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Thursday, March 9, 2006 02:46 am

A ukulele lady like you

Victoria Vox performs at Floyd’s Thirst Parlor on Monday

From her preteen songwriting attempts through her graduation from the Berklee College of Music, Victoria Vox dreamed of becoming a professional singer/songwriter. During her Berklee years, the native of Green Bay, Wis., collaborated with other students to record her first CD, the full-band extravaganza Victoria and the Ultra Pink Bicycle Incident. After graduating from Berklee in 2000, Vox moved to Nashville, Tenn., in an unsuccessful attempt to crack the country-music songwriting circuit. After wising up to the folly of her situation, she took off for England and, six months later, released Still, an acoustic-heavy CD filled with touching songs of emotional content. In 2003, after leaving London for Green Bay, Vox found herself faced with the momentous “quit the day job” decision. Would she sink or swim in the world of professional music? She soon hooked up with two like-minded singer/songwriters, Kellie Linn Knott of Minneapolis and Stolie of Chicago, to form Tres Femmes in 2004. The harmony-driven acoustic trio released a self-titled CD of collaborative original songs that year and toured the country. (Springfieldians were fortunate enough to experience a few shows.) During their travels, Vox diversified the three-guitar instrumentation by adding bass and ukulele. In 2004, Vox recorded In Between, an EP of acoustic songs awash in drum loops and electric sounds in a more pleasing pop vein than her other recordings. During tours for this CD, Vox found the ukulele beginning to dominate her performances, and she found audiences asking for a record featuring the little four-stringed wonder of the Hawaiian islands. Vox’s fifth album, Victoria Vox and Her Jumping Flea (“jumping flea” is the literal translation of the Hawaiian word ukulele), has a refreshing sound that complements the ukulele tone and emphasizes Vox’s velvety voice through a wonderfully sparse yet enticing production. Covers include “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Psycho Killer,” “Guilty,” and, of course, “Ukulele Lady.” The originals are simple and unabashedly plaintive. “America,” an imploring Vox tune, was recently featured on A&E’s new original series Random1. Vox, who has happily reached her goal of 200-plus live-music dates annually, begins the “Jumping Flea” spring tour on Sat., March 12, at Schuba’s in Chicago and then passes through St. Louis, Tulsa, Austin, Tucson, San Francisco, Seattle, and Minneapolis, just to name a few cities on the itinerary, before ending in Algoma, Wis., on April 8.
Victoria Vox performs at Floyd’s Thirst Parlor (212 S. Fifth St., 217-522-2020) 8:30-11 p.m. Mon., March 13.

For a head start on your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, tune in to WILL (Channel 12), Champaign-Urbana’s PBS affiliate, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, for a presentation of Celtic Palooza. The concert film, made last year, features Springfield Irish-music group Exorna (Victor McMullan, Mark Butler, and Forrest Harris), plus area musicians Lisa Boucher, Dean Karras, Bloomsday, and Spiral Seisiún. “We have carefully designed this record for maximum rockage,” bassist Mike Huberty of Sunspot says of the band’s newest CD, Cynical, on its Web site. The traveling band plays Viele’s Planet (126 E. Jefferson St., 217-544-0598) on Friday, March 10. The band promotes itself with this catchy slogan: “Arena rock for geeks.” Sunspot hails from Madison, Wis., a state-capital city similar to Springfield — except that Madison supports the local music scene by giving industry awards to deserving bands and musicians. The group won for best CD in 2004 and best group in 2005. You won’t find many better contemporary pop-power trios. If a late-night Viele’s adventure doesn’t fit into your schedule (or scares the bejesus out of you), check out the threesome at Sun’s Up Koffee Kafe (1001 N. First St., 217-522-5348), 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 11. The March edition of “In Bed by Ten” features Frank’s Discount Lounge Act, which spotlights local jazz musician Frank Trompeter in a new career as a lounge singer. Trompeter puts glamour and glitz back into the oft-ridiculed lounge-singer tradition. The show takes place 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, in the ballroom of the old St. Nicholas Hotel, at the corner of Fourth and Jefferson. Finally there’s a jazz open mic that encourages musicians of all playing levels to come and share knowledge, playing and learning together in the great tradition of classic jazz — or, as bassist Jeff Cunningham, nicely puts it: “The way the style traditionally has been passed on.” The get-together, hosted by trumpeter Frank Parker, features many of Springfield’s finest jazz and blues players working on those elusive chops at the Brewhaus (617 E. Washington St., 217-525-6399), 8 p.m.-midnight each Tuesday, or thereabouts. You know how those musicians can be.
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