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A friend of pop-rock musician Chris Shaffer recently performed in Germany, where he told concertgoers that not long ago he appeared with Shaffer’s ex-major-label band, The Why Store.
Listeners recognized the name from the mid-1990s MTV and VH1 exposure, but were confused.
“I thought Chris was dead,” an audience member told the friend.
This is to state that any reports of the 45-year-old Shaffer’s death have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, his career never even died — not even after The Why Store disbanded more than a decade ago after a measure of international acclaim on MCA Records.
“Guess I should go over there (to Germany) and show them I’m definitely not dead,” Shaffer said with a laugh, speaking by phone from his home in Indianapolis.
First, he’ll show music fans right here that he’s very much alive. His rebuilt, four-member Why Store Band will play as one of the better-known acts at Saturday’s Johnson Witkemper Insurance Biggest Block Party Ever. The annual, outdoor streetfest from 5:30 p.m. to midnight offers 12 bands on three stages.
Shaffer, who last performed here at the 2008 “Rock the Park” concert at Mill Race, never promises a specific set list for any gigs. But he figures he’ll mix the Store’s old singles — “Father,” “Lack of Water” and “Surround Me” — with newer material from the 2011 disc, “VIM,” produced by longtime Paul McCartney guitarist Rusty Anderson. Shaffer guarantees listeners will recognize the six-album, 1990s material, even with a different band assembled four years ago.
“I learned from John Mellencamp that you’ve got to make your live tunes sound like the CD,” he said.
Followers also will recognize Shaffer’s trademark deep, edgy, rough-hewn voice, which lands somewhere between Darius Rucker and Jim Morrison. Some listeners recently told him he sounds better than ever. He said he knows his guitar playing has improved substantially the last few years.
“You have to remember that, in the 1990s, I’d been playing only about 10 years,” he said.
He has rebuilt the band with bassist Dan Hunt, guitarist Harvey Mosteller and drummer Jerry Reiskamp. The group has limited its touring to a five-state area, but is looking to stretch those boundaries — once the public relations machine kicks into gear.
“I was a business and marketing major (at Ball State University),” he said. “But I’m horrible at that part of my job. I haven’t applied what I learned from my degree at all.
“It’s really kind of sad.”
Yet, he regularly mentioned that he is grateful to continue full time in music.
“I’m very, very, very blessed,” Shaffer said. “Thank God I still love what I do.”
He’s pleasantly surprised that fans from the band’s roots 20 years ago are now bringing their children to shows.
“Makes me feel kind of old,” he said with a laugh. “But it also makes me still feel relevant.”
He’s relevant enough to have his music included in the soundtrack of a soon-to-be nationally released movie, “Gearhead,” about a guitar-maker.
Granted, his life offstage presents different challenges than years ago. Today, he’s a dad to a 15-year-old daughter and a 10-month-old son.
“That keeps me busy, busy,” he said.
So, too, does a 10-handicap golf game — even if he is nursing an elbow injury. But not from what one might think from the rocker.
“I wasn’t exactly doing my best David Lee Roth,” he said, laughing.
Actually, he was unloading equipment for a performance, stepping in for his roadies. He feels certain he’ll be at full strength by the weekend — and feeling, by the way, very much alive.
Musicians banding together
WHAT: Johnson Witkemper Insurance Biggest Block Party Ever, to benefit the Columbus Area Arts Council.
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. to midnight Saturday.
WHERE: Fourth and Washington streets in Columbus.
ADMISSION: $8 for adults. Those 12 and younger will be admitted free.
FOOD: Downtown restaurants will offer a variety of entrees and a range of drinks and alcohol.
KIDS ACTIVITIES: From 4 to 9 p.m. featuring a rock-climbing wall, an extreme air jump, two bouncing houses, as well as face painting.
Dunlap Stage (The Commons on Fourth Street)
5:30–6:30 p.m.: Top Hat Blues Revue (R&B)
6:45–7:45 p.m.: Fort Frances (indie folk rock)
8–9 p.m.: Kerosene Cucumbers (Electric bluegrass)
9:15–10:30 p.m.: Barry Johnson (Rock covers)
Bud Light Stage (PNC Bank lot)
6–7 p.m.: Denise Kocur Band (country)
7:15–8:15 p.m.: Carson Diersing Band (blues)
8:30–9:30 p.m.: Headliner (Motown/R&B)
10–11:30 p.m.: The Why Store (rock)
Johnson-Witkemper Stage (Acoustic stage on Washington Street)
6–6:45 p.m.: Brad Gayman and Chris Gorbett (guitar duo)
7–7:45 p.m.: Tuba (alternative rock)
8–8:45 p.m.: Dig (modern jazz)
9–9:45 p.m.: CottonPatch (bluegrass)
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