Do you love Neil Young? This Saturday, November 12, on Neil Young’s birthday, head to Carpinteria’s Plaza Playhouse Theater to honor the man, the myth, the legend, and his music, with S.B.’s Claude Hopper joining Bay Area band Shakey Zimmerman both playing covers of the renowned and rebellious rocker in a night deemed Forever Young. I chatted with Shakey Zimmerman’s Pat Nevins over e-mail about what inspired the night, performing Young’s material, and what makes Young such an enduring performer.
How did this concert come together?
The idea for a show at the Plaza Playhouse Theater in Carp actually came about a few years ago after my long time friend and music partner, Dave Cowan of Claude Hopper, and I began tossing ideas around for a bill that could combine both elements of our lifelong musical journeys and paths taken by influences and by our own music. I have always admired Dave’s prolific ability to write great songs and he has given me the nod of approval for what I enjoy most: paying tribute to the songs of Neil Young and Bob Dylan. I just like singing them and people enjoy my take, which brings the listener right into the ballpark and neighborhood of these two iconic songwriters.
So finally, all things lined up in the wild world of music and schedules, and when Neil Young’s upcoming birthday landed on this Saturday and we finally had two really hot bands to team up, we approached Michael Lazaro at the Plaza Playhouse with the idea that is “Forever Young.” From Shakey Zimmerman, you will hear a large bite of Neil Young songs along with a few timeless Bob Dylan songs. You may not know what the songs will be, but chances are you will know the songs. There is such a large grab bag and we dig in at every show. We take the songs and like I said, really get in the neighborhood of the original songs that can cover decades and really leave behind a feeling of “wow man… I have not heard those songs in so long and they are songs that are just permanently blazed in my mind.” We have a great end of show all planned with both Shakey Zimmerman and Claude Hopper getting together onstage to close the show together.
How did you select which material to perform? What are your favorite Neil Young songs?
Picking Neil Young songs for me has always been a challenge. The challenge is I have played at some point nearly every one of them. That includes the unreleased stuff and there are plenty. I have always broken it down to the “deep cuts”, the accessible, and the huge hits… same with Dylan, but that’s a different animal. Neil Young has so many songs that strike a beautiful chord in the hearts and minds of so many common everyday people, that I realized at a young age the power of simplicity in songwriting in terms of chords and words, and the power of just the right word landing on top of just the right chord, and how it can resonate inside a listener’s ears and bring comfort or motivation or strength or whatever to that person, and it helps them through their day and life. That’s truly why I have learned over my life how to become the singer and guitarist that I am. On this birthday night for Neil, you may actually know and feel exactly what I just described with every song on our setlist. Yes, we know the list already! And we’re Deadheads so we should all get a pat on the back for that! Do I have a favorite Neil Young song? That’s a hard one… You likely wouldn’t know it.
Why is Neil Young such an enduring figure in pop and music culture today? Why does his music still speak to us?
Neil Young is a warrior. Nobody takes more roads in music than Neil. Sure, he has a formula, and it works for him. His never-ending quest for the next thing is what I admire about him most. I particularly love his newfound partnership with Promise of The Real. The songs, the message, the passion, the admiration and drive to light a match under Neil’s rear end, and him showing these young guys who love their Uncle Neil like his fans do, that his energy and endless effort through decades of music and life’s good and bad. He just keeps going. I feel so lucky to have experienced his run through rock and roll, and along with a few others like Bob Dylan and Gram Parsons and a few others, who have given me personal satisfaction as a performer.
How is your music coming along personally? How does Neil play into your music?
I do write songs but not as regularly as I should. It’s hard to not attempt it, though, after literally thousands of songs in my homework assignment given to myself by me. I have composed about 35-40 songs and some have appeared on various projects albums over the years. I do have enough in the can for what I hope will be my first all original solo CD. I have written some songs with an old friend in Chicago who is a gifted songwriter and all around incredible musician. There’s been some talk of teaming up for an album with my guitarist in Shakey Zimmerman, Jody Salino, who is a great recording engineer as well as guitarist. I’m actually leaning towards that project because these guys will bring out the best in me.
Anything else you’d like to say? I hope to see a lot of friends and to meet some new ones this Saturday night in Carp! We have a special guest singing some of the killer acoustic Neil songs with me. Karina Dawn Line from local SB all girl surfer band, The Saltines will be joining the fun. I will even let one song on the setlist out. Harvest Moon is on tap. We can’t wait to see the moon over the ocean this weekend.