By THOMAS P. CALDWELL
LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Michael Vincent, whose band has been playing at the Laconia Roadhouse during Motorcycle Week and will perform at the Tower Hill Tavern tonight, said their sound has evolved enough that people who heard them play in Gilford a decade ago might not recognize them today.
Having formed the band with classmates Dan Mack and Dan Hewitt while still in high school, they honed their skills by playing along with the records of contemporary blues musicians like Stevie Ray Vaughan.
“It made me who I am now,” Vincent said.
After graduating from Gilford High School in 2009, Vincent told his parents he was taking the band to Memphis, known as the home of the blues.
“We ended up in Gulfport, Mississippi, where we experienced the delta sound and were able to play with others in the business,” Vincent said.
They learned to appreciate the older blues legends and incorporate some of those styles into their own performances. That impressed veteran bluesman Wayne Sharp, whose original Sharpshooters band from 1980 included “Jaimo” Johnson and Lamar Williams, formerly of the Allman Brothers Band.
“These guys do more blues than many of those in the blues profession,” Sharp said of the Michael Vincent Band. “They are so focused on the real music, and they’re carrying it on, that I want these guys to have a chance.”
Sharp accompanied the Michael Vincent Band to Laconia Motorcycle Week last year, and he rejoined them for this year’s tour.
After a 50-year career in the blues, Sharp said he doesn’t mind playing to smaller audiences for less pay. “It’s awesome to really, truly, be involved with these guys,” he said.
Sharp plays the Hammond B-3 organ, a staple in music until the advent of synthesizers, and nothing can match its sound, he said. For that reason, the band members found themselves manually hoisting a 500-plus-pound organ onto the Roadhouse stage without a ramp for their performances there.
Mack, who serves as manager as well as playing bass, said the band is willing to go practically anywhere as they work to build up a following. After Motorcycle Week, they will be performing in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Music is such a great thing, but people forget about what it takes to put it on,” he said.
Sharp agreed. “We do this for a living. This isn’t a hobby, it’s our entire lives.”
Vincent said the band is constantly working to get to the next level, and it relies upon feedback from the crowds.
“We want to play to anybody who will listen,” he said, adding that gauging an audience’s reaction is important.
“One night I was singing and someone came up to me and told me, ‘You can’t sing,’” he recalled. “Sometimes it takes something like that to let you know what you need to work on.”
Their ability to survive on the road is aided by their longstanding friendship, Mack said, noting that they have known each since fourth grade. They also have the strong support of their parents.
Vincent’s father served as their first manager, booking them at local venues in the Lakes Region. Through those gigs, the band started meeting the right people to help them go further.
“When you play with better and better players, it makes you want to be like that,” Vincent said.
They met Sharp through his son, whom they ran into at a store in their neighborhood. At first, they filed his name away, but later they contacted him and established a relationship.
“People like Wayne are inspirational,” Vincent said. “He’s a road dog — he shows it’s possible to do.”
“Sometimes you feel like a rock star,” Sharp said, “but it’s hard to stay up there.”
Vincent said constant practice is important, as well as learning to pace yourself. In the morning, when he has nothing to do, he’ll pick up his guitar and play it.
In addition to polishing his guitar skills, he has incorporated elements of showmanship, including playing his guitar with his teeth and placing it behind his head while continuing the playing.
“At the end of the day, it’s showmanship,” Mack said.
Vincent said his next goal is “to make an album I’m proud of — and I’m the hardest one to please.”
“This is the toughest thing to do,” he said of his career choice. “We just keep truckin’ on.”
The Michael Vincent Band, featuring Vincent on lead guitar and vocals, Dan Mack on bass, and Dan Hewitt on drums, is being joined by veteran bluesman Wayne Sharp (inset) on organ for their Motorcycle Week performances. Here they perform at the Laconia Roadhouse on Thursday. They will be playing tonight at the Tower Hill Tavern on Lakeside Avenue in The Weirs. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)
Bass player Dan Mack performs with the Michael Vincent Band at the Laconia Roadhouse on Thursday.