On Christmas Eve, the Soul Visionaries continue their tradition of providing good-for-the-soul entertainment at the historic Granada Theatre in Downtown Lawrence. Dave Shelton, the bassist/bandleader of the Soul Visionaries, and the concert organizer gives us the inside scoop of how the concert has become a Lawrence tradition over the past ten years, and what to expect at this year’s show.
Dave Shelton is a Lawrence-born bassist who spent a decade in NYC, during which he attained a B.F.A. in Jazz Performance from New School University. Shelton has shared the stage with Charles Bradley, Marcus Strickland, Sly5thAve, Sharief Hobley (D’Angelo, John Legend) and others. Local credits include the Lucas Parker Band, The Brody Buster Band, and SUNU. He currently resides in Columbus, OH.
Q: The promotional materials for Christmas Eve with the Soul Visionaries says it’s a night of funk and soul with a 12+ piece band. Please share what we can expect musically from the concert.
A: I adjusted the number and now it’s a 15+ piece band (there will be some special guests in addition to the 15 piece house band). We’ll be covering music by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Snarky Puppy, Chaka Khahn, Thundercat, Musiq Soulchild, Curtis Mayfield, Chantae Cann, Childish Gambino and more. We’ll also be paying tribute to Aretha Franklin and Roy Hargrove. The band is comprised of all local musicians, correct?
Q: Do the same musicians traditionally participate year-after-year, or is this a whole new band every year?
A: The band is comprised of local musicians as well as musicians who spent years in Lawrence but who later moved and return every year for the show. There are some spots that rotate but the majority of the group has been the same from year to year.
Q: This is the tenth year for Christmas Eve with the Soul Visionaries in Lawrence. Were you involved from the beginning? How has the concert changed over the past decade?
A: I was involved from the beginning and was the original organizer/bandleader for the show. I lived in NYC for 10 years and put the first show together during a trip back over the Christmas holiday. We started in the basement of the Eighth Street Taproom with a band half the size of what we have now and it was an immediate success. We spent the next few years building the show and the audience to the point where it was so packed that we had to expand to a larger stage and seating capacity so we took it to the Jazzhaus. By then we had developed a big enough audience to have that room shoulder to shoulder and it was clear we would need a bigger room within a few years. Finally in 2016 I moved back to Lawrence from NYC and was able to approach Mike Logan, owner of the Granada, about it and he was very supportive and allowed us to bring the show to the Granada stage. Over the years the basic format has remained the same. The band learns between 25-30 songs that cover a broad range of emotion and songwriting style. In the same show we’ve done Tower of Power’s “Oakland Stroke,” Eugene McDaniels’ “Headless Heroes” and Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s “I, who have nothing.” Every year I’ve tried to do something more musically challenging than the year before and try to push everyone to take risks. I’ve really been wanting to wear a Santa suit and hover over the audience on suspension cables while playing my bass but we’d need an outside contractor for that. Everything has its limits, I guess.
Q: Can you tell us about some of the notable local musicians who are in or have been in Soul Visionaries?
A: In recent years we’ve added Joe Sears (Page 7), and Lucas Parker to the band. Many members of the Band That Saved the World and SUNU have been in the band over the years as well, including Michael Hamm.
Q: What is your favorite part about the Christmas Eve concert?
A: My favorite part of the show year after year is seeing the camaraderie of the band and getting to see the same people coming out year after year. I’ve had many people express to me how much the show means to them and how it’s an essential part of their holiday.
Q: The concert starts at 9:00 PM Christmas Eve at the Granada, doors open at 8:00 PM, it’s an all-ages show. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance here. Any other details, or insider tips?
A: The presale ticket price is $10. On the day of the show they go up to $15. There will be no opener and the show starts right at 9pm. Immediately after the show audience members can head next door to Lucia Beer Garden + Grill for the after-party.
Q: Are there any new features or extras at this year’s concert?
A: This year we will be raffling off a live painting that will be completed onstage by local artist Will Willmott. Raffle tickets will be sold on the floor and the winning number will be called at the end of the night.