Music

Elbow Grease

Scott Pemberton puts in the work

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WHAT: Scott Pemberton with Ebb, Slack and Flood
WHEN: 8pm Thurs., Oct. 14
WHERE: The Shakedown, 1212 N. State St.
COST: $10
INFO: http://www.shakedownbellingham.com

WHAT: Tapwater with Scott Pemberton O Theory
WHEN: 5pm Sat., Oct. 16
WHERE: Guemes Island General Store, 7885 Guemes Island Rd., Anacortes
COST:  $20
INFO: http://www.guemesislandgeneralstore.com

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

To better understand what ace guitarist and singer Scott Pemberton is trying to get across with his music, take a closer look at the lyrics for one of his most popular songs, “Elbow Grease.”

“How do you get where you want to be?,” the Portland-based musician asks during a music video of the song, with bandmates—and audience members familiar with the composition—answering “With hard work!”

“And how do you get the work done?” he queries.

“You’ve got to do it!” they reply.

“There is just one thing that can keep you from your dreams—that’s if you quit,” he sings, his long hair and beard keeping time with the beat, his fingers flying over his electric guitar. “Elbow grease, and a sweaty brow. That’s all you really need!”

Pemberton is familiar with the concept of putting in the time and effort to make sure his music isn’t just sonically sound, but is also a joy to watch and dance along to. And whether he’s shredding on his guitar during a rock-inspired solo, bringing out the blues for consideration, offering up a jazz riff or sharing his own particular brand of West Coast funk, his style is all his own.

Strangely enough, it was a near-death experience in his mid-30s that taught Pemberton he didn’t have to follow the rules or pick just one genre to focus on to achieve success. He was hit by a car while riding a bicycle (sans helmet), and the accident left him in a coma, struggling to survive from a traumatic brain injury. When he did finally wake up, he had to relearn how to walk, and couldn’t lift more than four pounds for the following six months.

During a “10 Minutes with Scott Pemberton” video interview a few years back, the string-slinger noted that guitars weigh more than four pounds, and that although he couldn’t lift his instrument after the accident, he still remembered how to play it. By approaching the guitar from above—or kneeling to play it while it rested on a stool—he found alternative ways of making music. These days, he’s known for rarely using a strap, and says the accident caused him to approach the guitar like it was an entirely new instrument and allowed him to “remove the rules.”

To see Pemberton’s rule-bending skills in action, procure tickets for shows happening Thurs., Oct. 14 at the Shakedown in downtown Bellingham, and Sat., Oct. 16 at the Guemes Island General Store in Anacortes. At both gigs, he’ll be playing in a trio dubbed Scott Pemberton O Theory, or SPOT.

At the first show, Ebb, Slack and Flood will open the night’s activities, and the latter gig will see SPOT joining the ticket for fellow Portlandians Tapwater on the Guemes Island waterfront. SPOT will be playing directly after a short ceremony celebrating the venue’s two new outdoor bathrooms. And although a WC ribbon-cutting ceremony is probably not an act Pemberton ever thought he’d follow, at this stage in his career, he’s well aware that life can get weird—and he seems to like it that way.

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