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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!

11 May 2008

Life is Always Interesting, pt. 1

OK...so, where was I? Oh, yeah...now I remember – I was AWOL from the Blogisphere. Again. It was a combination of life getting in the way (wait, that was another blog) and a shining lack of interest in sharing the details at the time. Sorry if that rubs the wrong way, but it is the simple truth. When I first started this blog many many years ago (2004, I believe...when it was still on AOL even), it was a fun and new experience and I couldn’t wait to write it every Sunday to relate the entertaining experiences of the weekend’s adventures as a BarStar. Of course, I had more time to do it back then, too. I also had more readers who would offer feedback, which helped to spur it along. Here lately, not so much so. I have to say; it’s not so much of a priority anymore.

So, with that said, here is a brief run down of some of the events swirling around me since the last posting in March.

08 March 2008
BenWahBob made its first foray into Baha Rock Club in St. Charles, MO since becoming a three-piece. This was really the only gig about which I had any worries. I have known for many years that the owner Greg is not a fan of trios, and has pretty much refused to book them. I expressed this concern to the other fellas, who agreed that it might be a problem. This was supposed to remain a BenWahBob gig, to be played by the four-piece band with Dale still singing. Unfortunately, Dale was unable to find a replacement drummer after Bobby quit. He called Carlos one day in disgust and told him that he too was quitting. This left the Baha gig in our laps. We had to play it because we would have felt bad leaving them high and dry on such short notice. Besides, we were certain that they would like us regardless of the number of band members on the stage.

When we got there, we were instantly inundated with questions about the circumstances of Dale leaving the band. Apparently, as we would find out later, Dale had been talking to Jim the whole time and he knew Dale was quitting before we did. To his credit, he didn’t immediately cancel the gig and replace us. He was willing to give us a chance. We took it and ran with it. We put on one of the best shows that night that BWB has ever played there. Everyone seemed to recognize the change in the band’s character, and recognized it as a positive change. We were having more fun on stage, and now had a wider variety of sound with the three of us singing. Karen, the lighting goddess at Baha, was especially happy to see me back in the band. She has been a big supporter for many years, and has always been incredibly gracious to me.

We had a really good night, albeit with a fairly light crowd. The club, unfortunately, took this as a sign that we wouldn’t be able to draw as well without a singer. This is a classic anti-trio argument that is every bit as invalid as the “can’t put on a good show with only three guys” argument. However, we only lost one person all night because of the Dale thing...and she was one of his long-time friends who obviously just came in to make her presence known, then made an even more obvious exit after making some remarks about us being no good without Dale. Funny, she was the only one who seemed to have a negative opinion of us. Everyone else really dug what we were doing. The crowd may have been mediocre, but they stayed all night and had a good time.

At the end of the night, we got the expected lecture from the manager. Some unfortunate angles arose as well. We were given a pay cut (ala Club Richard’s) because we were only three, and told we were on some sort of “probation” until we could prove that we could draw a good crowd.


BenWahBob has been playing Baha Rock Club since before it was even called Baha Rock Club (the Key West days). To be told that we are now on “probation” because we made a personnel change makes absolutely no sense at all. Did that happen when I became the new bass player, or when Bobby became the new drummer, or when Chris became the new bass player? No, it didn’t. Frankly, it’s quite an insult. If anything, we should get a pay raise. We have THREE singers now. We didn’t get cuts on an individual basis, but as a band we took a 25% cut. That’s just wrong. Baha has always been considered the premier BWB gig because it’s a big club with a nice stage and a big light show. Now, it’s our lowest paying gig. We get more from the smaller venues we play just across town. I must confess that changes the way you look at a gig.

04 April 2008
Bobby used to play at 21 Rock in Arnold, MO quite a bit when he was with Alibi. He talked to them and got us a few gigs there. I had played there a few times as well, but not in several years. Since then they have moved the stage from that awful position in the corner to a much better location against a side wall. It’s also much bigger now.

I sent emails to all of the people I know who live in that area around South St. Louis/North Jefferson Counties area to let them know that we would be in the area. Many of them have long whined that we never played down there...and rightly so, because we didn’t. Of all the whiners, though, only my former coworker Gina from Findlay Industries actually made it there. It would be tough for her not to, though, as she lives just down the street.

We had a pretty good time at this place. I’ve never really seen it crowded in all the times I’ve been there, but we had a pretty decent crowd this night. It’s kind of an odd crowd in that they really go there to play pool. Thus, the band gets mostly ignored most of the night...until the alcohol kicks in and they remember that we are there. The women danced enough I guess, but the guys just kind of stood in the back leaning on their pool cues and watching. We got a good number of compliments as they were leaving, so I guess they didn’t completely ignore us. House sound and lights makes this a pretty easy gig, too. Carlos even stretched out and played some stuff he doesn’t actually know. He threw a Van Halen riff in the middle of one song, and played and sang a song he’d never done before. I was amazed. I’ve never seen him like that, mostly because he was always afraid of doing something that might distract Dale. I warned him of that dangerous Knucklehead-esque slide, that slippery slope from which there is no return. He just chuckled and said, “That shit was fun.”

That’s how it always starts.

11 April 2008
I thought I was to have this weekend off. I thought wrong. My friends from Just Mr. called in need of a bass player for Friday night. Ted had some trouble with his new defibrillator (that apparently involved spending some unintended time on his kitchen floor), and had to go in for some more repairs. The surgery was postponed by a couple of days, and they asked if I could play the whole weekend. How could I not agree to that?

Friday night was at The Phoenix in South St. Louis County. This is always a fun gig for a lot of reasons, all of which have been previously explained. They changed the backstage area considerably. It was now cut in half. While it was much smaller now, it was also much more quiet, as the other end no longer opens into the bar area divided only by a curtain. Some guy approached me at one of the breaks and started waxing on and on about always wanting to go back stage and hang with the band. When I told him that was not possible, he started asking me about what actually went on back there. He wanted to hear about all the incredibly perverted things that bands do to groupies in dressing rooms, and wanted to know if that was going on at that moment. I told him I couldn’t possibly know because I was not back there, and was instead standing there talking to him. He gave me that knowing smile and nodded as he walked away.

During the next break, the door to the dressing room opened and in he walked. He stepped into the middle of the room and looked around all proud of himself because he was backstage with the band. I was leaning against the new wall talking on my phone to my girlfriend, Eddie was sitting at a table smoking a cigarette, and Damon was over in the other corner talking with some friends. This guy just kept looking around the room waiting for something nasty to happen. I started to tell him that he had to leave, but then realized that it would be much more fun to watch the air fizzle out of his balloon that to burst it all at once. He wanted to see porn in action, and all he got was a bunch of guys sitting around relaxing in a space away from idiots like himself. Kirk finally came in and shooed him away with something to the affect of “Who are you? Get the hell out!”

To play this gig, I had to learn about eight new songs in about a day and a half...and I almost did. In spite of that, I made it through without too many flubs, none of which were particularly fatal. At the end of the night, after tearing down my gear and moving it to the edge of the stage toward the door, Damon looked up at me and said, “Paul, I approve of your playing.” I looked at him and laughed as I asked if he had indeed just said that he approved of my playing. He said, “Yes I did, and you can put that in your fucking blog. ‘Damon approves of Paul’s playing.’”

So there it is, Damon...and thanks for your approval.

Oh, oh, oh...I almost forgot; I got a Just Mr. guitar pick!!!

12 April 2008
The return to the scene of the crime; Sharky’s in Collinsville, IL. I vowed I would never fall on that stage again, and I kept my word. In spite of those waiting with baited breath and blinking cameras, I was able to keep my head above my heals all night. Even the Lovely and Gracious Dawna came out for awhile to see the potential spectacle. It was a mostly uneventful evening, though, with the singular exception of the infamous Booger leaving early because the bar refused to serve him anymore. Imagine that. There was one Van Halen song during a section of which I had a complete brain fart. I just threw up my hands, turned to Eddie who was giving me that unmistakable “WTF?” look, and nonchalantly said, “I simply don’t know this song.” I found it again, lurking behind Eddie’s shaking head, and was able to mostly finish it. Oops.

At the end of the night, we all retired to Denny’s for breakfast and had a blast taking shots at one another. The food was really good, but the waitress was truly terrible. She should really consider another line of work.

It was fun playing with these guys again. Ted’s ticker is all good again...again...and he is back in the saddle. Tom has, however, announced that he will be departing the band, and they are currently searching for a new guitar player.

So, at the risk of running this too long, and ruining what’s left of my Sunday, I’ll chop this off here and continue the saga in a few days.