After the season ended, Addison returned to Gilman and performed for her grandmother and her grandmother’s fellow-residents at Thorp’s Oakbrook Health & Rehabilitation Center. She also made a stop in at Romig’s Hardware in Gilman where her proud grandfather, John Agen, could crow about his girl.
As a thank you to her extended family and second-home-city, the Gilman and Jump River Lions Club put together a concert in the Gilman High School gymnasium. Ken Klahn and the Lions got a splendid opening act, Wise Jennings—a husband and wife duo now living near Lake Geneva, WI.
Melissa Weishaar was a 1994 graduate of Gilman High School and was thrilled to play before a crowd she knew so well. Addison’s mother was also a graduate of Gilman High from 1989.
Last Saturday night, July 7, it all came together.
When Wise Jennings took the stage at 7 p.m., the place may not have been packed but it was extremely well-attended. Melissa played drums, tambourine, harmonica and vocals. Husband Jeff Weishaar played guitars and sang, as well.
Here’s the thing: I’m not a huge fan of Americana/Country music. Okay, I’m not even a small fan. Wise Jennings refer to themselves as Americana/Roots Rock and, if there is a difference, then it is all the difference. Jeff was an extremely skilled and talented guitarist. Melissa sat the minimalist drum kit and played harmonica at the same time.
[The harmonica was attached to the microphone. Think of Bob Dylan or Neil Young with their harmonicas on a neck-strap.]
After the first or second number, I leaned over to Nicole and said, "Oh, my God. These guys are GOOD!"
Melissa was propulsive in her drumming—not just keeping time, she moved things forward, neither rushing nor lagging even once. She was good.
At one point, she kept time with the stick in her left hand and she played tambourine in her left, hitting the crash cymbal with the tambourine. And when she hit the crash cymbal, it CRASHED.
All the while, poor neglected Jeff is simply playing perfect guitar. And when Jeff and Melissa sang, they were pitch perfect. So very complementary.
Not only was Jeff working the guitar, he kept a bass line alive with bass pedals like those on an organ. Jeff describes it like this: "It is basically a 17-key organ pedal that controls a microkorg synthesizer. It rounds out the low end but, unless people really look, they don't realize what they are hearing."
Nicole and I both liked the stage set-up of Wise Jennings. They sat facing each other—Melissa on the drum throne and Jeff on the guitar stool. Comfortable with each other, reassuring each other, and focusing entirely on the music.
If it sounds like I’m gushing, it’s because I am.
As I told Melissa, I’m a bit of a Jazz snob. Actually, I’m a terrible Jazz snob but they hooked me from the opening number and I never looked back. Were they Jazzy? No. They were straight-ahead, meaningful, fun music.
Go to wisejennings.com and buy their new CD. Seriously. When they finished their set, the went to the front of the stage, turned the lights on, and got a photo of themselves with Melissa’s hometown crowd behind them. These are nice people.
Addison Agen and her brother, Korrigan, followed after the intermission. I admit, I did not watch The Voice but I did see repeats of her performances on YouTube. She seemed like a nice young woman and there was no doubt that she was a gifted singer.
She is 17 years old and Korrigan, who played bass, is a couple of years older. The two of them performed together for all but a couple of the songs.
She opened by praising Wise Jennings saying, “There were only two of them but it sounded like six buhzillion people up here.” She said that she wanted them to move to Ft. Wayne, “so I can see them anytime I want.”
She was a good guitarist but it was, after all, the voice that got so much attention. And rightfully so.
Sometimes she sounded like Lisa Loeb and sometimes like Melissa Manchester, Addison had a sense of what intonations and vocalizations were appropriate to the mood and maybe even the audience. Even at age 17, one gets the feeling that this teenager knows how to respond to a room.
She sang from her experience. That’s a big deal because nothing is worse than watching a would-be cowboy in $1,400 boots sing about sweating in the fields. Not buying it.
No, Addison would introduce the songs and tell the situation of how it came to be written or chosen. Make no mistake, she composes very well. And she writes about what it meant to be singing before a television audience of 15 million people. She wrote and sang about the changes in the one-year season she was on The Voice. If you think that she focused too much on that experience…remember that she’s only 17 years old. As she experiences more, she will write about those new experiences, too. It’s a trip worth going along.
Addison is unabashedly Christian. In fact, she concluded her concert on what can only be called a worship song. It was really quite something to hear a large portion of the audience singing in response. Yeah, she has that kind of charisma.
Keep your eyes on Addison Agen. And go see Wise Jennings if they are ever anywhere within driving distance.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl