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…or what happens when family meets work meets severe weather meets baseball…

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Musical Acts I’d Like to See at the Emporia Granada (Part 2)

index

Following the unfortunate passing of music icon David Bowie over the weekend, I figured I’d better roll out my second list of musicians I’d like to see come to Emporia, Kan. (in some cases before the pack everything away).

Heart

I was first introduced to Heart through its mid-1980s pop phase, but I have always liked the band’s original blend of roots rock, classic hard rock and — yes — country. I had seen some rumblings the band may be closing down its illustrious music career after releasing an album later this year, which would be a shame. They still play a lot of arenas, so honestly the 800-seat Granada may be too small for their tastes.

Sellout chances: Guaranteed
Song I have to hear in concert: “Barracuda” (with “Magic Man” a close second)

Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

Still going strong — and still filling arenas across the country — Seger would be another tough get for Emporia just for the arena size. Given Emporia’s love for classic rock, however, the area would make it worth Seger’s while to play for a couple hours.

Sellout chances: Again, guaranteed
Song I have to hear in concert: “Like A Rock”

Damon Johnson

You may not know the name and you may have forgotten the band Brother Cane, which gave us the grunge hit “Got No Shame” and the alt-rock song “I Lie in the Bed I Make,” but since Brother Cane’s demise Johnson (the lead singer and a guitarist for the now-defunct group) has been touring with Alice Cooper and Thin Lizzy among other bands. He can come to town with those groups or on his own. I don’t mind.

Sellout chances: Impossible unless he’s part of a more well-known group.
Song I have to hear in concert: Let’s go with “I Lie in the Bed I Make”

Marcus Miller

If you follow fusion jazz at all, you know Marcus Miller is a baaaaaaaaaaaad bad man on bass. I watch him on YouTube and realize there is absolutely no way on God’s green earth that I could do some of the bass tricks he whips out with ease.

Sellout chances: Not great unless it’s through the Emporia Arts Center’s Performing Arts Series.
Song I have to hear in concert: “Hard Slapping”

The Fabulous Thunderbirds

Haven’t heard the Thunderbirds since their massive run in the 1980s? Well, neither have I. But they are touring — actually venues the Granada’s size or smaller — and you know they would rock the house.

Sellout chances: Fair
Song I have to hear in concert: “Powerful Stuff”

Trust me — I’ve got more bands and acts I’d like to see. So expect Round 3 down the road.

10 Musical Acts I’d Love to See at the Granada Theatre

granada

Emporia’s Granada Theatre is starting to make a name for itself as quite the concert venue.

Modern country has been the calling card ever since Director Bryan Williams started bringing concerts to the venue a couple years ago, but classic rock is now establishing a foothold with the sold-out Guess Who concert a few weeks back and Kansas selling out within oh, say, minutes when that Oct. 1 concert was announced this past spring.

So with that in mind…and with no prior discussions with Williams…here are some of the bands I’d love to see at the Granada (in no particular order).

Candlebox

candlebox

The Seattle grunge rockers burst onto the scene with the angry “You” and wistful “Far Behind” off their self-titled 1993 debut and have been producing solid music since. They have enough hits just off their first CD to bring a lot of people to the theater.

Chances of a sellout: Decent.

Song I have to hear: “He Calls Home”

Collective Soul

collective soul

Simply put, one of the most musically versatile rock groups out there. They would be a treat in concert and shouldn’t have a problem selling out if they were booked.

Sellout chances: Strong

Song I have to hear: “The World I Know”

Indigenous

indigenous

If you like Texas blues and haven’t heard of Indigenous over the past 15 years, your address is a rock. If you are into any other music genre and haven’t been introduced, you’re missing out. Mato Nanji, the lead guitarist and vocalist, is worth the price of admission all by himself.

Sellout chances: Poor

Song I have to hear: “Awake”

Kenny Wayne Shepherd

kws

On the other side of the current blues recognition spectrum is Kenny Wayne Shepherd. If “Deja Voodoo” didn’t put him on the map, “Blue On Black” did — and he’s stayed a fixture of rock music playlists since the late 1990s.

Sellout chances: Fair

Song I have to hear: “King Bee”

Eric Johnson

ej

I wish Eric Johnson produced more music. His first two albums, Tones and Ah Via Musicom, were stellar mixtures of blues and rock, and Venus Isle was pretty good in its own right.

Sellout chances: Poor.

Song I have to hear: “High Landrons”

The Rippingtons

ripps

One of the most recognizable fusion jazz bands of the past 30 years. However, this would be a stretch for the Granada, which would be taking a huge financial risk bringing the Jazz Cats to town.

Sellout chances: Poor

Song I have to hear: “Destiny”

Mark Knopfler

mk

The frontman for Dire Straits. Regardless of whether you like Knopfler’s music direction since Straits disbanded, and honestly I’m not that much of a fan, I’d still love to see him in concert and I’m guessing I’m not alone.

Sellout chances: Good

Song I have to hear: “Telegraph Road”

Mr. Mister frontman Richard Page

richard page

Page has been the most active of the Mr. Mister alums since the band disbanded, and I love his music since he went solo. I’m also an unabashed Mr. Mister fan, especially of Welcome to the Real World and Go On. Having said that, he has virtually no name recognition anymore.

Sellout chances: Not a chance

Song I have to hear: “Into My Own Hands”

Living Colour

living colour

The band disappeared from radio playlists after Vivid and “Cult of Personality,” but it’s still pumping out its mesh of rock, funk and blues. Should be a fiery show.

Sellout chances: Fair

Song I have to hear: “What’s Your Favorite Color?”

Bad Company

badco

Boy, if Bryan could get them…

Sellout chances: Guaranteed

Song I have to hear: “Bad Company”

Who would you like to see at the Granada? Let me know. Heck. Let the Granada staff know at 342-3342.

You’re welcome.

Red

Recently, JT Crawford asked me to play bass with him and Jane McCoy for the Flint Hills Beef Fest BBQ contest concert Aug. 22.

So we’re just under a month away from “Barracuda” and “Tennessee Flat Top Box.” From Loverboy to Johnny Cash, the Pretenders to Garth Brooks, we’ll likely have it covered.

Not having touched my bass since the last time we got together, the 2013 Smoke in the Spring barbecue event in Osage City, I was a bit hesitant to agree…only for the simple reason I haven’t had much time or inclination to dedicate to what once had been an integral part of my life.

bass 4

***

I first met Red at Paragon Music in Lincoln, Neb, back in the late 1990s.

I had started teaching myself bass guitar a few years earlier after what can only be called a failed flirtation with guitar during a failed attempt at college in Tucson, Ariz. I don’t even remember how I became acquainted with the black three-quarter model I officially started out with, or how I came in contact with the Peavey 5-string that followed. I do remember the 5-string, Thumper, was a ton of fun, either hanging out for a solo creative session or at parties.

However, I made a slight miscalculation that ended our relationship. As in not studying how to properly tune said 5-string.

Inattentiveness to details such as that is bad. Very bad. It leads to bad breakups…or, in this case, a neck so warped it’s impossible to fix. I could have done some repairs, or had somebody else do them for me), but I decided against for some long-forgotten reason. I think a large part of that was I was just looking for something else, something more basic.

So, with Thumper effectively out of the picture, and with me totally hooked on the instrument (thank you, Geddy Lee, John Illsley, Kim Stone, Roscoe Beck, Marcus Miller, Brian Bromberg, John Pattitucci, Flea, Muzz Skillings, Bardi Martin, John Entwistle, Chris Squire, Jeff Ament, Gabe Nelson, Steve Kilbey, Peter Hook and others) I was looking for something long-term right away. There were a lot of flashier (and more expensive) models to dazzle the eye and the fingers. All sorts of brands were available in all colors and finishes.

It was a rather mind-numbing choice to make. And, no, I didn’t have any mind-numbing ingredients in my body when I stopped there.

Given my budget, I had to eliminate most of the store’s selection…and hope one of the less pricey models was the one.  I didn’t really have any set criteria when I visited Paragon that summer afternoon other than my new musical partner had to feel right. It had to fee comfortable when it was draped around my neck. My fingers had to slide quickly up and down the neck.  The instrument had to hold its tune — something I had struggled with (through a lot of fault of my own) with my previous two basses.

Somehow, some way, Red did. I picked up Red for the first time, plunked a few runs — and I knew. Right then and there.

bass 3

***

Red, in case you’re wondering, is an Ibanez TR series 4-string. Twenty-two frets, two pickups, bass and volume knobs. All in all, pretty simple. There were apparently several in the series, and at this point I have no idea if I have a TR 50 or a TR 200 — although judging from a 1995 catalog, it looks like I have the TRB 50. If that’s the case, Red has a light American maple body, maple neck, Powersound pickup setup and standard four-string bridge. Oh, yes — don’t forget the Ibanez All Access neck joint. Again, nothing to make you jump up and say “wow.”

Sometimes, though, you don’t need the “wow” factor to develop something special.

bass

***

Red became more than my bass, and it didn’t take long for that to happen. With me trying to get a Catholic rock band started, and with me writing lyrics for several years beforehand, Red became more and more of a partner as I conceptualized bass lines, guitar and drum parts to go with the words. We were pretty much inseparable after a short time, and we spent a lot of long hours together.  I’d take Red out with me to work some days, over to the church on others to work on some licks. Red would stay up well past 2 am some nights me as I’d hammer out some song details or rock out a jam session with some of my friends.

Soon, Red wasn’t just my music partner. Red also became my dream partner. Music had been part of my life since my dad let me play his cornet back in fifth grade. Even as I slid down the scale from there (thick lips=no range=instrument change) to euphonium, trombone and eventually tuba in high school, I’ve always loved not only listening to music but playing — and performing. I don’t remember when my dream developed of having a rock band, but it’s always been burning for as long as I can remember. Getting a chance to play “as part of a band,” even with all of two performances (a one-song gig at a church and a youth conference), was pretty heady stuff.

Red assisted me in how I wanted my music to sound (what I can describe, at least in my head, as a mix of Rush, early Dire Straits, Candlebox, the Rippingtons without a saxophone and The Church), and although I never purchased any music software to flesh out ideas that sound is still where I want to go if I have the good fortune to do so. Red also helped me unlock my inner performer, although it took a move to Kansas and a shift in music genre philosophy for that to happen. I have never been the cleanest bass player — far from it, actually, and the more amped up I get the messier I get. But as I got more practice in front of people, the mistakes smoothed out and I didn’t let them affect me for long stretches like I did when I started. On top of that, especially as I transitioned from religious rock to more secular music later, I began realizing you can’t just stand there and play and expect people to want you back. You just can’t. You have to, well, “give them a show.”

Off the microphone or off the stage, I have no problem blending into the woodwork. Give me a stage and my bass, and something happens. Something changes. Automatically I’m trying to do what I can to keep the audience engaged, wanting more. I can’t play behind my head (tried that, didn’t work), but I’ve slid on floors, stood on tables, turned my back to the crowd and looked back through my mike at the group (people still laugh at me for that one), used my cell phone for the ballad lighter effect…all while playing what I can only describe as some active bass lines.

And Red saw it all. Was part of it all. Helped to nurture it all.

jam

***

When I moved to Emporia to become a news reporter with some sports duties, I figured I’d get to form a band at some point. Initially, though, it looked like Red and I would just hang out in my apartment. I was honestly working more to fit into the community than finding fellow musicians. Then two things happened: Crawford called me to play at Reading’s annual concert…but before that, I started dating my future wife.

I actually started dating Ginny as my time in my last praise band was ending. Things developed very quickly, and in barely four months we were engaged. The wedding didn’t take place for another year, but 11 months afterward we had welcomed our daughter, Isabella, to the world.

JT had heard me mention on air that I played bass a few months later, and he invited me to the school to play. Things went well between him and his friends, singer/guitarist Tammy Patterson and drummer Dan “Boogie” Wooge — well enough for us to loosely form a cover band, practice occasionally and look for gigs.

It took a while to develop some contacts, but that eventually happened and we did indeed get some gigs. Quite a few, actually. Osage City, Melvern, Burlingame, Topeka. Even played the Flint Hills Beef Fest main dance back-to-back years.

Life happened, though. I moved from news reporter to news director. JT, Tammy and Dan all had life-changing events of their own. And I started losing interest in playing, especially as I was poorly balancing my home life and sleep. So my personal jam times, which about a decade earlier would run in the hours, could be compressed into 10 minutes or less (usually less). Eventually, about two years ago, the jam times evaporated, with my bass guitar collecting dust on its stand.

Red sat. And waited.

Red’s still waiting.

bass 2

***

JT’s call came at a time when I finally was feeling the itch to start playing again, although unfortunately not feeling the itch enough to actually get the instrument out, find the practice amp and play. It took two weeks after JT’s invite before I finally took stock of my current relationship with my bass guitar.

Red’s a different color than Thumper, but Red’s now in similar shape to Thumper when I regretfully set it aside. Red’s been in its case for I don’t remember how long. The neck is dirty…and it’s warped.  It’s a different reason, but it’s the same sign of neglect that’s worrisome to me.

I’m not in the best of shape, either, and not just because I’m about 40 pounds overweight. My calluses are completely gone, and soft fingers make for painful bass work. Sliding my fingers up and down the neck, trying a few hammer-ons and trying desperately to remember some of the runs I’d conceptualized over the past 20 years, it still feels right to play.

Dealing with instruments is like dealing with friends. You can’t not interact with your instrument for months, in my case now 15 months, and expect you can pick up where you left off. That certainly hasn’t happened with me and Red. The timing’s currently off, the runs don’t come naturally anymore, my fingers are quite sore after the first couple minutes, the freewheel feel of piecing together the fretboard on the fly and creating a coherent but pretty fricking awesome run just isn’t there.

It will take some time to get reacquainted. Get comfortable again.

But it will happen. Over the past 15 months, I’ve rediscovered the need I’ve apparently always had to have some form of music creativity in my life. For that to happen, I need to be back with Red.

And the whole process will be worth it in the end.

Labor Day Weekend

loverboy

Well, since it is the Labor Day weekend…and I needed something to avoid doing more housework this afternoon…

…I figured I’d ask what is your favorite song about work.

Have a great Labor Day weekend (and don’t work too hard!)

rush live

My Friends Knew This Was Coming (or Why My Favorite Band Belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

rush3

“If I could wave my magic wand, I’d make everything all right.”
Rush/Presto

It finally happened. Rush is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The induction ceremony last week, to be honest, was a little embarrassing in that the long-disappointed Rush fans overwhelmed what was a very strong list of inductees. Look at the list. Heart, Public Enemy, Quincy Jones, Albert King, Donna Summer and others all helped to shape different music genres and broke barriers all over the place. For many on the list (and I’m thinking Heart, PE and Jones primarily), their contributions are right there for all to see.

What Rush did, how Rush got to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, how Rush became “cool” as Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl put it, was a lot different.

They toured (a lot) without widespread radio attention until much later.

They copied (hey, even I can admit that….their eponymous first CD was all Zeppelin and a lot of their 1980s stuff was completely synth pop/Police-influenced rock).

They wrote — well, Neil wrote — a lot of stuff that simply wasn’t airable on the radio (hey, you play “Cygnus X-1” during the morning drive and see what reaction you get).

They toured more. Their influences became more subtle, their sound became more their own, notably after Presto.

Heck, they frickin’ wore kimonos — almost right from the get-go — and dared you not to take them seriously.

rush kimono

And don’t forget Geddy Lee’s vocals, which originally sounded like a self-racked chipmunk on speed and now are in a much more agreeable range for music fans of all ages (including my daughter, who would just as soon listen to Taylor Swift).

From early on, it was apparent Rush could play with the best in the business. And as time went by, it should have become obvious Rush was finding its way towards music greatness.

For those who say Rush’s early days of copying music influences or performance styles are a reason to keep them out of the Hall, I say hogwash. That was a significant part of the band’s past, but that’s in the past. If you plan to leave out Rush strictly for that, then who gets in? It doesn’t matter if it’s the Black Keys, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin or Elvis…or Sinatra, Count Basie or Robert Johnson. Or Rush. Every band, every person, is the sum of its/his/her influences. Some are simply better at hiding those influences than others.

And to say Rush hasn’t impacted the music industry would also be incorrect, although that influence is far more evolutionary, more gradual than it has been for other music groups. Bands such as the Foo Fighters, Candlebox and Primus (to me, one of the most inventive, if also strange, bands of the last 25 years) have all pledged allegiance to the Starman family tree, although you may well have to strain to hear the musical ties.

STARMAN_by_eleventhearlofmar

No, Rush belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as much as any other band.

The honor comes as Rush is on tour supporting Clockwork Angels, a major nod to its roots with the sound of a band polished by road dirt, success, determination, experimentation, tragedy and perspective. It also comes with rumors flying this is indeed the last go-round for the Canadian rock trio. If that is the case, the induction will truly be a farewell to kings.

For once, the meek have inherited the music earth. And, for a short time anyways, they have assumed control.

The Soundtrack of My Life

For as long as I can remember, music has defined moments in my life. From the important to the inane, typically there has been a song tied to the moment.

Not that you care, but I feel like sharing. So here goes.

“Like A Rhinestone Cowboy,” Glen Campbell

glen campbell

My parents may disagree, but this is the first song I truly remember singing like a Top 40 station. You know, over and over and over again until somebody changes the channel. I’m really not sure if this signals anything other than that, but this was the first of many songs I got stuck in my head.

“Moonlight Feels Right,” Starbuck

starbuck

While “Rhinestone Cowboy” was the first song I truly remember from my youth, “Moonlight” was the first song I can definitely tie to a specific place. The Chesapeake Bay reference was vivid in the summer of 1977 shortly before we moved back from Maryland to Omaha. The song still brings back crystal-clear images of the bay, as well as weekend trips to Vermont and Gettysburg, Ol’ Blue chugging along I-95 and the Hickory Hills apartment complex. I was young, but those were good times, man. Classic.

“Macho Man,” The Village People

One of my third-grade rivals, Jose Jefferson, got to perform a solo song-and-dance routine to this song at our annual recital. I was part of a group routine about a cat who died. Young man, some people have all the luck…

“Classical Gas,” Mason Williams

mason williams

Before Omaha’s KFAB switched to a talk radio format, it was music heavy — and the format was very much like the one currently in play at KVOE in Emporia. I still flat-out love this song…although it always reminds me of the time we drove by a St. Vincent de Paul store which had a ratty acoustic guitar in the front window. I begged my dad to get that. I begged my brother for his money to buy it. No each time. Yeah, I know. Bad form even for a nine-year-old.

“Telegraph Road,” Dire Straits

http://youtu.be/v-JlITlXHsk

This one reminds me of listening to Z-92 as a middle schooler….wellllll after bedtime.

“I Wanna Be A Cowboy,” Boys Don’t Cry

Just one of those songs that gives me pleasant memories of high school. I didn’t have many, so I figured I’d better take what I can get. “Someday, I’ll be dead yo yo.”

“For Those About to Rock,” AC/DC

acdc

Omahans, you may have done this: search for Satanists in Hummel Park just for the hell of it. Then again, maybe you haven’t.

“Into My Own Hands,” Mr. Mister

http://youtu.be/yn3prwF3UPw

Like Bob Seger’s “Like A Rock,” I always found this song empowering, and it’s helped me keep positive through some rather rough times.

“The Big Money,” Rush

http://youtu.be/LcBsrsJyz0U

Musically, this was a definitive moment for me. I was struggling at the University of Arizona with my actual studies and having no luck learning guitar during my increasing time off from the books. When I heard Power Windows (followed in short order by Hemispheres and Moving Pictures), I knew instantly I wanted to play bass like Geddy Lee. Kind of like knowing I wanted to go into sports broadcasting almost as soon as tuning into Denny Matthews and Fred White for the first time. I don’t thump nearly as often as I used to, but when I do this is still my warm-up song.

“Heart-Shaped Box,” Nirvana

This statement may get some of you mad, but I hate this song. Hate hate hate it from start to finish. I forget if Nirvana played this, but it always reminds me of the Omaha concert the band played just a few weeks before Kurt Cobain killed himself. I think the discordance from the song always reminds me of Kurt tuning his guitar (unsuccessfully) after virtually every song. That was a weird show, too. Kurt never seemed…there (and we found out why later). Krist Novoselic did most of the audience work. And Dave Grohl, well, he just mashed. He was, by far, the best part of the show.

“Awake,” Indigenous

Man, I’d pay good money to go see Indigenous at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar. If you’ve never been, the Zoo was your stereotypical hole-in-the-wall blues bar. You could officially squeeze in about 150 if you took out all the tables and chairs and the fire marshal wasn’t there. But man, what a perfect atmosphere for sizzling Texas-style blues like Indigenous plays.

“Why Worry,” Dire Straits

dire straits

One of my all-time favorites, and for some reason I tie this one to my engagement to Ginny. Little did I know, when I got down on one knee to propose, just how true the chorus would be: “Why worry/there should be laughter after pain/there’s always sunshine after rain/these things have always been the same/so why worry now/why worry now.”

“The Wedding Song,” Paul Stookey

Pretty much the perfect wedding song. At least for me.

“The Garden,” Rush

http://youtu.be/ivAusmXpRwI

This is now the song I’m humming just about every day. The chorus, in my mind, says just about everything:

“The measure of a life
Is the measure of love and respect
So hard to earn — so easily burned
The measure of a life
Is the measure of love and respect
So hard to earn — so easily burned
In the fullness of time
A garden to nurture and protect”

If it’s worth working for, it’s worth cultivating, sweating, paining, hoping. (And if this is indeed the last song Rush ever records, that’s the way to end a career.)

“Rock Me Tonite,” Billy Squier

http://youtu.be/WZvl2aqIyNg

I’ve had a lot of bad days in my 42 years on this planet, but this is an amazing reminder that others have had it much, much worse than I have.

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