Friday, April 20, 2018

Great Venues in Quincy

ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT, I saw one of the best bands to ever come through Quincy. Andy Frasco and the UN tore up One at Sixth and Hampshire, much to the delight of about 150 people. Andy's band is really tight and they understand it's about the music and the show, and they rocked for two hours. They are opening for the Foo Fighters this summer and head to Europe next week for a tour, so it was a big deal to get them to come to Quincy.

Andy was brought to Quincy by our friend Craig, a huge fan of the band. It was a party on a Wednesday night, and the event wasn't really designed to make money, they just wanted to have some fun and get Andy to Quincy. Now there's talk of bringing him back and if that happens, you don't want to miss it.

About a month ago I saw Eric Johnson at The Castle Theater in Bloomington. It isn't much bigger than One and there were maybe 500 people there, and it was incredible. I like the idea of One being an  events-only venue, but I really wish they would tear out the restaurant booths and open the floor up. They could put temporary seating in there for shows and perhaps make it economically viable to get bigger names in town, if promoted right.

Why can't we get some big rock and roll names to come through town, much like the old days when Rush, Ike & Tina Turner and other big names would play at Turner Hall? It would make sense since Quincy is surrounded by Kansas City, Chicago and St. Louis, even Indianapolis to the east. Bands are always looking for stopover gigs.
Photo Credit Bad Wolf Media, Mike Sorenson

There are places keeping the music alive, smaller venues like State Street Bar & Grill, Revelry and The Club Tavern. The Oakley-Lindsay Center isn't really a concert venue but they have had some good ones in there.

I love Morrison Theater inside Quincy Junior High School - Emily is playing with the Quincy Symphony Orchestra Saturday night. It would be a great venue for rock shows, but let's face it, if you don't sell beer you won't draw much of a crowd. Don't hate me for saying it, because it's true.

Then there's my old pipe dream of building an outdoor amphitheater on the river, right at Gardner Expressway and Front Street, where the old cardboard box company once stood. Gosh, think of warm summer nights and a great band rocking down there - who cares about the one-road access, putting in sewer lines and flooding every spring? I've already got my secret spot staked out on the bluff to watch it from afar.

Still daring to dream, especially after seeing Andy Frasco at One.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The mall and the local impact

BERGNERS IN THE Quincy Mall is closing. I tried reading some of the social media comments but the world is full of moronic web warriors and it gets depressing. You can't engage them because you should never argue with somebody who thinks or knows they are wrong.

Many people shrug and say it's too bad, the mall is dying, Quincy is dying and there's nothing to do here. Where can I go now to buy my clothes and shoes? Where you always go - online. Hey, I can save a few bucks and it's a lot easier than battling that horrendous Broadway traffic and waiting two minutes at the traffic light, or having to park at least half a block away from a store downtown.

Meanwhile, the city is having a budget crisis and our water rates might be doubling, our police and fire departments are looking at cutbacks (including closing a fire station again) and places like our public library are looking at reducing services.

It's all cyclical, folks. If you don't spend your money here for things you can get just as easily and for about the same price as clicking a computer button, well, we are going to struggle. And it's sad that closing a nice department store has to bring the point home, and only then do people (maybe?) realize how shopping online can really hurt their local economy.

We are no better than anybody else, and I've been guilty as anybody of going online instead of shopping local. But lately we are trying to take a better look at our shopping habits.

I go to the local grocery store as much as possible. Last week we went to Carl's Shoes and got some great shoes with great service from Jamie and the crew out there. The Farmer's Market opens May 5 and we are looking forward to getting tasty grass-fed beef. If I need a shirt or suit, I am going next door to Schuecking's.

We've ordered dog food online in the past, but that has stopped and PetCo gets our business now. Besides, Angus likes visiting the local pet store where he usually convinces us to buy him a few new balls. We are suckers for sure.

This blog has been written many times. It will be written again. We all need to shop local and keep it local.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Cats in the bag

SHERYL JUST TOOK the dogs to get their shots. They were actually pretty good for her and the vet, from what she says. Now they have new shiny tags and everybody is happy.

Next week we have to take the cats, and that's gonna be a whole new adventure. Sheryl has been looking for a cat carrier - I swear we had one at one point, but who knows where it went.

Fast Eddie is always crawling into guitar cases and gig bags. So, we've come up with a brilliant solution for him - a guitar gig bag! He'll crawl in, we'll zip it up and leave a little room for air, and off Fast Eddie goes.

Josie is another matter. For one thing, she has sharp and nasty claws and she won't like being put into any kind of container. You should have seen her go to work the other day when she caught a baby bird and played with it in the house. Fortunately the bird expired quickly. I think.

I'm sure we can find an old Gus Macker travel bag or purse laying around the house somewhere. We better wear gloves and have plenty of treats to bribe the cats, especially Josie.

And, as always, we remember it's their world, and we just live in it. Carry on, cats and dogs!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Just plug it back in

TECHNOLOGY IS WONDERFUL. Unless it goes south. Then you gotta roll with it and not let the whole thing go to hell.

I used my new Boss looping pedal this weekend with HartLyss and it worked out, for the most part. One song in particular went bad and it took a couple of tries to kill the bad recording and get back on track. It's all living and learning, and I learned a lot.

I use a wireless setup for my guitar. I long ago tired of cables getting yanked out and doing damage. One night I was playing and another person stepped on the cable for my acoustic guitar, and pulled the input jack right out of the guitar. That's when I vowed to only plug in when I had to, and to get something decent to go wireless.

So Sunday I'm playing at State Street Bar & Grill and my wireless pack slipped off the guitar strap and the cable pulled right out. We were rocking at the time and it suddenly went silent.

You have two choices, at that point. You can panic and fumble around and maybe restart the song. Or you just keep strumming and hope the wireless pack will magically hook back up to the guitar.

In this case, Cori Lyssy adroitly came right over, picked it up and plugged it back in. There wasn't a huge crowd in the bar but the people watching seemed to get it and gave her a big ovation. We just kept going. What are you going to do? It's rock and roll, and it's live.

Just keep going. I know, it's only rock and roll, but I like it, like it, yes I do!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Smashed truck mirrors

CORI LYSSY AND I had a great rock and roll weekend, with HartLyss gigs Saturday night at The Place and Sunday afternoon at State Street Bar & Grill. Generally speaking HartLyss gigs are a lot less physically demanding than a Cheeseburger show, but I'm really sore today and it will be a challenge to get through a bunch of lessons this afternoon. I ain't complaining ... I'm living the dream!

Anyway, I got to State Street at 2 p.m. Sunday and was unloading gear from the Jeep when I noticed a big box truck coming down State Street from 18th. It was swerving back and forth and it passed me, then swerved again and nearly hit another vehicle on the north side of the street. Actually, it did hit the vehicle, clipping the rearview mirror off the driver's side. The mirror exploded and went all over the street, and the truck never stopped.

I did not get a clear look at the driver, but the truck was clearly marked and belongs to a local business. I'll just leave it at that.

I knocked on some doors but nobody seemed to know who the truck belonged to, so I left a note in the door. Sure enough, a woman came in (I actually know her because she works just down the street) and said it was her boyfriend's truck, and he was calling the police to make a report. Turns out I knew the boyfriend too. Small world when it comes to seeing stuff while setting up for a show!

The officer came in and took the report and hopefully they'll get to the bottom of it, especially if it involves insurance money. Perhaps the driver of the truck didn't even realize he'd smashed the mirror, though it made a loud noise and I'm sure left a mark on the truck.

Look. If it had been my truck and somebody saw it get hit, I'd only hope they would do the same. Still, it's nice to play good citizen and then rock and roll the day away.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Violin lost, violin found

WHEN YOU RENT a school band instrument from us via Boyd Music included is a maintenance fee, which protects against loss, theft or damage. Boyd will clean and do regular maintenance on the instrument any time you are making payments. This is particularly important for boys who play trumpets - ah, the stories we could tell about bent keys and horns!

The other day a parent messaged us in a panic - his son left his violin at a bus stop on the city's north side. The kid felt awful and the parent didn't know what to do.

Lost ... and found!
When the violin didn't turn up the next day, the parent came to the store and we advised him to make a report with the Quincy Police Department. Then Boyd would gladly replace the violin for no charge. The parent was somewhat sheepish but glad we had his back, and his son could continue playing the violin.

This morning the parent reported that his son's classmate found the violin, but was sick from school yesterday and didn't bother to tell anybody until this morning. Relief!

I'm sure it was a good learning experience for both the boy and his dad. We've all done it - in my case, it was leaving behind eye glasses and television remotes on the coffee table. We'd come home at the end of the day and Bella The Destroyer, and later Genie, would be sitting there with innocent looks on their faces, and the remains of said items scattered all over the floor.

The other thing I've done many times is leave various guitar stands and instrument chords after playing shows. One night The Funions played a gig at the old Blue Onion with several other bands, and I left an expensive five-way guitar stand behind. Never did find it, even after checking with the other bands.

The moral of the story is that we have your back if something happens to your instrument, and we're always happy to help out in times of crisis.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Ready for the sidewalk

WE ARE MORE than ready for sidewalk weather. You know, when you can sit outside at Fifth and Maine, soak up the rays, hear good music, and watch all the interesting people walking and driving by.

Our Second String Music sidewalk gets used a lot right at the corner. We now have a SSM Sidewalk Hall of Fame. Charter members are me, Frank Haxel, Adam Yates, Sheryl and Angus. The first Blues in The District is about two months away, and the sidewalk is ready to host more Friday night gatherings.

It's sidewalk time!
Electric Fountain Brewing at 503 Maine is getting into the act, too. It's going to be 70-plus degrees this afternoon, so the crew is assembling a table and will get it to the sidewalk shortly. EFB has a permit from the city to put tables and chairs out there, and today is the perfect day to break them in.

Believe it or not, we are a little more than two weeks away from our first First Mid-Illinois Bank Plaza show. It's Friday, April 27, from noon to 1:15 p.m. at the plaza near Seventh and Maine, and Jacqueline Kaufman is the first performer. Beau Becraft (May 4), Akoustic Mayhem (May 11) and Noah McNally (May 18) are also featured, with lunch provided by the Butcher Block. The concerts are sponsored by the bank, The District, Second String Music and Vancil Performing Arts.

So let's get sidewalking in proper fashion and downtown, and may it be a great sitting season!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Mucho bass cabinets

FOR SOME REASON bass cabinets for sale are popular right now. We have three in Second String Music, two Ampegs and a Hartke. Sheryl says she is noticing more bass and guitar cabs for sale in the online groups. The cabinet houses the speakers (usually four to eight) and you need an amp head to run the speakers.

Three bass cabs in this photo alone, from small to large.

Bass cabinets are awesome if you want to shake the ground and really feel the rumble. The issue is that if you play around here, you rarely need a big old bass cabinet. They are nightmares to move and store, unless you have room in the basement and don't have to cart it around.

The older I get the simpler my rig gets for guitar. I was torn between getting a new Princeton Reverb amp and a Fender Deluxe. The Deluxe had more juice, but the Princeton sounds amazing if not quite as loud. Do we really need more volume on stage? Not if the amp is off the ground and aimed up at you. So I've finally decided on the Princeton. I think.

The bass cabinets are right at the front of the store, for two reasons: 1. Easy to see when you first walk in, and 2. Don't have to move it very far when you buy it.

Come on by and check 'em out!

Monday, April 9, 2018

House next door for sale

THE HOUSE NEXT to us in our awesome Calftown neighborhood goes up for sale this month. The asking price is fair and it's beautiful, lived in for nearly 60 years by our neighbor, Don. He passed away in October and his kids have been steadily cleaning it out. The garage is huge and still has his LTD sitting there waiting for a new owner.
Jim V and Don's houses. Nice and big family homes.

The house next to Don's may be up for sale soon, too, from what we've heard. Sheryl and I have been in it and it's also very nice. An new owner has been in it for about four years but before that Jim Viehmeyer owned it for decades and it was immaculate, even the basement... The wiring lined up in perfect rows. He worked hard to make sure his basement was clean and dry.

We really hope the homes stay single-family dwellings and not rental properties. No offense, but we've had our fill of negligent landlords and slobs as tenants. There is a house on 9th Street that is awful and the city has had to step in to get it cleaned up, and that's just the junky porch and yard full of trash and furniture. There is also another one at 9th and Washington that has been vacant for 7 years and the city has to mow it a couple of times a year. It would make a cute house if the owners would sell it. Who knows why they just let it sit and decay.

Our house. It is the ugly one on the block.
All the big houses in the block are lived in by the owners. We hope to see a couple of new families join our little block. It is a great place to run and play, just ask our dogs!

Call us for details and we can let you know more about the houses going up for sale. Here's to hoping we get good neighbors and keep it real in the Calftown hood!

Friday, April 6, 2018

The regional music store

SECOND STRING MUSIC is becoming much more of a regional draw. In the past year, the stores in Keokuk and Kirksville have closed. There's no fulltime music store in Hannibal with regular hours, and you pretty much have to go to Troy or Springfield to find the one within 75 miles.

Yesterday a young man and his wife came in from Kirksville, which is about an hour west of Quincy. They'd done some research and found out we have the amazing Roland Juno DS in stock. Stacy Taylor of The Cheeseburgers uses one and Sheryl had a lot of fun trying out all the gizmos and sounds. This thing even opens your garage door if you want, and vacuums your carpets. Too bad it can't clean up after Fast Eddie.

Anyway, they came in and tried it out and were thrilled. "Your price is the same as the online price," the man said. They bought the keyboard and enjoyed poking around in the store for more than an hour. "Our store closed so there's nothing around us anymore," he said.

We've been supported by great customers from the Hannibal and Keokuk areas. The Fender dealership has sparked a lot of interest (we are getting another big shipment of Fender amps as we speak) and we hear our local musicians say they appreciate a local music store.

We aim to please. Most of the people who come from out of town like Quincy and make a day of it. It's our honor to serve our local musicians, even if local means more than an hour away!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

When the fur baby dies

IF YOU THINK Second String Music is just a music store, well ....

The other day a woman came in and bought a soda. She started talking to Sheryl about cats after seeing Fast Eddie on the counter.

"I lost my cat in early March. I had her for 12 years. I cry every day because she was my baby," the woman said.

Losing a family pet is a tough thing, and the woman was obviously still in mourning. She talked it out with Sheryl and felt better when she left. She usually buys three or four sugary sodas, but all we stock now is the diet drinks. "My doctor told me I shouldn't drink the regular ones anyway. Too much sugar," the woman said. She bought a diet soda, and she was happy.

There's a woman in town who often waits for us to open. Lately she's been bringing Fast Eddie and Angus treats. This gal said, "My electric bill went down so I can afford to buy Eddie more treats." Geesh .... we have so much, and it's a good lesson to be grateful.

Lucky lovin' on Eddie.
Another woman came in with her husband, who just started guitar. She used to work for Hollister-Whitney, which built our elevator in 1918. She was thrilled when I showed it to her. Maybe she'll get somebody at her old office to show some interest in a vintage birdcage elevator.

Of course we are still rocking with music stuff in here, though we still get people asking for record needles, Christian contemporary CDs, hammer dulcimers, Euphoniums, baritones, penny whistles, dobros, RCA plugs without the cable, sheet music and "left-handed pan flutes," whatever they are.

There are rhythms and flows to a small retail business. Often it will be quiet for an hour or so. Then our roofer shows up, two people come in looking for guitars and another person is searching for an obscure cable. Often I duck out to get lunch and come back to find all kinds of happy mayhem in the store and Sheryl frazzled from the chaos.

Then there's Electric Fountain Brewing, now connected to Second String Music with a door by the old bank vault. I see people in there conducting business on laptops, meeting with clients, laughing it up with friends and enjoying the way cool vibe.

It's always an adventure at Fifth and Maine.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Water in buildings

WE ARE MAKING progress on getting a new roof above the 2nd floor of our Second String Music building. Let's just say we are now good friends with our banker and a local roofing contractor. Work should start soon, which is good for my aching back. I made five trips up to the crawl space yesterday to deal with all the melting snow and leaks, and the sooner a new roof goes on the better.

I read with interest the story by The Whig about the Kinscherff Center at 122 N. Fifth, half a block to the north of us. The building next to the center, the old Irene's Cabaret, flooded a few months ago and caused serious damage to both buildings. The center is used by John Wood Community College for adult education classes, and JWCC staff had to evacuate because walls started buckling, among other issues.

Mike Elbe, JWCC's president, says the school is committed to the location and is awaiting word on repairs. The city isn't talking about what happened, and probably wisely so since there might be litigation involved down the line.

But we can tell you from talking with our Fifth Street neighbors and a couple of the water department guys who were here when it flooded that both buildings suffered serious damage. The old Cabaret building has been vacant for more than a year and is owned by an out-of-town person. A pipe burst in the basement and ran unchecked for a long time. That's the danger of having a vacant building and an owner who isn't here in town.

I'm not saying this is the case here, but often if the owners don't live here, they simply don't care. Sheryl and I dealt with this in our previous location, and one of the reasons we bought our building was for rent control and to make sure somebody who gives a damn about Quincy owns it. We can't imagine the problems this building would have if it were unoccupied....

Another huge issue is that all of the buildings are interconnected, from Schuecking's clear down to Fifth and Hampshire. If the two damaged buildings have to come down (I'm not saying it's going to happen, just if it happens), that puts a big hole in the middle of the block and all the other buildings could be subject to significant structural integrity issues.

Then again, it might help us with some of our downtown parking issues. Just kidding. Sort of.

Let's hope both buildings are OK and nothing gets torn down. Let's also hope both buildings can be fixed and will be used, instead of standing forlorn and empty.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Loopers are fun

WE JUST GOT a bunch of the brand new Boss RC-1  Loop Station pedals at Second String Music. We've had the RC-3 looper for a long time and they sell very well, and cost about $180.

The RC-1 is only $99. It doesn't have drum tracks, nor near as much memory or places to store recordings, or a USB input to connect to a computer.  But it does have 12 minutes of looping capability and it is easier to use.

Basically what you do is hit the foot pedal for record, play a little riff or chord progression, then hit the pedal again to stop the recording. It will play back continuously. Then you can layer stuff over it. Sounds simple, right? Well, it's an art and it takes a lot of practice to get better, because it's all about timing and hitting it just right.

There are a couple of guys around here who use them. Cheeks McGee (Ryan Christian of Electric Fountain Brewing) is the best I've seen locally. Ed Sheeran has made them famous. They are a blast to play with, and if you are thinking about a looping pedal, this is the one to get you going.

Boss has made them special for this year and at the special price, so I don't think they will last long. I'm thinking of getting one since they are so popular, and doing shows with Paul Lester and Cori Lyssy (HartLyss) makes me think they could be very cool. Come see us at Fifth and Maine and we'll start looping around the loop and having more fun than we should possibly have!

Monday, April 2, 2018

April 2. Really?

YESTERDAY WE GOT 5 plus inches of snow. It might be more than we got all year. And ... it's April.

Snow in April. Thanks Kris Kutcher for the photo.
Yup. April. Happy Easter Sunday, Q-Town. Here's a bunch of the white stuff to make people panic and spin off our roads.

We feel really bad for Grace, who works for Electric Fountain Brewing. She opened this morning and it was cold, really cold, and she didn't know where the thermostat was. She does now, after huddling by the space heater and finally discovering it in the bathroom.

It's been really tough on our local spring sports teams. This will wipe out at least two or three days of games. It gives me nights off from working at the Whig, but there goes my beer money, and that's not a good thing.

At least the dogs love it, and it is a winter wonderland out there, but really? Our first Concert In The Plaza is less than a month away, and we are going through sun and sidewalk withdrawal.

Get your act together, Mother Nature, and let's get on with this business of spring!