Friday, 21 November 2014 13:39

Possessed by Paul James Combines Country Sound with Punk Performance

Written by  Dwayne Hoover
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Possessed by Paul James Possessed by Paul James

Possessed by Paul James, with The Crane Wives, Joseph Huber
Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids
Dec. 31, 9 p.m.
$10; Ages 21+
foundersbrewing.com, (616) 776-1195

Konrad Wert's first exposure to music was in the small Mennonite community where he grew up in southern Florida. The church setting taught him how to sing, and he later started picking up stringed instruments when his mother enrolled him in public school. Years later, it was a fellow student who inspired Wert to take music in a different direction.

"I remember a guy who was a sophomore and he was playing all these ballads like Guns N' Roses, and he was telling us about how he would go out on the street and perform and make money," Wert said. "I was playing out more, playing on the street more, and I realized, hey, you can make a little bit of money."

At first, his repertoire consisted largely of traditional genres. Later, he found his way to some good, old-fashioned punk.

"I had never been exposed to the Melvins or the Stooges," Wert said. "When I got exposed to that music, there seemed to be this click, like a universal calling."

That calling eventually led to his one-man-band, Possessed by Paul James. Armed with a guitar, banjo and fiddle, Wert stomps his own percussion and belts out his country-folk tunes with the raw emotion and power of an old-school punk performance. And his show is one that's geared specifically to the audience he's playing for.

"We typically don't do a set list," Wert said. "As we start a song, if it feels like the right song to sing we'll go with that song. If it doesn't, we'll just stop and go with a different song altogether. ... It's just being in the moment and feeling whatever's going on in the world."

When Wert isn't entertaining fans with his energetic performances, he's changing kids' lives as a special education teacher.

"The reason [I] got into it initially is because I come from a family with cousins with multiple disabilities," Wert said.  "It felt like a calling, and lo and behold, I happened to be good at it. I'll be a much better school teacher than I'll ever be a musician."

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