“Hippie Gone Rogue” the latest album to be released by Portage’s iconic “scrub blues” singer-songwriter “Fireball Paul” Shepherd will be celebrated tonight (Feb. 22) as part of Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival’s Open Mic & Jam Night.
Shepherd will perform songs from the new release as well as those local fans have come to love as part of his release plans for the new CD.
“Portage la Prairie is the perfect place for writing and performing songs, especially during the long, cold winters,” says Fireball Paul. “The Legion is a good venue to release the CD as I like to support community efforts and I think it’s a good thing to do. I enjoy the jams and it seems like it’s a music spot and so that would be the spot to do it,” Shepherd explained.
On “Hippie Gone Rogue,” Fireball Paul shares his stories of overcoming personal struggles, his perspective on current events and hits a raw nerve with “Girl Gone Missing”. “Girl Gone Missing” is a song about how we don’t always put things into perspective,” Shepherd said. “What we think is important at the moment, isn’t all that important when you look at it in the big picture.” It is a song a song reminding all who listen that Amber McFarland, who was 24 when she disappeared in October 2008 and Jennifer Catcheway missing since June 19, 2008, the day of her 18th birthday, is really something more to think about then some of the daily grind we can find to complain about.
“It’s interesting that I hear from some that it is a negative song, that it doesn’t put Portage in the best light…that’s not what it is about. But if I can get people thinking about important things, things that matter, then this won’t be a song with a message gone missing.
“My songs are nothing more than a steam pot with a check valve. When I watch the news and see what’s going on, I get frustrated and this is how the frustration comes out. Most of the songs are written at 3 a.m. It’s both a curse and a blessing.”
Manon Timshel, an emerging folk singer-songwriter based in Portage, will be hosting the evening of live entertainment and jamming.
“Anyone can sign up to perform music, comedy, poetry, and the like during the open mic and participate in the jam session afterwards,”, Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival Artistic Director Josh Wright said.
“The new talent and live entertainment at the Open Mic & Jam Night means more to me than what’s on TV or the radio. When it’s live, it’s real,” Shepherd said. “And every once in a while, you hit a bad chord, and folks are forgiving and they love to watch people play music. Everyone has a good time and talks about it later.”
The combined event takes place at Royal Canadian Legion Branch #65, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. ahead of the 7 p.m. showtime. Admission is by donation.