Monday, September 30, 2013

Back To Church

I DID SOMETHING Sunday night I haven't done in a few years.

I went to church.

Chuck Hetzler is the new pastor at First Union Congregational Church at 12th and Maine. I have a lot of history at First Union, most of it good. I got put on the executive board and spent eight years as either secretary or board president, and it was too much. That and a clash of ideas how to approach music in the church, along with some drastic life decisions, led to me leaving about six or seven years ago.

I honestly did not miss it, though I did miss some of the people. It had absolutely nothing to do with the pastor, or any kind of theological beef.

When Chuck got the job, I was intrigued. His mother, Clarice, is one of the good people around here. And Chuck struck me as a non-preachy kind of guy.

I am tired of being bashed over the head by religion. I struggle with proclaiming the Gospel vs. respecting other people's rights and beliefs. I can spot phony a mile away, and too much of religion today is phony.

So. I am starting over. I played guitar last night at Chuck's new contemporary service. It was a blast playing with the legendary Bruce Rice and the band. All I had to do was strum the guitar and enjoy a completely unstructured service. No offering, no designated prayer time, no sermon, just praise and worship.

Baby steps, Holmes.

I'll be back next week.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Compassion, not bullets

THIS IS WORTH your time, I promise.

Check out Bono's statements around the 9:00 mark. We can spend trillions on bullets, but comparative pennies on compassion.

And it makes all the difference in the world, and at home.

P.S. - I'm using U2 songs in guitar lessons, and they rock!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A great time playing with Steve Rees

I HAD A blast playing last night at One Restaurant with Steve Rees. It was a last-second gig, since the scheduled act bailed. We didn't advertise much and it was pretty low-key, but it was a great experience.

Steve is a real musician. He has an incredible voice and he plays a mellow acoustic guitar without a pick. We alternated songs and it was a study in contrast - I more or last bash straight ahead, while he actually plays the guitar and has beautiful melodies and structure.

One of my guitar students, Bella Sonethongkam, played a few songs as well, and all I have to say is that a young gal who can sing and play like that is destined for great things.

I love playing in the band element, with the energy and the rush, but playing acoustic guitar with a guy like Steve is really what it's all about.

Let's do it again!

Also, don't forget that Steve runs the Open Mic Night at One every Thursday night, so get out and support local musicians. The first few weeks have gone very well and I hope it continues.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Criticize? Really?

THERE IS A big flap right now in country music because Zac Brown dissed another singer. I haven't heard the song, won't listen to the song, and I can listen to Zac Brown without throwing up, so it's all good.

I stupidly clicked on a website to read about it, and off to the side were two other links. One was about "Country stars photographed without makeup." The other was about somebody cheating on somebody else.

Maybe the problem isn't the songs. It's like blaming the media for everything - only after you read or watch.

Anyway, it is not a good idea to be critical of other people's music, or other artists. An opinion is like your nose - everybody has one, it often smells, and most of the time it's a good idea to be quiet about it.

Off the soap box. For now.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hangers-on vs. Customers - What To Do?

THERE IS NO right or wrong or easy answer to this question, but, what do you do with people who are just killing time in your store and playing expensive instruments?

I'm tolerant. I like people to consider Second String Music as a hangout, to try our stuff, to feel at home and comfortable.

But we deal with a small number of folks who come in, have nowhere to be during the day, and are a bit, well, obnoxious. They are looking for a place to kill time.

We had this situation yesterday, and it didn't end well. I felt a bit bad until I realized that this is a business, not a social services, recreational, counseling, and/or I'm here to impress my girlfriend hangout.

As I type this, a polite young man is in the store. He is buying guitar strings. He is playing some nice guitars at a low volume, and I suspect he's dreaming of the day he can afford a nice guitar.

I like it. He can stay as long as he wants.

And he's making me feel better about life in general.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Spontaneous Strumming

GREAT FUN SATURDAY night at a friend's house. They have a "Green Hour Lounge" where you can perform, with no rules. Poetry, skits, newscasts, music .... anything!

Guitar player weeps while Mike and Nadine sing.
The awesome Nadine Mitchell wanted to sing, so we came up with a couple of songs, and I strummed really lightly on a borrowed guitar to stay out of the way. Man .... tell me there is anything better than a gal who can sing, and I don't mean breathy pop-star auto-tune crooning. Her version of "Rainbow Connection" with husband Michael was classic, and Kermit The Frog sounded great, too.

Sunday afternoon The Cheeseburgers played at the Hannibal Country Club. It was an older crowd and they wanted "oldies" they knew. Well, when you hire us, you know what you are getting, and we do play more than a few 60s and 70s songs, but we do what we do.

At the end of the night, somebody demanded we play "Proud Mary." Tim Lawless knew it, we followed, Burt made up some words, and we pulled it off. And the already happy people were even happier.

Gotta love the unpredictable nature of playing music. Keeps you on your toes and keeps you young. Even if you are older.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Free weekend. Whoot Hoot!

FOR THE FIRST time in forever, I have a free weekend. Sort of.

No Cheeseburgers gigs on a Friday/Saturday for the first time in nearly two months. Not a bad thing - we practiced last night, have more new songs in the chamber, and we start a busy stretch in a couple of weeks. We do play a rare Sunday afternoon gig out of town.

No Pepper Spray gigs. Next Saturday we play at a private backyard party, more fun than should be allowed!

We love to play. But sometimes it's nice to have a little down time. I might even get to watch my Wolverines Saturday night.

Have yourself a safe and happy weekend, and there are plenty of things to do if you are out and about, just check the Local Q calendar.

And, one more nice media blast about the building is here.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Excellent media coverage

THE LOCAL MEDIA has done a very good job with the story of us buying the historic Dodd Building, home of Second String Music since July 2012.

It started when Matt Hopf of The Herald-Whig found out we were meeting with the city to get the Revolving Fund money for renovations. This is a public meeting, so Matt attended it and then wrote a story.

I would have rather waited until we formally signed the papers, but Matt simply did his job, and the information is public, and he did a very good job. We loved Mike Kipley's photo in Wednesday's paper showing Sheryl helping a customer, me doing nothing and both Lucy and Fast Eddie lounging.

Yesterday Jim Whitfield from KHQA came over and his story is below. It's very well done, and it carries the message that without the city's help, we would not be buying this building and investing in downtown Quincy.

WGEM was here this morning, and they are doing live shots at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. today from Fifth and Maine. The Quincy Journal will be here next week.

So far, so good. I'm biased, of course, since I worked at The Whig for 16 years. It's nice to be on the other side and I appreciate the good work done by our local media.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Holy Bleep, We Just Bought The Building

IT'S OFFICIAL. WE are about to become owners of the historic Dodd Building at Fifth and Maine, home of Second String Music since July 2012.

Sheryl and I have two reactions. First, "WHAT THE BLEEP ARE WE DOING? OMG" That was in all caps, by the way. And second, "It's an adventure, and let's get started!"

Sheryl went to a meeting Tuesday and we learned our request for a loan from the city to renovate the second floor has been approved. We are working with Bank of Springfield and we should sign the papers before the end of the month.

And then there will be a party.

This proves a couple of things. We are rocking at Fifth and Maine. You can own a business and make it thrive with hard work (Sheryl's mantra is "Slow and steady wins the race."). You need imagination and faith to run a small business. We also feel that the city and downtown wants us to succeed.

The cat came out of the bag yesterday when Matt Hopf wrote a story for The Whig about the meeting with the city. We were hoping to keep it quiet until we actually signed the papers, but it's no big deal. Plus Lucy the Border Collie of Doom is in the photo.

We will have a press conference in a few weeks detailing more of our plans for the five-story building. We will start with the second floor. If you are interested in leasing space, let me know because we already have a lot of interest.

Again ... let the adventure begin! To our friends and customers, Sheryl and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and it's going to get better and better.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Downtown rocks, and Q-Town knows it

THERE WAS A letter in Friday's Herald-Whig about the Newcomb fire, downtown Quincy and the future. Other than being inaccurate and the author needing glasses, it was fine.

Click here for the link.

I'd reply, but Travis Brown of the Quincy Historic Business District already took care of that.

The author is welcome to visit any downtown business, including Second String Music, and we'd be glad to set him straight.

And .... stay tuned. We have a big meeting this afternoon with the city, and we'll have news shortly about our building and our long-term vision for Fifth and Maine.

Also, fine work by the Quincy Police Department in making an arrest in connection with the fire, is your best source for updates, if you aren't stopped by the paywall.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Wedded bliss and the party band

Perfect day for a wedding! Photo courtesy Susan Miller.
THE CHEESEBURGERS PLAYED the Bordenkircher wedding Saturday night near Mount Sterling, and we had a blast. It was a great example of how to organize a party and how to treat the band.

We are leery in general of playing weddings. It is a party, but receptions aren't always planned out and the band often feels like an afterthought. If we know the people involved, it makes things much easier. In this case, we'd met them a year earlier and they saw us play, so we all knew what to expect.

This event took place on the family property beside a beautiful lake. Coupled with perfect weather, it was a magical day.

The groom's father contacted us well in advance and made sure he knew what we needed. He met us when we rolled up to a huge tent beside the lake. He showed us the stage, thanked us profusely and told us to find him if we needed anything.

We felt at home from the start. They made sure to let us know we could eat and drink just like the rest of the guests. They had an itinerary and they stuck with the times and the plan. The Hy-Vee catering guys were very easy to work with and we got in and out for setup by working together.

A friend of the bride and groom played the first song. Ahhhhhh .... !
We played on a small wooden platform. No rickety flatbed trailers here! Generators provided power, and though we had a few bumps with the juice, it was mostly smooth.

The wedding party decided they were going to party. It's as simple as that. They let go and had a blast, dancing and laughing the night away. They made requests and by the end of the night we were playing "I've Got Friends In Low Places" and the place came unglued. We sort of knew it, and that's putting it politely. It might have been the single worst rendition of a Garth song, but it was near the end of the night and the wedding party loved it.

The Cheeseburgers love to play and we work hard to put on a good show, but we don't take ourselves too seriously and we go with the flow.

The groom's father is an experienced musician and he got up and sang several songs with us. One we didn't know but figured it out, and it was way too much fun.

The bride and groom stuck around to the very end, making sure we had light to tear down, giving us food to take on the trip back, and just generally making us feel like we were a big part of their special day.

Best of luck, Matt and Hannah. We had a great time, and thanks for letting us be a part of it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

No picture, sorry

SHERYL AND I enjoy sitting on the sidewalk at Fifth and Maine. It's never dull. You see all kinds of people, and the rubberneckers have been dangerous but entertaining since the Newcomb fire.

We can see the Gardner Museum at Fourth and Maine now that the Newcomb is down. It's a very sad thing, don't get me wrong, but the Newcomb was a rearing and space-sucking building in disrepair, and if it had to go, well ... so be it.

I had a Facebook status yesterday about how nice the view was, and one response was, "Photo?" Well, yes, we live in that day and age, and we have to see everything, but sometimes I think the picture isn't worth the 1,000 words.

You can see some incredible Newcomb photos on The Whig's blog, Between The Lens. And I'll get Sheryl to take a photo, eventually.

Right now, however, I'm soaking up the new view.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Post Irish, I like Charlie a lot more

GREAT STORY ABOUT former Notre Dame Figthing Irish coach Charlie Weis on the Grantland site, click here. And yes, it is now the Figthing Irish, promise.

I didn't like him when he was the Notre Dame coach. Turns out he doesn't like ND, either.

So I like Charlie Weis a lot more now.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sore neck? Eyes on the road, Holmes ....

OUR SIDEWALK IS a great place to watch the Newcomb coming down. So is our roof. If you are in your car, and you are at Fifth and Maine, a piece of friendly advice - WATCH OUT. Yeah, I used all caps. There are lots of people walking around, and traffic is stop and go. Do not dislocate your neck if your vehicle is moving forward. Park it, then gawk.

There. I feel better already.

In far more important news, I had a great guitar lesson this morning, and everything is better after a great guitar lesson. And I'm ignoring uninformed Facebook posters. It's not their fault they are clueless. So things keep getting better and better.

Carry on, Q-town!

"I thought someone should do something, and then I remembered, I am someone." - Bob Mays

Monday, September 9, 2013

Quit Pointing Fingers About The Fire

The view from the top of SSM, taken by Sheryl.

OF COURSE THERE are loony conspiracy theorists out there after the Newcomb Hotel burned Friday night. They can't help it if they are crazy. Leave 'em be.

The massive structure is one block from us at Second String Music. I was worried to death when hearing about it. Thankfully the wind was blowing straight from the south and not toward us .... you could see the JC Penney fire some 20 years ago happening again, and igniting other buildings blocks away.

But to the people who get mad and blame Quincy in general about the building being vacant all these years, well, quit pointing the finger. Three fingers are pointing back at you.

The city should have never sold the building to the guy from Chicago. I'm not even using his name, it makes me ill just thinking about it. But hindsight is pure gold, right? And how come for all these years nobody in Quincy stepped up to take over the property and revive it? Why do you think that is?

Money talks, the BS walks.

We were just days away from a group in Iowa taking over. Supposedly they had one success story after the other. I had my doubts. Now we will never know.

All I know is that I'm sick and tired of out of town landlords who couldn't care less about our city, our history, the way things are for us. Go over to Eighth and Washington, if you want an example, but don't trip over the massive weeds growing in the sidewalk of our old location.

Knock the Newcomb Hotel down, and let's get on with creating new history at Fourth and Maine and in Downtown Quincy.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Another Wild Music Weekend

SHERYL AND I had a fabulous time at One Restaurant's first Open Mic Night Thursday. You can read more here. It was great to see some of my guitar students and Second String Music customers on the stage performing. There is some serious talent in Quincy!

Saturday we will be hosting the Six String Heroes event in the store, click here for more info. At 3:30 I'm playing for the Liz Bentley Honor Flight fundraiser at the American Legion Hall, 116 N. Eighth, and at 7 p.m. The Cheeseburgers play at the Blessed Sacrament Septemberfest at Eighth and Adams.

Looks like more rock and roll recovery looms! Have a great weekend and please be safe out there.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

More police is not the answer

THERE WAS A meeting last night involving residents of the northwest side and city officials. Residents say there are huge problems in the area, and it's a good thing to bring them to light.

Click here for The Whig's take on the meeting. If you get pay-walled, the story basically reports residents complaining about a variety of issues, from drugs to unruly juveniles to lewd behavior.

One person said the area is neglected because nobody cares what happens on the northwest side. Another said they need more policemen to respond to issues.

More police?

Right. And who pays for more cops? Us, the homeowners, the ones who pay property taxes. In recent years Chief Rob Copley has had to deal with frozen budgets and doing more with less, and that's not going to change.

More cops is not the answer. How about accountability? How about less dirtballs roaming the streets? How about landlords with a clue who give a crap? How about less deadbeat parents?

Setting up a Neighborhood Watch is a good step. Reporting suspicious activity is another.

And using common sense, something sorely lacking these days, would be the best thing of all.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Giving back, when we can

I KNOW WE have posted about this before, but lately we've been getting a ton of benefit requests.

We are always glad to put a poster on the window and plug the event on What To Do In Quincy, Sheryl's Facebook page. We know every fundraiser and charity event is important. We'd love to give everybody a lot of money.

We can't.

At Second String Music, we believe in giving back. We also believe in a fundraising budget, and sticking to it.

We are helping out at the Liz Bentley Honor Flight fundraiser Saturday at the American Legion. Since we do a lot with Six String Heroes, it's a natural. Liz and her family are great people so we are glad to help. I'm even playing at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the event, at the American Legion, 116 N. Eighth Street.

We are hosting our own event Saturday for Six String Heroes, click here for more. Don't feel like you have to donate or give anything, just come on down and hang out!

We just had to tell a couple of gals we couldn't donate to their cancer victim fundraiser. I feel awful for the family and I hope they have a great event, it's just not possible for us right now.

It never hurts to ask us for help, and we will if we can.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Three gigs, three states, endless fun

WE SHOULD BE sleeping until Wednesday after playing three shows in three nights, in three states. Ursa, Hannibal and Keokuk all rocked and it was an epic Cheeseburger weekend.

We kicked it off Friday night at Spirit Knob Winery near Ursa. It was 90 in the shade but the sun went down, the wine went to work quickly and they were rocking from the start. Tons of people and lots of energy, and I behaved with a jug of water and a few sips of Sheryl's awesome Vignoles.

On our way down to the Cave Hollow West Winery in Hannibal Saturday night we learned we were playing indoors. This was an older and mixed crowd and they were into listening and applauding after each song, something we don't see much playing our music. Toward the end of the second set the wine started hitting again and they stayed on the dance floor the rest of the night. The staff was great to us and we can't wait to get back there for another show next year.

No, I didn't behave. Air conditioning and rock and roll are wonderful things.

Sunday night at the Keokuk Yacht Club, we played on a big stage facing south, with the Mississippi River to our left and a bunch of rowdy boaters dancing the night away in front of us. Much love to the great people up there. We were introduced to the Yacht Club tradition of "Shot Skis" to celebrate bass player Don Van Dyke's birthday, and the end of the night saw us playing "Crazy" with a fabulous gal singer and rocking away with an extra set.

More fun than you should be allowed to have ....

We hit it again Saturday night, this time at the Blessed Sacrament Septemberfest at Eighth and Adams. Wait a second ... that's six blocks from our Calftown house ..... It's always nice to Git Cheesey close to home!