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Progressive Travels

The haphazard chronicles of a professional musician and his relentless pursuit of an otherwise boring life.

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Location: St. Jacob, Illinois, United States

If it ain't Baroque, fix it!

28 July 2005

BenWahBob Revisited

Saturday, 23 July 2005
BenWahBob was booked for yet another gig at Rusty’s in Edwardsville, IL. This has been more like a paid rehearsal for us in the past, as no one seems to go there anymore. I have heard many opinions offered as to the reason for this, but I just chalk it up to the wavering ways of the bar business. Another thing about this gig is that the owner wants us to dress nice – dark pants and a nice shirt – as we are considered “employees” while we are playing there. Jeans and T-shirts are discouraged. I arrived in a nice red and black button-up shirt and dark gray slacks. As the rest of the band began to arrive, I quickly noticed the abundance of shorts and T-shirts. It had been near 100 degrees all week, so I guess they decided that the dress code would be suspended this time.

Bobby had tickets and back-stage passes to the Journey concert that night, so our old drummer Scott Ballenger was sitting in with us. It had been quite a while since we had played with Scott, but the old groove caught on pretty quickly. Everyone plays a little differently, and Scott’s style is definitely different than Bobby’s. It’s funny how you get use to playing with one guy, yet the others never really get out of your system. Scott did a great job remembering all of the stuff he hasn’t played for the last year or so since he left BWB.

Another bright spot of the night was the crowd – the fact that there actually was one! The place was packed all night. I think I’ve only seen it this way once before, and that has been awhile ago. Not only was there a plethora of bodies in the building, they were actually into the music. It was a fun night for a change. Jeff of J&J Sound was moving the knobs for us this night, as I guess Mike was unavailable. He did a great job, too, and is always the consummate sound professional.

We had several surprise guests as well. During one of the third set songs with a drum/bass breakdown in the middle, Dale walked over to me and said into the microphone “Greg!” I gave him a puzzled look and said, “Were the (expletive) did that come from?” He quickly said, “Oh…I mean Paul!” After we retired to break before the last set, I was introduced to former drummer and bass player Adam and ….. Greg. OK, now it made a little more sense. We had ourselves a mini BenWahBob reunion happening…and at Rusty’s of all places.

There really wasn’t anything that stands out in my memory as highly entertaining. It was pretty much a steak-and-potatoes gig. We played songs, women danced, men stood around with beers in hand rocking their heads…pretty much standard fare. We did happen into an extremely fast version of Rush’s What You’re Doing, which became a bit of a challenge during the unison guitar/bass runs in the bridge section, but we made it through with some nervous grins and flying fingers. Speed-metal Rush. Dear God, where have we gone wrong?

Next weekend, Knucklehead is double-dipping. We start out in the afternoon on an outdoor stage at Frogs in Dupo, IL opening up for Thunderhead – A Tribute to Rush, then head over to St. Charles, MO for our regularly scheduled gig at Baha Rock Club. There should be plenty to blog about from that one, so be sure to check back here next week.

21 July 2005

South of the Border (...or is it the East Side?)

Friday, 15 July 2005
BenWahBob doesn’t usually venture too far from the St. Charles, MO area for gigs, as most of the members are from that general area. We occasionally do pick up some gigs in Illinois. This weekend we had the “pleasure” of playing at Club Richards in Alton, IL. It was the first time in there for this band. I have played there several times before in other bands, and it was always a great stage on which to play. Unfortunately, I have also had several gigs cancelled there in just about every band. The owner is somewhat fickle, to say the least. Since the last time I was there, he had apparently lost the house PA and lights to better paying places. No surprise there. This was what made it worth playing there, though. If nothing else, you could get some really good live photos while you were there.

This club does not have a reliable regular crowd. If you don’t bring in your own friends and fans, you play to empty seats – plain and simple. Being basically from another state, this was the case for BWB. We kept hearing from people that a crowd would probably come in late in the night. It didn’t happen. Having Jagertyme playing just across town didn’t help us either. We did see some familiar faces, though. The Marshall girls – Julie and her sister Jeanette – showed up late in the night. A couple of Dale’s friends drove over from Missouri. And, I got yet another Those1Guys sighting.

Bobby had his old Alibi singer Eddie Christ (the jokes were hard to suppress, believe me) running sound for us with Bobby’s system. We had used a partial set-up of this system at a country club gig a few weeks ago, but this was the first time I got to hear the full system in action. It was sweet…a very nice and easy-to-set-up PA system. I should aspire to such a system myself. Eddie did a great job and everyone agreed we sounded good.

On a different note… as long as I’ve been playing in the Alton area, there has been “The Fajita Guy” trolling around from bar to bar at the end of the night cooking fajitas and burritos out of the back of his truck. They are awesome. Apparently he is now pretty much camping out in Richards’ parking lot on the weekends, and cooking inside during the week. After all of these years of eating his food, I finally had the opportunity to talk with the man. What a great guy. His name is Jesus Ayala, he is from Mexico, and he is one of the best short-order Mexican food cooks I have ever encountered. He makes his own habanero sauce, and it will make you sweat with a quickness. His food made the whole weekend worth any accompanying aggravations.

Saturday, 16 July 2005
Part two of the Club Richards gig was Saturday night. As I arrived, Jesus was already in the parking lot serving up the chow. Had I known that he would be there this early in the evening, I wouldn’t have stopped at Sonic for dinner. However, I can’t complain about their cherry limeade.

Once on stage, we put the sets through the usual paces. One of the songs that Dale usually has the lyrics available for turned into a comedy routine. He just flat out forgot the words. I looked at him, craned my neck toward the lyrics sitting right at his feet, then shrugged as if to say, “What the…” Carlos chuckled and suggested that perhaps they were written in Chinese. Toward the end of the night, we did all of the songs that Dale doesn’t sing, as he isn’t use to doing two nights in a row. This meant Carlos singing Inside Out, which we don’t do too often anymore. He fudged the beginning bad. He immediately stopped and joked about it. After he started again, I started giving him the same look I had given Dale earlier. He started laughing – not too easy to sing that way – and commented that at least his wasn’t in Chinese. I almost wet myself. We did a Rush song, which Julie hates, and it was all good again.

Julie had showed up again at the end of the night, despite having told me the night before that she had other plans. When I asked her about this, she told me that she just brought her date along with her. When I turned around, I was shocked to see Kevin Kalka standing there grinning at me. This was turning into a very entertaining evening. Some woman came up to me before the start of the last set and asked if I wanted to dance with her. I politely told her that I had to go back up and play soon and wasn’t interested, but thanked her anyway. She looked right at me and said that I was lying. Huh? She then asked Carlos if he was interested, to which he replied that he was simply too tired. She said, “Another lie!” Huh? She then asked the soundman if he was interested, to which he simply replied, “No.” I looked at her and asked if that was a lie, too. She got all irate and started mumbling something about not having to lie to her. She then asked if there was something wrong with her or the way she looked. I said, “No” (now, I might have been lying!). I then lit into her about why she was still standing there talking to me if I was just lying to her. She apologized for the accusations and said that her feelings were hurt. I told her that I couldn’t imagine why – it’s not like I called her a liar or anything. After she finally went away, Eddie laughed and noted that the only guy on the stage that had actually been dancing (Dale) was the only guy she didn’t ask to dance. Entertainment value, I tell you.

I stopped and talked a bit with Julie and Kevin after tear-down, then made my way to Jesus’ truck for some fajitas for the drive home. Unfortunately, I forgot to tell him to make me sweat, so they weren’t hot at all. They were still excellent nonetheless. I enjoyed them along with the first Liquid Tension Experiment CD on the way home. Another one in the books.

11 July 2005

Alcohol is a Dangerous Drug

Friday, 08 July 2005
It was a slow week at my day job, so I was able to leave early on Friday. This allowed me the leisure of not having to hurry home, load the equipment, and make it to the club with barely enough time to set up, let alone actually eat something. Since it was Knucklehead at Club 501 in Wood River, IL, this was a PA gig, so there was a fair amount of work involved. As Deron rolled in near 20:00, I had most everything set up already. He commented about my profuse sweating. Funny thing about moving all that equipment…

I did seem a bit warm in the place, after hearing his comment. It didn’t seem so bad when I had come in, but as the evening wore on it seemed to get considerably less cool. Several people had also commented to me about the heat later in the night. It seems to be a trend with club owners; don’t turn the a/c down to a comfortable level until someone complains. Cost savings, I guess.

We had the normal Knucklehead Experience that night; much of the same stuff we usually play, and way too much stuff we don’t really know. We did Van Halen for Scott, Styx for god-knows-who, a butt-load of Guns-N-Roses for some attractive young lady who seemed to catch Deron at just the right moment (she was working the room like a pro, and loving the attention). It was a pretty typical night.

Saturday, 09 July 2005
This night started off with an order of the fine chicken strips served by the kitchen at the club. There seemed to me to be an exceptional amount of odd people in the place when I arrived. One older guy asked if he could dance to our music. I said, “Be my guest!” (yep…being a jerk again) Another introduced himself to me as someone other than the name on his shirt, then proceeded to punch himself in the stomach over and over again. I believe I mumbled the word “nice” as I walked away. It was going to be one of those nights. I sat on the other side of the bar to avoid any further oddities. Deron joined me there when he came in, as did Dave Stover who showed up, too. Unfortunately, the oddities soon found us and put on their show for Dave. There is no escape.

Dawna showed up during the first set, which was nice for me of course. She was sporting her new T-shirt with the phrase “My Face is Up Here” with an arrow pointing up. It seemed to be a big hit with the other patrons as well. She didn’t stay long, though, as she had promised Katrina she would come to Eddie’s in Granite City to see Ivory Tiger and to help celebrate Geo’s birthday.

Many other friends stopped by during the course of the night, including Kevin Kalka who sat in with us a couple of weeks ago at Eddie’s. During a Metallica song, Deron was doing the pee-pee dance, and at the end of the last chorus he made a B-line for the men’s room. I motioned to Scrappy to just continue dragging out the end of the song…just for yuks. Deron – from the men’s room remember – launched suddenly into Sweet Child of Mine. At this point, Steve decided it would be a good idea to bring up Kevin for a couple of songs. Bad idea. The delay between us and Deron on the other side of the building caused a severe time problem that only got worse as we went on. Deciding not to contribute to it any longer, I just stopped playing. Deron made it back around the end of the first chorus, and I started playing once again. What a disaster. Kevin ended up playing the rest of the set with us.

When I thought we were done, as Deron had begun the Dean Martin outtro music, Steve kept egging the crowd on for one more song. I was less than amused. No one seemed to want one more song except him, but he kept it up irregardless. I made some snide comment about it, to which he began taunting me about it. Now I was really not amused. Deron and Scrappy started into another song – I don’t even remember what it was – and it was on. I had already removed my bass, but put it back on. I really didn’t feel like doing this tonight. So, I just played the bass lines on my foot pedals, including the "Cheech & Chong" ending of which we are so fond. That was at least somewhat amusing.

I began to tear down the equipment immediately after we finished…again. Deron didn’t have his truck that night, so he was going to leave his equipment for Sunday. Off to Eddie’s he went. Steve disappeared early, but then came back for the banner. Scrappy stuck around and tore down his drums, then helped me with the load-out. I’ve told him several times that he doesn’t have to, but he insists anyway. It was about 02:30 by the time I left for home.

I had called Dawna and left a message on her cell phone to call me when she got home. She called back a few minutes later to tell me that she was still at Eddie’s, and that the alcohol she had imbibed had made her sick on top of the medication she had taken earlier. She wasn’t sure she could drive home. This, on top of my own events at the end of the night, rather aggravated me. I was already in a pretty bad mood, and this didn’t help. She said she was going to Katrina’s to drink some coffee until she felt better, then drive home. She called me from home around 06:00. Needless to say, my Sunday was pretty much shot, since I didn’t get to bed until about 06:30.

Oh, well…such is the life of a bar star, eh? Now I remember why I quit drinking.

08 July 2005

Citations and Bach

Saturday, 02 July 2005
Independence Day weekend was a nice, slow one for me this year. No gig on Friday night, and Saturday was BenWahBob at Baha Rock Club on Main Street in St. Charles, MO. As I rolled in with my equipment, everyone else was already there and set up. I hadn’t realized that I was running a bit late. This is not a problem, though, since my set-up takes about 5 minutes. I only play bass and sing with this band, so no keyboards to set up, too. John wasn’t there, and in his place was another guy to run sound for us. We’ve used him before, but I can never recall his name. Carlos was in the process of warming up both his fingers and his amp tubes when the soundman, who was micing the drum set, turned around quickly and asked him to please hold off for just a moment. Now tipped off that he was in a crabby mood, I proceeded to take my time with my set-up and tuning my bass…just to tick him off even more. Sometimes, I’m just a jerk like that.

Shortly after we finished the sound check, Jim, the manager, walked by and mimicked playing keyboards with raised eyebrows. He then dismissed it with, “Oh, wait…that’s the other band.” He always picks on me about that, suggesting that I should play keys with BWB as well. Too much hassle, I always explain to him, for what amounts to just a couple of songs that would benefit from them. Not likely to happen.

As we plowed through the fairly standard set list, I started to notice that we had a persistent problem with feedback from the stage monitors. It was a high-pitched squeal somewhere in the 6.3KHz range, I was guessing. Of course, my guessing was for naught. Apparently this went unnoticed by our crabby soundman throughout the evening. I eventually had to turn the side-shot monitor on my side of the stage away from me…I just couldn’t tolerate it anymore. Carlos told me later that he was a guitar player who’s hearing had been shot for many years now, so he mixes with a lot more high end to compensate for the fact that he can’t hear it. He probably didn’t even hear the feedback that was curdling our milk on stage.

Other than that, the night went pretty well. I had mentioned in a previous blog that I would prefer that Dale put Cat Scratch Fever later in the set list because it kind of hurts my throat to sing it early in the evening. I guess he reads my blogs, because it was near the beginning of the fourth set this night. Thanks, Dale. I don’t recall any really awful gaffs in the music that night, other than the miscommunication over skipping a song. Carlos and I started into a Rush song and Bobby started into an Aerosmith song. Woops! It all worked out, and we ended up doing both songs anyway.

A friend of Carlos’ named Scott Lyle came out to see us. Apparently his band was off for a change. I had met him initially at Carlos’ wedding a couple of years ago and found him quite fascinating. We discovered that we both share a passion for baroque-era music, especially J. S. Bach. During the course of our several conversations, we had both expressed an interest in doing something in pursuit of that interest. I had heard awhile back that he was trying something with the bass player from Mr. Yuk, but apparently that didn’t pan out. He told me that guy didn’t have the same passion for the music as he did. We talked awhile longer at the end of the night about it, and discussed the idea of a duo with classical guitar and either an acoustic bass or cello playing transcriptions of the Bach Two Part Inventions. Now he had my full attention. I have wanted to do something with those pieces for some time now. This seemed like an appropriate idea. I am looking for the music this week. I’ll let you know if/when anything comes of it.

At the end of the night, I went to the parking garage to pull my van around to the front of the club for load-out. After this was accomplished and a few of us were standing around in the street talking – as we often seem want to do – Carlos motioned to the front of my van and said, “Huh, looks like you got a ticket, Paul.” Sure enough, there was a yellow ticket under the windshield wiper. He pulled it off and handed it to me. A parking ticket from the St. Charles Police. I had parked in a space in the garage that was marked for vehicles taller than 6’7”. This was not the first time I had parked in that spot, but it was certainly the first time I had been cited for it. I guessed that they were doing extra patrols for the holiday weekend. Either that, or they took offense to my teasing them earlier in the night about actually coming inside of the club for a change. The ticket was written shortly after said incident. Hmmm… Now I have never, in my adult life, had to pay a ticket. I have always gone to court and successfully argued in favor of my case. Even as recently as a year-and-a-half ago when I got a parking ticket outside of the Broadway Bistro, I was able to convince a judge that I was in the right and not guilty (there are pictures on the Knucklehead website concerning this). Unfortunately for me this time, I was clearly in the wrong, as my van is not the requisite 6’7” tall. So, I paid the $10 fine rather than take another day off from my job to go to court only to get another court date for which I must take off yet another day to go again to court to argue against something which I know I did wrong and probably end up paying considerably more in the end.

Speaking of the end…
See you next weekend at Club 501 in Wood River, IL with Knucklehead. If not, check back here sometime next week for all the gory details.

01 July 2005

My First (and last) Pony Bet

Thursday, 23 June 2005
Another couple of Fairmount Park gigs with BenWahBob were to start off this weekend. The Michelob Ultra Thursdays had not been too great in the past, but this year seemed to be catching on quite well. As always, there was food aplenty at the free buffet and the dollar AB bottles were as popular as ever (with those who drink). There was a group of wild young ladies who planted themselves in the first three tables in front of the stage and had a grand time amongst themselves. This is always infectious with others around them. They were spreading good cheer.

We drove our sets through the usual paces. I even did that screeching thing at the end of Cat Scratch Fever, which I should call Throat Scratch Fever because of the affect it has on my throat. I’ve got to get Dale to start putting that later in the evening, especially if he wants me to keep singing Rush songs. I even broke my own tradition and bet on a horse. One of my co-workers at my day job owns several race horses and had one in the 8th race this night. I had seen one of his horses run away from the field the last time we played there, so I took his word for it this time when he spent the whole week talking this one up. At 6-1 odds, I thought I might cash in on this one. Unfortunately, 5th out of 6 doesn’t pay very much on a $20-to-win bet. He still hasn’t said another word to me about that horse.

We found through the course of the evening that there was a young lady there celebrating her birthday who’s name was Nicole. Well, that naturally lead us to suggest playing the song of the same name. Not only have we never played this song together, I haven’t played it at all since I was in high school in the 1980s. Throwing caution to the wind, ala Knucklehead, we jumped right into it nonetheless. It actually came off pretty well. Who says you always get the same show with BWB?

Friday, 24 June 2005
Part two of the Fairmount Park gig is the Budweiser Party at the Park on Friday. Again the same deal with the food buffet and drinks, but the food buffet has a much larger selection on Fridays and there are usually about twice as many people there. This Friday didn’t seem quite as crowded to me, though. There was actually room to walk through the place without squeezing past everyone.

The women of BWB showed up in force, too. Although Dawna didn’t stay long because of her family obligations, she was there long enough to go after Dale for spending way too much time flirting with an attractive young lady in-between sets. As she approached him, she realized it was his wife Chris with her hair unusually straight. Everyone got a kick out of that. We can’t get away with anything – they’re looking out for each other at every turn.

We played that Nicole song again to wrap up the night. It went quite a bit smoother this time, as we had all had time to give it a whirl in our heads since the night before. Another fun night drew to a close, and I rambled back up the highway to my new hole under my new rock.

Saturday, 25 June 2005
Knucklehead played at Ten Pin in Alton, IL this night. I am not so fond of this gig for several reasons, not the least of which are the sparse crowds and the fact that I have to lug in a PA. At least I didn’t have to work that day and then hurry to the gig.

We offered up the standard KH fare to those who were willing to listen. I don’t honestly recall delving into any uncharted territory that night – a very unusual thing for this band at this bar. I do recall dancing with two left feet on the new MIDI controller during Fight the Good Fight, though. I really need to practice that one. It needs to be a Zen moment, and it’s not even close to that yet. I just need to practice (other than my cello) in general. Since I don’t play everyday like I use to at St. Louis Music, my playing has taken a serious down-hill slide. I’ll work on that…I promise.

There were no real odd happenings that night (another unusual thing for this bar) other than the guy who decided that a chair was his best choice for a dance partner. He was quickly removed from the premises before he hurt himself. I did get a couple of "Hey, didn't you use to play in Those1Guys" comments. Odd that people still remember that band, since it was around less than a year. Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful night. We did end early (?), though…before 02:30! Apparently the local constabulary has been cracking down on the bars staying open late in the city. Bummer. Does that mean we can’t play until 04:00 in the morning any more? That really breaks my heart (ahem…sniff, sniff).