Monday, June 30, 2014

Mauler Mayhem

Now THAT was a music-filled weekend of mayhem. And a new puppy. And family.

Saturday night we went to the Maulers final performance. The Maulers are hard to describe. They are not a fake band. They are more like an air tribute band. Randy Phillips had a party at his Coatsburg house for The Maulers "final" performance.

It. Was. Epic.

First of all, he had Trent Vogel running sound, always a good thing. Then he invited live bands to play, including me and Brien Murphy. Brien used to work at The Whig but we haven't played together in a decade. So we had a brief practice Saturday afternoon and decided to have my nephew Riley, visiting from Phoenix, play the cajon with us.

What fun. Even if I forgot most of the words. Playing with Brien was a blast once again, and we invited legendary Mauler Sam Middendorf to bang out a couple of songs with us.

Burt Shackleton of The Cheeseburgers got his old band, Johnny 7, back together for a set. It was a night of music and laughing and more laughing and just .... fun.

We had the show in Randy's huge shed, since the rain was on the way. Sure enough, it started pouring as the Maulers were playing. That cut down on the pyro but not the sound level or energy.

This is supposedly the final show ever for the Maulers. Sure. Whatever.

See you next year!

BTW, Sheryl brought home Angus on Sunday, giving me about 15 minutes notice of his arrival. Turns out he is a great puppy!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Be Bopping Again!

HOPE YOU ARE ready for a great weekend - Blues In The District, MidSummer Arts Faire, The Maulers farewell show and all kinds of chaos at Fifth and Maine. Let's go!

One of my former guitar students, Anne Navolio, came into the store Thursday and dropped off the world's greatest T-shirt. Her father, Bob, used to own Bob's Be-Bop Records at Eighth and Maine. It was the hippest and coolest store in town, and there are still lots of great stories floating around about it.

WGEM's Brian Inman was going through some old stuff recently and found a logo, and Bob then had the shirts made.

I'm about to cry.

I miss Anne a lot, she was and will always be one of my favorite students. She's off to college now and to see the big wide world - and hopefully she has a Bob's Bebop Records shirt to remind her of her father's glorious past!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Visit from family

MY BROTHER STEVE, who lives in Phoenix, is coming to Quincy this weekend with his son, Riley. They are catching us on a really busy weekend - MidSummer Arts Faire, the Maulers last-ever (please) gig, and the usual insanity of a music store in the thick of things.

Steve and Riley are self-reliant and have a rental car, so I'm sure they will find stuff to do on their own. We'll probably take in a Gems game and run the dogs a time or two, and sit in the Calftown backyard by the fire.

My two sisters and father live far away, and the Michigan Harts are about seven hours north, so it's hard to get together with family. It's a special time, but aside from scrubbing the house to an inch of its death and mowing my weeds last night, we really aren't doing anything out of the ordinary to get ready.

One thing about living in Quincy - I like showing it off. It's a cool place to bomb around and see things. And Riley will probably spend hours roaming the upper floors of Second String Music, getting acquainted with the ghosts upstairs.

Hopefully they have fun in the Q-Town!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Don't worry, Mr. Burglar - you'll be caught

THERE'S BEEN AN upsurge in reported burglaries in Quincy. Click here for the latest Whig story. When I was the crime and courts reporter, I did tons of these stories, and they usually followed familiar themes.

The latest area to get hit was up by Wavering Park. The residents out there are not used to dealing with stuff like this, because there are reports of many people leaving their wallets and valuables in their cars overnight. The dirtball burglars (redundant, I know) are smashing windows and getting a little more daring.

It happens in every part of town, but in years past, it was always the "nicer" areas of town that got hit by the more organized burglars. Dirtballs aren't dumb - they know where to find the loot.

I'm going to take some guesses here - I think the dirtballs are young, bored, stoned and drunk most of the time, and just generally have had a tough time in life. Lest you think I'm blaming society, I'm not. These idiots have choices, and if they choose to do this, well ... there's only one more thing to say.

You. Will. Get. Caught.

You are already bragging. You've already said the wrong thing to the wrong person. Sooner than later,  it all comes around.

Don't say you weren't told or didn't know, dirtballs.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Playing With Percussion

PAUL WOOD AND I are playing Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the final summer Concert In The Plaza near Seventh and Maine. I hope you can hang out, eat a great lunch from the Butcher Block or Maine Course, and hear some music.

Paul plays percussion with the Quincy band Seven Days Fuller, and I think SDF is the best group in town. He's bringing a big drum with him called a dejembe. We practiced yesterday and it was so much fun.

Solo shows mean you have to provide your own rhythm. I have to adjust a bit because Paul's percussion will drive and accent the song, and I can do more "cool" stuff like picking instead of just strumming.

He had some great advice yesterday. We are doing a bunch of originals, and he said, "Don't change them. I'm your wing man and I'll figure it out."

There will be some special guests jumping up to play with us, and hopefully it won't be 90 and 90, temp and humidity.

Travis Brown of The District says the Thursday concerts have been so successful, he's planning another series in the fall.

Thanks Travis - this is a great idea and another reason why downtown Quincy is the place to be!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Not missing the old job

HAPPY FRIDAY! IT'S another busy weekend in the Q-Town with tons of stuff going on, click here for a guide to local music and more.

I got asked this morning if I miss my old job. Nearly two years after jumping without a parachute, the answer is an unequivocal NO. I miss the people I worked for and with, and every now and then I'll see one of Don O'Brien's YCMIU (You Can't Make It Up) stories, and I'll have a flashback or two.

But I'm living the dream at Fifth and Maine. I sleep in late, goof around in a music store called Second String Music, give guitar lessons to great students and go home with sore fingers and a full soul.

What more could you ask for?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Roundabout way to get there

THERE IS A big discussion about putting in a roundabout at 48th and State. A meeting yesterday brought out a bunch of people, and as always, the best part of any TV web story are the insipid comments.

Apparently there is a lot of traffic out there and this would make it better. But I've been through that intersection for years and never, repeat, NEVER, had to wait for more than a few cars at the four-way stop. There are more businesses out there now and John Wood Community College has also brought a ton of traffic, so maybe it's needed.

The main reason this has caused a stir is because it's different. Quincy is a rocking chair community - nice and steady, and all is good. Rock too fast, too slow or use a different chair, and the sitters complain about the blisters on their butts.

So, for that reason and that reason only, I am in favor of the roundabout. And I will use 48th and Maine instead when heading to the east side of town, or get used to the new rocking chair .... er, roundabout.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Trust, and getting back a guitar amp

SECOND STRING MUSIC is built on one thing and one thing only - relationships.

We sell music stuff, and lately we've been selling a lot of it. Our business neighbor, Jeff Schuecking, simply says we shouldn't try to explain it, but we should be grateful, and we are.

I got very good at gauging people when I covered crime and courts for The Whig. I'd like to think I can tell what somebody is like after talking and dealing with them.

But it doesn't always work that way.

Let's be positive about this first, and let's make sure we say we appreciate all of our loyal customers. This has been an awesome adventure and it's only getting better. We are here to stay and have big plans.

But there is always something to make it more challenging. In this case, it's a woman who wanted to buy a guitar and amp for her daughter's birthday. She managed to convince us to let her take the amp without paying for it. The party was on Saturday and she promised to come back Monday to finish paying. This was more than a month ago.

This wasn't a massively expensive amp, but still, we are out a chunk of change.

Well. You can can guess how it's worked out. Sheryl has repeatedly called the woman, and we've never received a call back. It's not hard to figure out where people live, and this morning Sheryl is heading out to pay a little visit to the woman, and to either get our money or the amp back.

And we thought running a music store was just about guitars and strings.

Maybe I'll send a camera crew with Sheryl and we can make a TV show out of it.

Nah. They wouldn't be able to keep up.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cup doesn't run over

WE BEAT SOME obscure country at the World Cup yesterday and everybody is all fired up. Or still asleep.

That's the thing about soccer - you are either obsessed and jumping up and down right now, or you are yawning and indifferent.

I might be different. I played as a kid and coached Emily's teams. I like the sport, but I don't fall down if Ronaldo makes an amazing run and finish. Whatever that means.

If I can watch a golf tournament on a Sunday afternoon, I figure I can watch our next game against Portugal on Sunday, too. But only if I'm done cleaning the bathroom because my brother is coming for a visit next week.

Is the Netherlands playing? I'm rooting for them, too!

The best part, of course, is hearing the announcers say goooooooooooooaaaaallllll. Deportes is a beautiful thing.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Meet Angus

I KNOW YOU will be stunned and surprised by this, but the Harts are getting a puppy.

You can get off the floor now.

His name is Angus. He's a Corgi/Australian Cattle Dog mix. With a name like Angus, you can bet he'll become the official store dog of Second String Music.

Angus' owner came into the store about a month ago to buy an amp. Somehow, and I have no idea how this happens, she and Sheryl started talking about dogs. The woman mentioned she had puppies available from her two farm dogs.

Then she came with Angus to the store. Look at his puppy face... like I had any chance of saying no to that.

I like having just two dogs. We use less dog food, less treats, and they are easier to walk (not really, Bella is a beast). Plus we are still getting over Lucy's death. I wanted to wait a little longer, or just stick with two, but Angus changed my mind.

Tummy Rub Please
We took Tucker and Bella to meet Angus and his family yesterday and it went pretty well - we learned Bella is better off in the car most of the time, Tucker never developed the Border Collie instinct of herding cattle because of his rough start in life, and goats think they are dogs. Bella eventually calmed down and was even okay with the goat/dog so maybe she just has problems with change.

The big guy with the big guy
Angus lives on a beautiful horse farm near Columbus, about 20 minutes from Quincy. He's staying there for another month until he gets a little bigger and stronger, though I had to talk Sheryl out of taking him home yesterday.

He is a handsome boy. I'm sure he'll show Bella and Tucker who is boss and fit right in.

Three's a crowd, and that's fine by us!

Angus mom - Snickers

Friday, June 13, 2014

Great Friday

I HOPE EVERYBODY has a great Friday and weekend. It's shaping up to be an awesome one here in Quincy, with blue skies and fair temperatures awaiting Rockin Jake and Blues In The District.

Good luck to the Relay For Life folks out at Flinn Stadium tonight.

And much love to my Canadian family, which assembles in the Georgian Bay this weekend. Sheryl and I made the trip last year and had a blast, and we regret not being able to make it. There is always 2015!

Have yourselves a good one. I'm giving tours of the building, selling guitars, having great lessons, sitting in the sun and just generally enjoying life.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Doggie duty means no sleep

This just barely begins to represent Bella Poo.
BELLA THE DESTROYER has had an upset tummy. Who knows what she's eaten or gotten into. We haven't fed her anything but her dog food and regular treats. But on our long walks she sometimes blunders into stuff she thinks is tasty, and it comes back to haunt her. And us.

The last two nights she's left us surprises. Fortunately we have hardwood floors. So I had a little talk with her before going to bed, and this morning at 2:30 she woke me up and I let her out.

Hmmm. Maybe this dog isn't so dumb after all.

Of course I couldn't get back to sleep, and she woke me up again at 4 to go back out, so I'm sleep-deprived.

But I'll take a lack of sleep over the alternative.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Achy Breaky guitar lessons

THE THING ABOUT having more than 30 guitar students is the wide range of musical tastes, abilities and desires. Some just want to strum and hum. Some are stuck and want to get better. Then there are the young ones who are just learning and getting all fired up when they realize one of their favorite songs is easy to play.

I have a student, let's call him EJ, who is about 8 years old and loves to sing country songs. Yesterday he wanted to learn the hideous Billy Ray Cyrus song, "Achy Breaky Heart." It gave me flashbacks to the early 1990s and why I hated country music for so long, but when EJ figured out all he had to do was play an A and an E, he was in heaven. The look on his face was pure joy as he belted it out.

Who am I to say a song is bad? I am nobody, that's who.

Then I had the fabulous Liz Bentley for a lesson, and we learned the Beatles song "Come Together." Liz is already a good guitar player but is always looking for more songs and to get better. Not to get too complicated here, but when we figured out the riff in an easy chord arrangement, she got all fired up and declared it to be "very cool."

And that made my day.

Yesterday I also had an older guy who just retired and now has time. He bought a nice guitar and is starting from the very beginning. A person who is motivated and realizes it will take a little effort and time is a great thing.

I capped the day with Joe Soucy coming in for a lesson. Joe likes to play at our Thursday One Restaurant Open Mic nights and has come a long way in a short time, but he's looking to take the next step. He realized finding notes and learning bar chord positions isn't really that hard, and I could tell he's even more fired up.

I'm an average guitar player who likes to teach. I have great students, a supportive wife who makes it all possible and the tools of the trade all around me.

Appreciation, like realizing a song isn't that hard to play, is a great thing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Don't sell the farm

SO MANAGERS FROM Quincy Compressor are in town this week to meet with local officials. The plant employs 152 people and might be shut down, with the work moved to Alabama. Click here for the Whig story.

I commend the city and the local "task force" for meeting with the managers. We can't afford to lose the good jobs like this and anything we can do, within reason, to keep the plant here is a good idea.

Where the slope gets slippery is "within reason." I don't want this plant to close. But this is a business decision, and I seriously doubt the managers care much about Quincy or what happens to the employees it lets go.

Mayor Kyle Moore says he can't talk about potential incentives yet during negotiations. But they better become public, and I'm curious what it will take to keep this company here.

If they stay, I could see other companies using the same tactic. "Hey! Let's tell little old Quincy that we are moving to another state. Then they'll give us all kinds of breaks and stuff. Cool!"

I'm a little guy who has little influence or say in the Quincy business world. There are much smarter people involved in this than me. But I would certainly hope we find the right balance between incentive and giving away the farm.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Nashville and the overload

I AM STILL trying to comprehend the spectacle of Nashville after our whirlwind trip last Thursday/Friday.

First of all, the Avenue Beat girls were fantastic. They played at the Silver Dollar Saloon as part of the Nashville Universe CMA Music Festival party. They got 40 minutes (nobody else got more than 10 or 15) and turned a lot of heads. Sam, Sami and Savana are going back to Nashville in a month and they get more and more confident every time they play.
The gals, the old guy and the waitress from Quincy!

I played with them. Well, really, I just stayed out of their way. They liked it and said it was "good ju-ju" and want me to hang out with them again. They are playing at Turner Hall in a few weeks and at the MidSummer Arts Faire, and I'm telling you, Q-Town, you better come see them while you still can, because they are destined for big things.

We arrived at 1 a.m. after the seven-hour drive and walked downtown about half a mile. Imagine this - there is a bar or venue on every block. Actually, there are six or seven places on every block. Every one has a band. Every place is packed. The music just soars and bounces around and there are thousands of people rubbing shoulders.

Fine. Nashville at night during the CMA Music Festival. I get that. But here's the rub - it was exactly the same at 2 in the afternoon the next day. I asked one of the Nashville Universe guys if it was like this all time and he just sort of cocked his head and said, "Of course!"

The girls learned a lot. They learned to be nice to the sound guy, because he can make you sound really good, even after he's had two hours of sleep. They learned direct boxes are worth their weight in gold. They learned hearing themselves on stage is a beautiful thing.

I learned they are just as good as anybody down in Nashville. There are fantastic singers and players everywhere, and they are all dime a dozen in a music-fueled rocketship. Avenue Beat just needs to play and get better at the performance part.

Nashville is a tiered-town. You have the elite performers playing huge stages. You have the up and coming performers, and the ones who have done it. Then you have 99 percent of everybody else.

We stayed at the Nashville Universe event for a few hours. The best group we saw was Phoenix Drive. A couple of the gal singers were average. The house band was amazing. Oh, and take note, all you guitar players who think you have to have a massive rig - I saw guitar players plugging in direct from a modeler, and the biggest amp I saw was maybe 100 watts with a single 12-inch speaker. It's about tone, not volume.

Thank you to the gals and to their parents, Greg and Kiki Backoff, Lisa Bearden, and Trish Santos. They are just about to set sail on the adventure of a lifetime. Enjoy it now and don't blink!

On the way back, Sam Backoff said, "I know it's a million to one that we make it." That may be true and it's actually a healthy attitude, but I think their chances are better. Luck, good songs and the right place at the right time is the key.

And the key is that they are actually doing it. They are trying. You can't succeed unless you try.

Let's go back again, soon!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Finally, Nashville!

A LONG TIME ago, I wrote songs and played with a talented singer named Lana Hawkins. She was always bugging me about going to Nashville. "That's where it all happens," she said. "You HAVE to go."

I'm not much of a country music fan, but music is music. Now, finally, I'm going.

If they can play in Second String Music, Nashville should be easy!
The Avenue Beat girls, Sami, Sam and Savana, have landed a slot at the Nashville Universe CMA Music Festival event. Click here for the details. The girls and their parents invited me to tag along. So it's a whirlwind 24-hour deal, with more than half the time spent in a car to get there and back.

But that's OK.

I am grateful to Sheryl, who insisted I go with a little pout. "Don't worry about me, staying back here and holding down the fort," she said. "I'll just sell everything for a dollar. And there might be a new puppy in the house when you get home."


I'll take my chances with the new puppy. I just want to wander around and soak it all in. Maybe the girls will let me get up there with them and play a song or two. I am a bit heavy on the upside down bucket drum, but I can keep a beat.

Next month I'm making them play a Chicago song with me, and I hear rumors they want to work out "Come Together" by The Beatles.

Geesh. Are these youngsters from another planet?

So we are headed for Nashville Thursday, three gloriously talented 16-year-olds, their parents and a burned-out 80s hairband rocker in tow.

This is gonna be great!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

i have a new phone

YESTERDAY, EMILY AND I got our new iphones. She is beyond thrilled and is busy texting and surfing the Web. I am trying to find my phone, and see if I remember how to turn it on.

We are going shopping for cases this morning. Gosh, if that doesn't describe the modern family .... it used to be we'd go to a game or ice cream or walk down to the creek. Today, we cell phone case shop. Yup. It's a new way to describe a verb.

When we first got them, we turned her phone on, and then I got an email saying there was a problem and I had to call Apple. In turn, we were connected with our provider, and turns out there was an issue on their end keeping us from activating the phones.

The service provider was very good, full of corny jokes and small talk. It took about half an hour to figure things out. "I think our computer here is wonky," he said.


There was also a lot of talk about "parking" and "negotiating with the host," which I assumed meant talking to the aliens who run our cell towers and phone companies. Ahem.

This is the best experience I've ever had with a phone or internet related issue. Duly noted. So now Emily and I are going to look for cases.

I'm ready to go.

Have you seen my new iPhone anywhere?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Daughters and phones

EMILY HAS RETURNED to Quincy for the summer. Sort of.

She had a great first year of graduate school at Eastman School of Music. One more year and she has a master's degree in oboe performance. Yikes!

Emily was a straight-A student through high school and at Western Illinois University. This past semester she did get one B, and much like her old man, she wasn't flustered.

"Actually, I was happy with the B. I bombed the mid-term," she said, sounding just like her dad.

 Emily plans to work at Western Illinois camps this month. In July she is hanging out at Second String Music, and she is working a camp up at Blue Lake in August. Also, if you know of somebody who wants oboe, French horn, ukulele or piano lessons this summer, call us at the store (217 223-8008) and I'm sure we can arrange something.

Meanwhile, we are waiting for our new iPhones. Yes, we are entering the 21st century, and Emily is super excited about getting a real phone so she can check her email and web stuff. She needs a new phone because she just dropped her old one in the sink at her restaurant job. Like I said, she is her father's daughter.

I think I know why they call them iPhones, as in, "i don't know how to turn this thing on." As in, "i'm glad my wife knows how they work." As in, "i think i dialed the White House by accident."

I'll have more about this later after we figure them out. Well, when Sheryl figures them out.

"And you aren't dropping your iPhone in the sink, mister," Sheryl says.