Wendy Woo wows audiences
KEYSTONE – Wendy Woo grew up with the Beat – not rhythmic beats – but Beat Poets, such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs.
Her parents taught at The Naropa Institute in Boulder, where she spent wild summers surrounded by art and poetry.
“I really took to it well,” Woo said. “Luckily, I found music to balance it out, and I stayed focused on my music.” Woo found a way to blend the soul, vibrancy and wild-child attitude she grew up with in Boulder into a pure, powerful groove.
As a child, she loved singing in the choir and didn’t think she had many options.
“I became a musician because it was the only thing I could do,” she said. “I was a recluse as a teen-ager, and music was the only thing I liked.”
She began playing guitar at 18 to accompany her strong voice, strumming simple chords at first.
“My voice made people tolerate my guitar-playing until I could develop it,” she said. “I kind of felt like a late bloomer.”
For any late-blooming Woo did, she has made up for it. She has won numerous local awards, including best musician and best singer and songwriter, has released four CDs displaying a range of styles from down-and-dirty blues to summer-day sambas and wistful ballads and has toured on the East and West coasts in addition to Colorado.
After bartending at The Fox Theatre in Boulder for 10 years, Woo finally quit her job a year ago, when her music began supporting her fully. She produced her first three CDs on her own, but she recorded her last CD, “Gonna Wear Red,” in a professional, world-class studio.
Along with that change, Woo has transformed.
“A lot of my earlier writings were fun, happy, about nature, some about relationships, but not very personal,” she said. “Now I personally relate to the songs more.”
While working on her latest CD, her mother died, a love affair ended, another began and she moved from the mountains to the city. She filled the void with work and emerged with a soulful, genuine and determined sound.
“Gonna Wear Red” begins with a folk-and-rock opener about unexpected loss, demands self-reliance and toughing it out in a funk-and-jazz anthem and concludes with soaring vocals, energetic, guitar-based percussions and an ode to nature, dreamers and the universe.
Her live performances are just as riveting.
“She puts off a feel-good energy to her audience,” fan Debbie Miller said. “She tries to connect with everybody on a personal level. She points people out in the audience, even if it’s the second time she’s seen them. It seems like she knows everybody in her audience personally.”
Miller’s entire family has followed Woo for two-and-a-half years. Her kids, ages 9-17, as well as her parents, love Woo because she hits all genres in her music.
“She’s about as genuine as a person I’ve ever met,” sponsor Suzanne Lainson said. “She has soul both in a musical sense and a personal sense. She shares herself with the audience. You can meet her for five minutes, and you feel like you’ve known her for a long time. There’s a purity to her music. You go away feeling like you really had a genuine experience.”
Woo performs at noon Saturday at The Plaza at Keystone. For information, visit the Web site at http://www.wendywoo.com.
– When: Noon-2 p.m., Saturday, June 8
– Where: The Plaza, Keystone
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