Sunday, July 29, 2012

Music, promotions and general rock and roll insanity

OUR SECOND STRING Music grand opening weekend started Friday night with Blues In The District. We had a boat-load of people in the store before it started, partied in the park with the awesome Laurie Morvan Band, then opened the store back up about 9 p.m.

Laurie was losing her voice and under the weather but was a trooper and a half. She played a couple of guitars, smiled and signed autographs and gave me a guitar pick I will treasure and frame. She had shows the next day in St. Louis and today in her hometown of Plainfield, up by Chicago. Sadly she has had to cancel her Plainfield gig due to laryngitis.  I am sure she is in much need of a good rest.  On a much smaller scale I can relate to the weekend grind. I know all she wanted to do was go to bed, but she couldn't have been more gracious and nice. Her family was with her as well and the guys and gal in her band were all smiles.

Our Saturday started heating up at about 10 a.m. and it never slowed down until the end of the day. At about 2:30, the amazing Ray Burke and his Los Angeles band, The Green Almighty, came in and by then you could hardly move, and we have a pretty big store. My guess is there were 80 to 100 people sardined in Second String Music, most to see Ray and his guys.

A lot of bands hide behind sheer volume and bluster. To play acoustically is to put yourself out there, and you have to be a musician, not a sledgehammer drill sargeant.

Tim Neighbors has one of the best rock and roll voices I have ever heard. Patrick Eck borrowed a Dean acoustic and made it sing (and he loved the guitar too). Ray's Martin acoustic bass bottomed and drove everything and drummer Charles Eck used a washboard and a conga.

They. Can. Play. And I'm a fan for life. CDs available in the store, by the way.

We finally trickled everybody out of there by 6:30, power napped and headed for Johnny Bang Bang's on the river. The place was packed already by 8:30 and the three bands didn't disappoint.

It's been a decade or so since Groove Stick was around, but powered by drummer Steve Cowser and singer Dennis Hibbard, they looked like they'd stepped on stage all week. Then came the much anticipated Forever reunion, a Quincy powerhouse of a band that came an inch from making it to the big-time but hadn't played here in 25 years.

They tore it down with volume and energy, and I especially have to give love to Jim Bier, who played guitar with Forever because the original guitarist opted out for the reunion. Jim will be teaching guitar lessons at the store starting next month and is one of those rare guys who knows when and where to play in songs. The guys in the band seemed stunned by the huge reception they got and they sounded amazing.

Finally, the Green Almighty took the stage and it was great to see so many people sticking around despite the fact it was almost midnight. It's hard to describe their sound - funky and in-your-face, groove-laced, creative, everybody on the same page, a vocalist with serious range and four guys who enjoy being on the stage.

You cannot fake enthusiasm and the sheer joy of playing. They are the best live band I've seen in many, many years. All I saw on the packed first-floor were people laughing and smiling and having the best time of their lives.

Ray and his guys gave us a couple of shoutouts from the stage. You can spend a lot of money on ads, but real appreciation and kind words from new friends in a packed venue are our best PR.

So, as Sunday morning falls along with the much-needed rain, Sheryl and I say a huge thank you to the bands, people and city of Quincy for making our lives a wild rock and roll ride.

What's everybody doing next weekend?

Monday, July 23, 2012

I Don't Like Mondays and power naps

WE CERTAINLY PLAY our share of interesting shows with The Cheeseburgers. Sunday we found ourselves playing at a Mississippi River camp north of Hogback Island for a private party, and it was a blast.

Sure, it was warm, but they put a big fan by the side of the stage and there was a breeze to boot. We brought plenty of water and Gatorade, and the Mai Tais didn't hurt either.

It was one of those fun gigs where the crowd was small but definitely into it. By the end of the night we had about 35 or 40 people hooting and hollering for more and we really enjoyed ourselves, and we played pretty well, too.

The thing about a Sunday show is that Monday rolls around way too soon, especially when you go back to the drummer's house and you jump in his pool with another cocktail. GUH. My butt was dragging big-time this morning and I missed my normal Sunday morning recovery routine. And the license plate of the rock and roll truck that ran us over was .... well. Too tired to figure it out.

So I went home at noon and took a 20-minute power nap and felt better, and now I'm ready for Pilates after another eventful day of Whigging and at the store.

And I'm going to be early tonight.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Farmer's Market and People Watching

DOWNTOWN QUINCY IS a very cool place to be on a summer Saturday morning.

Whoever came up with the idea for having a farmer's market in Washington Park, which is across the street from Second String Music, is a genius. You can find fresh homegrown produce, crafts, cheese, meats and all kinds of other stuff.

Toussaint Smith Sr. playing great music.
Our store is a great place to people watch. Young, old, black, white, crazy and sane, they all mix in and stroll the sidewalks. That's probably the best part of farmer's market - you have no choice  but to slow down and take a look at everything, instead of a hurried run to the grocery store.

Most of the vendors are just as interested in talking with you as selling their wares.

There's an older gentleman named Toussaint Smith Sr. who plays guitar and sings for tips, and the vendors around him were swaying to the music and laughing at his corny jokes. 

It's going to scorching hot again in Q-Town today, so a bunch of people are out while it's still bearable. I just went past the cheese stand and I might  have to go back and pick some up because it looks really tasty.

Fast Eddie likes to sit in front of the main entrance and people watch, too, and I'm joining him this morning, glad to be in downtown, glad to be part of a non-hurried life.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Alarm systems and bleeding ears

SO SHERYL ASKED me to open the store this morning. I don't get to do it often and I was kind of fired up.

We just had a new alarm system installed. I can now tell you it works, and works very well.

As I got to the door, there was a guy down the side banging on the glass. That, along with me opening the door, set the dang thing off, and this thing just roars with an ear-piercing shriek.

In my hurry to turn it off I must have not put the right code in. Then the phone rings and it's the alarm company. Then the po po show up. I finally took a deep breath (Sheryl is constantly and correctly telling me to do this) and I got it turned off.

Sheryl lets me vacuum.
The gal from the alarm company couldn't have been nicer and of course police officers Billingsley and Ludwig were totally cool about it. Plus they got a nice tour of the building, security information, of course. 

I listen to the scanner at work and about 99.9 percent of all burglar alarms are false alarms. Still, I feel like a schmo. Thank God for a wife who should probably go cross-eyed from rolling her eyes at all the dumb stuff I do.  (See Photo)

And ... it works!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New Words

WHAT IF YOU could say anything you wanted and not worry about what people thought?

I'd be in a lot of trouble. There are a lot of things I'd love to say but I gotta eat, so I wish it but shut it and stay out of mayhem's way.

To keep from going crazy,  I have decided to make up a new word every day for the rest of my life.

Today's word is "snorkledeimer." It can mean whatever you want it to mean.

Tomorrow's word is "belsmirchab." Because I feel like saying it out loud.

There. I feel better already.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Full Brain Syndrome

I AM UP before first light, unable to sleep, due to Full Brain Syndrome.

Everybody gets it. When your head swims and you can't shut down, you have FBS. There is no cure without side effects. So I'm watching the day slowly break, sipping hot coffee on my back porch while Bella The Destroyer chases a squirrel in the backyard. Lucy just opened the back porch door by herself to go out.

I refuse to cope with FBS by taking pills. Well, that's not entirely true. My doctor suggested I take melatonin, a "natural sleep aid." Does it work? If I tell myself it does, it must. Along with the baby asprin and men's OneADay pill, I am willing myself to good health one swallow at a time.

Over the years I've gotten better at leaving the job at home, but that's not always easy when you have dirtballs burned into your mind and you wonder what your next looming column will be about. The Police had a great song about it on Ghost In The Machine called "Too Much Information." Too much information, running through my brain, too much information, driving me insane.

In a few weeks I'll be on a beach that time forgot many miles from here and everything will go away. It will cure office burnout for a while. I hope.

I have a beautiful wife who is smart as a whip and is doing a great job running our business. I have to learn to be as involved as possible yet to stay out of the way, as well. Can we pay the rent and utilities in the big new space? What about the new lesson room we want to build? Will Frank Haxel cut his hands off building our new stage? Can we get in a new line of guitars?  What about keyboards and PA gear? 

Deep breath, Junior. It's always worked out and Sheryl will handle most of the details. So deal with it.

Speaking of Frank, our Cheeseburger Roadie of Doom, he has a saying, "We'll sleep when we're dead." There's a lot of truth to that. My hair ain't gray, it's just ... shinier. And sleep won't help it get less shiny.

We have two big Cheeseburger shows this weekend and haven't played or practiced in two weeks, so we'll have to pay extra attention to detail tonight in Hannibal and Saturday night at a potentially riotous private party. I am missing Blues In The District tonight and worry about Sheryl being at the store while 5,000 people flood the park across the street.

No worries. Big A, Alex Sanders, is officially on the payroll at Second String Music and they will be fine.

Must of dozed off for a second because it's 6 a.m. Bella is jumping around the backyard and putting her front paws on the fence because she sees a rabbit or cat next door. Lucy came back in and is protecting me, nose twitching, eyes darting. These dogs are happier than ants in sugar, worried only about their next Woodland walk and when they get to eat this afternoon, and a treat when they come inside.

Take the cue, Holmes. Maybe it will cure FBS. Another cup of coffee won't hurt either as the world awakes.

Bring it on, Friday!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I'll miss saying hello to Steve Winters

PEACE AND PRAYERS to the family of Steve Winters, who passed away Friday. Click here for his story.

I did not know Steve that well, but I used to see him quite a bit while doing the Fifth Street Crawl between the courthouse and the Whig building. He worked downtown too and he was always very pleasant. That's one of the nice things about living in a place like Quincy - you can't go far without seeing somebody you know during a three-block walk.

I knew a bit about him and learned a great deal more after reading his obituary. Seems to me this was a man who went through some interesting times and learned to appreciate life as he got older.

This pales in comparison to what family and friends are going through. But it's the little things. I will miss saying hello to Steve. Farewell and Godspeed, Mr. Winters. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Heat too hot

SUMMER AROUND HERE is usually a 90-90 deal. You know, 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity.

Except this past week it's been 100-plus degrees with 99 percent humidity. It's unfit for human habitation, and a lot of outdoor activities have been curtailed.

Second String Music's new location has AC. Sheryl and I have been really pleased with the foot traffic so far. We think the heat is actually keeping people from venturing out in general, but there are some hardy souls out there who don't let it bother them.

Had some fun at The Whig yesterday, going down the water slide at Indian mounds pool. Tonight we head to the Mays clan gathering at Spring Lake for fireworks and more fun.

Stay cool, friends!

Quincy Herald-Whig | Illinois

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Big Move

IT'S OFFICIAL. SECOND String Music is now at the corner of Fifth and Maine in an incredible space. Our first day just ended and it was huge, especially since we still don't have a sign on the door and we are relying on word of mouth and social media to get the word out. John Roope once again makes SSM history by being the first person to buy something in the new store. Sniff sniff ....

The move couldn't have gone more smoothly. Our last day in the old store is a blur now, with memories of epic jam sessions and lots of laughs. I went off to get Cheesey and Sheryl basically packed up the store Saturday night. See? Staying out of the way helps. Just ask Sheryl.

Sunday, right-hand man Frank Haxel and I were amazed at how organized and ready everything was to move. The guys started showing up, and I will forever be indebted to .... Steve Rees, Don VanDyke, Dale Winner, Jeff Vankanegan, Greg Ellery, Bill Calkins, The Mighty Adam Yates, Konnor Bland and Kohl Kerkhoff.

Last but not least, the legendary Alan Lawless showed up with "The Great White Buffalo," a big old white truck with a long ramp. I will never forget Bill, a Quincy Police Department officer, directing traffic on Eighth Street as Alan backed the truck to the door. "I need a vest and a whistle," Bill said. With so much good help, the heavy display cases and piano were no problem, and by 1:30 the old store was history and it was time for a cold beverage in the new location.

Don and Alan stuck around with Frank and helped with slotwall and other items. We even christened the place right with a little Sidewalk Chalk practice Sunday night.

It's good to have loyal customers and great friends. Sheryl and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  Second String Music is ready to take things to a new level.

Let the adventure begin!