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Verve Pipe live online, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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The Verve Pipe has been a road warrior band since it launched 28 years ago in East Lansing. So having to cancel or postpone some 40 shows this year due to the pandemic was jarring.

But the troupe is still hard at play. The band, as well as frontman Brian Vander Ark, have played some socially distanced concerts, and Vander Ark has done private solo shows in people's back yards. On Saturday, the Verve Pipe sets up at The Listening Room in Grand Rapids for a virtual show to benefit that venue as well as The Ark in Ann Arbor.

And Vander Ark promises, there's new music coming in the near future.

Vander Ark says the pandemic has made it "a little harder to survive as a musician," but he and the Verve Pipe had laid some groundwork with their early embrace of social media and other alternative avenues. "I started doing lawn chairs & living room concerts 14 years ago, which was all about going into strangers' homes and playing for them, kissing babies, being a politician about my music. You can't go into somebody's home right now, but you can go into their back yard and play. It's another challenge for reinvention, just to be able to survive."

The Verve Pipe's first live pandemic show came during the summer at Max & Emily's in Mount Pleasant, as part of a summer concert series. "They didn't want to do it outdoors, for some reason," Vander Ark recalls, "so we did it indoors, with masks on ... and streamed it. It was small and we were nervous just being around each other, let alone the dozen people in there. It was fine. We got to play again, which was the best thing."

The Verve Pipe hasn't done much in the streaming arena "because there's so many bands doing it," says Vander Ark, but it's taking great pains to make this weekend's livestream special. "It's going to be us sitting in a circle as a band talking, telling stories about the songs and playing them." Vander Ark also will present two brand new songs that the Verve Pipe will work up from scratch for the cameras. "It's a two-hour Verve Pipe experiment rather than us just playing to an empty room. We're just trying to figure out how to make our band stand out a little more than other bands."

The Verve Pipe also is finishing material for its next album, the follow-up to 2017's "Parachute." "We're 10 songs deep," Vander Ark says. "I'd like a couple more songs. We've been back in the studio after (the pandemic) pushed things back a bit. We'll release them two a month, probably, and in six months put an LP out."

The Verve Pipe is slated to play another live show on Oct. 17 in Omaha, Neb. "We're taking the gigs we can take," Vander Ark says. "We've got a handful of (other shows) left in the year. We have a lot locked down next year, starting next May unless those get pushed again. In the meantime, the actual creation of content is where the focus is right now."

The Verve Pipe performs a virtual concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, with proceeds benefiting The Ark in Ann Arbor and the Listening Room in Grand Rapids. Tickets are $20 via thevervepipe.com and the venues' websites.

Web Site: www.thevervepipe.com

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