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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!

27 December 2008

Condensation of the Year

One could have come to the conclusion that this Blog would have been titled “Life is Always Interesting, pt. 2.” This would not have seemed unreasonable. However, the following encapsulation of the majority of the year begged for something more fitting. It is the Readers’ Digest condensed version of the remainder of the events of my year as a BarStar.

After April’s short stint with Just Mr. – again – I settled back into the BenWahBob groove for awhile. We played some of the same places we had been playing for years on a regular basis such as Baha Rock Club in St. Charles, MO, and the summertime “Budweiser Party at The Park” gigs at Fairmount Park in Collinsville, IL. We also played a few places relatively new to the BWB circuit, like Motley’s in O’Fallon, MO, and 21 Rock in Arnold, MO.

The annual gig on the big amphitheater stage at Bearcat Getaway in Lesterville, MO kicked off yet another typical summer for the band. Dawna and I had so much fun this year that we decided to go back again about a month later for a weekend of camping, swimming, and canoeing on the Black River – without having to schlep music gear around. We took her two boys and a cousin, and a great time was had by all. It was nice to sit around a campfire and listen to the band for a change. We also enjoyed the most hellacious thunder storm any of us have ever had the stupidity to endure in a tent. But, we survived the night, and came away with some great stories.

I also had the fine opportunity in July to fill in again for a couple of gigs with my friends from Rock Bottom (I promised Boozie I would quit using the umlauts). Their bass player had a less-than-positive encounter with the local constabulary in Jersey County, Illinois, which left them in need of a bass player for a few weekends. I was happy to oblige once again.

The rest of the year was relatively uneventful until we were told by Jim after the October gig at Baha that the December gig was cancelled, and that we would not be booked for 2009. Apparently, Greg the owner made up some BS about us continuing to play after he told us to quit at the end of the night. Jim was off that night, but knew right away that it probably didn’t happen that way. Greg is essentially a drunken idiot who has had it in for us ever since Dale left the band. We were told that he did this to another band as well. About two weeks later, Jim called to tell us that he, too, had walked out on Greg. After managing his bar for over 10 years, he could no longer abide Greg’s drunken rants. Needless to say, we will not be playing there again as long as it remains under the current ownership. That’s too bad, really, as it has long been one of our favorite places to play, and BWB has been a fixture there since it was called Key West. Oh, well...onward.

Another fun turn of events came in December when I received a call from Eddie Cerny. His wife Brandy’s band Poisoned Apples had fired their bass player, and wanted to know if I could fill in for a couple of gigs until they found a replacement. Since they didn’t seem to interfere with any BWB gigs, I agreed to do it. Eddie had since left as drummer for Just Mr., and had been playing guitar and keyboards with her band. I had just returned from two weeks working in Helena, Montana to install the newly refurbished pipe organ at the Cathedral of St. Helena when I got the call. By the time they were able to get me a setlist, I had about four days to learn a couple dozen songs – most of which I had never played before, and some of which I had never even heard before. For the Sharky’s gig, I was able to bluff my way through pretty much everything (I’m a trained professional, kids...don’t try this at home), with only minor gaffs here and there. Everyone in the band generously guided me through the evening, and I had fun playing stuff I never imagined I would ever play. I believe there is still another gig with them in January, if they haven’t found someone by then.

Dawna and I finally got to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra this year. Of course, there is an entertaining story to go along with this, too. During one of my fill-in gigs at The Phoenix with Just Mr., Eddie introduced me one night to his friend Angus. We talked a bit. When I asked him what he was doing, he told me he was working on a few solo original projects, and was touring with the TSO. My instant reaction was, “yeah...sure you are.” If I had a dollar for every time some idiot tried to convince me that they were somebody... Well...fast-forward to the night before Thanksgiving. Dawna and I went to see Eddie’s last gig with Just Mr./Evolution. Brandy’s band was playing as well. Toward the end of the first set, this same Angus ran up on the stage and grabbed Eddie’s guitar and started jamming with them. At the end of the song, Eddie introduced him as “Angus from the Trans Siberian Orchestra.” When Dawna gave me a curious look, I blew it off and told her he was just one of Eddie’s friends whom I had met before. Two days later, as we sat in the Scott Trade Center watching the afternoon TSO show, I pointed across to the other side of the stage and said to her, “Look...Eddie’s friend Angus really does play with the TSO.” I already called Eddie and related the story. So, I guess this is my public apology to Angus Clark for blowing you off like that. Sorry, dude.

All in all, it was a pretty good musical year for me. I got to play BarStar, not only with my own band but with several others as well. I got to work on some really fantastic pipe organs at the Wicks Shop in Highland, IL, in churches in Denver, CO, and in Helena, MT. I got a considerable amount of work done on my own pipe organ at home. I completed a fair amount of string arrangements. Most importantly, though, I finally settled on a format for my own progrock original project. As soon as the organ wiring is complete and it is assembled, that will be my primary focus until it is done.

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