Further adventures in Whiplash

News flash: Goddamn,  there is SO MUCH incredible music out there in the world! Like most people I associate with, I listen to, seek out, devour a wide range of it. Art Tatum, Art Zoyd, Art Garfunkel–it doesn’t matter to me: if I like it, I like it. Consequently, I’ve always been interested in playing in a variety of styles too. Occasionally these styles intersect, not only in actual playing, where a technique developed for one application might inform that of another–but also on the calendar. Playing multiple gigs with different bands over the span of a few days is nothing groundbreaking. But when I’m required to genre jump, I have to say it keeps me on my toes. The past week or so has been a doozy.


It’s one thing to head out to a couple of shows from home where your various gear and garb lives. It’s yet another kink, however, to have to travel to the shows from a remote location. To set the stage (ahem), I was working long, peculiar hours for my day gig at a trade show in downtown Kansas City, hence staying in a hotel near the convention center. This meant I had to take some of my junk with me when I left home a couple days prior to the shows. So I tossed some outfits (gotta have outfits) and the Fender Hot Rod Deville 410 into my car at 6:00 a.m., confident that the amp would be the heaviest thing I moved that day (it wasn’t). And away I went.

After working a couple of 10-12 hour days, it was time to head out to the first gig: The Cass County Lamenters at Holden, Missouri’s Fall Fiesta. The Lamenters specialize in old school honky tonk: songs about lying, cheating, drinking, smoking–real sad stuff. And we were made for these small town festivals where the streets are blocked off and wicked fried foods are ample. It was about an hour drive from my hotel to Holden, so I had time to switch gears, listening to a Prince compilation and Carla Bozulich’s Evangelista (good gawd, will that switch your gears …). Following the scent of funnel cakes, I navigated to the center of town and the bandstand to locate my band mates, including my angel-voiced wife.

Holden is your typical one-Casey’s-General-Store style of town. This translates to approximately 2.3 bars in the downtown area. I generally like to sample the local flavor, so to speak, but with my tight schedule that wasn’t an option. Voicing my dismay at such a predicament, I noted I could really go for a shot of Jim Beam. Not ten minutes later I was covertly handed a suspicious Coke can by our gracious host and hookup, Heather Phipps. She advised me to drink with caution. My wishes had been answered. Locating my honky tonk mojo, my comrades and I set out to spin our weepy numbers into the August night.

"Sound check," if you will.

"Sound check," if you will. You can see a grain elevator in the distance.


Bandstand! Photo: Beck Ireland.

We played some Patsy Cline. We played some Lynn Anderson. We played some Loretta Lynn. It was all very sad. Something else that was sad: the “sound man’s” idea of … everything. The only things benefiting from microphones were vocals and the upright bass. Given, those needed it, but at an outdoor show … things could’ve been better. Alas.

Fall Fiesta.

Fall Fiesta.

After loading out, visiting a mausoleum (yes, that is another story) and hanging around a bit, it was time for me to get my ass back to the city. Wending my way through Pleasant Hill, Blue Springs and a settling fog I eventually made it to I-70, downtown bound tuned into some uninterrupted raw rock on KC’s KKFI (they even played some Cretin 66!).

Friday ended late and Saturday began early–about 5:00 a.m. I had another 12 hour shift before my next show: Federation of Horsepower at the Midland Theater. Man, do we get to play some cool shows in some cool venues. I often shake my head at the opportunities I’ve been afforded. And this was another one. The historic theater has recently played host to some rock and roll shows and this evening found us opening for the barely describable Steel Panther. Here is something that has never happened before: I walked to the gig. The Midland is right around the corner from where I was staying. So I hoofed it. Here is something that rarely happens: we had a dressing room. I found great amusement in the fact that Friday I’d changed clothes in my car and Saturday there was a room of our own backstage at a legendary venue. The mind boggles sometimes. Quite often, actually.

Kriss Ward and soundman extraordinaire Paul Malinowski.

Kriss Ward and soundman extraordinaire Paul Malinowski.

We played a torrid set to warm up the house. It was quite an honor to play on this stage, a surface that has played host to untold legends (I’ve personally seen the likes of Mandy Patinkin and Elvis Costello there) … and now me.

Super intent on an F#5. Yep - same hat V was wearing Friday.

Super intent on an F#5. Yep - same hat V was wearing Friday. Photo: Slimm Adkins.

Twin Scarlett rig for maximum maximumness.

Twin Scarlett rig for maximum maximumness. Photo: Slimm Adkins.

Our set ended, as if often does, with a pile of racket and near onstage scrum during which Gregg knocked over the microphone (bulls, China shop, etc.). He was shortly thereafter informed, haughtily, that, “that was a brand new mic, man,” by a member of the sound crew. Gregg himself was not too put off, but I took it upon myself to belligerently bang into the guy with gear or body every chance I got while loading off. I don’t know what the hell gets into me sometimes. Rock and roll testosterone misdirection or something. Sorry, sound crew guy–just looking after your gear, I know.

During our set the dressing room fridge was restocked. Bud Light. Oh well. Quickly observing that this was not going to be touched, I snagged it and later set out, on foot of course, back to the hotel. So, if you were wondering, “who’s the jackass in a cowboy hat walking up 13th Street with a 12 pack of Bud Light?”–yeah, it was me.

Somewhere in there I was asked if I would be part of a pickup band backing a young vocalist from England, Jim Stapley. Sure–what the hell else did I have to do? When’s the gig? Wednesday. Huh. I was living downtown until Tuesday and Jim was to arrive in KC on Wednesday. Basically it amounted to one group practice to put together five songs in order to open for Jackyl (you heard me) at KC’s Power & Light District.

(Now, don’t even get me started on the P&L District. Ok, I’m started. I’m not a fan. A few nights prior to the Midland gig someone stopped me for trying to pass through while carrying a camera, as though I might profit greatly from snapping a photo of whatever cover band was playing outside that night. Fuck off, P&L.)

Did you hear something?

Anyway, I spent a day or two listening to the songs I was to learn and an evening in my room learning the stuff via headphones and unplugged guitar.

Cramming at the Aladdin. Note confiscated Bud Light sadly being employed.

Cramming at the Aladdin. Note confiscated Bud Light sadly being employed.

Wednesday came and rehearsal-one-and-only was smooth. Immediately following, it was off with the gear to the P&L for the gig. Federation has shared a bill with Jackyl numerous times, so I sort of felt like a dirty little whore at this show. The set went off hitchlessly and was well received.

Jammin' with Jim.

Jammin' with Jim.

When it was all said and done I’d played something like 40 different songs in three venues to maybe 6,000 people. Not a bad week for a random dude like myself. It was a thrill to take part in putting some (hopefully) great, varied music back out into the ether.



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