Last week, I reached out to local jazz guitarist Andy Page to talk about his 20 years of playing and teaching music in Boone. Andy is one of the few people that has been consistently immersed in the scene for the last two decades. There have been hundreds of great musicians to come through Boone in the last 20 years, but few have been as talented and hardworking as Andy Page. Many of us remember nights when Andy and his twin brother Zach would show up to open jams and parties and just blow everyone away with their deep groove and seemingly endless musical creativity.
Brian Swenk: When and why did you come to Boone?
Andy Page: I came to Boone in 1996 to use it as a home base while working on a cruise ship and a theater tour. I met local musicians and started teaching guitar at Appalachian State University in 1997.
BS: What do you currently teach, and what is your degree in?
AP: I teach Applied Jazz Guitar Lessons, History of Rock Music and Jazz/Pop Theory. I have a Music Performance degree in classical guitar from University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and a Master’s in Jazz Studies from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
BS: Are you still engaged with the current live music scene in town?
AP: Well, I don’t go to every show. I want to go to every show and be a vital part of the music community, but what’s happening now is the out-of-town bands are playing house parties. I can’t come to the house shows without the students feeling awkward, so I’m primarily still going to traditional venues.
BS: So the scene has moved away from the typical music venues?
AP: Yeah, over ten thousand college students can’t get into Boone Saloon or Murphy’s, so they go to the house shows. It seems like that part of scene is growing exponentially compared to the glory days of the ‘90s. But every now and then there will be some social-media-wizardry at play. One of the biggest bands in town is Rainbow Kitten Surprise. They got a gig at Legends and the word of mouth and buzz was so strong that before you knew it there were 900 people going and, it was on the verge of being sold out, which is unheard of for a local band.
BS: We first met in the ‘90s, and I remember there was a lot of bluegrass music going on, as well as some jazz and a lot of jam-bands. What are you seeing these days?
AP: There are still some great bands in those genres. And now we have indie rock, which can mean anything under the sun. We also have a lot of experimental rock and funk. Rainbow Kitten Surprise is kind of like Dr. Dog. They have catchy melodies and find their charm in being loose and almost sloppy.
BS: I’ve noticed that bands don’t seem to be working as hard on their music these days. I’ve wondered if the hyper-connected reality of today’s world with cell phones and social media has created a landscape of distraction, and people aren’t working as hard to learn a full body of music. It would be normal for jazz or bluegrass players to know 200 songs inside and out.
AP: Right. I don’t want to sound pompous here, but the level of musicianship is not necessarily improving. From a sheer polished standpoint of what is accepted or passible, that bar has been lowered a bit in my opinion. And every band has merch from the get-go. Some will have shirts and stickers before playing their first show. The self-promotion has superseded the preparation of the music itself, in my opinion.
BS: You’ve managed to find a good balance of teaching and playing, which is one of the few ways to make a decent living as a musician these days. Tell me about that.
AP: Along with teaching, I still play almost 200 shows per year. [This is an extraordinary amount for a musician.] I’ve found that I enjoy teaching, but it’s taken up more time than I envisioned. I still feel lucky to be able to do both. I’d love to be able to tour around “Big Daddy Love style.” (laughs)
BS: It’s not as glamorous as it may seem, trust me.
AP: But I’m getting enough playing opportunities to keep me happy. One thing that is hard for me is balancing how much I can be involved, being older with a family and trying to play my own gigs, [as well as] coming to grips with aging out of certain parts of the scene. It’s a hard thing to do and a hard thing to admit to myself. But because it’s a small town, I want to be involved and hear good music.
If you would like to see Andy Page perform, you can find him at Joy Bistro every other Tuesday, Casa Rustica on Thursdays and Canyons on Sundays. He plays monthly at Lost Province, The Local, Chetola and occasionally at Murphy’s and Boone Saloon.