Johnny Rodriguez: The one-man band goes ‘loopy’Written by Nick Leyland | | firstname.lastname@example.org
For centuries “buskers” — also know as street performers — have been an ambient part of our every day lives. Throughout our cities their echoing notes have unknowingly attached themselves to us as an “aural” appendage. The music they play is a sonic connection to places we’ve been and people we’ve known. Through their efforts we are forever reminded of how our culture’s music is tied to our memories, shaping who we are. All over the world these performers are continuing this long lasting human tradition. In Mexico their mariachi trumpets are ringing out. Violins are rekindling romance in Italian cafés. Japanese chindon’ya are marching on the streets of Tokyo. And here in America one-man bands like Toledo’s Johnny Rodriguez are playing songs that make up the soundtrack to our lives.
My original conception of the one-man band was jocular, colorful, and over-animated. He had 20 different instruments attached to his body that squeaked when he walked — I guess that’s why I’ve always thought of Dick Van Dyke as Bert in Mary Poppins. Today’s one man band though is quite different then the solo marching band I used to think of. For years now, we have been seeing a Bob Dylan style of performer that has been continually growing in cities and towns all over the country.
In Toledo this kind of performing is very much alive. We are seeing a large number of solo acts out there writing and performing their own renditions of classic songs. Some are better or more “crowd pleasing” then others, but you will be hard pressed to find someone who does it as good as local musician Johnny Rodriguez — who is putting a modern touch on this old art form.
Known to fans as Johnny Rod, people here have been enjoying his shows for years. Why? Because he plays their favorite songs in a way that blends both a fun and energetic stage presence with modern touches like loop pedals and drum machines, adding the flavor of a full ensemble. You’ll get a kick out of seeing this skinny guy walk up on stage wearing a harmonica holder with an acoustic guitar and looking as if he’s about to play a cheesy cover of “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.” That all changes, and before you know it this one-man band is ripping up the stage with electric solos layered on top of bass licks and rockin’ drums all by himself.
This style of performing is not as easy as it sounds and takes a lot of practice and structure. The loop pedal is a device a performer uses to record and playback audio clips onstage, allowing the performer to play a multitude of instruments in the same song. However, a drum loop for each song is pre-arraigned on a drum machine giving the performer steady rhythm whenever needed– (sure “beats” the old way of wearing a humungous bass drum on your back).
Johnny Rodriguez plays his blend of rock, folk, pop and country, at several weekly locations in Toledo including: Wednesdays and Fridays at Shawn’s Irish Tavern on Heatherdowns and Thursdays at John’s Korner Bar on Tedrow Rd. For more information, check out his website www.johnnyrod.com.
Other great local music events to check out this week: On February 11th the rock, hip-hop sound of Joe Woods Band will be at The Bronze Boar, and funk rock band The Bartones will be at Mickey Finn’s. Playing on the 12th at the Omni is Metallica tribute band Battery, followed by the Journey tribute band Frontiers on the 13th. Also playing on the 13th at the Blarney is indie alternative band Resonant Soul, Andrew Ellis & the Setting Sun will take the stage at the Village Idiot and Buddy Boy Slim & The Blues Rockers are playing at the Hines Farm Blues Club.