Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Name: Michael Soli, singer-songwriter
Education: English degree, University of Pittsburgh
Acoustic Vegas: Las Vegas has never been a hotbed of acoustic music, but Soli has built a talent pool of local and touring musicians to perform Thursdays at “Acoustic Strip” at the House of Blues. He’s a booking agent and solo performer who plays mostly contemporary acoustic rock music by artists such as the Foo Fighters, John Mayer and Jack Johnson, plus originals.
Playing guitar: Growing up in Erie, Pa., he learned harmony, chord voicings and fingerpicking while playing a folk Mass at a Catholic Church. At home he played electric guitar and loved AC/DC.
Getting to Vegas: Soli was living in Miami, where he booked acts and performed on cruise ships for three years. Most of the cruise musicians had homes in Las Vegas. One gave him a key to his house for a getaway and Soli decided to move here, arriving in 1998.
Acoustic scene: The acoustic void of Las Vegas inspired Soli to start an open-mic night at Money Plays, a small neighborhood bar on West Flamingo Road. The talent flowed in. So did the audiences. Soli decided to showcase some of the musicians and formed a weekly acoustic showcase at the Palms in 2001.
In 2005 he began the acoustic series in the House of Blues courtyard, scheduling a variety of musicians. It’s the kind of place where you might see the Hawaiian reggae band ForTwentyDaze, an alternative touring musician and a local solo act perform in one evening.
His music: His music and skills vary wildly, but Soli’s own work tends to be melancholy, tender, languid and even sultry. His soft-rock sound shows vulnerability and hints of alternative country.
Audiences: “People love this format. It’s not overwhelming. It’s inviting. You can chat awhile. I love playing in full bands. I love hearing full bands, but that’s all you ever hear.”
Performing acoustically: Soli lists some of his influences as Beck, Ben Folds, James Taylor, Loudon Wainwright III and John Updike. He writes, records and performs his own music. “Singing and songwriting is my favorite. It’s the most potent way of delivering a message.”
Off-Strip venues: “The gaming industry is a blessing and a curse to the local music scene. It’s like pulling teeth to get people to come out of the casinos. It’s not easy to find the right mixture, but we’ve found a way to make it work at House of Blues.
Sticking around? “Things are good right now, but would I love to live somewhere else? Absolutely. I’d love to have this showcase in three different cities. I’d love to go to California, Denver, maybe Portland.”
Other interests: Lifting weights, running, reading and throwing Legos around with his 2-year-old daughter.