Old Shoe guitarist and vocalist Matt Robinson thinks the general understanding of what an "old shoe" represents fits the band's persona.
"An old friend of mine used to call me 'an old shoe,'" said Robinson. "I thought that was a cool name and the light bulb went on and thought it would be a great idea for a band name. Shoes are fashionable, and the 'old shoe' fit the idea of us being a retro band as far as where our styles come from."
Robinson hails from the central Illinois town of Pontiac, but lives now in Old Shoe's home base of Chicago. He and mates Paul Priest, Joe Day, Daniel Whittier Huber, and Greg Fundis hail from various points in the U.S. (including Alaska) and bring differing musical backgrounds to the band. Robinson said the initial roots/folk/rock vision of the band helped to channel its musical focus. But they also wanted to capitalize on the quintet's eclectic background.
"That helps scratch those itches ... that we can stretch out and do different styles. But the main focus is roots and rock & roll centered," said Robinson.
And since Old Shoe occasionally finds itself on the jam-band circuit, Robinson said that "big stew of musical styles" works well in that environment.
"That's helpful that it doesn't isolate any fans if you play bluegrass, reggae, or the blues. It's all appreciated and encouraged," said Robinson.
As recently as Old Shoe's 2013 release "Family," band members were still bringing original songs to the group before fleshing them out. Since then, Robinson said the band is beginning to collaborate more than ever on new songs. Though onn "Family," Robinson pointed to "Mouth Of The Lion" and "Michigan" as two songs he brought to table that ended up in the hands of keyboard player Joe Day.
"Before Joe joined the band, I was singing 'Mouth of the Lion,' it was about half the tempo it is now. He had an idea to play it in double-time. And I said 'why don't you just sing it to us?' Now we play it just as much as any other song at our live shows," said Robinson.
Old Shoe appears at Six Strings Club in Bloomington February 23 as part of their "Snow Shoe" Festival with Bloomington based Flaccid. The now 5-year-old winter festival grew out of their summer "Shoe Fest." Robinson said Snow Shoe is just an indoor extension of summer counterpart, with a couple wrinkles.
"The winter can be long, and people start yearning for that summer festival fun. So we thought 'why don't we bring some of these concepts from the summer festival indoors?' And it's worked out real well, we've even been able to expand it to two more cities," said Robinson.
Bloomington and Indianapolis are those two cities that constitute wrinkle #1. The other is the " artist at large," where a higher profile musician is brought in to sit in with each band. This year, Allie Kral of the Yonder Mountain String band will sit-in with both Old Shoe and Flaccid, and play a set of her own.
"She's actually done an artist at large with us a few times," said Robinson. "And she has a lot of Chicago ties because she was in a band called Cornmeal before Yonder Mountain. So we all kind of knew each other and then she did the second Snow Shoe as the artist at large before joining Shoe Fest in the same capacity."
Old Shoe with special guests Flaccid and Allie Kral play Six Strings in downtown Bloomington February 23. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. Showtime is 8:00 p.m.