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1990 Rock Falls, Illinois

In 1989 I was living in Mesa Arizona and won a guitar on a radio contest. I’ll tell you all about that entire story in some other post. The main point is that I won a guitar and I ended up in Rock Falls, Illinois after my mother’s death.

That was a pretty shitty Christmas dinner since she fell into a coma after we finished eating. I guess I could say it was a really good dinner but dessert really sucked. In the shock I moved back to be with my dad and help out in the machine shop.

That guitar you ask? Yea, it was really awesome. American Stratocaster signed by Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughn. I think they gave out 20 of these signed models in support of a tour they did together. The guitar itself must have been a B model because I never, ever got the low E string to intonate correctly.

My playing you ask? Again awesome. I had learned “Smoke on the Water”, some of “Suffragette City” and that one part at the beginning of “Stairway to Heaven”. Believe me when I tell you, my dad was a saint for listening to that dribble being emitted from downstairs every night.

Guitar Magazine was always featuring dudes with big hair from some shitty band that could out shred the next shitty metal band. Every lesson was some fucking shredding technique.

In 1990 there were plenty of hair bands and even a little spandex here and there. Florescent colors were all the rage. Van Halen broke up and The Cars had quit putting out records. Even Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson were quiet. Locally it was all hair and all shred. One trick poney.

When I figured out that working in Dad’s machine shop was too damn boring I got myself enrolled in the community college (again). You see at this point I had already flunked out of Saint Ambrose. Well technically I hadn’t flunked out. Technically I was unable to play football with only 13 credit hours after a year. At least I had a B average.

I moved to Lasalle Peru, IL to try to get my shit together at another school. I guess the only problem was school. I didn’t like it and at this point was just building a bunch of debt.

I moved to Arizona, got married for a couple years, worked as a telemarketer, a salesman and a hot air ballon chaser. I finally found myself working for minimum wage at Handy and Harmon a precious metals refinery in Phoenix Arizona.

They say it’s a dry heat but let me tell you something. I would loose 6 lbs of water weight a day working in that shithole. In the dead of summer when it was 120 dgrees outside I would be standing in front of a furnace pouring liquid gold and silver dressed in a flame retardant suit. It was hot as fuck.

I’m sure to have some kind of cancer from cleaning the asbestos bags in the air collection system. It was a nasty job and it was the very thing that got my ass back in school. Finding the description of Idustrial Design in the ASU handbook didn’t hurt either.

I was really into groups like Big Audio Dynamite and Janes Addiction. Yep it’s 1989 and to me the the Alternative AM Radio that was coming out of some garage in Tempe Arizona was where it was at. If it wasn’t that it was Blues or the Grateful Dead.

None of this stuff was on the radio. Shit that was like 35 years ago and they are still playing the same rock crap on AAA radio they played back then. If I hear “Black Magic Woman”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” or “Layla” one more time…

Back home at the comunity college I ran into my friend Clay at the Art 201 drawing class. Clay is a fluid guy. One of those people that can walk, chew gum, play drums and do a slap bass Flea impersonation at the same time.

Of course you can’t go to art class and not be stoned right? Clay thought the same thing so needless to say we car pooled the rest of the semester. He was into the Chilli Peppers, Parliment and anything funky. I remember we’d play Intersellar Overdrive and some other original instrumentals we had made up. My point is that I really sucked at guitar and being a 21 year old art school kid in Midwest small town America kinda sucked. It especially sucked when your father-in-law at the time was a Sterling cop and he’d have you followed around at night. Apparently he had read the “How to Be an Asshole” book.

If you grew up in the suburbs around Chicago you could go to The Fireside Bowl to see a punk show every weekend. Well, Rock Falls is no Chicago suburb. There was no internet back then and if you wanted to hear anything good you had to go to the library. There I would check out all the cool Blues records and make cassette tapes of vinyl.

In the ol’ Rock River Valley there was a classic rock station out of the Quad Cities, one local am radio station and a local fm that was run by a robot. Every day at lunch dad would turn up the “The Trading Post” on the am station WSDR.

I’d love a recording or two of that phone in radio show. You see it was kind of the equivilant of Craig’s List today. Instead if posting an item for sale you’d call into WSDR and tell them all about the three used 205/70/R15 tires you had with plenty of good tread left for $15.00 a piece or a burn barrel that was free for the taking. The caller would then their phone number on the air in case you wanted more info.

If the Jerky Boys had The Trading Post on AM radio in New Jersey they would of had more hit cassette tapes. I can hear it now. “Hey this is Frank Rizzo and I wanted to know more about your rubber tires” who? “Frank Rizzo, open your ears jackass”.

I regret to inform you that the station is now owned by Fox and serves up healty doses of Hannity and the rest of the fair and balanced real news to my hometown.

There were a couple of bars you could see music. The main one for me was John’s Bar. If you liked listening to someone trying to be Metallica and watching a bunch of greasers rocking out then I guess you’d be happy. I didn’t get it really but at least it was live music.

I liked blues and the dead and alternative music. I grew up listening to classic country and let me tell you a fact. “What Goes On Behind Closed Doors” is a shitloads more interesting than someone screaming about something in a microphone pretending to be their favorite rock star. What’s the use of being someone else when it’s so much easier to be yourself? There was no country, no blues, no rockabilly. Just metal.

So that’s the stage. 21 years old going to my 4th comunity college wanting to play music and nothing but Metallica, Docken and other crap that sounds like it being performed locally. I’ve grown to appreciate it now that it’s not the only option. Back then I hated that crap.

Clay called me one Friday or Saturday and told me he was going to be playing drums out at Charlie’s. Great guy. He did a stint in the armed forces after high school and swore that they had planted a chip in him. He was not joking. He ran away from his wife and went missing in action for a number a days. I remember the authorities were looking for him. He had killed himself. I think the story was that he had gotten exposed to some liquid weed killer monsanto shit and went off the rails. He was a real sweet guy that loved music and had a heart of gold.

He had rented a farmhouse outside of Sterling in a little town called Galt. There was a music room there that the Padilla brothers would practice at. Clay would sit in on drums. I came with my guitar and wide eyes hoping to play but these guys were really good. I mean Mike for sure knew all of Stairway to Heaven and another 40 songs. His brother Tom could sing and play bass. I remember their band The Spitfires played our high school dance.

I had finally found it. A group of guys that played good songs and were nice enough to let me hang around and play when they were finished.

As far as John’s Bar. Yep, it’s still there and there are still dudes playing metally rock that I don’t identify with. I heard they have country bands there some nights. I was back there recently and it still has the smell of beer and body odor. In fact a childhood friend of mine bought the joint and is keeping it alive. Seemed like it was doing well last time I was home.

There is no more trading post on the radio. That cop that would have me followed around is retired and moved to Tennesee. From what I hear the department couldn’t have been happier. Clay married a great Irish girl from Donagal. The Padilla Brothers along with Scott Seally will be performing a small set of original material between my sets April 14 at Blue Island Beer Co.

Let’s talk Sat. March 24.

This Saturday March 24 we’ll be playing at my favorite dive bar on the Southside, Bernice’s Tavern.

We lost Bernice last year but her boys still keep the coolers running and the mix of locals and kool kids keep coming in. Settle in at this joint for a couple a pops and you’ll see why this little bar is consistently ranked as one of the best dive’s in the city. The routine at B’s? Stingo on Wednesday, Open Mic on Thursday, Mike’s night on Friday and Bands on Saturday leaves Sunday available for Steve’s crazy Bloody Marys. How do I know all this? Well, you can just say that a friend of mine told me.

We will get started at 9:30 with a mini solo set from myself, Jimbo Delta and BC Carter. Then a full set with the band.

See you out there.

Let’s talk about Saturday March 10th.

This Saturday March 10th I’ll be starting my Second Saturday Residency at Blue Island Beer Company. Music gets started promptly at 7pm and will be over at 10pm. Nice right. Seems so hard these days to get out to late shows. Chicago is a good music town but I feel like so many venues would have better success and draw if they’d start their shows earlier. What music loving adult with children can see a band at midnight?

They do it right at BIBCo. Shows start early and they close down around 10pm on most nights.

Earlier in the afternooon they are celebrating St. Variant Day by taping some variants of their favorite relasees!๐Ÿ˜‹ BA Underground Communique w/ Coconut, ๐Ÿ˜‹BA Underground Communique w/ Vanilla, ๐Ÿ˜‹BA Underground Communique w/ Raspberries, ๐Ÿ˜‹ Jerk Store Cream Soda Stout w/ Peanut Butter๐Ÿ˜‹BA Lost Weekend Rye Barleywine, Jerk Store barrel. So if you are a beer nerd, you may want to check that out. I cannot gaurentee there will be any left at 6pm but I am confident that they will have a fine brew that you can enjoy.

If you are looking for a bite before the show might I recommend Giussppe’s Trattoria. A no frills family joint that’s been serving up some pretty kick ass Italian fare at a very good price for over forty years. You may want to phone ahead for seats or you can always get a pie to go and bring it around the corner to the brewery. There is also good Mexican and Cajun food in walking distance.

Let’s talk music!

As you know I am putting together a new long term band to work with. This band will be performing for the first time together and playing the last set of the night. Featuring Jimbo Delta on slide guitar, Michael Dumont on bass and Jonny Watts on drums. Mike and Jon are the rythme section of my favorite Southside band The Juke Shakers.

Ok back to it….

I will be doing a little solo set at 7pm that will be followed by Americana Slide Master Jimbo Delta. 7:30-8:00.


Following up Jim will be a white hot band that just released their second record last month. Erin Edmister and Three Tons. 8:00-8:45. This is straight up high Energy Southern Style Rock. This guy sings his ass off and has a Texas guitar player Killian Sweeney filling in the sound with twangy, drippy lead work. I could watch Killian play guitar all day. My new lineup will then play the last set of the night.



The show is free, starts promptly at 7pm. A tip jar will be present and merch available for purchase.

See you out there?

Let’s Talk Friday March 2nd

I mentioned in my first post that I started taking new show dates and was going to build a brand new, long-term band to work with. The time has come to let you know about one of the players that I am really excited to be working with. Before I do let’s first talk in specifics about the show lineup for this Friday March 2nd at The Law Office Pub and Music Hall in Yorkville Il.

Back before the Holidays I hosted a house concert for the hardest working man in Americana music, Nick Dittmeier. Nick and his band are at this point a pure DIY outfit. They have been for a number of years now. Doing it the hard way with no booking agent or publicist or label support. He and his bandmates play music on the road for a living and are responsible for everything that comes with it. Last year they played 126 shows. Take a moment and listen to Nick Dittmeier and his sideman-guitar player Jason Payton performing to a sit down crowd at our house concert.




If you liked live music and lived in Bridgeport in the late 90s and early 2000’s you will probably be familiar with an artist named Jimbo Delta. He played all the joints. Buddy’s, Harlem Ave, and about another 140 dates in 1999. Did I forget to mention a day job? Yea and a day job at the same time. DIY for sure. I’ve always considered him an Americana Slide Master. He has released some very nice records. I guess you should take a minute and give a listen his excellent 2008 album Beginning Without Endings in its entirety.



Now that you’ve heard Jim can you understand my excitement! If I was good enough I’d be backing him on chunky acoustic rhythm guitar. I somehow have a sneaking suspicion that some of that may be happening in the future. Friday we will be playing as a two piece.


I have not heard Eric Swartz in person but have listened to some of his extensive catalog on Bandcamp. He will bring his songwriting perspective to the stage at 8pm.

Maybe we’ll see you out there?

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Set Times

8:00 pm – Eric Peter Swartz

8:45 pm – Joe Rian with Jimbo Delta

9:00 pm – Nick Dittmeier and the Sawdusters


THE ACORN THEATER

A few months back I was bitching about how shitty Chicago was for songwriters. Like where are they? Where are the showcases and what’s the deal. Seems like everything in this town is a cover band. or the songwriting or writers I run into are so FOLKY that even I don’t wanna hang around and listen. Hell I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great players and writers here but where are all the venues that put on the songwriter shows? Lagunitas is doing a thing now which is great to see. I know Fitzgeralds has some regular things happening, but what about the small clubs and local bars? Seems like all you ever find are cover bands or tribute bands, or bad blues bands. ughhh. Where are the listeners and the listening rooms? I was about three beers in when a songwriting friend of mine Richard Pryzdia mentioned that he had been heading to Michigan to this little theater called the Acorn to do a songwriter open mic thing they have monthly. He said to call ahead to get on the list since it sometimes is filled months in advance.

Hummm…I said shit, I should check that out some time.
The next day in the ol’ cube farm I thought “Hey, you should email the Acorn Theatre and see if you can get on the list”. I’ll continue this story in the coming days and tell you more about the scene up there and how I met the next big thing…..(Lil’ Meg Robinson). For now here are the two songs I played. First time out publicly with “Start All Over Again” and a decent version of Baltimore.

GETTING A BAND BACK TOGETHER

1910487_10152498238236325_5756395526353688641_nI am happy to announce that I am putting a band together and picking up dates again.

Since the kids were born I have been for the most part playing only solo shows. after playing the Blue Island Beer Co. with the Bertoletti Family Band’s rhythm section (sister-in-law Susan Bertoletti on drums and Greg “the Eggman” Marvola on base) I realized just how much I miss having a backing band. Having been offered Saturday night residency gig there starting in March also made me realize that it’s time to get a band back together.

Though my wonderful wife Sheila will not (at least at this point) be a regular member like she was in the days of our Additives band; she did say that she would like to join the band on some accordion from time to time. I imagine and hope as the kids get a bit older we’ll see her again killing the piano and organ like she is known to do.

I have decided to seek new players that I have not worked with in the past. The past players involved with The Additives are great people and wonderful players. I decided to find the right players for the type of things I’m writing now.ย  Since recording the last two records with Bloomington Indiana’s 220 Breakers as the backing band, it’s been hard to find that type sound back here in Chicago.

I’ll announce the new lineup soon, but for now know that I am putting together some real special pieces together for this one. Yes I have some new songs and yes there will be another record recorded this year. I will also be releasing the six song EP we tracked this time last year with the 220 Breakers.

I don’t know what the name of the band will be. It may be Joe Rian’s Additives or The Additives, or Joe Rian’s Band of fartblossums… hell at this point I don’t know.ย  The important thing is that in the next month or so you’ll see me with a new cast of characters making (not playing) music. See you out there.

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