With his infectious mix of R&B, funk and hip-hop, Shamarr Allen is the perfect act to open the 2021 Eichelberger Concert Series at Levitt Pavilion in Dayton on Saturday. After more than a year-and-a-half without in-person concerts, the New Orleans-based trumpeter and his band the Underdawgs will surely get attendees smiling, dancing and reveling in the return of live events.
“This is our second run so far this year and the energy of the people is great, man,” Allen said during a recent telephone interview. “I never actually realized how much a part of my life the fans of my music are until they weren’t there anymore. I feed off of that energy and I give them that same energy back and hopefully we leave with that same feeling. I really missed it and it’s good to have that back.”
The current leg of Allen’s summer-long Back Outside Tour includes shows in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. While he’s happy to be back on stage, he was productive during the pandemic.
“There was some performing here and there but I haven’t done much for the past year outside of virtual shows and a lot of recording,” he said. “I converted my garage into a full studio so I’ve been spending a lot of time in there preparing for when the world opens back up.”
Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
In the lab
For a road warrior like Allen, the unprecedented time off the road allowed him to focus on creating new material in his musical laboratory. He released a pair of timely singles in 2020, “Quarantine and Chill” and “Thank You,” which was dedicated to essential workers. Earlier this year, he dropped a cover of Silk Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open.”
“I was on a mission to do music, man, and that was it,” Allen said. “I was actually doing a lot of touring already. In 2020, I had 221 dates on the books so when the shows stopped, I still had to figure out a way to continue the music. For me, that was getting into the studio and recording continuously. It actually helped me because it was something I was going to need to do eventually, but I wouldn’t have had time to do it.
“When you’ve been away for so long, it’s definitely hard to work on new music,” he continued. “When you’re home, you’re doing all these family things you don’t get a chance to do when you’re out. Then, time gets away from you and you’re back out on the road again. It gets tricky but the balance of it is, I have my own spot now. It’s really comfortable because I can go in with a bowl of cereal, in my T-shirt and my boxers, and work.”
During the pandemic, Allen also launched a new program in New Orleans where minors can trade guns for instruments.
“So, far I’ve gotten 12 guns from kids,” he said. “I don’t take them from adults because it’s not a buyback program in that aspect. I want to make sure I always have instruments for kids when they decided to come. I have at least 100 brand new instruments, but I don’t want to just give them to anybody for the sake of giving them to people. I want them to go to kids that have an interest in music but have less of a chance of actually getting an instrument.”
With gun violence on the rise, Allen, the father of two young boys, recognized the increased danger to already vulnerable youngsters during the pandemic.
“I started the program because there was a lot of stuff going on in the city,” he said. “There’s still a lot of stuff going on and a lot of those kids don’t have much to do. Times are different with everything shut down. They couldn’t go to the parks because they were closed down and every extracurricular activity was shut down. They were just out here doing whatever they wanted to do with no guidance.
“Their parents still had to work,” Allen added. “It’s easy to get caught up in things they wouldn’t get caught up in if school wasn’t virtual and everything was open after school. Football practice and all of that stuff had been eliminated for a while so it was just figuring out a way to do my part to try to help a little bit.”
Allen performs Saturday at 7 p.m. Levitt Pavilion’s fourth season also features Tank and the Bangas on June 19, Making Movies on July 8, Alvin Youngblood Hart on Aug. 19 and the legendary Ohio Players on Sept. 18.
Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at email@example.com.
HOW TO GO
Who: Shamarr Allen
Where: Levitt Pavilion, 134 S. Main St., Dayton
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, June 12
Get comfortable: Guests are encouraged to bring picnic blankets, chairs, food and beverages. The Smokin BBQ food truck will be on site.
More info: www.levittdayton.org
Artist info: www.shamarrallen.com