Friday, October 31, 2014

A hero, and Grapes nails it again

MOST OF US in the States have only a fleeting idea of what happened in Ottawa, Ontario, last week. It's the CNN world we live in now, and in the age of information bombardment, it glances off and gets forgotten.

Canada, hopefully, will never forget.

I watched some of CBC's breaking news coverage of the shooting, and it was really good - all about the story, not about the anchor or some "expert" talking about terrorism.

The soldier who was shot and killed by a madman was a father and dog-lover. And Canadian. So it hits home.

As usual, Don "Grapes" Cherry of Hockey Night In Canada absolutely nails the sentiments of a country and the important thing about all this. Sidekick Ron MacLean, who usually has to keep things from going off the rails, realizes very quickly how special this is and lets Cherry roll.

Pay particular attention to the end of the piece. We can all have strong feelings when tragedy strike. The important thing is to always remember, and to always help, especially when it comes to our veterans.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Music and the left brain, right brain, better brain

ONE OF THE things I tell my guitar students is that learning is not easy at the beginning because the two sides of your brain don't like working together.

I had a medical "expert" scoff at me once when I told him that. I'm not a doctor. And I have no idea how the brain works. It just does.

But here's what I believe, without resorting to neurological science. The left side of your brain controls the right side of the body, and vice versa. The two sides of your brain don't like each other. So you have to work hard and use memory muscle techniques to get them to work together.

Actually, you don't have to work. You have to play. See? It's just better, all the way around.

My sister just sent me a very interesting article which much more clearly articulates this idea. Anything with Victor Wooten in it makes it worth your time.

Music is more than just good for the soul - it makes you smarter. That means I'm playing until I die - I got a lot of smart to catch up with!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

World What?

LAST NIGHT I actually watched half an inning of the World Series. Yawwwnnnnn.

Then I checked the score about two hours later and it was in the fifth inning. And you wonder what's wrong with baseball?

This World Series is setting records for apathy among viewers. Sorry. It's the truth.

The games are too long. They start too late. The players are paid millions for something most of us did for fun and sheer enjoyment. A beer is $9 at the ballpark, and good seats are impossible to get. If you did get them, you'd pay hundreds of dollars.

I know, I know, all you Royals fans out there will be indignant about this, but sadly, nobody really cares about your team outside of Kansas City. It's too bad, because 29 years of awful baseball has been erased and there are probably good stories out there.

I grew up with the game, loved the game. But I have a long memory - 20 years ago, the World Series was canceled because of greedy owners, greedy players, greedy everything. That's when I stopped caring about baseball.

I paid for tickets for the first time in two decades this past summer, to see a Colorado Rockies home game. You know what? It was fun. And I'd probably do it again. But just once in a while.

If you still love the game, watch the game, get into the World Series, good for you. Let me know how Game 7 turns out tonight.

I'm with the masses. I'm not watching.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Washing away Maulers memories

SATURDAY NIGHT SHERYL and I went out to Randy and Marcy Phillips' house in rural Coatsburg for his surprise birthday party. It was part of Aeronautics Day, where stuff gets flown and blown up on their gorgeous property, and there was live music from Jonny 7, Ted Holt and many others. Then Randy and the crew started their Wagonmaster schtick. Suddenly the Maulers appeared on stage and Rock N Roll broke out!

What the ... it's a Maulers gig!
If none of this makes sense, well, don't worry. It was a really good time and I must say these people are nuts and crazy and hilarious. If you see Greg Ellery around, ask him about his jar of ... well. Never mind.

Sheryl had a bit of wine and lots of fun. On Sunday and Monday, we couldn't find our official Wagonmaster T shirts, Sheryl's jacket or her camera case. We were resigned to them being lost for good.

This morning, Sheryl did laundry. And she found her missing items. In the washing machine. Clean.

"I must be more organized than I thought," she said.

Well. Spirit Knob Winery Vignoles can help her do a lot of organizing.

Everything is clean and we are still laughing. Sheryl got some tremendous photos and all in all, it was just another night of madness and mayhem.

Good, clean, mayhem.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Doctor, Doctor, gimme the news ...

I JUST GOT back from my annual physical. Since I turn 50 in less than a month, I've been informed I have to have a hystericalmestomy. What?

Actually, and there is no way to put this delicately .... I'll be having the old plumbing checked to make sure I'm not dealing with any colon cancer issues, since there is family history and I officially turn old.

The visit was very good. I talked honestly and frankly with my doctor, Rick Noble, who is excellent. I had some lab work done, and I'll be getting a letter telling me all about colonoscopy procedures and how to grab my ankles without pulling a hammy. Wait. What?

I know many people who don't like doctors and hospitals and needles and anything to do with the medical profession. And they might live to be 100.

But I feel better about things and I encourage everybody, especially if you are a man 50 or older, to consult with a physician at least once a year.

Thank you, Dr. Noble, for making this a positive thing.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Blind Pig is back!

SHERYL AND I are all about local musicians and places to play. We are so glad Mark Bigelow has revived the Blind Pig at 12th and Lind. It's a small venue but it has great atmosphere and I've had a blast there with both The Cheeseburgers and Pepper Spray.

Click here for my Local Q story on the Blind Pig reopening. Our friends Adam Yates and Tim Smith play tonight to kick things off right, and I can't wait to get back there for a show.

Support your local musicians! Again, hats off to Mark and the crew, and I hope things go well.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Silly Bud and the Silly School Board

IN TODAY'S DEPARTMENT Of Silly Walks Within The Silly Quincy School Board department, we learn that school board member Bud "Just Say No" Niekamp is upset with the board president for comments she made on a local radio show about our upcoming referendum.

The article by Ed Husar of The Herald-Whig is well-written and unintentionally hilarious. Click here and if you don't get blocked, it's well worth the time.

Basically the school board president said everyone on the board supports the referendum. Well, she forgot about Bud not supporting it, and Bud made sure everybody at the school board meeting Wednesday knew he did not support it.

The school board president simply forgot he voted no. Actually, since Bud always votes no, and since almost every vote is generally 6-1 in favor with Bud the only no, she took it for granted as usual and maybe just discounted it.

At least Bud made a point about all this and made sure we all knew he voted no. Because, you know, he's running again for school board, and most certainly we couldn't have any confusion about this.


You. Can't. Make. It. Up.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Spending a bit more for success

YOU CAN'T BELIEVE how many times we have people come into Second String Music and say, "I want to get my son/daughter/boyfriend a guitar, but I don't want to spend a lot because I don't know if they will stick with it."

Here's a few things to consider when giving the gift of music.

Santa loves Second String Music
It's interesting how price is relative, and being Dutch, I can relate. Yesterday we had a man come in and buy a lefty guitar for his son, and he was surprised it was so affordable. Others cringe and won't spend the money, or go online and feel proud they saved a few bucks on a guitar they have never heard from people they will never see.

You can spend $40 or less on a second-hand junker or a Walmart special (or QVC special). You will get what you pay for, and you'll be looking for another guitar soon enough.

Or maybe you won't - that piece of wood with strings on it that fell apart in your hands a month after you bought it certainly won't encourage somebody to learn. Sheryl's theory is that if you buy the junker, you might as well have bought them nothing at all. There is a bigger certainty that the fledgling guitar player was set up to fail.

If you come to Second String Music, we'll take care of you. We have 1/2 sized guitars for the younger players that start at $79, including 1/2 sized Jasmines that only cost $99 and come with a bag. For older beginners, our orchestra and dreadnaught sizes are beautiful Jasmine and Luna guitars that start at $149. These are great quality guitars. All have truss rods for easy adjustments and low string action for easy play. Bonus: You supported a small business here in Quincy and that means we will be here to help you take care of the guitar. It's all part of a greater "deal" you make with us when you buy from us.

Second Bonus: When you buy or rent any instrument from Second String Music, you get four free private lessons at Vancil Performing Arts Center Music Department. They are at 8th and Ohio, have wonderful teachers and help your musician learn. Getting started on guitar is the hardest part - but with a teacher, a little guidance and encouragement they will stick with their instrument and succeed.

Third Bonus! (There are more than 3 but you probably get the point by now. You can read more here.)  Buying local and from a small business not only gets you all the personalized services you can't get on the internet or Walmart, but the money you spend travels around this community at least five more times and builds our town and improves the economy.

Shop early, buy quality, get extra benefits, and succeed. It's more than worth it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Store poop and puppies

HAPPINESS IS YOUR puppy pooping in the middle of the store while customers walk in. Then the puppy darts out the door and into traffic. Then your wife saves the puppy's life.

That's my Tuesday morning. It about sums up my last few days, actually.

But. Angus is safe, the floor is clean, customers are smiling and happy and understanding, I had a great guitar lesson this morning and have more this afternoon, and I'm learning something.

Where one door closes, many more open up.

Have a great rest of your Tuesday!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Post Tin Dust

WE HAD A very good day in the store Saturday during Tin Dusters weekend. If you are not from Quincy, Tin Dusters basically come in Friday night and takes over a large area downtown. There are tons of vintage cars and almost everybody associated with the event is very nice. We met some great people and had a lot of fun Saturday.

We especially would like to thank Jeff Steinkamp of the local Tin Dusters, who took care of us Saturday morning and went out of his way to make things right.

Tin Dusters brings a lot of people into town, and that's a good thing. Tin Dusters makes it tough to get close to the store for about seven hours on a Saturday, even though there is parking less than half a block away.

The Tin Dusters folks themselves just come in to browse, warm up and look around. We did have a few local folks who were down here for the event and decided to do some business in the store as well, which is a great thing.

Sheryl and I appreciate all the hard work that goes into putting on a big event like this, and we fully support it. I hope everybody had a fun and safe weekend.

Here is a photo from the Zombie Pub crawl that happened later Saturday night.... Enjoy.

Trisha Dietrich getting a bite to drink?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Customers and backup

YESTERDAY AFTERNOON WHILE I was walking the dogs, the "frustrated musician" from yesterday's blog came into the store and was verbally abusive to my wife. He wanted me to take the blog down and was upset by calls that people made to him about it.

I missed it by about five minutes. It was probably a good thing.

I'll spare the details, but it's pretty obvious he hadn't read the blog, or understood the intent. I was actually very complimentary to him and his band. We had not agreed with where the Facebook thread had gone and truly believe that supporting local music in Quincy can be done. By the way, we own a music store so we are kinda invested in local musicians in the area.

There were two customers in the store when it happened. They backed up my wife's version of the incident, and one of the customers actually edged closer to the counter because our friend was becoming agitated and stupid. He left the store uttering obscenities.

"I thought he might get violent there for a second," the customer said. "That would have been a mistake, because your wife wasn't doing anything wrong and stayed calm."

The angry bass player should have waited until I came back, and we could have talked it out. My answer would have been the same - sorry, we just don't agree about the music scene in Quincy. Oh well. His loss. As for my wife, this guy isn't the first person to think he can come in here and push her over. She can handle it.

Almost everybody we deal with on a daily basis at Fifth and Maine is great. We love our customers. They are loyal and gracious, understanding and faithful. Sheryl and I appreciate them very much.

If yesterday's blog made you think about how YOU can help keep the music scene in Quincy thriving, it did the job. Musicians are a creative bunch! Let's all put in positive ideas and effort to keep music of all kinds alive and kicking in our community.

There is an organization called ENCORE sponsoring the "Battle for the Baton" raising funds for youth music education in our community. Check them out and find other ways to help!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Looking for a frontman? Good luck

A FRUSTRATED LOCAL musician recently posted this message on Facebook.

"This just blows my mind!! We have a KILLER band with awesome musicians, a kick-ass setlist and NO ONE in this area wants to step up and be a frontman/singer??? C'MON, REALLY???"


I'm sure these guys are good. I hope they find somebody. It ain't easy, doing the weekend warrior rock and roll thing. Best of luck. They sound like good guys and if they find their man, I'll go see them play if they are in Quincy. I hope they keep the attitude positive.

Of course there are a bunch of comments, most from frustrated musicians who want to play in bands but aren't in bands. Quincy's music scene is dead, nobody wants to listen to great kick-ass music, bars and venues won't pay bands what they are worth, blah blah blah.

Particularly grating was a comment that bands don't want to work and won't change set lists.

I play in several bands. Pepper Spray is just for fun and gets together for a paid gig every now and then. The Cheeseburgers play a lot. If we wanted to, we could play three of every four weekends within a 100-mile radius around Quincy. A few years ago, we played almost 40 gigs in a calendar year.

A band from LA played in Quincy! They Rocked.
There are local musicians who are jealous and don't like us, and that's fine. We don't apologize for what we are or what we do. We play good-time party music and we have a lot of fun.

We have a rock solid drummer and bass player. We have a lead guy who lets it rip. We have a keyboard/sax/singer/guitarist who plays everything and is an incredible musician. And we have me, a goofy front man who just likes to sing and strum have a good time.

I got really lucky 4 1/2 years ago when I was asked to join The Cheeseburgers. They were already established.

The guys have jobs and families and other stuff. That comes first. After our show Saturday at One Restaurant in Quincy, we are off for a while and we only have a few other shows scheduled this year. And it's all good.

If you want to play in a band around here, don't bitch about the horrible music scene and how you can't get gigs. Work on your craft. Talk to the venue owners. Go see other bands and find out what works and what doesn't. If you are really good, you can do the original music thing like Fielder or Seth "Freight" Wade or Cheeks McGee.

Double the double reed Oboe.
Whatever your style of music is, stick to it and believe in yourself, and don't blame everybody else for a lack of opportunity. Maybe you need to move out of the small-town music scene and broaden your horizons, since you have such great kick-ass music to play. St. Louis is two hours south, Chicago is a train ride away and Kansas City, MO a 3 1/2 hour drive.

And if you think it's easy, if you think all you gotta do is show up and play and get paid, and if you think it's everybody else's fault that you can't get it together, well ....

You are sadly mistaken.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Encore! More videos in the store!

ENCORE! HAS COME up with a great way to raise money for youth music programs in Quincy.

Encore! is the volunteer arm of the Quincy Symphony Orchestra Association. Instead of doing the Symphony of Trees this year, Encore! is sponsoring a Battle of the Batons. One of the participants, Will Spear, was in Second String Music today with the legendary Charlie Martin and Alex Berryman to film some funny video spots. I'm sure you've heard of the ice bucket challenge - but you've never seen a kazoo bucket challenge!

Sheryl and I are all about youth and music in Quincy. We've had a great school band rental season, and we are proud of the talent we have in this town.

Stay tuned ... video spots and baton battles are on the way!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Queen covers and everything appropriate

WHAT MAKES A band good, or a good band?

A band has a certain style and originality. A band that tackles a Queen song, particularly an ambitious Queen song, has to have chops and guts.

I'm not a huge Zac Brown fan, but you gotta love this version of Bohemian Raphsody.

I know of a certain trio who performs a certain appropriate Queen song. Hint - you can hear it live Friday night at One Restaurant. Ahem.

Anyway, here's Zac and his guys doing the Queen thing. I think it's very cool.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Weekend gazlabashibab - wait. What?

THREE GIGS IN three nights is enough to slay most immortals. We will sleep when we are dead.

After an amazing weekend, the only thing I can say is ... gazlabashibab. Whatever that means. I am enjoying the rock and roll haze and everything that comes with being run over by the rock and roll truck.

It started Friday night with Frank Haxel's surprise birthday party at Turner Hall. We managed to get him to the historic venue without him knowing a thing, and he was genuinely stunned at all the people to greet him. Then Pepper Spray jammed the night away and it was more fun than should be allowed - thanks to Frank's wife Cindy, and Rollo Carder and Mark Mester from Turner Hall.

German Cheese! (Photo Courtesy Mike Sorenson/Bad Wolf Media)
The Cheeseburgers played Saturday at Oktoberfest and again had a blast. The Rotary Club did another fantastic job and it was much more spread out this time. I love playing right in the street. And, as always - beer tents should be as close to the stage as possible! My hat is off to the Rotarians who devoted thousands of volunteer hours to pull off a great community event.

Much love goes to Justin Sievert of Pepper Spray and Vertigo, who filled in on bass for us Saturday night and killed it. We had one practice with him and he was virtually flawless all night. It was obvious he'd done his homework and was prepared and I think he enjoyed playing with us.

Sunday morning, still cobwebbing, I helped out at the Sammy Fund event at Westview Golf Course. I was a Swing Oil Lubricant Specialist - I drove a beer cart. Here's to Chuck and June Otte, two of the most amazing people I've ever met. This was the final Sammy Fund weekend, and it goes down as one of the best organized charity events to ever grace Q-Town.

We capped it Sunday afternoon with a Cheeseburger show at a private driveway party on the east end of town. Smoke in the eyes from a bonfire is a beautiful thing, especially when you are trying to bellow Mustang Sally for the second time in 12 hours!

What. A. Weekend. I'm going back to bed until Thursday. Or maybe I'll just be a bum today and hang out in a music store instead.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

We're playing, dang it

I WOKE UP to a rainy, dreary, cold morning. In other words, it was Thursday.

We have had three of the four Concerts On The Plaza canceled this year. Too cold, or too wet. I blame Travis Brown, former executive director of The District. Since he's not there now, it's his fault.

Nice Shoelaces Steve.
Anyway, I looked at the sky and the radar about 10:30. We had to make the call. The local forecaster said it was going to rain until mid-afternoon. It was still chilly with a brisk wind, but there were spots of blue sky and it looked like the rain was south of us.

Sheryl said, "I'm putting it on the Internet, so it is happening!" I finally said, "We're playing, dang it!" Decision made.

Steve Rees came over to the plaza at 7th and Maine Street, Frank Haxel and I plugged him in, and Steve played his heart out to about 15 people.

I wish more people were there, but I understand the mentality. Too cold, or too much to do, or just not in the mood. All I know is that you missed out, because Steve is amazing. As our friend Clint Mann put it, "He plays and sings like an old hippy angel."

Angus made it 16 listeners?
You've never heard renditions of great Bob Marley, James Taylor and John Prine songs, with a little Celtic flavor thrown in there for fun.

Anyway, thanks to Steve for braving the cool breezes and thanks to the hardy souls who came out. We will try it again one more time next Thursday when George Cate plays at the Seventh and Maine First Mid-Illinois Bank Plaza.

I promise it will be sunny and 70.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cheesey again at Oktoberfest

WE CAN'T WAIT for The Cheeseburgers show at Oktoberfest in Quincy Saturday. The German Heidelberg Band plays at 1 p.m. and we go from 6 to 10.

Like last year, when we were joined by 3,000-plus of our closest friends, York Street between 9th and 10th is expected to be packed. Click here for more details.

We set up in the street and it's just a straight party. Last year they had to drain the portable toilets halfway through our show. We shrugged and kept playing. It was one of the best shows we've played.

Joining us on bass for one night only is Justin Sievert, who plays in Pepper Spray and the band Vertigo.

We will keep our fingers crossed for good weather, and we'll see you in Calftown Saturday!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Guitar lessons and respectful young people

I GAVE A group guitar lesson to six kids from Chaddock Monday night at Second String Music. We had a blast and I hope they learned a few things.

The young people were respectful, listened carefully and tried their best. If you've never played, the first guitar lesson is not easy. You are doing something completely different and using parts of your brain you might not normally use. They asked good questions and were very funny, and they had no problem laughing at themselves and the big geeky guy doing the teaching.

They are going through some tough times in life. They've been placed in the residential program, often against their will. They appeared to be in their mid to late teens. I wasn't sure what to expect. I came away impressed.

I hope a few of them are inspired enough to try playing. All I know is that my guitar was my best friend many, many times when I was learning to play. It's therapy, creativity and just a bunch of fun all rolled into one.

This was the idea of the legendary Megan Peters, the (now) fill-in singer for the local band Eleven. She did this as part of her Quincy Service League project. Apparently the kids who behave get to do a special activity once a week outside of Chaddock.

I hope the young people got something out of our fun lesson Monday night. And, as usual, the teacher learned just as much, if not more, than the students.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Word House back from the dead

I HAVE SOME really nice gear to play music. But the best thing I have is my Word House.

Yup. The Word House. It's a black box shaped like a stage monitor with a light inside. I put my book of words in it. For some reason, I have three or four songs I just can't seem to remember, so I use it as a safety blanket during Cheeseburger gigs. A store customer made it for me - I traded it for a couple of guitar stands, if I remember right.

No! Not my Word House! Frank? FRANK! Can you fix it?
The Word House has been everywhere and back. Like all of our band equipment, it takes a lot of abuse. It's held up pretty well - I've replaced the light once in three years. 

Saturday afternoon we were at the Ambiance, setting up for a wedding reception gig, when one of the guys handed me the Word House. I grabbed it by the base, and the whole thing literally came apart in my hands.

I was in shock, in tears. No! Not the indestructible Word House! 

"Two words," said roadie Frank Haxel. "Wood. Glue."

"Two words," I said to Frank. "But I can't say them out loud because this is a family-friendly band."

I managed to piece it back together and get it on the stage for our gig, and we survived the night. Until I picked it up again.

"I'll fix your dang Word House," Frank said. Sure enough, bright and early this morning, the Word House was waiting in the the back room of Second String Music. It's never looked better. I can still see my words. Life is good.

I wonder if we can get Frank to work on our leaky kitchen roof.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Don't spend all the book money in one place

YESTERDAY I RECEIVED a check for selling my self-published book online. I was very excited when Sheryl handed it to me. Wow! A check! Shall we book a cruise to German wine country?

Uh, no.

"Congrats," Sheryl said. "It's for $12.32. Don't spend it all in once place."

Look. It's still a check. It means somebody bought the book, even if they were family members. It's enough to motivate me to resume writing the two other books that are in perma-hold.

"You could buy me a latte," Sheryl said.

I could. Actually, I need new guitar strings. I wonder where I could find those? I could get lunch. We probably need dog treats. I need new clothes after Angus rolled in something dead on our walk yesterday, then smeared it all over me on the car ride home. Or, I could pay for the want ad in the paper ("Free to good home. One smelly puppy. Just kidding. Sort of.")

Or, maybe I will hang the check on the wall.

Nah. I need guitar strings, and making Sheryl happy with a latte is a very good thing.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Who will stop the rain? Not me, obviously

WE JUST CAN'T seem to catch a break with the weather and our Concerts On The Plaza.

We still have a few hours, but the radar is a mass of green and things don't look good for Hannibal's Seth Wade to play later this morning at Seventh and Maine. If it gets washed out, it will be the third time in four Thursdays we've had to cancel.

It's all my fault.

A few days ago I thought, "Hmmm. It hasn't rained for a while. The garden actually looks a little dry. We haven't had to water it yet this year. There's no possible way we are in a, gasp ... drought, is there?"

Silly me. Of course yesterday the skies opened and we had more than two inches of rain. We're getting more as we speak. Perhaps we'll hire some ducks or fish to perform at our show next week, if we don't get better weather.

What can you do? Pray for the sun to come out next week, when Steve Rees is scheduled to play. Or, just don't tempt the weather gods by actually thinking it hasn't rained lately.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Band instruments and frazzled parents

I LIKE THE word "frazzled." As in, "I want you to learn a song, but you might get frazzled learning it." Or, "My daughter needs a violin for band and we are quite frazzled right now."

We are hearing that a lot around here at Second String Music. It's crunch time and school band season kicks in, and many parents are being informed that their child needs a violin, flute, sax, etc. Many parents have no idea what is involved and it can be a bit overwhelming.

Sheryl takes care of the band rentals. She is the patron saint of walking parents through the process. Most instruments are $22 a month to rent, and you go from there.

Sheryl also takes care of inventory, dealing with the band instrument company and making sure everything gets put in the system. I provide help by staying out of the way and marveling at how she deals with often frustrated and "frazzled" parents.

Don't want to come ALL the way down to the store? Click here to rent your child's instrument from us online! They will even ship it directly to you.

It's all good. It starts with out-of-tune beeps and toots and morphs into beautiful music
. We're glad to help you get started at Fifth and Maine - no matter how frazzled you are!