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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!

23 September 2006

Sweet Sauce

Friday, 15 September 2006
There was not a whole lot of eventfulness in the week leading up to this weekend, unless you count me getting sick. Apparently, Dawna was successful in transferring to me whatever illness had been plaguing her for the previous two weeks. My bout with it wasn’t nearly as rough as hers, though, as I don’t have allergies piling on top of it. Irregardless, that was the most excitement my week had to offer.

BenWahBob played our last Friday night of the season at the Fairmount Park “Budweiser Party at the Park.” I arrived around 17:30-ish, loaded in my equipment, and took in some of the very entertaining stories Carlos had from his two weeks in Vietnam. Imagine a 6’5” long-hair with a Mexican name in a land of tiny Asians… Better yet, imagine that same guy having to fly coach across the Pacific Ocean. We grazed through the buffet just before they opened the doors to the public (job perk), sat by the windows, and enjoyed the narrative.

Too soon, it was time to make the proverbial doughnuts. We launched in with our usual non-reckless abandon…cautious abandon, one might say. Carlos would have been busy most of the first set trying to get his “legs” back, except that he mentioned he had actually played guitar over there more than he does when he’s at home. Go figure.

Everything seemed to go along swimmingly for most of the night. We bounced right through the 20 minute sets. When we reached the “disco” set, though, the wheels fell off of the cart. During Play That Funky Music, Dale had one of his more severe coughing fits. I jumped up to the mic to sing the rest of it about the same time Bobby apparently got his mic swung around in front of him. We fumbled through to the next chorus until Dale got himself together again. After that set, while watching the next race, our soundman Randy approached me and asked if Dale was OK. I assured him that this was a fairly normal occurrence, despite that one being a bit more severe. He said he thought Dale was dying or something, because his face was turning all kinds of different colors. I chuckled, and said I was sorry I missed that. We then watched a guy sitting behind the sound board pack his cigarettes about every two or three minutes. Randy didn’t know what the guy was even doing until I explained it to him. He said he just might have to kill the guy if he keeps doing it all night. I hoped I wouldn’t miss that, too.

We bumped our way through the rest of the night relatively uneventfully. Greg chimed up and told us that we would be quitting after the 8th race instead of the 9th this night. No arguments issued forth from us. We played two more songs for that set, shut it down, and packed it up. Nice.

We did talk a bit after loading out the gear. I stayed just long enough to not be too anti-social, as I had Dawna waiting for me at my house. I jumped onto the highway for the short trip home, listening to Uli Jon Roth’s Metamorphosis CD. This is the one on which he performs Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons on electric guitar with an orchestra. As this has long been one of my favorite pieces of music, I am still stunned to hear it played note-for-note perfect on a guitar. He even had a special guitar made for it so he would have the same range as a violin. His technical proficiency is nothing short of phenomenal. He makes Yngwie almost sound sloppy by comparison. Unfortunately, guys like him are usually only known by other musicians, and most of them probably haven’t actually heard him play (other than with the Scorpions for awhile). So it seems to go with the truly talented ones.


Saturday, 16 September 2006
Most of the day Saturday was nearly a total loss for me. Still feeling under the weather, I spent most of it in bed drifting in and out of sleep. I did get up eventually when Dawna started hinting about breakfast. I fixed some biscuits & gravy, cheesy eggs, and sausage to fill the voids in our bellies. After we ate, she headed for home…and I headed back to bed. I think she called me later in the day and awoke me. It’s all a bit hazy frankly. I did get up for good after that. A long shower later, and I was starting to feel human again.

BWB was booked at Rusty’s this night. Since it’s a PA gig (albeit for Bobby now), I decided to get there early enough to eat before everyone else was to show up at 20:00 to load in the equipment. I arrived around 19:30, pulled the handle off of the back door, walked around front to let myself in, and finished with my own brief load-in. I walked over to a table near the bar to peruse a menu. There were a few patrons at the bar and a couple more at tables, but nothing earth-shattering. They did have a large banquet of elderly folks in the banquet room celebrating some sort of anniversary, but they had their own wait staff for that. The girl who was servicing the bar area looked at me and smiled as she passed me on her way back to the waitress station. I put the menu back on the table and walked over behind her. She then proceeded to ignore me for about the next 10 minutes. Finally, one of the other waitresses from the banquet passed by and asked if I wanted anything. I told her that I simply wanted to order some food. Blondie number one then turned and acted surprised to see me there. She took my order and asked why I didn’t say anything sooner. I told her it was because I wasn’t working for tips that night. She made some nervous small talk about the band while she entered my order. I have no idea how it ended because I walked away somewhere in the middle of it.

Amazingly, my wait for food was minimal, and the service I received for the rest of the night was nothing short of incredible. Go figure. The food, as always at Rusty’s, was fantastic.

There was one oddity, though. The sweet & sour sauce that came with my crab Rangoon was nothing even approaching sour…it was just sweet sauce. The moment I tasted it, I almost choked in laughter. I was instantly transported back to the story Dawna had related to me over breakfast that morning. She had attended her son’s high school football game Friday night. After the game, while heading back to her truck (it’s not an SUV, or any other silly acronym, it’s a freakin’ truck), a car-load of teenage boys started whooping at her. One of them called her “sweet sauce.” She gets this sort of treatment just about everywhere because…well…she’s a damned good-looking woman. I think I almost choked on breakfast too when she told me. I’m sure she immediately regretted telling me, as I promised to never let her live that down. So, I smiled as I finished my meal, enjoying both the food and the sauce.

The rest of the band started to trickle in shortly after 20:00. Bobby arrived first, and the two of us nearly had the trailer unloaded when Dale and Carlos got there. Carlos had been working at his shop all day, and Dale…well, Dale’s a singer. We got the stage set up and a quick level check done by around 21:30, then relaxed until 22:00. The clock started rolling, and so did we. The place seemed to be filling in nicely as the night progressed. Always a good sign.

We ended the first set a bit later than normal. I think we also took a bit longer of a break. By the time we ended the second set, we were way off schedule. During the first break, Dale was approached by couple who had been there most of the evening. They talked the entire break. Just before the second break, I saw the guy come walking back in carrying a soft violin case similar to the one Dawna uses. I remember looking at Dale and thinking, “What have you done?” The guy comes up to the stage, opens his case, pulls out a rosin-caked violin and a cable, and asks where he should plug in his fiddle. Fiddle?! Dale then explains that he is going to sit in with us on the David Alan Coe song Call Me By My Name. Huh? Uhhh…OK…whatever. We got him connected, and he played a bit for a level check. He actually seemed pretty talented…for a fiddle player. We sat down at their table and started chatting. It turns out he’s a classically-trained violinist who’s been playing since the age of 4, and plays in rock and country bands to rebel against his uptight parents…who apparently hate the very idea of him playing that stuff. He and his wife are both attorneys, and he just plays on the side for fun now.

We started the third set – way late – and were back on our way. This guy came up for the second song, grabbed his instrument (I can’t bring myself to keep calling it a fiddle), and asked what song we were playing. When Dale told him, he said he didn’t know that one. I remember looking hard at Dale and barking “He doesn’t even know the damned song, Dale!” I told him it was a typical country song in C, and to just play along whatever he feels like playing. Once we started the song, it actually went off pretty well. He didn’t overplay, he just inserted little interludes between the vocal lines, and when it was over, he didn’t ask, “What next?” He just put down his instrument and walked back over to his table with his wife. The only bad residual was that he left his instrument in its open case on the stage right behind me. I was painfully aware of it the rest of the night.

At the end of the third set, Dale started to walk off the stage. I had already looked at my watch (I always seem to be the Time Nazi in bands), and knew it was already 01:20. I asked Dale where he thought he was going, and told him what time it was. Not much point taking a break with only 40 minutes until quitting time. He started back to the stage and Carlos mentioned something about some Rush. Uhhh…OK. I’ve been sick for several days, and my right ear is clogged with god-knows-what, but why not, eh? We launched into What You’re Doing. Surprisingly, the vocals came out just fine. During one of the descending-scale unison parts, my ear suddenly popped open and I could hear.

Praise be to Geddy Lee!
I was cured by Rush!

I made mention of this at the conclusion of the song, to which Carlos replied, “OK…then we’ll do this, too!” He launched into In The Mood. My intuition told me this might not be a very good idea. I had warbled out Throat Scratch Fever early in the evening, Immigrant Song somewhere in the middle of the current set, and now two Rush tunes back-to-back…while sick. My intuition turned out to be correct. It was all I could do to make it through that song. My throat felt like I was trying to sing the entire first Zebra album or something. No blood spewed forth from my gullet, and my neck didn’t collapse, so I guess there was no harm done.

We finished out the marathon Knucklehead-length set promptly at 02:00, tore down the system, packed it away in Bobby’s trailer, and headed for our respective homes once again. Since I still had that Uli Jon Roth CD in my player, that’s what I listened to for the drive home. Unfortunately, home was considerably emptier this night, as Dawna had her oldest son for the rest of the weekend. Oh, well. You can’t win them all.

08 September 2006

Killer Gigs...Psych!

Friday, 08 September 2006
Well, well…where to begin?
Oh, I know…how about at the beginning?
Naaa…that would be entirely too long a story, and might encroach on Deron’s domain of epic bookstabbings.
(Bummer about Violet’s neck, Dude.)

There’s really been no news worthy to distribute since the last blog. It’s been a pretty quiet month on that front. BenWahBob was supposed to play in Lesterville, MO, as is tradition, on Labor Day weekend. Unfortunately, we had to cancel that gig, as Carlos was going to be in Vietnam for a couple of weeks for the first production run of one of his amp designs. I can’t say that I’m overwhelmingly disappointed with that outcome. I got to actually spend a three-day holiday weekend at home. Dawna and I had dinner Friday night at a nice Italian restaurant (Bella Milano) in Edwardsville to celebrate our third year back together. We got to sleep in late Saturday morning, then spent the rest of the day at the Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden. We even ran into Deron’s mother and children; they were waiting in line in a futile attempt to gain access to the ever-popular Tea Ceremony (I’ve never been able to get a ticket for that either, Vicky). Just shortly after we started walking into the Garden, we also encountered Heather Frost – Deron’s former-step-daughter-now-second-cousin-once-removed…or something like that. She was there strolling around with her new baby. We stopped and talked a bit, and Dawna was holding the baby. I must have given her that “don’t-even-think-about-it” look, because she immediately assured me that that was not in the proverbial cards. I spent much of the rest of the weekend either working on various music projects or hanging out with Dawna at her farm.

The ensuing week seemed to just evaporate before my very eyes (not to be confused with my mildly eyes). A function of getting old, I guess, is the seemingly quickened passage of time. When we’re young, there seems to be no limit on the time we have. It’s endless because we’re immortal. Now, there never seems to be enough time for anything of substance. One of the great twists of life, eh?

Another pipe organ offer made its way to me, too. It was another old Wicks Fuga model from 1937 that a college in western Iowa was looking to unload for “very little money.” Tempting as it was, I resisted the urge to drive a rented truck up there that day, rescue it, and install it in my living room. I have other things on which I should be spending my increasingly limited cash reserves; like replacing my tired old minivan, replacing my tired old dead motorcycle, the acquisition of a Chapman Grand Stick, the replication of my CD when it’s finished, and – oh, yeah – that particular piece of women’s jewelry for which I seem to be in the market. Wow. Now that I’ve spelled it out, I think I need another job.

This weekend was supposed to see BWB playing on the front stage at UMB Pavilion before the Styx/Foreigner concert on Saturday night. Our drummer knows some people there for whom he does some printing jobs, and was able to sweet-talk us into the gig. Very nice. Since Carlos would only just be returning from ‘Nam on Saturday, he arranged for Obeid Khan to fill in for him. I worked with Obeid for the 10 years I was at St. Louis Music. Besides being one of the best tube amp designers in the world, he also happens to be a fantastic guitar player. I was looking forward to the opportunity to play on stage with him.

Circumstance once again had its way with our plans. The details of our compensation for this gig were shrouded in a fog of mystery until just a couple of days before the gig. When they started being more forthcoming with the information, it was beginning to look like an extremely sweet package; more bottled water and beer than we could drink, and more tickets than we could give away. The monetary aspect wasn’t revealed until Friday…and it was a joke. It would essentially cover our gas expenses, strings and sticks, and a healthy appetite at White Castle…and that was it. Bobby was incensed, to say the least. He called one of his buddies at the Pavilion and reminded him of our minimum pay requirements, telling him that they must at least meet that or we wouldn’t waste our time. We never heard back from them.

While Bobby’s position was pretty hard-lined, I had mixed emotions about the whole matter. The money, to me was the least important part of the arrangement. This was about mass exposure on a scale that most cover bands never see. I felt it would have been an excellent foot in the door for future seasons. I can understand Bobby’s principle, though.

I must also admit that my stance is more than a bit self-serving. I was looking forward to networking with the powers-that-be at the Pavilion, making myself known to them for my own personal gain. I have designs on that place (amongst others) for showcasing my original music. Oh, well…I’ll just have to exploit other avenues into there. On the bright side, I get another weekend off to work on the various projects without having to spend all afternoon and evening in the Riverport area. (“Always look on the briiiiiiiight side of life…”)

On the new music front, I acquired the first two CDs from a band from Spain called Adagio. Their guitarist was described by Ken Golden at The Laser’s Edge as being Spain’s answer to Symphony X’s Michael Romeo. I didn’t see it that way once I heard them. This guy was obviously an Yngwie Malmsteen clone, who he admitted in the liner notes as being his biggest influence. The singer even sounds like Jeff Scott Soto. The only real difference is that this guy writes better songs (sorry, Wingnut). For some reason, though, it just didn’t click with me. Perhaps my aging ears are growing tired of the flurry-of-notes style that these guys represent. It’s not that it isn’t impressive, because it is. Maybe it’s just not as impressive anymore now that every kid with a guitar can play like that.

I can’t play like that. Then again, I’m no kid anymore either.