“No Band? No Problem!” – Daniel Champagne @ Hugh’s Room (Nov. 10/2014)

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I could not have been blessed with a more exciting or enthralling performance to review for my first piece here. Solo artists are nothing new, and they’re often lost in ambient noise at a venue, or just bad, but Daniel Champagne is one of the rare ones. You could have heard a pin drop in the crowd for the entirety of his set on the 10th at Hugh’s Room, and that’s no easy feat for a one-man acoustic act. Whatever your musical tastes be, there is no denying Champagne’s status as a virtuoso guitarist, and a commanding presence on the stage. Comfortable and confident, telling stories where stories are to be told, Champagne made the most of this intimate setting, and conversed with the crowd regularly. His performance is a conversation, rather than a lecture.

Originally from musically mysterious Australia, Champagne has worked his way West since turning 18, making waves at festival stages around the globe. Still only in his early 20’s, he has recently displayed his unstoppable work ethic; recording, releasing and touring at an impressive pace. While his accomplishments are on par with those achieved by peers in the industry that have been performing for decades, Daniel Champagne seems to only be getting warmed up. With his creativity in both songwriting and guitar playing in their prime, I suspect to be seeing a lot of Mr. Champagne in the years to come. Now residing in Nashville, Tennessee, he is in striking distance of North America, and fortunately for us, he plans to be taking full advantage of this.

As I’m relatively new to the city, this was my first outing to Hugh’s Room, and I was thoroughly impressed. Ideal for a show of this one’s nature, the atmosphere, acoustics, and location were excellent. Christopher Thompson was the local opening act, and he was a force unto himself. Of a similar vein to Champagne, while Thompson only played three tunes, he made an impression while he was on the stage. As a young up-and-comer, he held his own in the spotlight, and shows strong potential to really carve out a name for himself in this extremely competitive niche genre. A recurring question that comes out of this style of music is whether or not it can meld well with added instrumentation, and Thompson has shown interest in bridging this gap, at times featuring additional banjo, and atmospheric electric guitars.

Now, I had been lucky enough to have already seen Daniel Champagne twice this past summer at the Hillside Festival in Guelph. On these occasions, he had been playing (again, solo) to packed festival stages, with plenty going on around him both visually, and in unwanted ambient noise. Too often do delicate acoustic performances get drowned out in these situations, and I was concerned that Champagne’s sets would have gone the same way. I had no need to worry. With a thunderous performance, Champagne impressed and intrigued with rapid fire rhythmic strumming, tapping, slapping, and the like. His sets suited the venue, and ended with the crowd virtually eating out of his palm, paying rapt attention. As if that wasn’t enough, he closed with his incredible rendition of the Willie Dixon standard Spoonful (seen below)In comparison, something I loved about Champagne’s set at Hugh’s room was how different it was from that at Hillside. He was still just as impressive, and played many of the same tunes, but his approach to the set was entirely different, and really hammered in just how versatile he is as a performing artist. It’s not easy for a performer of any kind to play two different stellar shows at two completely different venues, but Champagne managed to sound natural and at home at both. For the Toronto set, Spoonful was no less mind-blowing than in Guelph, but it was placed in the middle of the set, and the closing tune was instead The Gypsy Moon (also below), a more delicate original, which he described as “The most honest thing (he’s) ever written.”. 

Daniel Champagne is a crossroads. Fusing the strong traditions of blues, folk, and other roots arts with pop showmanship and admirable lyrical ability, I firmly believe that he will become an ambassador for roots music in a time where it desperately needs representation. An acoustic guitar being the honest, bare, and unforgiving instrument that it is, Champagne’s entire musical presence reflects that. You see a man and a guitar on a stage, and there’s no more to it than that. But lordy what he can do.

No band? No problem.

You can find Daniel’s bio, music, and other fun things at: danielchampagnemusic.com

Spoonful:

The Gypsy Moon:

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