Van Sessions went live again last week during Ogden’s First Friday Art Stroll, this month featuring guitarists Dave Garofalo and Dave Warton and seasoned rocker Ché Zuro.
Local and national artists are invited by R. Brandon Long and Todd Oberndorfer (The Banyan Collective) to come “jam in the Tan Van” for “Van Sessions” — a live audience podcast and music series on Spotify, iTunes, etc. — every First Friday at The Monarch’s Open Studio Night.
Zuro made her “Van Sessions” debut, finally having the chance since her busy touring schedule slowed due to COVID, and Garofalo returned, this time with childhood friend Warton, presenting their new acoustic guitar duo The Last Visible Dog.
The two created what Garofalo calls “spontaneous lush soundscapes and vivid emotions through sound” during the set. He said the emotions communicated through the melodies range from “super heart-opening and joyous” to “dark and haunting.” They also performed a few songs they wrote together.
Guitarist for the pop-rock band SafetySuit from 2004-2017, Garofalo now resides in Ogden, performing his music whenever he gets the chance. “Whenever I’m not working, I’m creating music,” he said. “It’s my reason for breathing.”
Garofalo views music as more valuable than simply providing entertainment. “I see music as a universal language that can bypass all our supposed differences,” he said. “It can be a catalyst for personal and collective evolution.”
He explains that shamans and healers have known about the transformational nature of music for centuries — “I hope to be a beacon of channeled music that can awaken dormant aspects of the listener, as it has done for me.”
True artistry, for Garofalo, comes from “authentic, unfiltered creative expression with no confining parameters.” He said, “If artists would forget about fame and fortune, we would have such a beautiful array of diverse and rich music that it could potentially transform our culture.”
Zuro is a true artist who has never stopped making music since her first band in junior high. “Here I am a gazillion years later, still playing,” she said. “I’m not someone who started doing this to be famous or rich ... and thankfully, because I am neither.”
Zuro left Los Angeles to live in Ogden Valley, where she frequently performs at ski resorts, restaurants, bars, festivals, art fairs, saloons ... “pretty much wherever they will have me!” she states on her website. Her touring takes her all over the country and her songs can be heard in such films as “Critters” and “Gypsy 83.”
Dubbed the “hardest working woman in rock and roll,” Zuro has decades of performing under her belt, including years at the famed Troubadour in LA with her different bands and having toured and/or recorded with Berlin, Carmine Appice, Charlie Sexton and more. There are more impressive career highlights — meeting all of the living Doors in 1979 at her band’s (The Orchids) debut gig, opening for Don Felder, and opening for Devo with her punk pop band Backstage Pass in San Francisco, just to name a few.
“The Troub was a big place for hair bands in the ’80s, and less and less acoustic folky bands, so I played there with one of my all-girl bands, too,” Zuro said. “All of the clubs back in the late ’70s and ’80s in Los Angeles were amazing. The Masque, The Starwood (was my favorite), The Whisky A Go Go, The Cat Club, Club 88 ... so many of them.” There was always a fun scene, she said, until probably the early ’90s “when things were falling apart and the “Pay to Play” crap started.”
Now Zuro is enjoying the beauty of the Northern Utah mountains, baking (she is obsessed with sugar cookies), and taking art classes and college courses in between touring and playing gigs. And COVID-19 has afforded the opportunity to get back to her own art — “I have snippets of a lot of tunes that have been started, and it feels like I am close to sitting down and working on finishing them.”
“Coming into downtown Ogden and being at the new Monarch was really quite wonderful,” Zuro said of her experience at Van Sessions on Friday night. She appreciates the podcast format of dialogue between playing songs. “With only four songs, you want to choose wisely, with stories or something to chat about regarding said songs,” she said.
“What stood out to me was the interview portion of the concert,” Garofalo said of his first experience with Van Sessions. “They were thoughtful and had engaging questions that showed he did his research on me, which made me feel valued.”
“Van Sessions” is free and open to the public at The Monarch, 455 25th St., every first Friday during Open Studio Night from 6-9 p.m. For performance details and times, check the “Van Sessions” Facebook event page.
Listen to Friday’s Van Sessions with Ché Zuro and The Last Visible Dog: thebanyancollective.com/vansessions.