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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!

20 December 2005

Hotels and Leather Vests

Saturday, 10 December 2005
This weekend started with a bit of a fizzle. Dawna and I were supposed to go see her violin teacher in a string concert at SIU Edwardsville. With the weather that had rolled through the area just a few days earlier, and the logistics of her not getting off work until 18:00, there was little chance we would be making that concert. A last minute change of plans for her ex-husband unexpectedly handed over her oldest son for that night as well. We had also planned to go to Eddie’s in Granite City to see Ivory Tiger. Katrina, the wife of their bass player Geo, had apparently planned a little birthday bash for her. So, we were able to drop off Derek at Geo & Katrina’s home while we went to Eddie’s. All of the usual suspects were in attendance, including Deron Boyd and Steve Wenos of Knucklehead infamy. Dawna seemed to have a pretty good time (everyone in the bar sang Happy Birthday to her), and I didn’t at all mind seeing some people I haven’t seen for some time. Towards the end of the evening’s festivities, it became obvious that we would be having a small KH reunion. Since Steve Hall didn’t make it out that night, Wes from Ivory Tiger would be filling the vocal void. We went to the stage and I warbled out Hendrix’s Purple Haze, then Wes joined us for Rush’s Red Barchetta, and Krokus’ Screaming in the Night. Geo even came up and joined in on the Krokus vocals. We left around 01:30, picked up Derek, and headed back to my house.

Dawna had to work Saturday morning, so I was to take Derek home when he awoke. After we had coffee and sent here off on her way, I fired up the computer and began working on a couple of string quartets. I got tired after awhile (my computer locked up and I lost everything I had written over about an hour - doh! - save early, save often) and decided to take a little nap. I didn’t wake up until almost 16:00, and Derek was still asleep. I woke him and told him I needed to take him home before his mom got there. She called while we were sitting at the kitchen table chatting about the layout of the city of Troy, IL (don’t ask), and said she would just stop by and pick him up on her way home. I had mentioned to her that I had to make a call to Idaho earlier this week, but wouldn’t tell her what it was for as it concerned her Christmas present. Consequently, she has been bugging me about it ever since, hoping I will slip and tell her what is in Idaho. I just told her potatoes. (“What’s taters, Precious?” “PO-TA-TOES!”).

After they left, I began getting ready to go play at Jacques’ in the downtown St. Louis Sheraton Hotel. It is across the street from the Savvis Center and the Blues were playing the NY Rangers that night, so we were expecting a better crowd than we had gotten on previous occasions. We were not disappointed. The game ended as we were nearing the end of the first set, and people started filing in at an extremely acceptable rate. It was a good crowd, despite the Blues’ OT loss just moments earlier. There were several couples there who were engaged to be married, and they seemed to be having the best time. One group had driven in from Jefferson City, and another from Kansas City. We felt obliged to play there requests, and they seemed quite grateful.

Dale had removed the heavier stuff from the set list for this gig in order to insert the more danceable stuff. So, there would be no Sabbath, or Rush, or Zeppelin this night. Oh, well - so it goes some nights. We had dancers all night, so I guess it worked. Even when we broke the flow by fumbling around and changing songs in the middle of the sets, the dancers still came right back. Someone actually asked for some Led Zeppelin as we were shutting down for the night. We kind of looked at each other, but decided not to push our luck, as we have been trying to get this as a regular gig. The pay is good, it’s fairly high profile, and the house sound system is very good. The stage has a nice, dead sound, too, which makes for a more enjoyable time for us with little or no feedback and a good stage mix. Both the manager and the soundman told us at the end of the night that they liked us and would be telling the agent to book us some more dates this year. Very cool.

One semi-odd occurrence did take place at the end of the night. I say semi-odd, because at this point in my career nothing really surprises me anymore. We actually had two requests to play at weddings. The first was relatively benign. The couple from Jefferson City came up to the stage to talk and request songs a couple of different times. At the end of the night, the girl came back up by herself and started asking me about how much we charge for weddings. I told her that we will do weddings, but she needed to talk to Carlos for the financial arrangements. She seemed to really like us. The other occurred with me when I went to the bar to take care of the band tab. I was approached by a fairly “normal” looking young lady who asked if we play weddings. When I said yes, she asked if I would mind wearing a leather vest. Huh? She repeated her question. When I asked if there was some sort of reasoning behind this request, she proceeded to explain that she had a certain “idea” about how she thought we should look; Carlos would dress as a hippie, Dale would dress as a geek with a bowtie and pocket protector, Bobby would play without a shirt, and I would dress like a biker with a leather vest. Uhhh...OK. I repeated that we do indeed do weddings, but special requests such as this would probably come at an additional cost. She noted that she had one of our business cards and would be in touch. I can’t wait until Carlos gets that phone call.

Teardown was fairly quick, and we were out the door by 01:45. We found out at the last minute that the club would not validate our parking garage tickets on nights that there is a Savvis event, but this turned out to only be $5. Not too painful at all. I listened to the King’s X CD Dogman during the uneventful drive home. All in all, a pretty good night.

13 December 2005

An Apology from Tryptophan Heaven

A quick foreword/apology - I have been remiss in the timely maintenance of my weblog as of late. Trouble with my modem on my home computer, and limited access time at my new job has slowed the process a bit. Couple that with the temporary financial strains brought on by the inappropriate fiscal policies of my former employer, and I still don’t have it fixed. With any luck, though, I should be able to remedy this situation in the next week or so. I have written blogs for many of the intervening weeks, I just wasn’t able to post them until now. Feel free to go back and read them with the links on the left of this page. For the delays, I apologize.

So, without further ado...

Saturday, 26 November 2005
Thanksgiving weekend is probably my favorite holiday. I love turkey, and could probably eat it every day. In fact, I usually eat either turkey or chicken just about every day for lunch. So, I do eat it almost every day now that I think about it. However, the sliced stuff in plastic packages simply isn’t the same as fresh-off-the-bone fowl. Throw in all of the standard sides, and I’m in tryptophan heaven. I indulged myself with Dawna’s family this year, and the meal was outstanding to say the least. She and I spent the rest of the day putting up plastic barriers around her outside windows to help alleviate the incursion of cold air into her enclosed porch.

Friday was pretty much a music day for me. It started with Dawna asking me to go with her to her piano lesson. Her teacher is a riot. She is someone who obviously enjoys what she is doing. This is really nice to see in a music teacher. After I returned home, I practiced my cello like a good boy, practice my bass in one of those rare moments, and spent the rest of the day working on a couple of original string quartets. I had picked up new notation software by Finale to replace the old Sibelius 2 software I had been using. It was a pirated copy I received from a friend, and was not registered, so the save option was disabled. It has been quite a pain to re-enter everything when I wanted to make changes, and then reprint the new copy. The new software is registered and functioning properly, making the writing process fly right along. The playback sounds are more realistic as well. It doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as Sibelius (which I didn’t really need anyway), but it also didn’t cost $400. Dawna and I had dinner that evening at the Olive Garden and went to see the new Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire movie, then headed home for bed, as she wasn’t feeling too well.

Saturday didn’t see her health improve much. In fact, it had gotten worse as the day wore on. She had planned on accompanying me to Baha Rock Club that night, but decided late in the day that it would be best if she stayed behind. Baha is not known for its efficient ventilation system, and she was sure the incredible amount of smoke would only increase her inability to breathe. She did, however, agree to stay at my house while I was gone. Knowing that she was there didn’t exactly make it easy to concentrate on the task at hand, but I somehow managed.

Once again, BenWahBob put the sets through their usual paces. Dale had inserted several of the new songs into the set list, but this time had interspersed them throughout the sets. The night started off pretty slow. There were very few people there when I arrived, and we all discussed how we thought the Saturday after Thanksgiving would yield a better turnout. Of course, we didn’t have to wait too long for that to happen. By the time we had gotten into the first set, the place was starting to buzz, and very soon was as packed to the rafters as would be expected. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Throughout most of the night, we had people coming up to the stage and requesting somewhat odd songs. We always get requests, but these were off the beaten path stuff like Brian Adams, The Cars, Iggy Pop, and some others of whom I had never even heard. We got several requests for some heavier stuff like Ozzy and Sabbath. I am not sure if people really just like that stuff more lately, or if it is starting to become known that we do more of it lately. Whatever the case, we accommodated them in the fourth set. Whatever benign song Dale had put at the top of that set was summarily passed over to get to the meat-and-potatoes of the rock stuff. We launched directly into Bobby singing Love Removal Machine by The Cult, then into me singing Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin and What You’re Doing by Rush. Dale came up to sing Moxy’s Sail On, Sail Away, then retreated again for Carlos to sing Faeries Wear Boots to begin our Sabbath onslaught. We rolled into Paranoid, but suddenly ran out of time. As Jim was at the door tapping his watch, we had time for one more. So, we made as short as possible a version of War Pigs, and shut everything down for the night. As much fun as this was for us to play all of these killer tunes, it apparently did less for those still in attendance. As we wound our way through this great set, more and more people got up to leave. By the time we arrived at the end of the last song, the place was empty but for a few hardcore Sabbath fans. Oh well...at least Jim and his staff didn’t have a bar full of people to throw out at the end of the night.

We packed our stuff, loaded out, received our compensation for services rendered, and I headed for home and my lovely-yet-ill girlfriend. My drive was accompanied by the strains of Exit; Stage Right - The String Quartet Tribute to Rush put out by Vitamin A Records...very cool stuff. I had long thought about doing something like this. I guess I thought about it too long. Now that someone else has done it, I can check it off the list.

Dueling Soundmen & Prototype Amps

Saturday, 19 November 2005
The last time BenWahBob played at Rusty’s in Edwardsville, IL saw the best crowd since we started playing there. We had come to consider it a “paid practice” because of the consistently low turnout. Our last visit was so well attended that it was actually like a real gig. This time was pretty good as well.

My setup this time was even easier than usual, as I didn’t have to bring a bass amp. Carlos has been working on a new Ampeg B200R combo amp. I had used it at rehearsal the previous week with good results. The sound was pretty good, and it seemed like it would have enough muscle for a small venue like Rusty’s where volume is an issue with the management. Carlos agreed to let me try it there. I brought along the BA500 combo that I usually use just in case there were any issues with this prototype. So, I only had to load in the lights and my bass. Sweet.

As I arrived, I noticed several trucks in the back parking lot with trailers attached. Once inside, I found that we had dueling soundmen. Mike Stevenson had told us he could not work this gig because of a sudden family illness. Carlos had called Bobby and arranged for Eddie Christ to bring out Bobby’s system. In the interim, Mike had called Jeff at J&J Sound to cover it for us. Somehow no one called Jeff back to tell him we already had sound, so he drove to Edwardsville from O’Fallon MO for nothing. We decided to give him gas money for the misunderstanding, and he stuck around for a while to make the trip somewhat worth it. Jeff’s a good guy, and was very understanding about the situation.

Carlos arrived shortly after I finished setting up the lights and rolled in the B200R prototype. I set it up and started playing around with it. It has a nice fat tone for a 200-watt amp, probably due to the 12AU7 vacuum tube in the preamp section. I punched in the three boost buttons for Ultra-low, Ultra-mid, and Ultra-high, and left the four EQ knobs flat. I was pleased with the tone.

As I was standing in front of the stage talking with the guys in the band, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to find one of my co-workers from Wick’s, Darin Meskil, standing behind me. Darin is a guitar/bass player for the Double D band, who plays around the Highland/Trenton area. Dawna and I had gone to see them the previous week at a bar in Trenton. They were a fun band - very in-tune with the crowd. When we walked in the door there to some interesting looks, Darin charged over from the stage, handed me a Fender Jazz Bass, grabbed Dawna and headed for the dance floor. They were playing Brown Eyed Girl, which Darin had told me he absolutely hates playing. I remember thinking that I already have a Jazz Bass, and was getting the raw end of that trade. I returned the bass to him after the song and reclaimed my girlfriend. He promised to come see BWB, and appears to be a man of his word. He didn’t stay long, though, as he said he had babysitter issues. I guess I’ll have to return the favor another time.

We actually played a bunch of not-usually-in-the-set-list songs that we had been dusting off in the previous few weeks. Of course, Dale put them all in the first set, about which we teased him endlessly (Gotta hurry up and do them in the first set before we forget them?). Most of them came off pretty well, with the distinct exception of Soul Man, which I flubbed by not remembering that there are three verses before the modulation, not two. Oops. Besides that goof, I also locked myself out of the back door when I went outside on break to call Dawna. Bobby seemed quite amused by this when he looked out the window and saw me standing there with that “please-come-open-the-door-because-it’s-freakin’-cold-out-here” look.

The rest of the night was pretty standard fare. I did notice that as the night wore on, we got louder and louder. This became an issue with the B200R - it just didn’t seem to have the cajones to keep up with a louder stage volume. Carlos mentioned that he was thinking of opening up the limiter a bit to get more out of the power amp section. I agreed that this would be a good idea. Other than that, it seems like it will be a pretty good amp. I’ve always liked the Ampeg Diamond Blue bass amp series. This one should be a nice addition. We tore down, loaded out, and stood in the still very cold parking lot talking for entirely too long before heading for home. I listened to Wounded, an Enchant release from the mid 1990’s, for the drive home.

Greetings from Exile

07 November 2005
Greetings from exile - self-imposed, of course. I didn’t move out to a small town just to escape the big town life; it has been both relaxing and stimulating. The original projects are coming along nicely in the new relaxed atmosphere.

The progrock stuff has born the brunt of the effort to date. I had formulated some initial ideas several years ago, and actually recorded some of the basic tracks about two years ago. While this has served as a nice foundation on which to build, I have somewhat turned it on its head in the last few weeks...and I like the way it’s now heading. I must now be careful to not get too carried away with the ideas. It has to fit on a single CD...or would it not be too pompous of me to release a double CD...hmmm...things to ponder.

I have also spent a fair amount of time with the synthesizers on the digital ambient stuff. While this may seem to some to be a bit uncharacteristic of me, I’m really having a blast with it. I’ve had several new ideas of late for layering, mostly in the strings area. I’m thinking right now that I might do these with my cello instead of on the synth, to give it more of a human feel. We’ll see.

My new job with Wick’s Pipe Organ Company is rolling along much smoother than I had anticipated. When you get right down to it, electronics is electronics no matter what the application. It is also inspiring me to push forward with the original string music. Being around people all day long who not only know of obscure Baroque-era composers but also are familiar with their works is inspiring as well. Just today I had a really nice chat with Barbara Wick about the music of Antonio Soler and his passion for organ designing. I think I like this job. The opportunity to play pipe organs all day doesn’t suck either.

Sometimes, life is good.

Conquering Frenchtown

Friday, 14 October 2005
I was under the impression that the gig last month at Club 501 was to be the last for Knucklehead. As it turns out, this was not the case. We had two more unconfirmed dates at Baha Rock Club in St. Charles, MO. This Friday was one of them. I had taken a half-day vacation from my day job, so there would be little rushing around to get there on time (have I mentioned how much I hate Friday gigs?).

The week had been fairly eventful for me leading up to the weekend. I was offered a new job with a company that is about five minutes from my home - as opposed to the hour-long drive I am currently making every day. I had used Deron as one of my personal references, and they called him earlier in the week. He sent me an email to inform me that if I got the job I would owe him a six-pack of Labatt Blue. I responded by telling him if I got the job he would get a case. So, warn your liver, D...the Blue is coming your way. And thanks.

I arrived at the club around 20:00 before anyone else was there, set up my equipment, and was pretty much done when Deron and Steve rolled in around 20:15. We chatted a bit, and I realized that I hadn’t had anything to eat since lunch. As it was now a little past 20:30, and we were to start at 21:00, I knew there was no way to get something across the street at Big A’s and still have time to eat it. I was hosed. It would be a long night.

I had rehearsed some old, rusty tunes with BenWahBob on Tuesday night. Other than that, I hadn’t touched my bass since the last gig with KH at Club 501...over a month ago. The crowd at Baha was a bit thin when we started, and Deron decided to launch straight into Iron Maiden’s Two Minutes to Midnight. Yikes! My hands were starting to cramp halfway through the second verse. Not a good portent for the night, to be sure, but I managed to get through it without too many flubs.

There was a bit of an odd feel on the stage that night...a sense of uneasy direction that would manifest itself later in the night. I couldn’t hear my keyboards in the monitors at all during the first set, which was probably a tragedy during the bridge section of Mr. Crowley. I couldn’t hear, so I have no idea. The keys finally showed up again during the last two sets - when I use them the least. Oh, well...c’est la vie, eh?

During the third set, someone grabbed the talkback microphone at the soundboard and asked for some Skid Row. We rolled successively through every Skid Row song we knew, and even one we didn’t know. Then someone asked for Queensryche, so we did I Don’t Believe in Love followed immediately by Operation: Mindcrime. Very cool stuff, but I think we lost some of the crowd during this self-indulgence.

Not to be outdone in the last set, Deron started off with Seven Seas by TNT. I saw several more people get up and head for the door. It’s hard to fathom, but there are apparently some people in St. Charles who don’t fully appreciate a band that can do stuff like that. If they were looking for Mustang Sally, they came on the wrong night. This last set went by so quickly that we were at the end of the night before we knew it. Things seemed to end without much ado. We tore down the gear, loaded our vehicles, and headed for home.

I listened to the Spiral Architect album A Skeptic’s Universe on the ride home, which seemed to take forever. The insane level of musicianship of that group kept me awake, but just barely. The lack of any food in the previous 15 hours, and the fact that I had been up since 04:30, was taking its toll. If I hadn’t known that Dawna was waiting for me at my house, I would have pulled over and slept awhile before I left Missouri...a flashback of the old days driving the We-Haul truck back from The Speakeasy in Breese, IL. “Plus ce change, plus c’est la meme chose!”

Saturday, 15 October 2005
It’s all Paul J. Smith, all weekend. Baha Rock Club just couldn’t get enough of me this weekend, as Saturday night I was back there again...this time with BenWahBob. I was able to leave the bass amp there after Friday night, so I had absolutely nothing to set up. I just showed up around 20:30, tuned my bass, and hung out until it was time to play. The BenWahBabes all showed up, too, minus Bobby’s wife Roberta.

The crowd was kind of sparse in the early going, which was probably all well and good. Dale had decided to inject all of the odd songs we had rehearsed earlier in the week into the first set, so we were a bit skittish about them. Everything seemed to turn out OK, though. April Wine’s Just Between You and Me actually sounded pretty good to me, as did the others. Most of the night went pretty much that way. We had our share of duffs, I guess, but we made it through the night without any really awful moments. There were three guys running around all night wearing mullet wigs, who seemed to actually enjoy the classic rock stuff we offered. Joe Dirt, eat your heart out.

At the end of the night, after we had disassembled the stage equipment and were awaiting payment for services rendered, I had my second rock star moment of the night. A woman had approached us all earlier in the night and asked for all of our autographs on a couple of our flyers. Now, as I sat at the front edge of the stage carrying on a literary conversation with Dale’s lovely wife Chris (who is a teacher in Troy, MO) about Aldous Huxley, Ayn Rand, George Orwell, and other writers of that ilk, I was approached by a young gentleman with a camera in hand and two attractive young ladies in tow. He asked if I would mind having my picture taken with the two ladies. Huh? What a silly question, Dude. They sandwiched in on either side of me like I was somebody, and we waited for the guy to figure out how to use a camera. The flash finally blinded us, and they giggled off toward the door. These things still amuse me to no end, even after all these years.

I listened to the Gordian Knot CD on the drive home this time. There’s something about music with Chapman Stick and Warr Guitar that is both inspiring and relaxing at the same time. Call me silly, but I like it.

A New (old) Direction

Sunday, 25 September 2005
Where to start...

There have been many rumors over the course of the last couple of years regarding my status with Knucklehead, the hard-rocking cover band based on the East side of the St. Louis area with whom I play bass and keyboards. Up until recently, they have all been off the mark. They seem to have been based on the scheduling conflicts created by my playing in two bands. So, let me first address how that came to be.

I have been a part of many St. Louis area cover bands over the last 23-or-so years. Most of them have also included Deron Boyd on guitar (and sometimes keys). This will come as no surprise to anyone who knows us. Deron has long been not only my best friend, but also the guy who convinced me to trade my unused cornet for a bass guitar so we could start a band in high school. The rest, as they say...

Around 2000 or 2001, after an extended period of not playing live, I started to get the itch to play out again. I had mentioned this to a few select people in the hopes of soliciting enough interest to make it a reality. Unfortunately, no one else seemed interested at the time. There were many reasons for this, the hassles of bar-band life being chief among them. At a Zebra concert, I ran into guitarist Rusty Churchman, with whom I had played briefly in an ‘80s hair-band tribute. He called me shortly after that and asked me to come and jam with him and a studio drummer he knew (Brian Bayley). With some trepidation, I was convinced to give it a try. That band became Those1Guys, which, in its short lifespan, became wildly popular. During that time, there was some interest expressed by Deron and Steve Hall about putting something together. As I was already in a band, I dismissed the idea outright.

After T1G split up during the Labor Day 2002 weekend, I began to again put out the feelers for another band. After the success of T1G, I was bent on continuing in the trio format. I had always wanted to do this, but was always shot down by those who believed that a trio sound would be too sparse. Even T1G ran into this attitude on several occasions, until we proved that it could indeed be done effectively. However, once again I had trouble finding anyone sufficiently interested in my ideas.

With my day-job at the time being at St. Louis Music, I was always surrounded by musicians. One of them happened to be a new design engineer named Carlos Bedoya. Someone in the R&D department alerted me to the fact that his band BenWahBob was looking for a bass player. We traded emails, hooked up for an audition, and I got the job.

Once again, shortly after I began playing with BWB, Deron and Steve started prodding me about playing with them. This time they held up as bait Steve Wenos on drums. This would make it a reunion of the original Knucklehead from 1994, a band that, as Deron often and accurately stated, “could turn goat-piss into gasoline”...and very often did. While that was a period of personal lows in my life, I had to entertain the idea of reviving a musical high point. After some conversations about it concerning the potential for scheduling conflicts, we worked out a deal that would do its best to avoid that. Of course, it didn’t work out that way. It never does. The conflicts became many and often, frustrating both bands as they competed for scheduling slots. Knucklehead was trying to re-establish a name and a following, and BenWahBob was trying to establish a presence at new venues to replace the ones that were no longer viable. It was bordering on a nightmare.

After a few years of this scheduling madness and trying to find replacement players on both sides, it just became too much. I had been rekindling my desire to pursue some original ideas that had been simmering on the back burner for some time, but couldn’t seem to find the time to adequately develop them as I was seemingly playing all the time. I had known for some time that I would eventually be bowing out of the cover band scene in order to properly pursue the originals, as it just wouldn’t be fair to the others to frequently drop out of cover gigs for my own pursuits. The inability to find any time for development simply accelerated this. I had to make a decision. I was not getting any younger, and I didn’t want this to become one of those things that later in life I would wish I had followed through to completion...or at least tried. As it was Knucklehead that was scheduling what seemed like every available gig - even some that where not available - it seemed like the obvious choice to cut there first. As I have mentioned elsewhere, this was not an easy decision. These guys, besides being outstanding and well-respected musicians, are long-time friends. My departure would affect them, too. I know what a hassle it is to replace someone. I’ve been on both sides of that task. I am also aware of the change in the band’s chemistry when there is a personnel change. I’ve been through that on many occasions as well. I had confidence, though, that they would be inundated with bass players willing to fill the spot. If they wanted to continue, I was certain they would have many opportunities to do so. With that, I informed them that I needed to be replaced at the nearest possible convenience. Of course, they were not happy about this, but I think they were also not surprised by it.

I am still playing with BenWahBob. This, too, has been a source of some contention - perhaps even resentment. One reason is that BWB generally only plays about twice a month. It is a part-time band, and everyone seems to want to keep it that way. In fact, the recent venture into multiple monthly dates has created a bit of stress in the band. Carlos has expressed his desire to get back to the twice-a-month schedule, as he doesn’t have the time or desire to play all the time either. As it happens, we will only be playing about once a month through the rest of this year. Another reason is that I only play bass with BWB, as opposed to also playing keyboards and supplying PA and lights for many of the KH gigs. Much of the writing and developing of the originals is being done in the sequencer of my Roland XP-80 keyboard/workstation. Having it always set up and available makes it much easier to facilitate the writing process. It is similar to the idea of having your instrument sitting out on a stand to make it easier to pick it up and practice, as opposed to having to get it out of a case and set everything up every time. So, for now, I will continue to play with BWB.

I recently played what seemed at the time to be the last gig with Knucklehead (this turned out not to be the case). We played a weekend at Club 501 in Wood River, IL. It was billed as the annual birthday bash of DJs Tommy and T-Bone, who put together a band to play on Saturday night. This is all accounted in the last blog, but I wanted to again address the reception I received from everyone who came out that weekend. I honestly expected to get some ribbing about quitting (and did later in the night). I was therefore somewhat surprised to receive so many well-wishes from so many people. Many of the areas more respected musicians (yes - bass players are musicians, too) made appearances and offered me their support, as did many of the people who became Knucklehead regulars. I cannot begin to tell you how heart-warming that was for me. So, without getting too sappy over it, I will just say, “Thank you” to everyone kind enough to offer support for my venture. I hope you are not disappointed with the fruits it will bear.

I would also like to ask everyone interested to check frequently at the MetalSmith website for updates on the progress of the various projects. I will try to keep this weblog updated as well. You can also send me an email from the website link, and I will gladly include you in any email updates, especially when the projects are finished. Hopefully, that will be very soon.

As to the nature of those projects, I can only really give the general concepts at this time, as they are still in development. The primary focus is on a progressive rock/metal project based around themes from the 120 keyboard sonatas of Padre Antonio Soler, a Spanish monk and composer of the Baroque era. Due to the massive volume of these works, this is something that could continue for quite a long time...and probably will. Running concurrent with this seems to be the development of some ambient digital music, probably inspired by my affinity for the Echoes syndicated radio program I listen to every weeknight on WSIE 88.7FM. The basics for this seem to be writing themselves as I search through my synthesizer for sounds. Another passion of mine since high school has been baroque string music, so naturally there is some of that on the way, too. I’ve thus far composed the foundations for a string quartet, but haven’t yet ornamented the melodies and counter-melodies. It is coming along nicely, though. There is also a funk thing with which I keep toying every now and again. I haven’t really put too much effort into this for a couple of years now, but the basics are still there and it will eventually be explored, too.

The recent break from the constant gigging has proven very fruitful towards those goals. I also have a bit of time off coming up during the day, as I am rolling into a job change. I will be leaving the old job (auto industry - yuck) several days before I start the new one (developing & building pipe organs - how cool is that!), and plan to use that time to its full potential. Since the new job is close to my home, I will also be losing over two hours of drive time each day, which should provide even more creative time. With any luck, and a bunch of hard work on my part, these projects should finish themselves much quicker than they started. Then we can all hear the cacophony of music that flits around inside my head every day.

Until then...be sure to check out the other STL area rock bands such as Ivory Tiger, Jagertyme, Rock Bottom (featuring Steve Hall on vocals!), The Stand, Just Mr., London Calling, and any of the many others who deserve and appreciate your patronage.