Such is the case with Ocean Beach musician Jason Ott, frontman for Led Zeppelin tribute group Dazed and Confused. In addition to his regular band gigs, Ott can now be heard in acoustic format every Friday at Gallagher’s Pub, playing an “All Request Acoustic Show.”
“It’s a gig I look forward to every week,” Ott said, “although it can get a little crazy when one person is asking for Metallica and another Neil Young.”
He notes that it can be a balancing act to play to the whole room, but he has a secret weapon — a seemingly endless set list.
“I have over 900 songs I can play at this point, but there’s always something else to learn,” Ott said.
Ott said one of the keys to his success is his willingness to adapt.
“If I don’t know the requested song, I’ll often take it home and learn it,” he said. “It has opened my eyes in a big way. I am now a fan of so many artists I never thought I’d be into. There’s so much good music out there.”
Since he is more known for his work with Dazed and Confused, he said requests for Led Zeppelin tunes are common.
“I play lots of them, but some I avoid because they just don’t sound right with one dude on a guitar,” Ott said. “I love all of Zep’s music, the fast and the slow stuff. Playing solo let’s me play some of the tunes I wouldn’t play with the band.”
In 2007, looking to expand his horizons beyond Dazed and Confused, he approached a bartender at Gallagher’s and asked if he could try out an acoustic show there. He was told to come by that Sunday and give it a shot.
“At the time, I had a set list of about 40 songs and played most of them at my first show,” Ott said. “Gallagher’s was a new bar then and the crowd was pretty thin. They had a small, collapsible stage against a wall in the back where I played for a few hours. I guess I did OK because the bartender asked the owner to rehire me. (They) started booking me one show at a time on Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m.”
His show quickly morphed into the all-request format.
“I had a set list of songs that I personally enjoyed playing, but there was no shortage of people coming up to me and asking me if I knew this song or that song,” Ott said. “Or ‘Free Bird,’ always ‘Free Bird!’”
He admits the requests bothered him at first.
“I had hoped that people would appreciate my genius and just sit there intent on listening to everything that I played,” Ott said. “Wrong! As it turns out ... I don’t necessarily know what people want to hear. I checked Wikipedia and there are 80 billion songs in this world and 6.769 billion people. That’s a lot of music and a lot of opinions.”
The gig eventually became a residency, now entering its third year.
“I enjoyed playing at Gallagher’s and wanted to figure out a way to keep a decent crowd there so I could justify a weekly show,” Ott said.
He quickly began listening to the audience and learning the songs they asked for.
“If I saw a person that had requested something, I played their song and they were pleasantly surprised,” Ott said. “When the audience is having fun, so am I. I live for this stuff.
‘Taking a cue from the dueling pianos at The Shout House, I decided to print song-request slips and present them to the audience,” he continued. “We originally went with the title ‘Acoustic Jukebox’ but another local performer was using that name, so I came up with the amazingly creative name ‘All Request Acoustic Show.’”
Today, Ott puts song-request slips on the tables, though people still also yell out their requests.
“My favorite genres to play are rock and classic rock,” Ott said. “Led Zeppelin are gods to me and I grew up musically in the ’80s hair-band era.”
Ott said getting requests has opened his eyes.
“I was never really a Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash or Grateful Dead fan, but I am now,” Ott said. “There’s so much great music out there that I just never got into until I started this show. I’ve found that some of the people who come to the show feel the same way.”
Ott said some songs are perfect for a show of this type and others have no business being done acoustically.
“But that doesn’t stop me,” Ott said. “Sometimes, breaking down an intense, multi-instrument song produces a really cool acoustic version. Some of these include ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (Queen), ‘Dead Skin Mask’ (Slayer) and ‘Oops, I Did it Again’ (Britney Spears).”
He said it’s this type of risk-taking that he finds the most satisfying.
“I once thought these songs should NEVER be done on acoustic, but I guess I was wrong,” Ott said.
Ott cites a Queen cover as the high point of his gigs to date.
“When I played ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for the first time, I was met with the loudest, longest round of applause I’ve ever had,” Ott said. “I love that.”
Ott performs from 6 to 9 p.m. on Fridays at Gallagher’s, 5046 Newport Ave. The show is for those 21 and up.
For more information, visit www.gallagherspubob.com.