Thursday, June 30, 2016

Less traffic on Maine Street

THE MEMORIAL BRIDGE is closed due to construction. Maine Street traffic is down, and so is traffic in our Fifth and Maine store.

We don't have specific numbers or charts or graphs or percentages. But I just looked out on Maine Street at 10:15 in the morning. There hasn't been a vehicle heading west or east for nearly five minutes.

We do rely on foot traffic, and it's noticeably down, too. Far less people have come into the store saying, "Oh, I was passing through and I saw the sign over your door."

We did have a great weekend with the Midsummer Arts Faire folks. Last Friday's Blues In The District drew a huge crowd, too, but most of those people know they are coming, or know to turn right onto Fifth Street when coming across the Bayview Bridge.

There were rumblings from Springfield that road construction projects would stop Friday due to the state's budget mess. I really hope our lawmakers get their bleep together and keep construction going. Not having the bridge ready to go by the appointed deadline is unacceptable. We are waiting for August.

Sheryl and I appreciate everybody who has supported us for five-plus years. Small business is the backbone of our community, and it is our honor to be your music store and support the local music scene. Come down and shop all the small businesses downtown and support YOUR local economy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Writer's block

I'VE HAD WRITER'S block for a long time. It's frustrating and sends you swimming around in your own brain, with no way out.

I write a blog five days a week. That's largely due to Sheryl being a positive influence and encouraging (not making) me do it. We've seen the reader numbers rise and it's mostly because we post a blog every morning, if possible.

Fast Eddie agrees.
There is no excuse for not writing. None. You either do it or you don't. There is always enough time to write, there are always things to write about. Writing is a habit, and I've gotten into the habit of writing a blog every morning. It's pretty simple, right?

Actually, I think I have too much time on my hands. Spend 24 years as a journalist, and you'll realize life is one big deadline. My best stories would be the ones written under the gun, with an editor staring over my shoulder and the clock loudly ticking away.

Take away the deadline, and there's a lack of urgency. I'm trying to get better at being more organized, but I'm lousy at setting goals. If I say, "Okay, tonight from 7 to 8 I am going to write the next chapter of my book," I'm just fooling myself. Too much stuff pops up and time tends to get away from us.

After I left The Whig four years ago, I wrote a book of short stories, and Sheryl put it together to be self-published. Right now I have two other books started. Why can't I keep going? I spent yesterday afternoon thinking about one of the books, how to proceed, what it should be like, how to tackle logistics. It was too much. I gotta get out of my head and just do it. Sheryl agrees that I overthink things and just need to take action sometimes.

So I'm diving back in. I hope.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Getting lost - a Hart thing

MY COUSIN, NATALIE, just wrote the most awesome blog. Click here to read about her trip to Toronto last weekend. Natalie is Directionally Impaired, which is bred in the Hart genes and can be treated with therapy and Goose Island, but not in that order and not when driving.

It's worse for me because my mother had the same affliction. I will always remember spreading her ashes in Lake Michigan and smiling as the waves crashed into the beach, thinking happy thoughts in a very sad time. Then the next day I headed back to Quincy and not a mile from the beach, I took a wrong turn and got lost.

That's my mother in me. After all, she was the one who drove home from a friend's house in Montreal one frigid winter night, and ended up halfway to Toronto.

One of the beautiful things about living in Quincy is that it's really hard to get lost. We use tree names and numbers for streets, mostly. North is north and south is south - we aren't on some weird angle. But when I first moved here .... yup. I got lost a few times.

Here's how Natalie ended her blog, and it fits in perfectly with things I'm trying to get better at, life-wise.

1. When I make a wrong turn, I can correct it.
2. When I feel lost, it doesn't mean I'm irredeemably lost.
3. It may not be perfect, but I CAN DO IT.

Thanks, Cuz. You are on the right track.

Monday, June 27, 2016

A stage in Washington Park

WE NEED TO get a discussion going about putting a stage, or portable stage extension, in front of the gazebo in Washington Park.

The gazebo itself is very nice. For an event like Blues In The District, the main issue is the columns blocking views and the fact it's way up in the air and away from the many people who come to see the band.

We use it every year for the MidSummer Arts Faire. It's fine, because most of the acts are acoustic and up at the front.

But then you have groups like the Irish Rag Tag band and the Dixie Dads. They were awesome as expected, but they were back a bit on the gazebo because of the numbers. There is a ledge all around the gazebo, which keeps you from falling out but keeps the audience from seeing you, as well.

Generally speaking, I hate playing on stages. I've nearly lost equipment and limbs from playing on rickety hay wagons and hastily built stages.

In this case, because many groups are playing back to back, it's better to have a stage.

Has there been any thought about building a stage extension in the front of the gazebo? There is a lot of room. It could even be portable and made to set up and tear down with minimal effort. The Quincy Park District would have to be in on a it, and I'd hate to add another financial burden to another government entity, but it could be done.

Just an idea. Washington Park is an ideal place for music, theater, the performing arts in general. A better stage would make our thriving performing arts scene even better.

Friday, June 24, 2016

We love MSAF

THE MIDSUMMER ARTS Faire starts today in Washington Park, and we at Second String Music could not be happier.

Of all the downtown events we host, this one is the best. The park is jammed with people, it's a well-organized and family-friendly event, and the streets stay open. Yes, parking can be a challenge - but you can still find a spot within a block of the park if you are patient. On Saturday and Sunday, park in the covered lot across the street from the Herald-Whig on Fifth. It's half a block away.

Scott Smith and Katie Jean play Sunday for the MSAF.
Tonight is Blues In The District featuring Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames. John Roope kicks things off at 11:30 this morning with an acoustic show, and we'll be on the other side of the park by the John Wood statue.

Cori Lyssy and I (HartLyss) play tonight from 5:30 to 7 at the Meow Mixer, a Quincy Humane Society fundraiser. It's two doors down from us on Maine Street at Kristopher's Hair Studio. Easy gig!

Here's the musical lineup for the rest of the weekend. New this year is Jeff Schuecking and his Dixie Dads jazz band, and some other fresh faces entertaining you all for free from the Washington Park gazebo. See you at Fifth and Maine!

SATURDAY
9:30 a.m. - BYU Noteworthy
10 a.m. - Bella Sonethongkham
11 - Logan Kammerer
Noon - Quincy Drum Circle
1 p.m. - George Cate
2 p.m. - Prospect Road
3 p.m. - Dixie Dads
SUNDAY
11 a.m. - Scott Smith and Katie Jean
Noon - Ted Holt
1 p.m. - Emily and Spencer Smith
2 p.m.. - Rag Tag Irish Band


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Farewell Toronto and hello Macomb for Emily

SHERYL AND I went to Macomb last night to see Emily. She is teaching oboe at summer camps for Western Illinois University. Sunday, she leaves for a month-long stint at Blue Lake to help with the international program. Then she spends two weeks in Toronto saying farewell to a city she loves and will really miss.

Then she comes back to Macomb in early August to start her first professional job - Professor of Oboe.

Geesh. Big Emily. All grown up. Academia and art and performance and being responsible. She'll be a lot better at it than I would.

Wasn't this just yesterday?
The campus was quiet on a hot summer night. We met Emily at the music building - it looks exactly the same. We went downtown and ate at Chicks, then walked around. Emily will be living in an apartment on the square, and it looks very nice from the outside. Like Quincy, Macomb's downtown shops are mostly closed after 5 or 6. Over by the park they were getting ready for a weekend festival - we had two Gus Macker tournaments over there a few years ago and it was a perfect location, though the organizers were woefully unprepared.

For the past two weeks, Emily has been staying in one of the refurbished dorms. She is also house-sitting for one of her former professors (he has two cats, so it's actually called "cat-sitting"). It's in a leafy subdivision just west of campus. There are a lot of houses for sale, because WIU just let go a bunch of staff due to the state of Illinois budget crisis.

But they hired Emily, at least for a year. She has mixed emotions - she loves Toronto, the big city with so much to do, and she loves the Royal Conservatory of Music, where she took oboe lessons, learned to make better reeds and found out all kinds of things about the world of classical music. Her oboe teacher "is one of the hippest people I've ever met," she says. She also worked at a music store and she was living with a family friend, and fell in love with their sweet Border Collie.

Leaving Toronto is hard. "I'm crying on the inside," Emily says. But she's got a real job doing something she loves, teaching and playing the oboe. It doesn't have to be forever - it could be a great launching pad to even bigger and better things. Or, she might just fall in love with it and take it from there.

My little Emily. All grown up. Well, sort of - I'm not sure her idea of maybe getting a tattoo is a good one, but that's up to her.

She'll be an hour away. I look forward to seeing her more after a whirlwind three years, including two at Eastman in upper New York and a year in Toronto.

Big Emily. All grown up. Where has the time gone?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

John Roope is back to playing, and living life

WE ARE FORTUNATE to have John Roope play Friday for our Blues In The District noon acoustic event. He'll be in the shade at Fifth and Maine from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. There is no charge. You can grab lunch from the Butcher Block food truck and enjoy good music.

Truth is, John considers himself fortunate to playing for us, too.

Seven months ago, John was driving from Quincy to his home in Rushville when he suffered a stroke. He was actually able to make it home - "But when I got home, I couldn't get out of the car," he recalls.

John suffered a stroke and spent several weeks in the hospital. He can laugh now when asked if the stroke was "serious" or not.

"Well," he says, "I am doing a lot better than anybody has a right to."

John works for Chaddock as director of Early Childhood Mental Health. He's resumed his speaking engagements across the state and has played a song or three during those talks, but this is the first time he's doing a real show. It was hard for him to grab the guitar and play chords - "It was like having a sunburn on the entire left side of your body," he says.

He still has issues with nerve pain and endurance, and "grabbing the right words out of the air," but he feels confident he can play a full show. "My voice is lower and raspier, and I can't really slide up on the guitar anymore," he says. "It's all right. I was never that good anyway."

I beg to differ. John is a good player and he loves performing. He'll be sitting, not standing, and he'll have a tablet to help him remember all the words, but I bet he does just fine Friday.

John is 60 years young. He learned to play when he was about 28 and working in the Chaddock cottages. He figured playing guitar would help him connect with the kids. He was right.

He played a lot in the Rushville area until the stroke hit. I hope he gets back into the solo acoustic circuit again.

"All of this just makes me realize I do get to live life again - I get to be me," John says.

We can't wait to see it Friday!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Show respect for shooting victims and families

A TERRIBLE THING like the Orlando shooting should never be forgotten. But where do we draw the line when it comes to media coverage and showing people at their most desperate hour?

It won't stop, and it shouldn't, but it's getting harder and harder to watch. This morning on one of the network shows they showed a young man eulogizing his mother at her funeral. Apparently she liked to come with him to the club and dance. He sobbed and shook as he talked about her, and I simply couldn't watch it.

I understand the media has a job to do. But really? At the funeral? Why were television cameras let in there in the first place? People deal with grief differently, I suppose, but I would have banned cameras. I got sent to a lot of funerals during my reporter days and hated them. At least I just had to write about it, not stick a camera in somebody's face.

Of course, toward the end of my days in newspaper journalism, I was required to also shoot video. I think I got out just in time.

The day after the shooting they kept showing a mother falling apart, hysterically bellowing into the cameras about not knowing where her son was. Turns out he was killed inside the club. My God, what a terrible thing. And they keep showing it, and showing it, and showing it. Why?

I am not lessening the horrendous impact of this event. It's hard enough to fathom. But do we really need that image burned into our overwhelmed brains? Do we really need to see a distraught mother disintegrate before our very eyes? Do we?

I have the solution to this, of course. I turn it off.

I'm the pot calling out the kettle. I spent a dozen years covering crime and courts, or chronicling human misery, as some called it. Thank goodness I didn't have to poke a camera in front of a victim or the families, and the local media kept it civil most of the time, but I always tried to be respectful and wait for the right time, as did the Whig photographers.

We all grieve with the families and victims of the Orlando shooting. We all want to be part of something bigger, offer hope and love. But when it comes to the survivors and their direct families and loved ones - the right place at the right time, please.

Click. I just turned the news off again.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Post and keep your store hours

A WOMAN CAME into Second String Music Friday morning, birthday shopping for her 15 year old son. He strummed a couple of guitars and we showed him a few chords and tips, and about an hour later he walked out the proud owner of a beautiful Ibanez guitar.

The woman called before coming over and asked if we were open. When she got here, she said, "I'm glad you are open, because we went to another store and there was a sign in the window that said they were closed early today."

Owning your own small business is not easy. Sheryl and I are basically here every day and all day, Monday through Saturday, though I get to duck out once in a while for gigs or emergency golf sessions. Sheryl was a substitute teacher this past year and it was good for both us - it got her out of the store and it made me learn how to run things by myself. Or, at least make it easier to fix my screw-ups when she got back.

In the five-plus years we've been open, I think we've closed the store twice except for Sundays and holidays. Both times it was on a Saturday of New Year's Eve weekend. We are fortunate to have Steve Rees as our backup employee for the few times we do get out of town.

When you are a business, you need to post your hours both on your website and on the door. And you need to stick with them. I totally understand why a small shop run by one or two people may have to shut down for a day - death in the family, medical emergency, having a baby, etc. But customers are creatures of habit and have expectations, and when either gets disrupted, it can really hurt your business.

In our case Friday, just being open and paying attention to a customer really helped. We are open for bidness at Fifth and Maine and we are here to help you with all your musical needs, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Bad backs, birthdays and more music weekends

YOU KNOW YOU are getting old when you throw your back out by simply swiveling in your chair. On the bright side, it happened during an awesome guitar lesson this morning with the awesome Katie Hogge, yet another young and talented player and singer.

A very happy birthday today to Pepper Spray and Second String Music security guard James McKinney. I think we are getting happy in the afternoon hours to celebrate.

Lots of music stuff going on this weekend as usual. Cori Lyssy and I (HartLyss) are getting ready for a show Saturday night at One Restaurant, if you are out and about and want to beat the heat. Special guest is Paul Wood.

And, this is hard to believe, but the Midsummer Arts Faire is only a week away. We've got another stellar lineup of local musicians for the Washington Park gazebo on both Saturday and Sunday. Throw in a Friday fundraiser for the Quincy Humane Society and Blues In The District, well you have another wild rock and roll weekend on tap.

Better find more ice for my back.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

South Park concerts

HERE'S ANOTHER REASON the local music scene is alive and well - tonight kicks off the Quincy Park District's outdoor concert season.

Liz Bentley is playing tonight from 7 to 8:30 in beautiful South Park. The Park District web page has a list of the Thursday night shows during the summer, with four shows in all and local band Raised On Radio playing next Thursday. Don't forget the Quincy Park Band is playing on Wednesday nights at Madison Park.

Liz played last Friday to start our noon Blues In The District acoustic shows, and she did her usual amazing job. She's planning a move to Nashville to attend school and check out the music scene - again, she's one of those talented young performers who is good enough to make it.

I've long thought South Park makes for a great music venue, depending where they put the band. Liz is playing in the brick gazebo not far from the main picnic shelter and playground area. South Park is one of those classic layouts and picture perfect spots, with lots of trees and space to spread out.

It's another warm night so get there early, bring bug spray and a blanket, and find a nice shady spot to watch one of Quincy's best young performers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Stealing songs, stairway style

LED ZEPPELIN WAS recently sued for allegedly copying a Spirit song for "Stairway To Heaven." The trial has started in California and it's utterly fascinating, click here for a really good review.

First of all, you are not allowed to play Stairway in Second String Music. We have a big poster saying so, a nod to Wayne's World. Stairway is the most overwrought and overplayed song ever. But that's not Led Zeppelin's fault. It was fine the first 2 trillion times we heard it. Again, not Zep's fault.

Listen to both songs. Are they the same? Of course they are! Did Plant and Page steal it for their own song? Ah. That's the question, and we'll find out what a jury thinks.

The amazing Nile Rodgers gave an interview recently and pretty much summed it up by saying we are all influenced by everything around us. You can't help but hear a catchy song or hook and say, "Man, that was so cool ... I wanna try that in my own song." Really, is there anything original out there anymore?

There are 12 notes in the chromatic scale and infinite chord arrangements and patterns. But humans and are humans. You can be influenced, but you can't steal intellectual property, just like you can't steal candy bars or cars.

I recorded three CDs of original songs with The Funions and had them all copyrighted, just for posterity. I'm not vain enough to think somebody is going to steal an old Funions song, but ownership is a cool thing.

In the spirit of song writing in general, I hope Zeppelin wins.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hanging out with Abe

THIS IS GOING to come a huge surprise, so please sit down before reading this - we had a gathering on the sidewalk last Friday during the first Blues In The District show.

We were sitting down, too. Frank Haxel brought over his tent for shade and there was a steady breeze at Fifth and Maine, so it was actually quite pleasant. The band was cranking it out at the Gazebo and there were people milling around everywhere - let the summer party season begin!

Anyway, we were sitting there enjoying a beautiful early summer evening when up walks Abe Lincoln. He was meeting and greeting the good people of Quincy and getting ready for the Lincoln In The District festival the next day in Washington Park. Turns out he is actually the Lincoln reenactor George Buss of Freeport, and George has this gig down, to Lincoln's mannerisms and high, reedy voice.

You look at him, a gangly man in a top hat and tails, and you think, "Geesh. Honest Abe, right in front of us?"

"Hello!" Abe said. "How are you on this fine evening?"

We couldn't resist. There were a million things we wanted to ask him, like, "Was Stephen Douglas really a horses' bleep" to "Speaking of horses' bleeps, what do you think about the Republican nominee this year?" to "Isn't it too hot to wear that big hat?"

But, instead, we asked him the ever-present and really important question of the evening.

"Mr. President," I said, "Would you like a beer?"

Abe looked down and stroked his chin and looked quite presidential. Here he was, just a shanked 9 iron away from the site of his 1858 debate with Douglas, and he was really being pressed.

"Back in my day, it was more about spirits," he said. "Some of us were into the more local beverages like corn liquor and such. It is a generous offer, but I will pass for now, thank you."

We kibitzed with him a while longer, posed for a few pictures, and Abe ambled off into the park to press the flesh and greet the good citizens of Quincy, who were very good to him back in the day. After all, Quincy was where the idea of him running for president was first presented, by a lawyer who had an office just down the block. (Man, I'd like have a beer with THAT guy some day.)

Only in Quincy can you be having a good time on the sidewalk at Fifth and Maine and then talk to one of the most famous people who ever lived. And not really think much of it.

My hat is much shorter, but I tip it to you anyway, Mr. Lincoln.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Love overcomes all

SORRY, YOU PIECE of bleep. You failed to realize killing 50 people and wounding a bunch more would only make us stronger, only make us reach out more.

You lost.

You shouldn't fight hatred with anger, but it's human. I'm venting. And in the end, there are lessons to take from all of this.

It's important to know who this person is and to figure out why he walked into a nightclub and started shooting people. But I've already forgotten his name. I already want to know more about the people who were killed, and how to help.

The shooter didn't realize lines would stretch for blocks, filled with people wanting to donate blood. There is a sense of helplessness when something like this happens. But we can do things, like give blood, donate to a worthy charity, try being a little more open-minded about mental illness.

The shooter couldn't have picked a worse day. Last night was the Tony Awards, long a platform for diversity. I didn't watch but I caught a couple of clips this morning and it seemed they had it figured out, kept the show going while keeping it respectful.

Refusal to cower in fear and hatred is a powerful thing, way more powerful than a POS with an assault rifle.

Could this have been stopped? Well. I'm not trying to scare you. But right here in our little slice of cocooned Midwestern living, there are unstable people walking around with exactly the same ideology and hatred. They. Are. Right. Here. And don't think what happened in Orlando couldn't happen in a sleepy little river town.

That's enough to scare anybody.

One last thing. We can continue the debate about gun control and the right to bear arms, always a political football. But those using this for political purposes are no better than the person who committed this atrocity. Making bigoted and uninformed remarks only paints you further into your dark corner.

Love, it seems, really does overcome all. That's what I'm choosing to focus on today.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Summer heat on the way

AROUND HERE WE call it 90/90 - It's 90-plus degrees and the humidity is 90-plus percent. In other words, it's summer in the Q-Town.

The warm weather arrives today, just in time for Blues In The District tomorrow. Saturday features the Lincoln In The District in Washington Park, and Tim Smith and I (the Smart Brothers) play from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Dock Saturday as part of the YMCA Mud Mania event.

People around here tend to shrug off the warm weather. It's better than freezing to death, right? For people who work and play in the heat, it's a good idea to drink water and be smart. Liz Bentley kicks off our acoustic Blues In The District shows Friday at 11:30 a.m., and we'll make sure she's in the shade. We have some other great acts lined up this summer and the Butcher Block will be there for your lunch needs, so we hope you come join us in Washington Park near Fifth and Maine.

If you want to beat the heat, Avenue Beat plays one of their final shows in Quincy before the girls head to Nashville. Sam, Sami and Savana play Friday night at One Restaurant at 8 p.m.

Speaking of Fifth and Maine, The District just announced that Wine on Broadway will be delivering beer and wine before Friday's Blues In The District concert. They will be at Fifth and Maine, and you can call ahead for your order at  (217) 641-0417. Remember this is for ordering purposes only .... no beverages will be sold on site. Second String Music has taken advantage of Wine on Broadway's deliveries several times. Ahem ... it's a good idea to order in instead of drive out when you are having a store function!

Katy Guillen & The Girls of Kansas City kick off Blues In The District, and we can't wait for another summer of music and fun downtown. Be here or be square!


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The anthem, rock and roll style

TWO WEEKS AGO I wrote about playing the national anthem at the Illinois Veterans Home as part of a Memorial Day event. I was really nervous. And I was shaking when I sang it in front of a packed house of veterans, family members and dignitaries.

I think it went well. Singing the national anthem and writing for a newspaper are a lot alike - if nobody says anything when you are done, well, you are getting it done. Nobody threw anything or complained, so I'm calling it good.

I haven't watched much of the Stanley Cup finals because I couldn't care less about San Jose or Pittsburgh, but Sheryl thoughtfully turned Game 4 on the other night. I couldn't believe it - the guys from Metallica were there, and James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett played the national anthem on guitars.

I am not a huge Metallica fan, but I have a new respect for the band and those two guys after they did a straightforward and rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Here's the clip below - you can feel the energy in the arena and you can tell the two guys had a blast.

Now THIS is a kick ass rendition! It's almost enough to make me want to learn it on guitar. Almost.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Avenue Beat and Nashville dreams

THE QUESTION WAS asked by one of the moms - "Do you really think the girls can make it in Nashville?"

Of course I do. But there's a lot more to Sam Backoff, Sami Bearden and Savana Santos pursuing their musical dreams than meets the eye. Their group, Avenue Beat, has done more than most in a few short years. The three girls graduated from Quincy High School last week and are moving to Nashville in July. They have management and are writing songs with some heavy hitters. They are on the road to being famous, whatever famous means.

As long as they don't forget where they've come from, they will be fine. I think they have the right perspective. "Famous is famous and famous people get free food," is how Sami puts it.

Hard to believe it's been three years since we saw them for the first time. They were at a music showdown contest at the Adams County Fair. Sami's microphone didn't work at the beginning of the song. Most young performers would panic and go off the rails. Not Sami, and not her two buddies. They shrugged it off and kept going. I remember thinking, "Who are these girls, and how did they learn to harmonize like that?"

Then we learned they weren't just into the usual country rubbish. They liked Elvis and Queen and Tom Petty. Yes, they swooned when hearing "Girl Crush" (they just wrote songs with the girl who wrote Girl Crush, BTW) and they did Ed Sheeran and Miranda Lambert covers. But Sami likes Broadway musicals, Savana is all over the place with her favorites and Sam is the same way. They defy a label or style. They swirl all over the place. They actually play instruments and write their own songs - no playing to tracks for these girls.

And those voices! Geesh. There is magic in the harmonies and they have no idea why it works, but they've worked hard at it and it's a beautiful thing.

They have great parents and stay grounded. They've stayed above the normal high school sniping fray and they don't worry about the things they can't control. They are regular kids and have a certain innocence about them - Savana just found her car keys and she's happy! But don't be fooled - they have a burning desire to be heard, and they aren't heading to Nashville to be pretty faces on a poster.

We knew they were serious when they wrote a song about a boy who treated one of them badly. They sang it at an open mic night right in front of the boy. Then they stared down at him defiantly. It. Was. Beautiful.

I think they can make it down there. The music industry is brutal and there are so many talented people sitting on street corners and dreaming of the big break. Will it happen for three girls from a sleepy little river town in Illinois?

I am not a betting man, but I bet they will, and have the times of their lives trying.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Painting flower beds

ART IS EVERYWHERE in downtown Quincy, including right beside Second String Music.

Lana Reed, marketing director of the Quincy Art Center, spent hours in the sun Saturday painting the concrete flower bed on the northeast corner of Fifth and Maine. The Art Center is teaming with The District, Arts Quincy, Great River Economic Development Foundation, Home Depot and the Midsummer Arts Faire to paint all 52 flower beds downtown.

"I work at the Art Center and I never really get to do much art, so this is fun to do," Lana said Saturday, squinting into the sun and looking at her creation. "It's a great way to do a community service thing and do art at the same time."

Some 20 artists are involved, and Lana says she hopes all 52 beds will be painted by July 1. Two other flower beds just up Maine Street in front of Kristopher's were also painted Saturday.

Lana chose a music theme for her project, since Blues In The District and the Midsummer Arts Faire takes place right across the street in Washington Park. She painted a guitar, a trumpet, a saxophone and a person singing on the pebbled surfaces. She used good outdoor paint so hopefully the planter paintings last a few years.

Downtown was hopping late Saturday morning due to the Quincy Farmer's Market. Seeing people creating art just added to the vibe and reminds us just how cool it is to be in The District.

Thank you Lana and the others who were down here Saturday.  I'm in awe of people who paint and draw - I do a mean stick figure, but that's about it. Sheryl and I appreciate the efforts to make things a little brighter and more fun down here.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Gnats and bugs in the backyard

I TRIED TO sit in the backyard this morning and soak in the beautiful early summer weather. But the gnats were too thick and they drove me inside.

Why are gnats spelled with a G? Why are they so gobnoxious? I don't understand. They likely get together after spawning in some sludge-filled pond or slimy rainwater bucket and say, "Let's buzz the poor SOB who is trying to drink his coffee outside. He doesn't have a job anyway."

Three nights ago the legendary Greg Ellery came over and we had a lovely evening by the fire pit. There were no gnats. Maybe the smoke drove them away, or our witty banter about The Room, acting and how to get from Michigan to Quincy in just five hours, instead of eight.

Then they appeared yesterday out of nowhere and they are particularly nasty this year. We even noticed them on our long walk this morning - walking and swatting gnats is no fun.

Gnats. The very word is irritating. I just Googled the word "irritating" so I could spell it, no thanks to the gnats. It's enough to make me say GUH - at least GUH has a hard G in front of it.

What is their purpose? Bird food? Aerial surveillance so no Trump supporter causes a riot in Calftown?

Go gaway, gnat.
Maybe our rainy spring has caused a gnat outbreak. They are even in Washington Park, and I sure hope the Outside People have bug spray. We are a week away from Blues In The District and we don't want gnats to gnaw on our gnether regions.

Sheryl has particularly sweet blood and the mosquitoes dive-bomb her at will. We've used two cans of bug spray already in the past week and it's not getting better - it might be time to get the ancient yet deadly bug zapper of doom out to cut down on the gnat population.

In the meantime, take steps to protect yourself from the gnats, even though gnothing seems to help.




Thursday, June 2, 2016

Hoorah for Quincy Farmer's Market

THE QUINCY FARMER'S Market continues to grow and try new things. We love it downtown at Fifth and Hampshire, the perfect location. They are having a big grand opening event this Saturday and Quincy Medical Group has partnered with the market with health-centered activities.
QMG Schedule for Saturday
Farmers Market

Saturday morning is the best time to do it. Local growers can get away from their gardens and farms for a few hours, and people enjoy a leisurely stroll to check out items. Somebody suggested keeping it open past noon - that would be great, but the market is just starting to gain traction, and noon is long enough for now.

I'm not sure what they are doing for music. A local street performer used to set up down there, but now I'm hearing he isn't coming back. I'm not getting in the middle of anything, but I do like the street vibe and live music really adds to the event.

Cheers to the organizers and vendors. Come downtown to see it for yourself Saturday morning, and, as always, support your small local businesses.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The local band scene

IT IS GETTING tougher for local bands around here, but the music scene in general remains strong.

Venues willing to play for good bands are becoming scarcer. I appreciate the good folks at One Restaurant for continuing to host concerts and open mic night. It's a tough deal for the venue owner - you can't have a cover charge, because nobody will pay it to see a local band. Can you sell enough beer to just break even?

Acoustic acts have always been strong around here. Every weekend there are either single performers or duos playing in the local bars and wineries. It's cheaper for the venue and it's easier to pull off the solo show than have the whole band come over, set up, blast it out for four hours, and tear it all down again.

Yet there are still bands out there soldiering on and playing gigs. I'd name them but then I'd forget one or two. The people around here know what they like and who is good, and I hope they continue to support the local music scene. And I like the newer groups forming like The Hook & The Hustle, Cheeks McGee's newest musical adventure.

Rumors are once again surfacing about The Cheeseburgers being done. Absolute and utter nonsense. We just had a gig this month pulled out from us by a careless venue owner (not in Quincy). It's frustrating but it happens. We are all busy and have lots of stuff going on, so we are kicking it back up again in August and have no plans to quit.

The Matt Roberts Blues Band is the only group around here I know of with standing weekly gigs. They've been playing Friday nights at Hooligans II at Fifth and York, and they play every Sunday night at the Club Tavern. They also have some bigger shows lined up later this summer, including the Rolling On The River blues festival in Keokuk.

One distressing aspect about our local scene is the lack of young bands. Somewhere In Between just played a show at One but two of the members are college kids who are home for the summer and it's not a full-time gig. At least they did play when they were all back in town.

Blues In The District starts a week from Friday, thank goodness. Don't forget there will be a noon acoustic act in Washington Park every time there is a Blues In The District show. And the Midsummer Arts Faire is right around the corner at the end of June, with more great entertainment showcased in the park gazebo.

Let the summer begin, and enjoy local and live music!