OGDEN — Looking for a little musical fun this holiday season?
Look no further than Ryan Shupe and the RubberBand’s Christmas Tour 2018, kicking off this weekend at Peery’s Egyptian Theater in downtown Ogden.
All year long, Shupe and his bandmates are known for their high-energy shows full of tight harmonies, superb musicianship and just enough fun to let you know that while these are serious musicians they don’t take themselves too seriously.
And at the holidays, a RubberBand concert takes on an especially festive air.
“Our Christmas show is fairly jovial,” Shupe told the Standard-Examiner last week. “We like to have the moments where we talk about the true meaning of the holiday and have that Christmas spirit, but we are pretty jovial guys. So this is not a boring Christmas show.”
Boring is the one thing no one has ever accused a RubberBand show of being.
Shupe, an Ogden native who now lives in Orem, got his musical start at the age of 10 fiddling with the Peewee Pickers, a touring bluegrass youth group organized by his father, Ted Shupe. Today, the younger Shupe fronts the genre-bending rock/bluegrass Ryan Shupe and the RubberBand.
Shupe used to describe the group’s music as “PostHeeHawFunkadelicHipHopNewGrass.” The band briefly saw national success with the 2005 Top 40 hit “Dream Big.”
Two years ago Shupe and the boys released “We Rode On,” which he described as “the most rocking album we’ve done.”
Shupe says they’ve got a new live CD due out next year. Advance copies will be available at Saturday’s concert.
In addition to some old favorites, Shupe said there are three new songs on the live album. One is a happy birthday song for middle-aged people who are getting old, one is a sequel to the doggie tune “Phideaux,” and a third is what he describes as a “fiddle/banjo rap, Shupe-ified sing-along.”
Seriously, does any of that sound remotely boring?
As for the upcoming Christmas tour, audiences can expect more of the same. Shupe has taken the classic Charlie Daniels Band anthem “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” reworked the lyrics, and came up with the goofy holiday-themed “The Grinch Went Down to Whoville.”
Even one of his original tunes get a similar holiday reworking, taking “The Corn Dog Song” — a fan favorite at concerts — and morphing it into “The Egg Nog Song.”
And the show will offer plenty of traditional Christmas songs with their traditional lyrics, although the musical arrangements have received the Shupe-ified treatment. Like calypso versions — at least, as calypso as one can get with fiddle, banjo and mandolin — of songs like “Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer” and “Away in a Manger.” Or bluegrass versions of “Jingle Bells.”
These new roastings of old chestnuts is the reason why Shupe even bothers with a Christmas concert. Otherwise, he says, it’s all pretty much already been done to death.
“Do you really want the same thing over and over again?” he asks of the typical holiday musical offering. “These are all songs you’ve heard before. So why not make a little twist on them?”
Indeed, about the only song RS&RB does “straight up” is the classic Christmas hymn “Silent Night.”
“We have some bluegrass harmonies in that one, but that’s a song you don’t want to mess around with too much,” Shupe said, adding: “But ‘Rudolph’? That one’s fair game.”
This year’s concert will add “Angels We Have Heard on High,” a song Shupe says he loves and then promptly breaks into a quick a cappella sampling of the prolonged “Glo-o-ri-a” of the chorus.
Shupe said the band is always working on new songs to add to each year’s holiday concert. He said they like to mix up the setlist and offer a unique concert experience for audiences each evening.
“And, we mess up differently every night,” Shupe joked. “So there’s always that.”
These annual holiday shows are something that Shupe and his band just sort of fell into. Shortly after forming, RS&RB was asked to do one Christmas song on a show with a number of other artists. So they worked up a holiday tune.
“And we said, ‘Hey, we’ve got one Christmas song!’” Shupe recalls.
Before long, they were asked to play another holiday show with a couple of other artists, where each needed a set of four or five Christmas tunes.
“A lot of us didn’t have a Christmas show, but we each did have a snippet of a Christmas show,” Shupe said. “Over time, now we’ve got another two albums’ worth of (holiday) stuff, so we’ve got a whole show. We used to have to play all the Christmas songs we knew — now we’ve got to pick and choose.”
Once they developed a full set of holiday songs, Shupe said they started doing Christmas concerts. At first, it was just shows in Ogden and Provo.
“We started out with just a couple of shows, and then went to three shows, and then five shows,” he said. “And now we have eight shows.”
The Ogden concert has become something of a tradition on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. Still, if you miss this Saturday’s Peery’s Egyptian Theater show there are plenty of other chances to catch the band — as long as you’re willing to take a little intrastate road trip. Other dates on the 2018 Christmas tour include:
Nov. 28 — Covey Center for the Arts, in Provo
Nov. 29 — Heritage Center Theater, in Cedar City
Dec. 3 — Logan High School, in Logan
Dec. 6 — Desert Hills High School, in St. George
Dec. 7 — Sevier Valley Center, in Richfield
Dec. 10 — Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, in Salt Lake City
Dec. 13 — Zermatt Resort, in Midway
Shupe said the concerts are for all ages, and he encourages folks to bring the whole family.
“The one thing I get a lot of people saying is, ‘I wish I would’ve known how fun your concert are — we should have brought our kids,’” he said. “I would say this is going to be a dang fun concert for the whole family.”
For more information on Ryan Shupe and the RubberBand, visit the band’s website at http://shupe.net