A vocal/musical goddess is coming to Chicago! (and elsewhere)

I know, you’ve never heard of her, but Happy Rhodes has a voice to die for (an amazing range), and musically and lyrically she’s interesting, intelligent and original. Musically, she’s in that same nebulous “genre” with folks like Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Jane Siberry, and maybe Sarah McLachlan (you know what it isn’t: it’s not folk, it’s not pop, it’s not rock, but it doesn’t have a name for the general public).

She’s an indie artist (indeed, with no record company at all at the moment) but she’s released 10 wonderful (IMO) albums. Her last album was in 1998, but that’s only because she is, REALLY, an indie artist. She’s been working on an 11th album piecemeal: working a day job to make enough money to record a track or part of a track. It’s been going on a long time and it’s not done yet. Almost though.

In a 17-year career, she’s never toured before now (that old money thing again). She’s played several live dates in the east, mainly Philly and New York, but she’s only ever been to Chicago once, as backup singer for Bon Lozaga’s Project Lo.

I don’t have any professional or financial dealings with her, but I’ve been a fan since 1988 and used to play her on my radio show. I keep a page of song samples (she knows I share her music, and it’s ok with her) at:


Here are the tour dates:

Nov. 1 Philadelphia, PA - Tin Angel
Nov. 4 New York, NY - The Bottom Line
Nov. 5 Denville, NJ - Urban Muse
Nov. 6 Harrisburg, PA - Second Floor Gallery
Nov. 7 Pittsburgh, PA - Quiet Storm Coffeehouse
Nov. 8 Cleveland, OH - Beachland Ballroom
Nov. 9 Toledo, OH House Concert - Lynn Garrett (I believe it’s booked up, but post in this thread if you are interested)
Nov. 11 Kenosha, WI House Concert - Chip Lueck (http://www.luisys.com/concert for details)
Nov. 12 Chicago, IL - Martyrs

I don’t yet know if she’s going anywhere else past Chicago. Fans are helping her put together this tour, and I’m not sure what’s planned. I’ll post again in this thread if more dates are added.

Please go see her if she’s coming to where you are. Listen to a song sample. If it doesn’t appeal to you, maybe you know someone who might like it. She doesn’t do “oooh baby baby, I love you, you don’t love me” type songs. They’re all about things, ranging from a sentient computer that’s been abandoned on a deserted space station, to a tribute to the Roy Batty character in Blade Runner. Some songs are very personal (her early ones, especially), and many are very very dark. It wouldn’t matter if she sang the phone book though, to be in the same room, with that voice, is more than enough. That it comes out of one person is startling. It’s well worth a night out.

One other thing, Happy doesn’t mind if concerts are taped and/or photographed, as long as she gets a copy. I will be going to the Toledo, Kenosha and Chicago shows, but I’d love to have tapes of the other shows. If you go, tape it if you can (cheeky request, I know), and then write me (xenussister@yahoo.com). I’m keeping an archive of live performances, for future fans (yes, well, and myself, sure, but…)

Damn! Quite a voice, all right. Reminds me in parts of Sade, Joan Armitrading and Nina Simone (no small compliment). This decides my next album purchase.

I’m glad you listened! I’ve heard her described as a cross between early high Kate Bush, and either low Annie Lennox or Joan Armitrading. This this the first comparison I’ve heard regarding Sade or Nina Simone (and yes, that’s a great compliment indeed. I adore Nina Simone). Thank you for that image.

She’s an interesting and nice person too. A couple of years ago she badly cut her fret hand, she severed a tendon and had to have surgery to re-attach it (I was afraid she’d never be able to play guitar again). Fans knew that she had no money, so people started donating toward her medical bills. She felt strange about accepting charity, so she put together a fan-only CD, called the “Left Hand Demos” :D. Fans helped burn the CD, provided the artwork, and mailed them out. Everybody who contributed got a CD, but she offered them to any fan who wanted one, no donation required. It was just to say thank you for the support. That’s very very cool.

Just as cool is that the day she cut her hand, she had a performance that night. She didn’t call it off because it was a festival put on by fans, and some people had traveled quite a ways to be there. She went onstage with a big old bandage and even though she was in extreme pain, she did (by all accounts, I wasn’t there, damn) a fantastic show. Check out this picture! Severe ouch!

FWIW, I have all of Happy’s albums, and I think she has one of the greatest 5 or 10 female voices of THIS CENTURY. Raw talent wise, she’s up there with k.d.lang, Karen Carpenter, Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, etc.

I once drove from Chicago to Philadelphia just to see her in concert.

Though her music isn’t anything like any of those people, to be considered in the same realm vocally is an incredible compliment! Wow. I knew you liked her (you’re probably the only other person on the Dope that knows who she is), but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard you rate her that high. I’m impressed.
I was poking around her web site trying to find something specific, and I came across her story of how she left Samson music. Talk about sad bouts with record companies! It’s really heart-wrenching.


Those who don’t know Happy’s history might want to read the short biography (written by the web master) first, to put the above into perspective.


Thanks for the samples and the heads-up! This sounds like a concert not to be missed. I’ve been trying to catch a concert at the Beachland Ballroom here in Cleveland (everyone tells me it’s a great venue), and this sounds like the perfect reason to go.

(Disclaimer: I am getting more and more fannish-sounding, but I can’t seem to help myself. If you were a big fan of an obscure artist that that artist toured for the first time in a 17-year career, it would be hard to put a lid on your enthusiasm, don’t you think? Please forgive me. Kate Bush, my main musical goddess, will never tour again in my lifetime, and Happy is second only to Kate.)

Someone will be there, great! :slight_smile: Thanks for telling me. Is that a new venue? If you get a chance, could you respond back after the show? You don’t have to write up a whole review (unless you want to) but I would be curious as to how many people were there. I don’t know of any fans in Cleveland. At least, no one on her Internet mailing list (started in 1991) has popped up and said “I’m in Cleveland, I’m going” so I have no other way to get information. Cleveland could be a haven of secretive Happy Rhodes fans and it could be packed. Or, you might be practically by yourself (probably more likely). I have no idea and I’d like to know.

I think you’ll be pleased and glad you went. Happy’s very funny in person and her shows, besides blowing you away with her voice, are often just this side of a comic club routine. I don’t know if she’ll be more nervous in front of an audience where she doesn’t know anyone.

I also keep a page of rarities, including several live clips. Now, most of the things are strictly fan-only and I wouldn’t recommend them for anyone other than the most besotted fan (completeists), but this song (“Possessed” but starting out with a cover of Queen’s “Lily of the Valley”), with a funny mistake at the beginning, will give you an idea of how her voice sounds live, and how quickly (and hilariously) she can recover. This is from a 1996 audience recording. (To remind, she knows I share her music and doesn’t mind. This clip is kind of a classic among fans, I think. At least those who’ve heard it.):


When I saw the OP’s handle I knew immediately this was a
Happy Rhodes thread.

I’ll just add my praise too. Oddly enough I discovered her by hearing her only Samson Music CD in a Border’s Bookstore listening pole (whatever you call that rack of headphones over the browsers).

I was blown away by her voice and started digging for her older CDs.

I tend to buy them directly from her; if you do so by snail-mail she will sign the CD and you get a bonus (sometimes). Once I got two copies of what I ordered, so I turned a friend on to her.

Unfortunately I can’t make the NYC show. Damn!

By the way Equipoise, where did you the tourdates? I’m not seeing them on her site.

I’m way lotta bummed she ain’t comin to the west coast. But I once drove 1600 miles to see her, so who knows? Not to be missed by those of you who have the opportunity.

I’ve never heard of her, but I ADORE everyone youze guys have compared her to. I’m gonna have to look her up.

Why won’t Kate Bush be touring anymore?

BwanaBob, I’m sorry to hear you can’t make the NY show. Tell your friends about it.

The tour dates were posted to her mailing list (called Ecto) but they’re on her web site’s front page too, you just need to scroll down.

Kalhoun, if you check out my song samples just to hear her voice, try “Ode.” It’s one of her most simple songs (and earliest) but also one of the most beautiful.

Why won’t Kate Bush ever tour again? Because she’s a lazy perfectionist, that’s what I think. Unless it can be absolutely perfect, and exceed all expectations, she doesn’t want to do it. However, she’s just way too lazy (I’m not dissing her, she says it herself!) to make it be that “big”. She said the last tour (the ONLY tour) completely exhausted her. She worked on it for months before the tour, and then wasn’t happy with it. I assume she thinks it would take 2 or 3 times as long to prepare for another. (All this is conjecture).

Yes, I’d like to see an all-stops pulled theatrical show of the entirety of The Dreaming (my favorite album) and The Ninth Wave, but it’d also be great to see her alone at the piano. She sang a short song acapella at a fan convention in London (we traveled there from Chicago for it) and it was electrifying. She’d sell out all venues in seconds in any city in the world, so it’s not a matter of no one being interested anymore.

Ah well, what can you do? I’m a fan and I’ll take anything Kate (KaTe) decides to give us. I wish she were more driven though. Unlike many musicians (like Happy and Tori), music is not her life.

Sorry to take so long to respond, but “real life” (in the form of car trouble) kept me off the boards for a few days. I just ordered the tickets yesterday when I found out for sure that my last dollar wasn’t going into car repairs.

In answer to your questions:

Beachland Ballroom is a relatively new venue here in Cleveland, it has been around since 2000. Everyone says it is a great place to catch the smaller acts that don’t play the stadiums and theaters. They have had quite a few national acts there, but I haven’t had a chance to make it out there yet. (I almost went to see Dick Dale, but circumstances intervened.) There are actually two venues in one, the ballroom and the much smaller tavern. Happy will be in the tavern, which should make for a close, intimate setting.

I doubt that Cleveland is a hotbed of Happy Rhodes fans, since I bought the tickets just a few days before the show and they hadn’t sold out yet. (And price wouldn’t have been a problem, the tickets were only $12.)

I’ll try and give you a rundown (probably not a review) of how things went, as soon as I get a chance to post after the show. I talked a buddy into coming with me and I’ll be glad to pass along his opinion also.

Thanks again for the information.

OK, I was definitely impressed. It turned out that my buddy couldn’t go due to a last-minute work schedule change, so I went alone. It was definitely worth the money and the trip.

The tavern part of the Beachland Ballroom is a very small venue, it looks to hold about 50 people. My count for this concert was 29, with 6 women and 23 men. I talked to a couple of people who had driven in from Columbus and Pittsburg, so I’m not sure how many were from Cleveland.

The show was scheduled to start at 7:30 PM, but the band came on stage at 7:53, with their formal introduction at 7:55.

The lineup:

Hansford Rowe – Bass and vocals
Bon Lozaga – Guitar
Bob Muller – Drums and other percussion
Happy Rhodes – Acoustic Guitar and vocals

Bon Lozaga also had some electronics for doing loops, etc. to give a more layered sound. (He and Hansford Rowe are members of Gongzilla and are quite good.)

The set list as far as I could make it out:

(Remember, this is the first time I heard any of her music. I wrote down lines and phrases as I heard them, and then looked up her lyrics to identify the songs. Any I couldn’t figure out are indicated with ??? and the phrases I heard.)

  1. Look for the Child
  2. Fall – from new (forthcoming) CD
  3. Ra is a Busy God
  4. To Live in Your World
  5. ??? New song (from upcoming CD) “do you understand this?” “I can’t let go”
  6. Ali (Hansford Rowe song)
  7. Save Our Souls
  8. Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie song)
  9. The First to Cry
  10. ??? “you can’t kill a man if it’s not his time to die” (may be a Hansford Rowe tune, he started it and sang with Happy more or less doing a backup vocal)
  11. ??? “she walked down the aisle with all eyes on her” “it’s never been me”
  12. Just Like You
  13. Collective Heart
  14. Soon (Yes song) – not sure if this could be the “Yes medley” that she has on some recordings
  15. (ENCORE) And Dream of Sheep (Kate Bush song)

Overall, I was quite impressed. Her voice is fantastic. Some of the lyrics were a little too “new-agey” for my tastes, but as a whole well-written. I stayed afterwards to buy a CD, (Bon Lozaga was selling them, Ms. Rhodes disappeared right after her performance) and bought “The Keep”, which I am enjoying as I type this.

Thanks again for the recommendation.

MisterThyristor, thank you for the report! I’m glad you enjoyed it and that there were a decent amount of people there. She played in Pittsburgh Friday night and there were less than 10 people there, and some of those acted as if Happy was rudely interrupting their conversation. I wonder how many people living there who are fans of female vocalists/“ecto” music* complain that “no one good ever plays Pittsburgh.” I don’t even know why she went there! She said it was a good practice session, anyway, and there were at least a couple of people there who appreciated it.

We just got back a little while ago from Toledo where she played a house concert for about 20 people (I haven’t gotten the exact count, and I was too busy swooning to pay attention). It was an 8 hour round-trip drive (a friend drove), and we almost missed it because we forgot about the change from Central to Eastern time, but (whew!) we got there just before it started, and it was WONDERFUL! To be sitting in a living room, mere feet away from That Voice, was heady. I’ve seen her live several times, but her voice never fails to impress the hell out of me.

She’s playing another house concert in Kenosha on Tuesday (we’re going, of course) and Chicago on Wednesday. Oh god, I hope Chicago isn’t like Pittsburgh.

Fans of female vocalists, fans of struggling quality indie artists (especially an artist with NO record company whatsoever, recording her album on her own), PLEASE go to Martyrs on Wednesday. You won’t regret it.
MisterThyristor, I’m impressed that you took the time and trouble to look up lyrics to get me a set list. Thank you!

It looks to be pretty much the same as what she played in Toledo.


“Can’t Let Go” - she’s been singing this song live for a few years. It’ll be nice to hear what the album version sounds like. The live songs are very often very different-sounding from what’s recorded.

Yes to all.

Based on a set list from her Philadelphia show, that’s called “When The Water’s Gone” and it is a Hansford Rowe song.

“The Chosen One” is also a new song from her next album.

This is probably “Just Like Tivoli” (about a place she went as a kid). She didn’t do this in Toledo. It’s a gorgeous song.

She sang both of these in Toledo. It’s the first time I’ve heard her do “Soon” in its entierty. I’ve only heard that partial bit from the “Yes Medley.” What a beautiful song, and perfect for Happy’s voice.

Nice to know. She did this in Philadelphia and Toledo (and said it was for me, because I requested it when she announced she was going to play these live dates. I’ve been wanting to hear her sing a Kate song since the day I became a fan) but she didn’t do it elsewhere, and left a bunch of disappointed Kate/Happy fans in her wake, especially in New York.

From what I can tell, she only did one song elsewhere she didn’t perform in Cleveland, “When the Rain Came Down.”

Thanks again. I appreciate your taking the time to go see someone you’d never heard, and then writing about it. That’s very nice of you. (thanks too for buying a CD!)
*“ecto” music is a slang term among Happy Rhodes fans who are into other female vocalists too. It sounds fannish, but it’s an easy way to put a name to the genre that otherwise has no name. Ecto music would encompass artists who, as I said in my first post, aren’t rock, aren’t pop, aren’t folk, aren’t classical/jazz/blues/country or anything else, though artists might have some of those elements in their music. For instance, Jane Siberry is an “ecto” artist, but some of her songs have had touches of country, and jazz. Happy Rhodes (it’s named after a song/album by her), Kate Bush, Jane Siberry, Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Bel Canto, Noe Venable, Vienna Teng, and several dozen others are ecto artists. To us, anyway.

The interesting thing is that there was at least one person who drove from Pittsburgh to be there.

Beachland Tavern was small enough that it probably wasn’t much bigger than a large living room! :slight_smile: The people in the front row were no more than 3 feet from the “stage” (an elevated platform not more than a foot high). I sat towards the back and was no more than 20 feet from the stage.

You’re welcome. I wouldn’t have minded recording like you suggested, but I don’t have the equipment any more.

Interesting – it wasn’t among the collection of her lyrics on the Ecto web site.

Thanks, I’ll look that one up, he is quite an impressive musician in his own right.

Yes. that’s it, I misread my lousy handwriting. :slight_smile:

Oops, my mistake! :o She did that song just before the encore, making that the 15th song and the encore the 16th. (I can only blame my lack of sleep the past few days.) I also forgot to mention that the concert ended about 9:20 PM, for a total performance time of about 1:25.

Well, I appreciate your passing along your enthusiasm for a fine artist.

Enh, can’t say that I feel that there is a need for the term. And why limit it to female vocalists? What’s wrong with singer/songwriter? A lot of people aren’t easy to categorize (Joni Mitchell comes to mind, she’s done as much jazz as folk), and you could just as easily call it “individualist” music. I think music is fractionalizing into more and more forms that it is just as useful to mention the name of the artist and drop a few names of others who are a little similar (as you did).

Just my 2 cents.

Except what these artists have in common is their lack of similarity (with some exceptions, about whom there is disagreement). The term simply grew out of colloquial use: the Happy Rhodes email list is the only list I’ve ever been involved with that did not restrict “off-topic” postings, so members discussed other music too, not just Happy’s. So the term “ecto” just came to mean the music that the majority of the listmembers liked (the list is called “Ecto”). In other words, the term came first, organically; its constantly evolving definition came after the fact.

Regarding “ecto” music:

I was a bit hasty in my definition. Joni is usually considered “folk” but as lissener said, the term is generally used to “mean the music that the majority of the listmembers liked” which includes the artists I listed more often than not. There are all kinds of exceptions. Lots of list members like groups such as Sleater-Kinney, Caterwaul, and My Bloody Valentine. Some people like Blossom Dearie. Some people like Nina Hagen. Some like P.J. Harvey. People like interesting music and artists, and they talk about it. They don’t talk about Britney Spears’ music.

Here’s a good web site to see what they talk about. It’s a fantastic volunteer ongoing project run by list members for list members (and anyone else interested who might happen to stumble across it). It’ll never be “done”:

The Ectophiles’ Guide to Good Music

Men are certainly included! Ecto artists (as in my first narrowly-defined definition) would include artists such as Peter Gabriel, Jeff Buckley, David Sylvian, Peter Hammill and (I have to include him) Rufus Wainwright.

The focus tends to be on female artists simply because most listmembers generally prefer female artists, which doesn’t mean to say that they don’t like male artists. I would imagine that someone who isn’t really into female artists would get bored very quickly there.

(hijack bit of history)
Ecto (the mailing list) was born in 1991 from the internet mailing list Love-Hounds (or rec.music.gaffa) which is dedicated to Kate Bush. A lot of Kate fans on the list/newsgroup found Happy and began to talk about her. A lot. So much so that a new list was created. From the beginning, list members talked about other artists and spread the word about artists long before they became well-known outside the list. Two list members from San Diego passed around tapes of a singer/songwriter who played in coffeehouses there. That was Jewel. List members talked about a new album just released in England that was exceptional and urged us to go see her on her first small club tour, which many of us did. That was Tori Amos’s Little Earthquakes. List members were regularly talking about Sarah McLachlan years before Fumbling Towards Ecstacy and Lilith Fair.

It’s a pretty cool place.

Happy in Kenosha tomorrow night. I’m psyched!

MisterThyristor, I saw Happy in Kenosha last night (fantastic show!) and talked to her a bit after. She said she did come out after the show in Cleveland and talked to several people, so you must have in a different areaa. I guess she wasn’t over by where the CDs were being sold. Sorry. She’s very nice and though shy, likes to mingle with people who have come to hear her music.

Here are some pictures from the Kenosha house concert (courtesy of the host, Chip Lueck ), and the various people who were there, with much mingling going on:


(that’s big old squinty me Happy’s hugging on the 3rd page)

Martyrs. Chicago. Tonight. 8:30pm. No opening act. Good stuff. Honest!

My wife and I saw Happy Rhodes at Martyrs last night. Great concert. She truly has an amazing voice, which her hauntingly quirky songwriting greatly complements. We already owned two of her CDs (“The Keep” and “Many Worlds Are Born Tonight”); we bought two more after the show (“Warpaint” and “Rhodesongs”). I hope she’s able to continue recording and touring; I would hate to see this kind of talent become invisible.

Equipoise, it was nice to meet you. AFAIK, I’ve never met another Doper in person before. Hope to see you again at the next Happy show!