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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!

08 March 2007

A Blister & Just Mr.

With a month off since the last BenWahBob gig, you’d think that I would be well rested and ready to go. You’d be wrong, of course. Perhaps it’s one of those endless bugs going around, or perhaps it’s just the fact that my sorry-derriere is sadly out of shape. Whatever the case may be, I was just plain tired this weekend.

Friday night was the freebee night, so Dawna & I decided to go see Just Mr. playing at Sharky’s in Collinsville, IL. We really were going to see their bass player Ted May. I’ve known him for many years, and Dawna used to work with him at L.S. Electronics. Ted’s been having some medical issues of late, and we wanted to see how he was doing and show some support. More on this a bit later. We didn’t stay too long, departing after listening to the first set. Wes Stillman of Ivory Tiger fame was filling in for their recently departed singer, and did a fine job with the Journey, Styx, and Kansas.

After leaving there, we ambled our way to Eddie’s in Granite City to see Röck Böttöm. We haven’t seen them for some time, and were long overdue. We ran into some other friends whom we haven’t seen in awhile as well. At the conclusion of a slow dance, during which we took the opportunity to taunt RB bass player Chuck Mann (couldn’t help it, Chuck), I was summoned to the stage by Deron and pushed unceremoniously in that direction by my own lovely and gracious Dawna. Hmmm… Wasn’t I going to not sit in with anyone this night? I had successfully refused Ted’s overtures earlier in the evening. Now, here I was being literally pushed onto the stage. OK…whatever.

Deron had mentioned when we came in wanting to do some Stevie Ray Vaughn to get it out of his system. I was certainly OK with that. Suddenly, when I asked which one we were doing, I was told Tom Sawyer. Huh? The Rush song? Without keyboards? It appeared that this was indeed the plan, as Boozie clicked it off and away we went. Deron very capably covered the important keyboard parts on guitar, and we flew through it unscathed. Boozie then teased the intro to YYZ, and we actually ended up doing that one, too. Normally, I would be all for that. One thing about Chuck’s bass, though: its position on the strap leaves it hanging right around the knee area…great for “rockin’”, not so great for the intricate work required to play this song. My left hand was so distended and bent oddly around under the neck that my fingers started to cramp about half way through the song. This was the impetus behind my later comment to Chuck that he would need to sweep up all the notes I dropped before returning to that side of the stage. We also did Zeppelin’s What is and What Should Never Be for their soundman Jeff Newman, and ended the charade with AC/DC’s Highway to Hell…an eclectic mix of tunes, to be sure.

Another note about Chuck’s bass…he plays with a pick, I play with my fingers. His tone is set to his attack style. While I was playing, I had no definition at all. I found myself over-attacking the strings in an attempt to better hear myself. As a result, I ended up with a real nasty blister on the tip of my right hand middle finger. I’d surely pay for that.

Saturday, 03 March 2007
Baha Rock Club, St. Charles, MO – time to pay for that blister.

Dawna and I arrived at the club shortly after 20:00. Yes…that’s right…Dawna actually went to Baha with me…a rare treat. We rolled up to the front of the club just as someone was pulling away from the curb right in front of the door…RockStar parking! I debated with myself momentarily as to whether or not I really wanted to park there. After the last incident, I wasn’t so sure, and considered just parking in the municipal garage as usual. However, since I had the Hottie with me, I decided to capitalize on the opportunity to afford her the RockStar treatment. She even carried in my 40-pound bass for me…best-looking roadie I’ve ever had. She even wore her “My Face Is Up Here” shirt. My shirt was even more inappropriate.

Set-up went through with its usual quickness. Even sound check was fast, which is an unusual feat for John. He captured a few notes for what was essentially a signal check, gave us a quick monitor check, and we were done. I must say, too, that my monitor mix this night was the best one I’ve had there in a long time. There’s something to be said for brevity.

We fired up the BWB circus promptly at 21:00, and surfed through the first set with scarcely a care. It was shaping up early to be a smooth night. At the end of the set, I stopped and spoke briefly with new BWB bassist-elect Chris Ashley, who had come out to play a bit. He took over for the second set, and I gladly sat with my sweetie and watched. Dawna did comment that it seemed odd that Dale had put the bulk of the danceable songs in the first set…when no one really cares to dance yet. I think I commented something to the affect that she would not be at all shocked by this if she were in attendance more often (just kidding, Boo). Many of the harder-edged songs reared up in the second set, and Chris sounded like he was comfortably up to the task.

The third set was the standard dance set, albeit only in the middle this time when we tossed out the funky stuff. For having old strings on my bass, I was getting a pretty good meaty kind of funk tone for the slap-n-pop stuff. It turned out to be a productive set, as the dance floor remained pretty well populated most of the time. We even ended it with me singing Where The River Flows…a sure-fire way to clear a dance floor in a hurry. My blister was screaming at me by this time. Every time I raked it across a string, it felt like I was shaving off the tip of the finger. I eventually semi-trained my ring finger to partially compensate for it, but I was spilling notes all over the stage again.

The last set picked up right where we left off with the third…with me singing. It was all about me now. We started with Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, then Carlos unexpectedly jumped into Rush’s In The Mood. I’ve not always been so fond of this one, but it is a known tune in St. Louis, and people seem to like singing along with it. We then slammed into What You’re Doing, a much cooler Rush tune as far as I’m concerned. I’ve always liked doing this one. It’s fun to sing, and Carlos and I have a blast staring each other down during the unison guitar/bass runs in the bridge sections (“WEEEEEEE!!!”). We threw in a few other tunes by I-don’t-remember-who-or-what, then ended the night with Ozzy’s I Don’t Know, followed by the ubiquitous War Pigs. Carlos even cut the solos short, as we had clearly run over past 01:00 and were being stared at by Jim in his crossed-arms-looking-at-his-watch pose.

As we tore down the equipment and readied for the trip home, Jim had to sneak in his comments about not paying the bass player…again. Funny guy! He paid me nonetheless, but got in one last jab when I walked back in to make the requisite “idiot check,” with a shout of “QUITTER!” Dawna and I had discussed the possibility of having shirts made to that affect, but time was insufficient to make that happen. Oh, well…perhaps later.

We made the arduous trek back to St. Jacob to the accompanying strains of a CD of Antonio Vivaldi’s String Symphonies performed by Shlomo Mintz. Dawna tried to sleep, but said she couldn’t help staying awake listening to the music. (I really don’t deserve her.) We had listened to the first Infectious Grooves album on the way there, so this was 180° in the other direction. It was a nice way to end the evening, to be sure.

We were bums for most of the day on Sunday. We got up late, went to breakfast at the Cracker Barrel in Troy, IL where we were stared at by the church crowd, then just played around on the internet for a good part of the day. We had planned on attending an organ concert by David Erwin at Ladue Chapel Sunday evening, but couldn’t motivate ourselves to go after the long weekend of partying like we were young again. Besides, I had a slight headache, and an organ concert is no place to be in that situation. I pulled up some streaming organ music on the internet to help assuage the tinge of guilt from not going. I’m sure David’s heart wasn’t broken over our absence, though.


I also received a call from the venerable Ted May. He confirmed to me that the rumors of an impending medical procedure are indeed true. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1991, and during the treatment received a heavy dose of radiation to his chest. This apparently damaged a valve in his heart, and the only way to fix it is via open-heart surgery. Naturally, he will be out of commission for a couple of months while he recovers, and asked if I would cover for him in Just Mr. until his return. I gladly agreed to do so. While it doesn’t seem to fit into my plan of removing myself from the cover band scene to pursue the original projects, it was an opportunity I couldn’t resist. After all of the years that I’ve been playing and learning countless songs along the way, there is finally a tangible benefit to it. I have the honor, and the ability, to step quickly into another band to fill in for a friend in need. There was no way I could have said “no” to this. So, it seems I will be playing with them for the next couple of months starting next Friday at The Stratford Bar & Grill in Fenton, MO. As my last gig with BenWahBob appears to be this Friday at Fairmount Park, the timing of this all seems to be impeccable.

The saga takes yet another unexpected twist.