Progressive, aggressive acoustic guitar |

Progressive, aggressive acoustic guitar

Instead of waiting for others to put a label on his music, Michael Kelsey decided to take the initiative and apply his own description.

That’s how his style became branded "progressive, aggressive acoustic guitar."

What exactly does that mean? In the words of the artist, it denotes a wide range of expression from ultra-sensitive to hyper-ecstatic. It encompasses songs, storytelling and science experiments with sound all with the guitar as the central ingredient.

"I started using that term when I began performing solo acoustic guitar to evoke curiosity," he says. "I wanted to make sure that people’s minds didn’t wander into thoughts of a singer/songwriter sitting on a stool."

The desire to detract from that vision is understandable Kelsey’s performances are anything but stagnant. According to a press release, he "plays every inch of his guitar and makes it sing, soar, pop and ping by strumming it, pounding it and pulling every part of it or anything else an arm’s length or foot kick away."

He blends soul, funk, rock, blues and other genres with an unorthodox style of guitar-playing to create original sounds. "There is a five piece band in my head," he explains. "They all have different tastes in music and they are all trying to escape at the same time through my hands, feet and mouth. I hang onto an acoustic guitar and see what happens."

Kelsey learned to play guitar at an early age from his mother. By his early teenage years, he was a regular garage-bander and knew that he was destined for a career in music. "It was hard for me to take school that seriously because I knew that I wanted to do music. Looking back, it would’ve helped my songwriting to be into that literature class that I hated, but I always felt like I was too much of a rock-n-roller," he says.

He played in a variety of bands before deciding to go the solo route around age 25. Hearing acoustic guitarist Michael Hedges changed his attitude about solo performers he thought he needed to be in a rock band as an outlet for his energy but realized that he could still channel that on stage in a one-man show.

When it comes to classifying the genre of music Kelsey plays, he says it’s difficult to narrow it down to one or two. "At my core there is a blues man that just wants to lock onto a groove, a good riff, and a simple story," he says. "But I appreciate so many things about music that I am always searching and bringing in different elements. It is the spirit of music that I enjoy and not a particular style."

He’s known to find items in a room and incorporate them into his performance and audience members’ belongings are not off-limits. He likes interacting with people to build on his sound and playing off of the emotion in the room.

"I get half an idea of what I want to do before I arrive and then once I see the venue I get the other half … and then once I see the people I scratch the first half and make up another," he explains.

Kelsey will perform a live show at The Egyptian Theatre on Saturday, July 31, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door and $20 for cabaret seating. Kids under 12 are $10 in advance or $12 at the door. Tickets are available by call 649-9371 or visiting

On Sunday, Aug. 1, he’ll host a music-making workshop for all ages and levels from noon to 2 p.m., during which he’ll share ideas and demonstrate his approach to guitar, songwriting and performing.

"The workshops give us all a chance to slow things down see and hear things from other angles," he says. "We can talk about it in a way that I hope will inspire others to further their own creative journeys. Inspiration is contagious." The cost for the workshop is $20 and may be purchased by calling box office at 649-9371.

Kelsey will also perform a free kids’ show designed to entertain, educate and foster creativity on Sunday from 4 to 5 p.m. The show is geared towards ages 12 and under.

The Theatre will host a private performance by Kelsey on Sunday evening at 6 p.m. for Pharaoh Club and Cleopatra Guild members only. For information on how to become a member, visit

For more information about the artist and to preview his music, visit .

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