For the thrill of the live performance — and cupcakes

Tony Furtado's biggest passion is performing live. He loves to play banjo and slide guitar, and he loves that surge of energy that comes from playing a live show.

"There's a lot of life to a live show," he says during a telephone inteview. "When you're playing music in front of an audience, there's always that little bit of danger — it's like walking a tightrope — that can create some of the best music."

Furtado will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, at the Unitarian Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland. Tickets cost $20 in advance and can be purchased at Music Coop, online at or by calling 541-535-3562. Tickets will cost $22 at the door; $10 for ages 12 through 17. Kids 11 and younger get in free.

Two-time National Fiddle Champ Luke Price and acoustic, upright bass player Sam Howard, who tours with Ruth Moody, an Australian-born singer-songwriter and member of Canadian folk trio The Wailin' Jennys, will join Furtado.

Furtado's newest, "Live From Mississippi Studio," was recorded live on Nov. 25, 2011, before a packed house at the music venue in northeast Portland. He and his band — including Price and Howard — captured the progressive hybrid of Americana-style folk and rock that Furtado is known for.

The show was recorded and mixed by Rob Stroup of 8-Ball Studio and filmed by a collective of young filmmakers called Devious Goldfish. The result was a CD/DVD set that was released in 2012.

"I think some of my best recordings have actually been captured by bootleggers recording my band live, because in that moment, I'm just not thinking about it," Furtado writes in his online biography. "All my energy is focused on the love of playing music and rolling with the moment. It's a give-and-take from the audience to the stage and back. And the music that is created is something that otherwise might not occur without that flow."

Often called a genius on banjo and slide, Furtado plays an old Martin guitar and a Gibson banjo.

"For years, the Gibson banjo was considered the quintessential bluegrass instrument for musicians," Furtado says. "Not that I play bluegrass. It's one of the genres under the umbrella of folk music, and I draw a lot from American folk music."

Furtado also has a passion for sculpting — whenever he can find the time, he says.

His larger-than-life, "tough guy" bunny sculptures and decorative, ceramic chain mail will be featured during Ashland's First Friday Art Walk at Illahe Gallery, 215 Fourth St. He'll be at the gallery from 5 to 7 p.m. to talk about his sculpture.

"It's oddball stuff," he says. "The ceramic chain mail looks like metal."

For years, Furtado performed as a consummate touring artist, spending many more days on the road than at home in Portland. Now, with a 14-month-old son, he finds time to stay closer to the hearth.

His final passion — probably not his last — is his love of cupcakes, he says in one of his online videos.

"I have a problem with cupcakes. It's an addiction, I think."

He might even play an encore for a cupcake.

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