Coming to Penticton for four nights at the Dream Café is anything but a chore for Michael Kaeshammer.
“This is my favourite week of the year. The audience is always fantastic,” said the award-winning pianist/composer/singer, adding another reason is the friendship he developed with former Dream Café owners Pierre Couture and Debra Rice.
It’s also a chance to not do the usual road trip of playing a venue one night, then moving on to the next gig.
“You don’t ever stick around for a week. In Penticton, in the summer for a week, it’s like a vacation where I get to play music,” said Kaeshammer. “We have a great time. Everyone is in such good moods, you’re spending the day in the sun, eating some fruit and then you go listen to some music.”
Kaeshammer is very attached to his Vancouver Island home, but Penticton is one of the few places that he would “move to in a second.”
Growing up in Offenbach, Germany, he studied classical piano for seven years before falling in love with boogie-woogie at age 13.
“As soon as I sit down, I get so excited. I remember why I am playing the piano. I can connect to that 12-year-old kid that I was and that excitement when there was no thought of ‘Does this sound good? Is this right? None of that stuff that you create in your mind when you grow older and start getting into the business,” said Kaeshammer. “That’s why I have so much fun because I just love playing the piano.”
For his performance at the Dream Café, Kaeshammer decided to put together a different band that he usually tours with.
“I got the rhythm section that I played with last time at the Dream Festival, which was Rob Becker, Chris Nordquist and Paul Pigat,” said Kaeshammer. “They feel at home at the Dream Café already. I am excited because it is going to be so fun to play with them. I call it the Dream Band.”
Kaeshammer has had a successful year, including nominations for a Western Canadian Music Award and a Maple Blues Award, where he also performed at the gala.
“People always put me in the jazz category, but it was great to hang out with the blues guys,” said Kaeshammer.
No Filter, Kaeshammer’s 11th album, was released last September and he’s already working on the 12th, which likely to influence his Penticton performance.
“I am going down to New Orleans in October to record a CD with some players I want to work with down there,” said Kaeshammer, adding that a few of those songs will work their way into the performance.
“I don’t really have a set list. I have a pool of songs from the last few records and new things. The band knows, I just tell them the first song and then we’re off. There is definitely a lot of improvisation,” said Kaeshammer. “It will be very New Orleans-oriented because of the stuff that I am writing for the new album. Just kind of upbeat and fun.”
Connecting with the audience also makes working the Dream Café special.
“You can talk to them and they talk back. I love that,” said Kaeshammer. “In a theatre, people are a little further down, and it is dark where they are sitting.”
Good performers know how to bridge that divide and make the audience feel included in the performance.
“That is so easy to do in a place like the Dream because you just walk in and you are already shaking people’s hands as you walk on stage,” said Kaeshammer. “It becomes a conversation, even without saying something. Then it is so much more fun for us because you are not just rattling down our songs.”
Kaeshammer is performing at the Dream Café July 26 to 29. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the shows start at 8 p.m. Tickets are available through thedreamcafe.ca.