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Lance Benson: Bemidji musician to perform original music

Lance Benson

Lance Benson is a musician confident of his ability to capture audiences through the power of his written, sung and played words.

The concert Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Mask and Rose Theater will be a premiere of his newest songs. He said he hopes will let people see how he has changed in his lyrics and musicianship in the past two years.

The concert will begin at 8 p.m. at the Wild Rose Theater, 501 Bemidji Ave.; $8 advance sale tickets may be purchased at KRKB Music, Overbeeks and KD Floral here in Bemidji. Tickets will be $10 at the door.

Benson's musical partner, Mark Bauer is a graduate of the University of North Dakota with a degree in musical performance, percussion emphasis. Bauer starting performing with Benson as an undergrad at UND where he heard Benson play at a coffee house on campus.

"He would jump on stage play his jembe (African drum) and it worked," said Benson. "The dynamic worked and I contemplated taking him on the road with me. But he couldn't go on the road because he was going to school, so we could only play in Grand Forks. He can play the marimba and all the other instruments. He's not just someone who one day picked up a drum stick. He brings a new element to my songs. We connect. It's a very mellow, good vibe."

Benson said a transformational experience happened to him when he was 16 and attending the Winnipeg Folk Festival. He heard musicians like Vance Gilbert, Martin Sexton and Mark Reeves and what they could do with an acoustic guitar. Although he studied piano as a youngster, Benson picked up a plastic string guitar gathering dust in his parents' home and taught himself how to play it. Benson said he is self-taught, which may account for some of his unusual techniques. He plays a Guild Guitar, DB4, with a hard neck and truss rod because he's hard on the instrument and may use up to three capos at one time for his neck bending playing.

Benson toured solo (just him and his guitar) throughout the Midwest, putting 25,000 miles on his van more than once. At the end of a show, he listened to the old guys at the end of the bar. They regretted spending their lives on the road with their bands and not with their families.

"Family and home in the end are the important things in life," he said.

A few years ago, he returned home to Bemidji, to his support system of family and friends.

Benson said he knew as a child that he wanted to work in the field of electronics with music as an avocation. He graduated from Dunwoody Institute with a technical degree in low-voltage electronics and enjoys installing home theaters, home security systems and alarms during the day for a firm in Park Rapids. His parents urged him to finish his degree, even though at one point he thought about just performing.

At night he goes home to his house in the woods where he walks the trails and dreams of new melodies and lyrics. He has piles of journals and writes every day even the time of day and the temperature. He said he is thinking all the time about lines of words and snippets of music, which he sometimes records by calling his voice mail and leaving a message or humming a few bars of music that he later retrieves.

"I don't ever push my writing," he said. "My best songs come out very sporadically, I write the music first. Right now, I have some guitar parts and my friends say they are amazing, but I have to find the right lyrics. I always write in my music room ... but one time I worked in my living room. I had this melody running round in my head, so I turned around and sat on my coffee table and faced the couch and wrote a song in half an hour -'Something' just the word something. It's the best song I've ever written."

He said he will perform "Something" and "Today" Thursday at a song-writing competition at Beaner's Central in Duluth.