I was telling you about my adventure to the Acorn Theater in Michigan and how I met the next big thing Meg Robinson. As usual, it seems that I had forgotten about the time change heading over to Michigan after work. I get off at 5pm, hell it’s an hour away so 7pm is no sweat. I realized this when the map application on the phone changed my arrival time changed to the OH SHIT time zone as in “Oh shit I’m going to miss my time slot”. I got to the theater just in time to check in with the director Sarah. I grabbed a beer to calm the nerves. Two if I’m being perfectly honest. This theater was packed for a songwriter open mic. Oh the glory I thought. With both hands full of brew I notice this guy with a shit eating grin, who himself was holding two cups of beer and I think a glass of wine. I looked at him and thought “Now there’s my kind of guy”. I think I said something like: “What…double fistin not enough?”. He laughed, said his name was Jon. We tried to shake hands but then realized we couldn’t. I ask if he’d ever been to this thing before. He told me that it was their first time. I ask is he is performing he says: “No my little girl is, we don’t know what to do with her. We take her to these singing competitions and talent shows and she keeps winning them. She just wrote her first song this week.” She sings, writes songs and is 12 years old? I can’t wait to see her I said.
I finished my couple songs, packed my gear and headed to the van to check messages and have some tobacco. When I ventured back in I ran into the guest host who opened the show. Laura Joy who is from the Chicago area, is a fine singer and songwriter. Heck of a guitar player as well. You can find Laura Joy stuff here. We had a nice conversation, traded cds and that’s when I heard a young girls voice on the sound system. I stuck my head in and standing on stage in front of 150 people was Little Meg Robinson.
I’ve been calling here “Little” just so you know I’m not talking about the accomplished Harp player of the same name. She starts with her dad’s favorite cover. A Blondie song, kills it. I look in the crowd and see her parents. They are both grinning from ear to ear. Beaming the only way a parent can when their child is doing something extraordinary. Meg then introduces herself again says she just wrote this new song earlier that week and she’d like to play it for the first time.
I’m thinking to myself wow this kid has got some panache! 12 years old and standing in this theater on a fairly large stage with her ukulele in front of a full house. Her timing and stage presence is perfect she sings like a bird…and she’s 12! Here she is singing “Call ME” by Blondie.
See what I mean when I say that she is the next big thing! I have heard a lot of people sing, but this gal has something so pure and natural in her voice it’s just transcending. I’ve stayed in contact with team Robinson and a month or so later I had a house concert at our place and asked Meg if she would like to open for the main act Nick Dittmeier. She agreed and there she was in our living room running a bunch of songs and crushing it as usual. Below is some video of her doing one of her songs called “Silver Spoon”.
Meg will be opening up for me this Saturday at The Blue Island Beer Company.
She hits the stage 6:30ish and will perform a set of select covers and very nicely written originals. Team Robinson just took her to Nashville where she shared the stage at the Bluebird with some past American Idols. Here she comes. Little Meg Robinson. See her now and you can one day say “I saw her when she was just 13”.
FREE SHOW, EARLY SHOW, KIDS OK.
A little over a year ago I was hosting the open mic at Bernice’s Tavern. I had been hosting and co-hosting it for the last ten years. One thing about your local open mic is the element of surprise. Once in a great while someone will walk in you’ve never heard or met and simply move you. Walsh is exactly that guy.
Usually an artist will woodshed for a time practicing songs they’ve written and get themselves to a point that they think they should go try them out on someone besides their Aunt Kate. Aunt Kate is totally cool but you can’t meet girls playing your guitar in Aunt Kate’s kitchen. Over time you will see the regular open mic players come in week after week, slowly getting better and like in a year or so they end up getting a band together or basically get good enough they leave the nest and eventually move on to regular gigs of their own. It’s really cool to see the progress.
Now I don’t know alot about Ryan other than he walked in with the shitiest god forsaken guitar I think I’ve ever seen. The whole back end of it was peeled off and was like a diving board. Seems this kid was busking his summers away between college semesters at UIC. Who needs internships when you can breath in the life of a city on the streets. I did the exact same thing when I was going there 15 years previous. This kid had a twinkle in his eye that only the Irish get, That’s all I can say.
The night was just right, It had slowed down enough that the few that were in the bar were listening attentively. Which if you didn’t know, is the best case scenario. Well everyone but one person who was too drunk to know that a young kid that played great and sang like Chet Baker was singing.
I was instantly taken aback. This kid must be like 23 and he plays not good, but very good. Sings not good, but very good and unique as well. I promptly got on the phone with my favorite sound engineer nerd “The Captain” Jaime Gartelos. I told him that there’s a kid in here that we need to record. I figured if his guitar is split down the back and he’s busking on the streets during school breaks he more than likely doesn’t have any recordings. Jaime asked me why I was doing this, and I replied “I have to, he’s a talent.” This kid is in his young 20’s. If I had money and time I’d manage him, be his booking agent and buy him a van to make the rounds in.
He was fluid in the songs he was singing and it would be an optimal time to capture them. I got his number and told him that we needed to record a few of his songs immediately. He said when? How’s tomorrow sound? It took some convincing, I imagine he thought I was nuts.
Here are the four songs we tracked at Jaime’s apartment. He walked in, I handed him my guitar and he knocked out four songs. I think he nailed the first take of each one, I believe we maybe did two takes of each song just in case. Perfect every time. You may want to turn this up a bit as these are unmastered tracks. Enjoy. Ryan will be opening for me this Saturday at Blue Island Beer Co. 7pm. FREE SHOW
Let’s talk about our residency show coming up this Saturday night April 14th at Blue Island Beer Company. We will be playing as a three piece. Myself, Jim Parks on Slide guitar and Michael Dumont on bass. We’ve added a few new songs so we will be doing two sets of music starting at 7pm.
Following our first little set we will be bringing in our guest performers to play a small set. Driving in from my hometown of Rock Falls Il. is a trio that goes by the name Wrong Element. If you read my last post about Rock Falls in 1990 you’ll remember I spoke of the very first people I got a chance to play music with, the Padilla Brothers. Joining them on percussion will be Scott Seally. Scott is a music aficionado, he always knows the hot performers before anyone else and has great taste in music. That taste is heard in the songs he writes. Both he and Tom Padilla are pretty avid songwriters. Saturday they will be performing a stripped down acoustic set of original music. It will not suck.
We will follow their set up with another set of songs (and a few solo pieces from both myself and Jimbo)
We will finish up at 10pm. Just in time to take your glass of Metamucil and watch Murder She Wrote and Madlock that you DVR’D on METV.
I will have the “Suitcase of Broken Dreams” filled with old Additives CDS and maybe a t-shirt or two. I will have a few of these neat residency posters there as well. Donations or beer always accepted. Please give me your email at the show or subscribe to the blog so I can keep you informed about the FREE LP VINYL RECORD I am releasing here in a few months. It combines Switchyard Sessions No.1 and No.2 on to a 180 gram vinyl record. I will be giving 2 away (one for you and one to give to a friend) to anyone who signs up on the list.
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.
JOE RIAN’S ADDITIVES 7:00-7:45
WRONG ELEMENT 8:00-8:45
JOE RIAN’S ADDITIVES 9:00-9:45
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.
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.