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Friday, December 28, 2012

Introducing: Bluesonic!

By Ted Slowik

Hi again! 2012 is drawing to a close, and what a great year it's been. I had a lot of fun, made a lot of new friends, performed more than ever before, played a lot of originals and released a collection of song demos. Most importantly, I feel like I developed a lot as an artist, and how I think about music.
Specifically, I want to thank John Condron, who I met late in 2011 but got to know this year playing near-weekly open mics at Tribes Alehouse in Mokena. John asked me to open for his show a couple weeks ago at Chicago Street Pub in Joliet, and I had a great time. I think that 45-minute opener stands as the longest set of originals I've played for an audience, so a personal best! John's been a tremendous friend, offering support, encouragement and advice along the way, and I extend him my most sincere expression of gratitude for his kindness.
Most of the shows I've done this year have been open mics. I've put a lot of mileage on the Martin acoustic. Since my last blog post in October I went up to the legendary music venue FitzGerald's in Berwyn a couple times and played the open mic in their SideBar. It was a lot of fun. The first time was Election Day, and it was great--I got there about 8, an hour before the music starts, and when people signed up nobody wanted to go first. So I put my name down and played right away! I was out of there by 9:15 and drinking a beer at Harlem Avenue Lounge listening to acoustic blues about 20 minutes later. The next week I went up there, but SideBar was closed--I realized later they have open mic on the big stage on the second Tuesday each month. But then I went back and even though I got there before the list went out at 8 I was slow getting in line and this time I was 17th or something. Yikes. Got up around 11:30 p.m., played my two songs and got off. Still fun, and met some cool people hanging around for four hours, but still--an hour's travel each way and four hours waiting is a lot to go through for a 10-minute performance.
Also this fall artist manager Chris Flood hooked me up with a gig hosting open mic at a place called Lucky's Lounge in Chicago Ridge. Wednesday nights, music from 8-12. I did three. The total number of other artists who performed during those three "open mic" gigs: 1. (I let that guy play for an hour.) Otherwise, I played a lot of cover tunes, not many originals. Bar music. It was a lot of fun, playing Who and other classic rock music they seemed to like. I know a lot of songs so I had no trouble filling three hours, but it's a tough gig for a weeknight. Plus it was lonely--the loneliest gigs I've ever played. Didn't know anyone there--not a soul. People were nice and all, but music is a lot MORE fun when you have good friends to share it with.
I also had a blast playing covers during another show with Tim Placher at 30 Buck in Joliet in early December. Love those shows! Tim has a lot of friends come out for those shows and I've come to know many of them.
The solo shows have been a great way to fill the void since the Big Eddy Springs Blues Band members parted ways in September 2011. Open mics are a great way to meet other musicians. And while I haven't wanted to rush into the first thing to come along, I have been looking for another band of like-minded players since Big Eddy. And I think I've found it! I've had to pull the Gibson Grabber bass out of retirement and put new strings on it. (The bass I bought used in 1983 for $150).
First and foremost for me, the most important member of any project had to be Ron Kostka! Ron's been a great friend since high school, a co-founder of the first band I was in, Suspended Animation. As a rhythm section we play together real well. He was unavailable for a while but one day he called and said he was ready to work together again. He's so much fun. Here's a picture of him in the Santa Claus suit he wore to our debut at the monthly third Thursday jam at Chicago Street.
The next task was to try to find the right people to jam with. It's a tricky business. You're not only talking about shared musical tastes, for starters, but compatible personalities, good work ethic, like-minded goals, etc. There are so many variables. It's no wonder not too many really good bands stay together for a really long time.
So, on the third Thursday in November I got a text message from a mystery person asking if I was going to the Chicago Street jam that night. Of course I was--it's my favorite day of the month, since that place in my opinion is the center of the musical universe! Quick shout-out to Triz for being the best damn music venue owner ever, and for supporting local acts and bringing in great regional and even national artists like Chicago Farmer, Terrapin Flyer, Righteous Hillbillies and a ton of other really good people. The monthly jam is hosted by the excellent Kevin Krauss on keys, with Tom Maslowski on bass and Doneco Nudi on drums. All great guys.
So anyway, this mystery texter who wasn't in my contacts at the time says hey, let's improvise some blues tonight. Well, the recovering journalist in me seized the news of the day and I wrote back, "I was a CIA head, had a lady friend, now I'm gonna lose, I got the General Petraeus Blues."
Eventually my correspondent identified himself as Greg Toombs, a very talented rock and blues guitarist, singer and songwriter I met at open mics.
That night I jammed a couple rockers on the 335 with the house band backing up. Had a great time as usual. Anyway the next day Greg texts me and says we should get together at his place sometime, with Ron. So we arranged it for Nov. 29, and have been getting together every week since then.
Rounding out the current lineup is Greg's son Matthew, who studied jazz at Northwestern and just recently moved back to the area after working professionally as a musician in Nashville the last two years. He's a very talented keyboardist. Both Greg and Matthew are very easy to get along with and a lot of fun to hang around.
At the December Chicago Street jam there was a jam-packed lineup of artists as usual--more acts than there's usually time to let play a few songs in four hours--but we made our debut. We played Steely Dan's "Boston Rag," the old Deadric Malone blues tune "As the Years Go Passing By" and the cool Gary Clark Jr. rocker "Bright Lights, Big City." We're calling ourselves Bluesonic (thanks Facebook friend Juliana Godsey for the name suggestion!) We're already working on some originals, getting a demo together and hoping to play some gigs by February/March.
So, 2012 was a great year for me musically--the best so far, without a doubt--and 2013 is shaping up to be even better and more fun than ever!