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