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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!

04 March 2008

A New Spin

Friday, 22 February 2008
I got a call from Deron earlier in the week informing me that Rock Bottom’s new bass player Derrick Howard was in New Orleans all week for a job, and would not be back for their gigs at Eddie’s in Granite City, IL on Friday and Saturday. He asked if I could cover them. As it happened, the first BenWahBob-less trio gig was to be that Saturday. When I told him as much he paused momentarily, then asked, “Can you do Friday? I’ll worry about Saturday later.” I agreed to play Friday with them.

We’ve had an actual winter in the St. Louis area this year, complete with snow and ice storms, for the first time in a long time. While it’s nice to see all of that global warming BS fall by the wayside, it’s starting to get old already. I’ve gotten spoiled by the mild winters of the past few years. The days leading up to these gigs saw more of this inclement weather yet again. I had put my 610 speaker cabinet back in the basement after the last gig with RB, figuring I would not need it again. I decided this time to just take the 210 combo and 1-15 cabinet that I keep in the shed for ease of loading. That big SVT cabinet is a bear to get up the steps. Unfortunately, Mother Nature must have felt I needed the workout (and she’s right), because there was about an inch-and-a-half of ice in front of the shed door preventing it from opening. Guess I would be hauling the 610 up after all.

I got the truck loaded after work and headed to Granite City. As I arrived, so did Boozy. I loaded in my gear, then went back out to help him load in his drums. It turned out that this was unnecessary. His large, movable drum riser apparently also serves as a pair of dollies when split in half (half-in-two?). So, he just stacks everything on the two sides and wheels them in the door. Very cool. I set up my rig, played a little to warm up, then sat back with a watered-down cola and did some people watching. Granite City really excels in this arena.

Everyone showed up pretty much on time, and we commenced with the audio onslaught. Deron must have been in a frisky mood, as he whipped out Fly By Night in the first set. Boozy told me later that he leaned over to Deron after that and told him he was quitting (inside joke). One thing that was quite noticeable was the stage volume; we were painfully loud. I had the SVT4PRO head almost cranked, and could barely hear myself. Granted I was only using one side of the power amp, but that’s still nearly 700 watts! Did I mention we were loud? Jeff must have been going nuts at the soundboard.

Most of the night went off pretty well as I recall, of course I’m writing this about a week-and-a-half after the fact. At the end of the night, though, some friends came up to jam, and things went slightly south. While nothing was really a complete train wreck, there were some rough landings. Overall, though, it was a really good night. The Rock Bottom Nation came out in force, in spite of the weather, and everyone seemed to have a really good time. And that, after all, is what it’s all about.

I tore down my stuff, was paid for my presence, and sat around chatting with a few people about completely silly things until about 03:30. I stopped at Jack-in-the-Box for some tacos, and headed back to my tiny little berg to crawl back under my rock. I had the latest Dream Theater CD already in the player, so I just listened to that for the drive home.

23 February 2008
Many moons ago, when I was still playing bass for BenWahBob, we had some issues. One was the singer Dale’s constant coughing fits on stage. The other three of us devised a plan to learn all the lyrics to all the songs so we could jump in and save the day when this happened. Each would learn the songs that we felt we could comfortably sing. It then started to develop into the idea of playing some gigs as a trio. We got together a couple of times in this arrangement and organized the plan, but never really had the time to properly pursue it.

After I left the band, this apparently became an issue once again, and they re-initiated the trio idea with their new bass player. Unfortunately, he could not sing well while playing bass...a rather important necessity in a trio. He confided this to me in an email shortly after they began the pursuit. Not long after that, Carlos and Bobby asked me if I would be interested in doing the trio thing with them. I’ve always been a sucker for a trio, so this appealed to me right away. I didn’t, however, want to jump in and push out the new bass player. This was not to be the case, though, as this project was to remain independent of the original BWB. In the mean time, Bobby and Dale had another clash that caused Bobby to quit the band. BWB was now looking for a drummer to continue on as they had for nearly 15 years, while the three of us continued on our quest to make the trio work.

We got together at Bobby’s house and worked out the plan once again. We divided up the BWB set list by who could sing what, tossed out the songs that we really never liked doing anyway, added some of the cool songs we had long wanting to learn, and set up a rehearsal schedule. Carlos made CDs for everyone with the songs we would be singing, and we learned them. When we got together again and started running through the list, we sounded surprisingly good. It was immediately obvious that we could indeed make this work just fine. There were a few rough spots here and there, and a couple of songs got bumped for various reasons, but over all it was pretty decent. Our ambitious rehearsal schedule got trimmed down quite a bit by busy work schedules and infectious diseases, but we were pretty comfortable going into the first gig.

Which brings us to the first gig. Before I was asked to participate, Carlos had booked some gigs at a new bar in O’Fallon, MO called Motley’s Pub & Grub. These were booked expressly for the trio, as all of the regular BWB gigs would still be played by that band. Several of our friends have played there since it opened, and all had really good things to say about the place. The owner has been a long-time fan of BWB, and had no qualms about booking them.

I arrived just after Bobby, who had pulled his trailer along the front of the building. We loaded in my stuff – the big rig that was still in the truck from last night – and started on the PA just as Carlos arrived. We only needed a small rig, as this is not a very big place. We used a box mixer, two mains on sticks, and two monitors on sticks washing the stage from the sides. We brought in one light tree, and Bobby’s new foot controller. I got the honors of being lightman. Once we got the PA set up and tested, I set up a few scenes that highlighted whoever would be singing, and one that flooded the whole stage. These, along with a blackout, provided the light show. Through the PA we ran the vocals and a little guitar for presence, and that was it. Drums and bass were right off the stage.

Running a PA from the stage can be a tricky ordeal. I got the honor of being soundman as well. We basically guessed at the levels and went with it. Carlos sang the first couple of songs, which allowed me to jump out front and check the mix. It was surprisingly good, and only needed a bit more guitar. After that minor adjustment, we were off and running.

We rolled through the prescribed sets with little trouble; a couple of rough endings here and there, but over all pretty good. The crowd seemed to like what we were doing, and the owner had some kind things to say about us as well. Many of Bobby’s friends came out, as it’s close to home for them. Carlos and his wife brought in a large group of family and friends, too, including my old boss Brad from Findlay Industries and his lovely wife Heather. It was good to see many of the people I hadn’t seen since leaving BWB. Everyone was very kind to us. The maiden voyage appeared to be a success.

At the end of the night, we tore down the small stage and had everything loaded in no time. Next came another part that I remember about playing in a trio; you get paid what you’re actually worth. I hadn’t made that much money in one night since the gigs with Just Mr., and Those1Guys before that. That was nice.

It started to snow unexpectedly as we loaded out the gear. I was razzing Bobby about not having a White Castle nearby, when I looked up and saw what looked like blue and white striped awnings just down the road. When I drove down there, they turned out to be the green and white awnings of a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop. Bummer. I was really looking forward to some Sliders, so much so that I stopped off I-70 at the Whitey’s near Mid Rivers Mall on the way home. Yummy.

The snow got pretty heavy after awhile – hour and 15 minute drive home in good weather – and by the time I got into Illinois, the roads were truly awful and visibility was quite low. I rarely got over 45 or 50 MPH the whole way. On the bright side, I got to listen to a couple of Symphony X CDs. I started with New Mythology Suite, and ended the drive with The Odyssey. Very inspiring stuff.