Happy's hour

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Happy Chichester is one of those versatile, well-rounded musicians and dauntless songwriters able to fill a big room with full-bodied sound all by his lonesome.

A local luminary, he's had a full and healthy musical career, known for his time as the bass player for the Royal Crescent Mob, one of Columbus' seminal acts of the 1980s; the anchor of Howlin' Maggie; a frequent guest with the Afghan Whigs; and an original member of the Twilight Singers.

More recently, he's done a lot of solo work and has been a touring band member with RJD2, often opening those shows as a solo act. He's also been a guest on recordings by Umar Bin Hassan (one of the Last Poets), fellow founding Twilight Singer Shawn Smith and local songsmith and star side-player Megan Palmer.

For the next four weeks, Chichester will be playing a series of happy-hour sets at the Rumba Cafe that will double as a holiday food drive; attendees are asked to donate a non-perishable food item.

What exactly is a "residency" at a bar?

Just the chance to hold down that happy-hour slot for four weeks in a row. I'm working on new songs. I'm in the recording studio and still writing, so it helps me to work them out, get a feel for what's working.

The earlier time slot is nice, because I think there's an audience in Columbus for original music, for songwriters, but sometimes the commitment of coming out late is too much. This gets people out who might not ordinarily be able to make it.

What will you be playing?

I'm learning some cover songs. I'll go back and play Howlin' Maggie songs - I'll even go back and play some R.C. Mob - but mostly, I'll be focusing on these new songs.

How's the current CD shaping up?

I keep hearing from people who claim to know that CDs are becoming obsolete, so I'm not sure what package these recordings will ultimately come in. But these are songs that I'm trying to bring closer to what my live performances are like.

I'm doing beat-box stuff, creating beats on the microphone with my own voice and then playing along with that. There's no acoustic guitar this time. I'm playing electric guitar and using effects - a lot of balls in the air at the same time. I'm trying to keep it all together and make it sound like music.

What else have you been up to this year?

Did another couple tours with RJD2, both opening and in the band with him and Derek DiCenzo and Sam Brown. Opening a hip-hop tour as a solo act is a bracing experience - it'll make a tough performer out of you. ... I've also done some more traveling around and playing solo.

Most of the summer, I took some time away from playing gigs and started just playing drums. Drums are my first instrument, so for two months over the summer, I spent one to two hours playing them every night, using those beats as a starting point for writing songs.

I'm kind of lying low at the moment, holing up in the studio and writing. It's nice to be home, maybe even fixing dinner from time to time.

What brought about the idea to make the Rumba residency a food drive?

The era that we live in. It was my lovely wife Laura's idea. I know that the Mid-Ohio Foodbank has had a steep increase in demand, and has had more difficulty this year keeping their shelves stocked. This is a way we can reiterate their need. Both of us consider it among the least that we can do - it's just asking for the help of our warm, generous audience.

What: Holiday Happy Hour

When: 5 p.m. Fridays through Dec. 19

Where: Rumba Cafe, North Campus

Web: columbusrumbacafe.com