Friday, June 28, 2013

Has It Really Been A Year?

Anniversary Party!
THIS WEEKEND WE celebrate our one-year anniversary of the move from Eighth and Washington to downtown Quincy. It's the best thing we've ever done at Second String Music. Well, except for getting Frank Haxel to build us lesson rooms.

There's a bunch of stuff going on this weekend, including the Midsummer Arts Faire, so come on down to celebrate with us. Click here for our Facebook link about our one-year party. Tonight things kick off with the awesome Soulard Blues Band from St. Louis in Washington Park's Blues In The District.

It's hard to believe it's been a year. What I remember most is that Sheryl packed everything up and we went off to play a Cheeseburger gig up in Keokuk. We showed up early Sunday morning all bleary-eyed and moved stuff in 110-degree heat and 90 percent humidity. The legendary Alan Lawless showed up with his Great White Buffalo truck to get the heavy stuff, and Bill Calkins directed traffic on Eighth Street while chatting up some former gang-bangers who lived around the corner.

We got everything unloaded, and I distinctly remember drinking a beer at about 3 p.m. with a couple of the guys, including Jeff VanKanegan, Alan, Frank and others. I thought, "Wow. We've moved. What the heck are we doing?"

Within a week we figured out our business was doubling just because of the new location.

I drive past the old store and it's very sad. A great building sits vacant because of indifferent out of town landlords and I'd better stop now or I'll get in trouble.

Our new landlord is awesome. We have grown and we have big plans to announce soon. Our friends at Vancil Performing Arts have also moved to a new building in Calftown and they have other things in the works too. Come on over and see Frank by the bank vault and he'll show you himself.

It's time to celebrate and to keep dreaming of the possibilities. It's been a great year. Here's to many more!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

As The River Rises

WE ARE USED to the Mighty Mississippi River rising. Every spring there's a threat, with some years bad and some years quiet.

But when the river starts rising in June and July, well, we are in trouble.

Click here for the latest Whig story about the river going up. The reason it's rising has nothing to do with the weather around here - it's all about what happens north of us. Because, like life, it's coming down the stream.

There have been heavy storms north of us, which means a lot of water gets dumped in the river, which means it's all coming our way.

You can control a lot of things, but you can't control what happens around you, for the most part. Doesn't matter if you are an owner of a small business, raising a family or planning for the future.

Or play in a band.

You do what you gotta do and keep an eye on the rising levels, and you hope the levee holds and the river stops rising.

It's all about weathering the storm.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Song Hits Home

I HAVE A guitar student, let's call her Alaina. She just graduated from high school and has been taking lessons for six or seven months. Like most of my students, she's decided to get better and her hard work and determination has made her soar.

I love giving lessons to students like Alaina. She is a quick learner. She laughs at herself a lot. And she's just generally a very sweet and happy girl. And every week she discovers something new, something to help her grow as guitar player. The more she plays, the better she gets.

At a recent lesson we were talking about strum patterns. One of the songs I like better students to learn is Green Day's "Time Of Your Life" because it has a distinct bass-string pick pattern to it, and it has open chords. It is not an easy song to play and has some really cool stuff going on, chord changes and subtle walk-downs.

But when I played the first few notes for Alaina, tears filled her eyes, and we stopped. Turns out her best friend is leaving town soon and "Time Of Your Life" is her favorite song.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I don't know why I did that. I guess it just hit me."

Apology completely and utterly unnecessary, Alaina.

Music is a powerful thing. It can evoke memories and emotions the second you hear a note or part of a song. It does far more than just back-drop our lives, it becomes a very part of our lives.

When I hear a song from the greatest rock album ever made, Who's Next, I'm instantly transported back to being a clueless and dorky high school kid, laying on his bedroom floor with the cheap boom box cranked all the way up. Anything from The Cars first album and I'm suddenly in my first apartment with my crazy roommates and all the chaos those first freedoms brought.

Songs remind you of what-ifs, and the good times. If I hear the Moody Blues' Knights In White Satin, I'm going to the back room of Vegas Music with the late Pat Cornwell belting it out during Funions practice.

Alaina is discovering the power of music. We can learn all about barre chords and scales and hammer-ons and strum patterns, but that stuff is minor.

When music becomes a part of you, then you get it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Happy Monday Musings

A VERY HAPPY Monday morning to you. I'm still trying to recover from humid Cheese, driving home from the Lou in a massive thunderstorm and letting firefighters win at bags as we celebrated birthdays. Happy birthdays to Steve Pezzella and Stephanie Yates, much fun at the Mighty Adam Yates' place last night!

And it just keeps getting crazy around here. Friday night is Blues In The District and the beginning of the Mid-Summer Arts Faire in Washington Park. Saturday night we get Cheesey for the crazy people at the Keokuk South Side Boat Club. Tomorrow I'm joined by Rock A. Bye Johnny B. at the Quincy Medical Group luncheon picnic.

Summer guitar lessons have not slowed down - I'm picking up students right and left.

Sheryl and I are trying to figure out what to do for our one-year anniversary of the big move to Fifth and Maine, which comes at the beginning of July. It might involve a party. DUH. And I might have to make room in the fridge.

And I'm ignoring the weeds sprouting in my lawn.

Life. Is. Good.

Friday, June 21, 2013

50 Shades of Cheese

TONIGHT WE PUT the pedal to the metal and really start the summer right with a Cheeseburger gig at the "Smokin' Good Times" BBQ contest at the Knights of Columbus, 36th and State. It's warm but dry, there are supposed to be a million people out there and it's free and open to the public. There's a lot of stuff going on in the Q-Town this weekend, but if you want to start things off right, come on over and git Cheesey with us.

This is part of our "50 Shades of Cheese" tour. We are playing tonight with former Cheeseburger guitarist John Hodge, who was with us a few weeks ago at the United Way volleyball fundraiser and hasn't skipped a beat. I love playing with John and I'm hoping he brings a stogie or two or three.

John and former Cheeseburger bass player Jeff VanKanegan are playing Saturday night at the Adams County Fairgrounds with Zeke Cernea, opening for country music legend Tracy Lawrence. Zeke is finishing up his new CD project and got John, Jeff and Classics drummer Kevin Vandament to play on it - in other words, four of the best musicians in Quincy. Can't wait to hear it!

Anyway, the summer is a busy time for the Burgers, save for a few weeks in August, and here's are schedule through the rest of the year.

Friday, June 21 - K of C, 7 p.m.
Saturday, June 29 - Keokuk South Side Boat Club, 8 p.m.
Friday, July 5 - Down On The River, Hannibal, 7 p.m.
Saturday, July 6 - Private Party, Mendon
Saturday, July 13 - Keokuk South Side Boat Club, 7 p.m.
Saturday, July 20 - Wedding reception, Houghton, Iowa
Sunday, July 21 - Private party, Quincy
Friday, July 26 - Clark County Fair, Kahoka, Mo., 8 p.m.
Saturday, July 27 - Private Party, Quincy
Friday, Aug. 2 - One Restaurant, Quincy, 8:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 30 - Spirit Knob Winery, Ursa, Ill., 7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 31 - Cave Hollow West Winery, Hannibal, Mo., 7 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 1 - Keokuk Yacht Club, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 14 - Wedding reception, Mount Sterling
Sunday, Sept. 22 - Private party, Hannibal
Saturday, Oct. 12 - Quincy Germanfest, 9th and York, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 19 - One Restaurant, Quincy, 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 26 - Terstriep Halloween Party, Payson, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 2 - Quincy Elks Lodge, TBA
Saturday, Nov. 30 - Keokuk South Side Boat Club, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 7 - Private Party, Quincy
Saturday, Dec. 14 - Private Party, Quincy
Saturday, Dec. 21 - One Restaurant, Quincy, 8:30 p.m.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Vancil moves, all the way across the parking lot

OUR FRIENDS AT Vancil Performing Arts made the big announcement today - they are moving the music department across the parking lot to a new building. See the official news below. It's an incredible space with all kinds of room. It might make a nice rehearsal space for Sidewalk Chalk. Hmmm .....

Vancil and Second String Music began partnering soon after SSM opened more than two years ago. It's benefited us both greatly. And poor Frank Haxel - wrong place and wrong time, time after time, and now he's stuck being the Cheeseburger roadie.

We have more announcements coming for both businesses, and they are huge, so stay tuned. If you want a clue, ask Frank what he's been doing in our old bank vault.

Four and a half years ago the Vancil Performing Arts Center Music Department opened in our wonderful little space at 819 Ohio. Thanks to the support of the Quincy area, our students, our wonderful staff and friends of Vancil Performing Arts Center we have now outgrown that space. So, on July 15 we will be moving to our beautiful new location at 531 South 8th street (white brick building on the northeast corner of 8th and Ohio). We are so excited! This new space will have larger lesson rooms, rooms for group classes, a larger waiting room and much more. And the best part; it is less than 200 feet from our current location. We love our historic Quincy Calftown area and just can’t express enough how happy we are to be putting this building to good use. Feel free to stop in and check out the new location anytime. Thank you again Quincy!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Nephew Josh is in the Q-Town

MY NEPHEW, JOSH, is here for a visit. He lives in Denver and came with his mother, my youngest sister, yesterday. She's dropped him off for a few days and he will have a blast.

Josh is nearly 13, full of questions and just generally a happy boy. He is content to pluck on instruments and hang out at the store with his laptop. He loves walking the dogs and building campfires in the backyard. Since I have lots of lessons and Sheryl is busy in the store, he's pretty much on his own and he's doing just fine.

He will help Frank Haxel be a roadie at our Friday night Cheeseburger gig, and I might take him to a Gems game, down to the lock and dam, maybe a neighborhood swimming pool.

I'm trying to think of what I was like at that age and I really can't. I made some long trips as a youngster, including a memorable visit to California when I was in fifth or sixth grade to hang out with my grandparents. I loved getting on a plane and the sense of adventure, and I think Josh is the same way.

Plus he's family. So it's all cool. I hope he enjoys his stay with his Uncle Rotknee and Aunt Sheryl. All he has to do is be a kid, and we are going to have a grand time!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

No time is the best time

Cousin Klaas learned in a hurry not to steal my Hoser beer during the campfire jam. Fun fun fun!

JUST GOT BACK from a glorious trip to Ontario for a Hart Family Rebellion. Sheryl survived. It was a great time.

We stayed on an island on the Georgian Bay north of Barrie, a YMCA camp known as Kitchie. We took a ferry to the island from Honey Harbor. Camp Kitchie provided a place to sleep and meals. I sat in the early summer sun all day Saturday, and played guitar all night Friday and Saturday. I got blisters on me fingers. It's a beautiful thing.

Much love and thanks to my aunt Willa, who organized the whole event, and to my cousin Natalie and her family for taking us from Grand Rapids to Hoserland. The border crossings were a breeze, maybe we were good luck.

I haven't worn a watch in five days and I'm so much better for it. When you go to a place like this, time does not exist, unless you hear a dinner bell. You. Just. Hang.

I was amazed Friday and Saturday nights at how time flew when we were jamming by the campfire. I have some very talented family guitar players and it was more fun than should be allowed. You know you are getting old when your hand hurts after you've played all night.

My favorite part was getting the staff of young people to sing "Fat Bottom Girls" with us. YCMIU. Stay young forever, Camp Kitchie staff.

I'm ready to do it again next year!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Big Hoser Adventure

OFF THE GRID here for a few days. All is well. Sometimes you just need to unplug everything and forget about the world.  Second String Music will still be open.  Come in and visit with Steve Rees, Evan Boyer and Spencer Smith.  They want to make a good impression on us and sell a bunch of guitars!

Back next week with some tall and true tales. I really wish I could prepare poor Sheryl for meeting the Hoser side of the Hart family. GUH.

Canada here we come!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Twister Family Sister

TIM SMITH PLAYS with us in our Pepper Spray group. Tim is the father of three great kids, and last Saturday he was on Dad duty since his wife was out of town.

So Tim did what any good dad does when he has the kids. He took them to Second String Music and they jammed.

A family that plays Twisted Sister stays together. Take that, Tipper Gore.

Love love love love DOUBLE ALL CAPS love. Thanks Tim!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Simply Playing

I DID SOMETHING this morning I haven't done in ages - I went upstairs and played my guitar.

When you co-own a music store, when you have 30-plus guitar students, when you play in three bands, when you are engulfed in music all day and every day, well .... you take things for granted.

This happened to me at The Whig. I grew tired of writing stories about meth-headed dirtballs, fundraisers, boring board meetings, and special section articles about windows, unfortunate families and how to have parties. If you are a reporter, and if you don't treat every single story you do with passion and precision, it's time to get out.

This music thing isn't stale. I still pinch myself and realize how lucky I am. But sometimes you need to do something simple to remind yourself why you got into it in the first place.

I preach this to my students all the time - just play. Doesn't matter if it's a song, or a couple of notes, or learning a scale or a riff. Just. Play. As much as you can. The better students are the ones who practice and enjoy it.

So. That's what I did. I went upstairs and just played, nothing in particular. My new Reverend guitar sounds great, just piddling around, just making noise.

It's the little things, you know.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Coach Coles is a legend

VERY SAD TO HEAR about the passing of former Central Michigan University and Miami of Ohio hoops coach Charlie Coles. Click here for more.

He was the coach at Central when I was a student there, and he once had a "Gong Show" tryout when he lost a couple of players. He nicknamed me "Lurch" and told me to get in shape after I about passed out after a scrimmage.

His press conferences were can't-miss events. After a game in Toledo, Coach Coles and his team were at the far end of the floor when he saw me. "HEY LURCH!" he boomed. I about jumped 10 feet in the air.

He was a great coach and a funny man. Prayer and peace to his family.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

I remember getting married - I think

TWO YEARS AGO yesterday, Sheryl and I got married in our backyard. Hard to believe and time flies when you are having fun.

I married way over my head. Nuff said.

I was probably yelling at the neighbor to stop mowing.
What I remember the most is asking my neighbor if he could shut off his lawnmower for a few minutes so we could proceed. We had a backyard full of people and it was warm. I walked down the sidewalk with my daughter Emily, my surrogate mother, Anne Mays, and Bella The Destroyer. K.B. Konte blew her kazoo during the five-minute ceremony and then pronounced us man and wife. Sheryl actually put down her wine glass to say "I do." My shorts were wrinkled. I'd played shows the two nights before with the Cheeseburgers and I was tired.

But I was happy.

We had an awesome jam session with Rock A Bye Johnny B, also known as Jon Barnard, and Paul Lester. My buddy Hank played the bongos, and Greg Ellery and Sheryl's sister, Steph Boyer, grilled a fabulous meal.

Mostly I remember it was just a lot of fun and very unconventional, a celebration of Sheryl now having health insurance.

The next morning I went to work. GUH. Life is so much better now.

If you've already been around the block and you are getting married, don't bow to societal norms and wasted a lot of money on a lavish ceremony. Instead, waste your money on Bloody Mary mix and a kazoo for the preacher who marries you.

It's the only way to go.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Real Cheeky Music Video

CONGRATS GO OUT to our good friend Ryan "Cheeks McGee" Christian, who had his music video released last night at Martini's 515 before a standing room only crowd.

Cheeks is one of the good guys around here, an original musician and very humble guy who just likes to play. He hangs out at our Friday jams sessions every now and then and if you get a chance to catch his one-man band shows, do it.

The video was shot by Chris Kelley and the Table 16 Productions crew, who did our Second String Music video last month.

Congrats again to Cheeks! Love the downtown Quincy shots and the Woodland Cemetery scenes.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Visiting Uncle Rotney

WE ARE FLUNG out over the four corners of this great country. So it's always way cool when a family member comes for a visit.

In this case, it's my nephew, Josh. He's what, 11, 12? Shame on Uncle Rotknee for not knowing. He's like a weed because he grows so fast, I do know that.

Josh is the son of my youngest sister, Charys, who lives in Denver. She is coming to St. Louis for business later this month and hopes to bring Josh with her, and then have him come up for a week to hang in the Q-Town.

Josh will have a blast roaming our store building, seeing the Mighty Mississippi River, maybe catching a Cheeseburger gig.

I remember being a kid and visiting my crazy aunts and uncles in Toronto. I had the time of my life, going to Blue Jays and Leafs games, roaming the city, staring up at the CN Tower and getting a sore neck.

Quincy isn't Toronto, but has its own set of charms and quirks. Seems to me Josh knows what an adventure is like, so he'd have a great time.

Come to the Q-Town, Josh! Your big dorky Uncle Rotknee and Aunt Sheryl would love to see you, as would your Big Cousin, Emily. We don't have to make a lot of plans, we'll just hang out and get into trouble, with any luck.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Photographers are a vanishing breed

THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES announced last week it was laying off its entire photo staff. There was a huge outcry in the journalism industry and all kinds of accusations flung back and forth.

But really, what is the big surprise?

I've known a lot of photo guys and gals. Most were very good. I enjoyed working with Phil Carlson and Mike Kipley at The Herald-Whig. While I certainly enjoyed taking photos and doing videos, it was a lot better with one of those guys along to handle the visual content, so I could concentrate on the reporting.

During my years in sports at The Alpena News, I got used to shooting my own pics because the first photo editor I worked with was lazy and clueless. Thank goodness I can't remember his name. Then I came to Quincy and The Whig discouraged us from taking our own photos. I was good with it, but I knew back then things would change.

It came during my final years as a reporter, when we were finally given digital cameras and ordered to do more video. Of course this wasn't supposed to be done at the expense or effort of our usual reporting duties. I was all for it, and it's the nature of the beast - do more with the same or less.

It's the American way, you know.

Supposedly the Sun Times will be leaning more on stringers and outside help for photography duty. And the paper wants to do more with video. In the end, it's all about the bottom line - 28 less people to pay.

 How will it affect the paper?

I don't know. I don't read it. I don't go online to check it out. I'll stay in touch with some Chicago friends to find out. I suspect there won't be a huge difference and life will go on in the Windy City.

Change. Adapt. Do more with way less. Sadly, it's a familiar song and dance.