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Friday, December 26, 2014

A very musical December update

GBP at CSP 12-20-14
By Ted Slowik

Hi all! Hope you had a Merry Christmas! Just realized I haven't posted an update since November, and there's much to recap!

The "Farewell Tour" was fun. The shows at Lewis University with John Condron and Allison Flood, opening for Chase Walsh at Chicago Street Pub and playing covers at 30 Buck with Tim Placher were all very enjoyable. The Nov. 29 set opening for Dan Dougherty's new project On The Off Chance didn't happen due to illness among band members, but I caught Aly opening for them Dec. 19 at Ashbary Coffee House and they were phenomenal! Scott McNeil was there, too, and caught some spooky green orbs flitting about while recording video of Aly's set. It may be just a trick of the light but it's weird!

The Tribute to Shirley Kostka show Dec. 13 in Minooka by GBP was great, also. Drummer J. Michael, guitarist George Barnes, singer Ron Kostka and I rehearsed several times in recent months and played a solid two hours of hard rock originals and covers, and I opened with an acoustic set. Ron's daughter Terry sang the National Anthem. I agreed to do some recording with them in January, and they plan to continue the project with Ron on bass and Terry on vocals, but I passed on the offer to do more live shows with them.

Nobody Knows at CSP 12-20-14
Another reunion happened Dec. 20 at Chicago Street Pub. In addition to playing a set with Ron on vocals and George on guitar, Nobody Knows reunited for its first public show in more than 20 years! With good friends Dave Kent on guitar and Bill Moll on guitar and vocals, we played a good set even though we lacked drums. Ron was going to play but broke his arm two days before the show. Even though he was in a lot of pain he still came out and sang, and I greatly appreciate that! Thanks also to Scott for running sound and to Triz and Kathy and all at the Pub for being so supportive of live, local, original music.

Overall turnout at the "Farewell Show" Dec. 20 was pretty light, and it shows just how difficult it is to get people out to see you play. This was supposed to be my last billed public show for a while, remember? But between rehearsals and Ron's broken arm and this and that I ran out of time to reach out personally to people as I'd hoped, but it's OK. I kinda lost faith in the whole "Farewell" concept anyway, the more I thought about it.

You see, there have been other developments. I've decided not to become a hospice volunteer after all. I feel awful and have wrestled with this decision for a month or so, and apologize to all who feel I misled them. Many friends expressed support for the plan, and I waited months for an opening and went through all the training. But in the end I decided it's just not something I'm able to commit the time to doing at this time.

I still plan to spend time over the next few months writing new material. I'm continuing guitar lessons with Kev Wright of The Righteous Hillbillies, and he's providing great feedback on recent songs as well as some of the very old ones. Bill Moll also said the old stuff was really good and I'm taking a fresh look at some of the old tunes now that I can play them on guitar instead of bass. I'm looking forward to recording new demos in the months ahead.

Tribes 8-20-14
Another new development is that the Wednesday night acoustic open mic at Tribes Alehouse in Mokena hosted by John Condron is on indefinite hiatus. Tribes is expanding and becoming a brewery, which is great news for beer lovers and very exciting for them! Unfortunately this means the end (for a while, at least) of a weekly gathering of a great community of musicians, songwriters and artists. I was fortunate to participate regularly for more than three years and learned much about performing and being relaxed while playing.

I also met many great people through Tribes, including Brian Motyll, who has just released a collection of new recordings he spent four months working on. He calls the album "Opal" and the project Riverhorse. You can download it for free on his Bandcamp page or make a donation. I think his singing, playing and songwriting are great, and you should check out his music!

I've also heard Aly's new five-song collection produced by John Condron and it's fantastic, but I'll wait to publish a review until her release "Blackbird" is commercially available through her record label, Flipside Works.

Also, cheers and a shout-out to The Vaudevileins, who played the legendary Metro in Chicago this month! I saw them perform Dec. 6 at Jeff Julian's Big Damn Dumb Variety Show at the Pub (well, three-fourths of them, anyway) and they were terrific as always!

FitzGerald's 12-23-14
With no more open mics at Tribes, there's opportunity to explore other options. The Pub is now having open mic on Mondays. On Tuesday this week I went up to FitzGerald's in Berwyn and played their open mic, which was fun (being Christmas, and having arrived early and signed up to go first, I played "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and got some in the crowd to sing along. I also played Muddy Waters' "Rollin' and Tumblin'" in the open D tuning Kev showed me). Ashbary has an open mic on Wednesdays, but it tends to attract a younger crowd.

Since I was in Berwyn I dropped by Harlem Avenue Lounge, where they were having an open blues jam. I hadn't been up to FitzGerald's or HAL to play in about a year, because it's quite a drive from Joliet, plus it would have been hard to do another weeknight out in addition to Wednesdays at Tribes. It was great seeing guitarist Pistol Pete, bassist Sam Cockrell, Laurance Glasser and many others again, but also humbling to say the least! I may be quite comfortable playing acoustic guitar in any situation but the cats at Kenny Zimmerman's HAL are the real deal when it comes to electric blues. A year of lessons with Kev has helped tremendously but I'm going to need more experience playing electric onstage with others before I'd be comfortable playing with the greats at the Lounge.
Sam Cockrell and drummer at HAL 12-23-14