Five Firsts: Evan Conway of Holly & Evan

Evan Conway (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)
Evan Conway (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

NAME: Evan Conway
INSTRUMENT: Upright Bass

1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … While I don’t exactly recall the first purchased album, as it could be a number of different ones, and I never had money because I didn’t like chores. The first album to ever strike a chord with me (pun intended) was the Beatles’ “Anthology.” I swiped this collection from my parents soon after they got it in 1996 – and have had it ever since. I was 11. The songs blew me away, even in their unfinished form, and I had no idea what I was getting in to. In fact, for a long time after procuring it, I actually hadn’t heard many of the songs in their done form, so hearing the final production was yet another jaw dropping experience! But the early, accidental and undubbed versions of the final recordings are still some of my favorites. They’re much more human. By the way – sorry mom and dad, I’m still not giving it back.

2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … Growing up in a family that LOVES music, there were many concerts that I went to. However, the first one I ever consciously went to was Def Leppard at the state fair in Syracuse. It was when I was 13, I think, and it was quite an experience. Let’s just say it was the first time I was witness to the excess of drugs and alcohol. Actually, a few of the people around us didn’t even get to see the show because they passed out in a puddle of their own excess. Funny enough, that’s almost all I remember from the show. That and the chant “drummer from Def Leppard only got one arm!” cycling through the crowd during the pre-show and brief intermission. It’s still in my head, and it rings as true now as it did then. Good time!

3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … DRUMS!!! It started in fifth grade. In our school, it was actually mandatory to sign up for an instrument, which is a brilliant idea, even if most kids don’t want to do anything but video games. They had to pick an instrument and show up to lessons for a week, and if they didn’t like it, then they could quit. But most actually stayed in. I decided right then and there that I wanted to play the drums, but everyone else, of course, decided the same thing. I needed an angle! So I chose the oboe as my second (just in case) instrument, and that worked out well, knowing the school didn’t have one. Drums it was. In retrospect, I wish I had learned the dang oboe, as I don’t really even play the drums any more, and who in the world plays an oboe anyway? But the drums did add a rhythmic sense to every instrument I’ve played since, and they did set in motion the events which led to this article here today…

4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … This is a tough one, but I think I can itemize these in order of what I was playing and why they were notable…

The first song I’ve EVER played in public was probably a triangle part on a Bela Bartok song in a community concert, when I was 13. The triangle was a VERY important instrument, as we all know, and striking it at that proper angle proved to be a tougher challenge than previously thought. Somehow I pulled it off!

The first song with a band of my own was “St. Thomas,” a nice jumpy piece by Bill Evans, in the jazz band: The Elwoods! (see below) It went really well, although the song is very simple and repetitive, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t have worked out, right?

And finally, the one you’ve all been waiting for! The first song I’ve ever led a band and – gasp – sang on was a piece of my own, in the band Green Hill Tribe. It was called “Already Gone.” Originally, the song was written specifically for the lead singer in the band, and just a bit out of my range… I felt like it went disastrously, and I lost my voice, but the audience seemed to enjoy it. Maybe they were just drunk. Either way, I’ll take it!

5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … Ah, the first band… The year was 2002, and the Walter Elwood museum hired a young Matt Tobey to play piano at their annual art show. THEN! A thought occured to him, “Why not ask my friends if they’d like to join me?” And so we did. That’s when the Elwoods were born. We were a four or five piece, with piano, drums, bass, and one or two saxophones, depending on the size of the gig. I like to say I played out-of-tune bass, and not because the bass wasn’t tuned. It was because there were many changes in these jazz standards, and at the time they made absolutely no sense to me! We primarily played jazz standards – like “St. Thomas,” “Well You Needn’t,” “Yardbird Suite” and a funky version of “What A Wonderful World” – so there was always some serious chordwork to contend with. It gave me a new love for jazz and taught me VERY quickly how not to suck, and how to push the beat along like an actual jazz bass player… Not just a guitar player who wanted to sound like Hendrix, who happened to be stuck on bass. Just like Noel Redding…

Holly & Evan dish up some acoustic blues at the Arts Center of the Capital Region for Troy Night Out this Friday, November 26 from 5-9pm.

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