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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!

24 January 2006

Dancing on the Bar

Friday, 20 January 2006
BenWahBob has been itching for some time now to score some of the premium gigs around town. For whatever reason, we are generally ignored in these circles...despite having been a staple of the St. Louis club scene for over 10 years. It can be frustrating to see some bands who are either no better than, or sometimes not as good as, we are, who are regulars at these high-profile high-paying clubs. This is not a criticism of any other bands who have made it in those doors, it’s just an observation of the way things are. Occasionally, though, we have the opportunity to slip through a crack in the proverbial wall that seems to separate us “rock” bands from the “show” bands. This weekend was one of those occasions. The agency that books some of the BWB gigs slipped us into the Phoenix Super Bar in South St. Louis County. It was a Friday night, but what the heck.

I had to wait for Dawna to get off work at 18:00, come to my house to change, and then head to SoCoMo (that’s “South County, Missouri” - for those of you in Rio Linda). Accordingly, I wasn’t there until about 20:30, and we were scheduled to start at 21:00. Just as we were pulling out of the Arby’s across Lemay Ferry Road from the club, both mine and Dawna’s cell phones began to ring. Carlos and his wife Dawn were trying to call us both to find out where we were. We hurried over to the club - there’s no direct route from across the street thanks to the wonderful infrastructure engineers in this town - and I quickly loaded in my equipment as Dawna sat in the van and ate her sammich (“I got that kinda cash!”). After I went in, the stage door was closed, and she was consequently locked out...in the back parking lot...in the cold rain that had just started. She called Dawn, who went over and let her in. I never did get to eat my sammich. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate Friday night gigs?

We ran through a quick sound check and had a few minutes to spare, then started promptly at 21:00. This was the first time I had been in the place, and I must say it is a pretty nice club. It is a nice layout, it has a nice house system and light show, it’s big, and it’s filled with beautiful people. All of that notwithstanding, I didn’t care much for the stage. There is a wall jutting out from stage right that cuts right into the middle of that side of the stage. Behind it is a nice green room/dressing room area with a door right onto the stage, which is a nice touch. Unfortunately, this didn’t help the sound on the stage. If I stood directly in front of my amp, I could hear it just fine. If I walked a couple of steps in any direction, my sound just evaporated. Carlos apparently had trouble finding a good tone as well. My microphone was a good 12 feet away, which also had me almost completely separated from my amp by the aforementioned wall. The PA mains were flown from the ceiling...right over the front corners of the stage...right were my mic was placed. When standing at the mic, I had about 2-3” clearance from the top of my head to the bottom of the lowest cabinet. Needles to say, I did a rather thorough inspection of the suspension system.

Dale had put together three one-hour sets from what are usually four 45-minute sets. He took out all of the “harder” stuff like Sabbath, Rush, and Zeppelin in an effort to placate the anticipated dance crowd. We did have a fair amount of dancers most of the night, but not what I had come to expect from everything I had heard about this place. I think we may have neglected to take fully into account the cartographical placement of this facility. It is South County, after all. We seemed to get a pretty good response from just about everything we played, though. We got quite a few compliments from the patrons, and the bar staff seemed to really enjoy us. History has shown that this means we will probably never play there again (Helen Fitzgerald’s come quickly to mind).

Another interesting note about the place is the encouragement of dancing on the bar. They apparently set aside times to let daring young women up onto the bar to dance, with the promise of free shots for those who do. I pointed this out to Carlos when we had just finished the first set, and we both agreed that this was not a bad thing. At the end of the second set, I pointed to the bar again to draw Carlos’ attention to the fact that it was now his wife and my girlfriend up there grinding on each other. We agreed again that this still was not a bad thing (yah, I know, I’m a pig, so what). They seemed to attract a rather significant and boisterous crowd. The barmaids must have agreed that this was not a bad thing, too, as Dawn and Dawna were both offered two shots each for their efforts.

So there we were...a couple of long-hairs in a rock band watching our women dancing on a bar in front of an ogling and appreciative crowd, then going home with us to the dismay of others. How decadent is that? “Ahhh, Stimpy, this is the life!” I should be ashamed...
But, I’m not...

We ended the night promptly at 01:00 as requested. The bar doesn’t play around with that pansy asking of people to please leave. When the bar is closed, the people must leave. It is just that simple. The place cleared out rather quickly. Some drunken idiot did apparently succeed in putting his head through someone else’s car window in the parking lot. By the time we had begun moving stuff out the door, the parking lot was swarming with about a dozen police cars, a fire truck (?), and an ambulance. Must have been a slow night in the Lemay area.

On the way home, we had to make a bladder relief stop in Fairview Heights. I think my van doesn’t ride as smooth as it once did. The drive was an unusually quiet one. I normally have some progressive rock CD blaring through my speakers to help keep me awake for the drive. However, since she had to work Saturday, Dawna wanted to sleep during the drive home. I really didn’t mind the quiet either. Plus, I had gotten a pretty good prog fix listening to the second Ice Age CD Liberation on the drive to the club.

17 January 2006

Electronic Sweat

Friday, 13 January 2006
First gig of the year...and it has to fall on Friday the 13th. That figures. As it happens, it had been a pretty uneventful day. Work went along OK, I came home and ate dinner, loaded the equipment, and waited for Dawna. She was supposed to be stopping by after she picked up the kids. She was bringing me an electronic muscle stimulator for Carlos. Apparently, his Friday wasn’t as smooth as mine, and he had a crick in his neck. She didn’t arrive until almost 20:30, so we had little time together. I quickly rode off into the already-set sun.

About halfway there, my phone rang...it was Bobby...his mixer was making some funny popping and crackling noises and he wanted to know if I could bring mine. I explained that by the time I turned around and drove back to St. Jacob, dug it out of the back of my shed where it had gotten buried after I stopped using it with Knucklehead, removed it from the rack and loaded everything else back in the shed, then drove to Rusty’s in Edwardsville, it would probably be 23:00 or later. He said he would make some phone calls to see what else he could track down.

While thinking about this situation, on top of the myriad of other things that are constantly flitting through my head, I missed my exit off of I-270. So, I had to go on to the IL-157 exit and weave my way through the construction mess going through Glen Carbon and into Edwardsville. It was well after 21:00 when I finally arrived at Rusty’s.

While I was loading my stuff into the club, both Bobby and Eddie were explaining to me in more detail what the mixer had been doing. Bobby thought it might be condensation from sitting outside in a garage. After Eddie told me the problem stopped when he turned off the board’s phantom power, I agreed. I figured once the equipment warmed up sufficiently, it would happen no more. I guessed correctly. After I had set up my amp and the lights, I went over and un-muted the troublesome channel, cranked the gain, level, and high EQ, and it was quiet as a mouse. Eddie said he wasn’t going to use the condenser mics for cymbals, so he wouldn’t need the phantom power anyway. He said that the Presonus compressor was acting funny for a while as well, but had unbent itself after it warmed up. Tragedy seemed to have been averted.

We had decided some weeks ago that this Rusty’s gig was to be something of a tune-up for our first time in at the Phoenix Super Club the following week. Since we never have the time to practice any more, this was a good idea. We hadn’t played since before the middle of December, and were a bit rusty (pun intended) in the first set. I can usually brush it off after the first few songs, but I couldn’t seem to find the groove with Bobby at all in that set. I seemed to always be just slightly off in one direction or the other. It wasn’t awful or anything, but it was aggravating me to no end.

The rest of the night seemed to go more smoothly, though. Once we got back into the proverbial swing of things, it was the same BenWahBob from last year. Dale had removed the heavier-hitting stuff from the set list to focus more on the danceable rock stuff we would be playing at Phoenix. That meant no Rush, or Zeppelin, or Sabbath, or Ozzy. Oh...the sacrifices I make sometimes. I guess Deron would refer to this as BenWahWhore – akin to his references to the Knucklehead version known as Knucklewhore – this lightening of the set list to attract dancers, mostly female of course. But then, compared to Knucklehead, the regular BWB set list is relatively light. Different bands with different missions, I guess. We did end up doing Ozzy’s I Don’t Know by request, and later did Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, too. Hopefully, that was enough of a fix to get me by for a while. We’ll see.

The crowd was nice early in the evening, but thinned quickly as midnight approached. Around 01:00 it seemed to pick up again with a new crowd. They stayed at the back near the bar, though, and never really got into what we were doing – which was fine, because we were suppose to be rehearsing anyway. We ended the night without the usual grandeur of War Pigs, packed up our stuff, and went home. I listened to the Ice Age CD The Great Divide for the drive home, and didn’t miss any of my exits this time.