You didn’t know Pete Anderson was playing a show in Schenectady last Thursday night, did you?
On Tuesday morning my good friend, Bernie, contacted me and asked if I liked Pete Anderson. “Heck yes!,” I said. Then he asked me if I would be willing to work the door for the band. I asked where and when and was told they would be playing at Yours Jazz Club in the Electric City. I’ve been working in Schenectady for five years, and I had never heard of the place, so I looked it up on Google and found the club – only a couple of blocks from where I work. The only notice I found of the show was on ReverbNation, but I assumed the show was publicized, and I just didn’t see an announcement. Regardless, I was happy to have another brush with the music bidness and figured it would be cool to meet Pete and his band.
Most people know Pete Anderson from his work with Dwight Yoakam. That’s how I first heard of him. It was in a small dive right near the old Coulson’s on Delaware Avenue in Albany, back in the mid-1980s. They had a jukebox, and my old pal Dixie and me were looking for songs and saw something called “Guitars, Cadillacs and Hillbilly Music,” and just knew the song had to be played. Can I say it changed my life?
I arrived at Yours just as Pete’s band pulled up in their conversion van. I watched as the van doors opened and out popped the musicians and a large amount of equipment – it was kind of like a clown car in the circus because stuff just kept coming out of that van! I said hello and then helped them carry the equipment to the stage on the second floor. Talk about a regular bunch of guys! They were friendly and actually seemed to be excited to be in Schenectady. Pete asked me if I was familiar with this club, I said “no,” and pointed to the “For Sale” sign in the window.
The club was quite a surprise – the first floor was a very nice lounge with a small stage in front and a working jukebox in the rear. The band stage was on the second floor, and it was a jewel – a room that could hold about 75 people with a raised stage that looked like it was plucked direct from the 1960s. Imagine what Valentine’s must have looked like the day it first opened and you get the idea (clean, in case you don’t get the idea!). The band quickly set up, and I got a chance to play Pete’s guitar when he took it out of the case and handed it to me!
I was getting excited about the show when I found out the admission door was on the first floor… where I wouldn’t be able to see the band play! At 8pm, I went down and set up the cash box and got ready for the rush that never came. There were two friends of the band who were comped and only four paying customers! That’s right, four. The band went on about 20 minutes later, and I could hear the muffled sound of Pete’s band playing over the canned ‘70s smooth jazz that playing in the lounge. Feeling a sense of duty, I waited for about a half hour before locking the cash box and walking upstairs to watch the rest of the show.
The band was excellent with Michael Murphy on keyboards and a great rhythm section featuring Greg Hanna on bass and Jesper Kistenson on drums. They played for about 90 minutes straight at a low volume that let you hear everything being played. Pete has an easy, laid back style and he told some great stories between the songs. One time he thanked the six people in the audience and explained there were nights on tour when only one person showed up and other nights – like the day before in Syracuse – where he said they rocked a packed Dinosaur BBQ. “It’s a long way from the Lear jets and limos when I was playing with Dwight.” Pete also said that someday people would say, “I was there at the Yours Jazz Club gig…”
The music was mix of tunes, about half instrumental, from his five solo albums, with a focus on his most recent Album, “Even Things Up.” Pete’s guitar playing was effortless and it was clear to see that the band was having a good time. When he sang – as on the new album’s title track – Anderson seemed to easily whisper the words and made it fit in with brand of slow-to-moderate-paced blues tunes. “The Dogbone Shuffle” had about the fastest tempo of the night. It was a jump blues instrumental with a Gatemouth Brown/Cornelius Dupree kind of vibe that had the toes a tappin’. Pete also paid tribute to his favorite guitarist on another instrumental, “Wes’ Side Blues,” which had a Latin swing and once again showed his great chops. When you see him play, you think, “It looks like playing guitar is easy,” but then you come back to reality and realize this guy is just that good. “That’s How Trouble Starts” was about as gritty as the music got, and Pete’s understated vocals and slide playing brought one of the funkiest grooves of the night.
I wish I had the proper words to describe Pete Anderson’s style. Sure, its got blues and some jazz at its base, but for a guy from Detroit by way of California, there was definitely some gumbo in the mix. The music bears no resemblance to the honky-tonk country he played with Dwight Yoakum. For one thing, Pete has replaced his Esquire, Telecasters and Stratocasters with a thin line hollowbody guitar. There’s still twang, but it is muted and without as much treble. There was some T-Bone Walker, a little Duane Eddy and maybe even a little Louis Jordan thrown into the mix, creating a warm groove that came at you in gentle waves. It was music that I really enjoyed, but at the same time, I could have played this music for one of my parents’ parties back in the 1960s, and everyone would be happy.
Lucky me that I was there! I know what all the other people in the audience look like, so one day when people say, “Remember that show where Pete played an awesome show for only six people right here in Schenectady? Well, I was there.” And I can say, “Yes, I remember”… and know if they’re fibbing.
Next time they come to town, I told Pete to let me know because I will get people to his show. At the very least, I will get a notice on Nippertown!
Review and photographs by Dan Hogan