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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!

05 April 2009


Forgive me, reader, for I have sinned. Once again, I’ve shunned my blogging responsibilities in favor of that thing called life. It’s been three weeks since my last confession...er...blog.

20 March 2009
Rock Bottom has a bass player who, unfortunately has to go out of town occasionally, which leaves them with a void to fill. Deron had asked me some time ago if I could fill in on a couple of weekends, but couldn’t remember at the time the exact dates in March. By the time he did remember, I already had one of the dates filled with a new project. I never heard back from him, and assumed they had found someone else to play that weekend. I was quite surprised when, in the middle of that preceding week, I saw my name listed on their MySpace Status Update as “special guest Paul J. Smith on bass.” Uh-oh. I called Deron immediately and asked what happened. He said he didn’t know about the other gig I had, never got the email. That doesn’t surprise me. Yahoo has been dropping the ball quite a bit lately. On one of my accounts, all of my Sent emails from the past three months have completely disappeared from the folder. Whatever. I told him I could play Friday night, but not Saturday. He agreed, and eventually got Geo Romer of Ivory Tiger fame to cover Saturday night.

I arrived at The Hideout in Granite City after a nice dinner with Dawna and her family to celebrate her youngest son’s tenth birthday. I’d never played this place before. In fact, the last time I was even in that building, it was a truck stop. They had a decent stage erected at one end of the building, a modest-sized dance floor, some tables for seating, and a few pool tables. For some reason, it reminded me of Big O’s in Keyesport, IL. It just had that kind of dirty roadhouse feel about it. Deron said his take was more like The White House in Taylor Springs, IL, but this place didn’t have a dirt floor like The White House, and the stage construction was infinitely better.

I brought out the Ampeg SVT-4PRO bass amp and SVT-610HLF cabinet, thinking I would need the power to compete with Derrick for sonic space. I was right. His Marshall cabinet was sitting at about ear level, and was blasting at my head all night. I actually put in ear plugs after the first set, even though I hate playing with them. Even with my cabinet pointing almost directly at me, I could barely hear myself while he was playing. That stage was just ungodly loud. I had that post-concert ringing in my ears when I left at the end of the night.

In spite of my whining about the stage volume, it was great to play with these guys again. To my surprise, Deron even whipped out Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. I’d never played that one before in my life, and now that I have, I regret not having played it sooner. What a great song. We did our fair share of Rush as well, as one might expect, but didn’t get too carried away with it. In the end, everything came out at least OK.

The crowd wasn’t very big, but they made up for it in enthusiasm. There was a level of debauchery going on at the bar that one doesn’t normally encounter in every day life. Judging from some the pictures I’ve seen floating around on the internet, Saturday night made that look like a Sunday school picnic. To each their own, I suppose.

21 March 2009
One of the new projects I’ve recently found myself flung into is a revival of the band Incognito. This developed as a spin off of several other bands, including BenWahBob, Just Mr., and Lethal Judgment. The idea was to get together and play stuff we don’t normally play in our regular bands. We tried to put this together at some point last year, but couldn’t get it going for various reasons. This time we succeeded. We got together one evening and jammed, put together a set list, got together one more time, and showed up for the gig at 21 Rock in Arnold, MO. THAT’S how a band is supposed to work! Shades of Knucklehead.

I brought the SVT rig again, mostly because it was still in my van, but also because of the two guitar player arrangement. As it turned out, the stage volume never really got that loud. I really like the sound of that rig, though, so I didn’t mind a bit.

The crowd this night was small, as one comes to expect at this establishment. Most of the stuff we played came off pretty well, all things considered. I had quite a good time playing with these guys. Bobby and I have played together in BWB for some time, and I’d played with Tom several times while he was with Just Mr. Eddie and I have never played together before, though, which made it feel like an almost completely new band. Every one seemed to click together fairly quickly, and we sounded relatively acceptable. We even nailed the fun runs in Rush’s The Spirit of Radio. The owner really liked us (he likes Bobby anyway), and wanted to book more gigs immediately. I hope it’s not a snowy summer in Jefferson County.

Eddie’s son was there with a video camera, and Tom’s lovely girlfriend Lisa took some really great still shots of the band. Eddie and Bobby already have much of this stuff posted on their MySpace pages, and I suppose an Incognito page will soon follow. I’ll get some of the pictures up on my page at some point this week, perhaps even a video. Who knows...

28 March 2009
BenWahBob was back at 21 Rock in Arnold, MO...again. Joe, the sound man, teased me about having just been there last week. I have played there three times this year already, all of them within a four week period. I told him I was the new house bass player, which is funny if you know that he is the house bass player, less funny if you don’t.

There really is no more standard fare for the new BenWahBob. We seem to whip out different stuff every time we play. This is a good thing, after so many years of the same stale old shows. We did some of that this time, and I almost remembered all of the words to one song, and almost remembered some of the words to another. Carlos, seeing one on the set list, decided we should do two Rush tunes in a row. Easy for him to say – he doesn’t have to sing them. So, we did What You’re Doing as planned, then did I Think I’m Going Bald because Carlos likes that song. I’ll surely not complain about playing more Rush. One guy who was in attendance kept asking all night for more old Rush. At the end of the last set, Carlos actually started the guitar intro to The Spirit of Radio. Woops...bad move. Bobby and I jumped right in, and after some nervous glances back and forth wondering if we were actually going to play it, I walked up to the mic and started to sing. There were a few rough spots here and there, but we finished the song, including an outstandingly faked guitar solo which Carlos had never before played. The funny part...the guy who had been practically begging for more Rush had since departed, and that was one of the songs he wanted us to play. Lesson: never leave early, as the end of the night is when all of the fun stuff happens. We even started to play Bastille Day, got through the first verse and chorus, then decided to call it quits. We’d pushed the Rush thing far enough for one night. All in all, a pretty fun night.

Bass Hanger inventor Dan Martin came out for awhile, too, as I’d promised him a picture of his fantastic product in action. I’d used it the previous weekend, but didn’t think to bring my camera. I took some pictures this night, and still need to send them to him. Sorry, Dan. They’re on the way.

I also picked up some more music recently. I finally broke down and bought a box set of J.S. Bach’s Complete Organ Works. Wow. I have listened to almost nothing else since I got it. With 179 pieces of music on 11 CDs, it will probably be awhile before I tire of them.