Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rules of Conduct

In the midst of all of the public bickering going on these days, something very significant actually happened.

Kanye dissed Taylor (cue the groan from the peanut gallery.)

I know, it's shocking, what with the relevance of the prestigious VMA's.

Now, what's important here is not how you feel about the so-called Captain K. Is he a jerk? Is he a hero? Is he tellin' it like it is? Keeping it real?

(Will he go to rehab within the next month? Boost the sagging CD sales? Remember, you heard it here first.)

Rather, what is important is the fact that he didn't act like a pro. He certainly gets paid like a pro (unlike yours truly.) So he should act like one.

There are a lot of "rules" that need to be followed when your a pro musician. All of them seem pretty obvious, but the mentality of the typical musician never ceases to amaze me. They're simple, really.

You gotta do things like show up and be ready to play on time (which means you're not walking through the door to set up 10 minutes before the hit- are you listening, guitar players?) You need to have professional gear that is actually in working order (still looking at you, guitar players.) Your gear includes chords, cables, power strips, extra strings and 9 volt batteries. Oh, yeah, and an amp, too.

And a guitar strap.

(I was on a gig once where the guitar man forgot his guitar- huh?)

Other responsibilities include having to dress appropriately, even if it is a jeans and t-shirt gig. Bands should have a look, even if it's the dirty, grungy, uncaring look. So make sure that you're part of it. You should also stay (relatively) sober. You were hired to do a job, so make sure you are still able to perform.

"A man should know his limitations."- L.C. Walker

Finally, you are not supposed to fight with your band mates (co-workers) while you are on the stage. If there is some point of contention going on, save it for the back room. Not only do you make a fool of yourself, but you give all of your colleagues a bad name, you embarrass them, and chances are that you're not going to get called again to work with so-and-so.

These are our rules of decorum.

Hmmm. Sounds like just about anybody's job requirements, no? You would almost certainly be fired for berating your boss in front of your co-workers

Which brings us to Rep. Joe Wilson (R.-S.C.)

South Carolina, by the way, still flies the Stars and Bars atop the statehouse. Nice.

Is he a hero or a jerk? Remember, it's not what he said, but where he said it (and before you start yapping and getting off-topic, all of our so-called leaders lie.)

The rules of decorum in the House of Representatives are very clear:

As stated in section 370 of the House Rules and Manual, it has been held that a member could not:

  • call the President a “liar.”
  • call the President a “hypocrite.”
  • describe the President’s veto of a bill as “cowardly.”
  • charge that the President has been “intellectually dishonest.”
  • refer to the President as “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”
  • refer to alleged “sexual misconduct on the President’s part.”
If you still think he's a hero, then I feel for you.

So it goes...

photo credit: Jason DeCrow/AP

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Bubbas and the Blues

This past weekend I had a bit of a musical reunion.

Old friends*...

Buzz Kilman and the All Bubba Blues Band. The 25th anniversary show at the soon-to-be-famous Good Old Days Festival in beautiful Winfield, Il.

Ok, so I wasn't in the band 25 years ago. Come to think of it, I wasn't even in high school yet. I started playing with the band around '93 or '94 until the end of their run, 4 or 5 years later. Basically, it was the first "high profile" gig that I had ever had.

Now, when I say high profile, I'm not talking about working with such industry greats like Kanye West and Taylor Swift. If only.

Buzz was the star. The draw. The name.

The reason why the checks were very, very good.

He was a radio jock in Chicago, working as the right hand man to Jonathan (Johnny B.) Brandmeier. This was in the early '80's. Johnny B. was one of the original "shock jocks" (Howard Stern wishes he was that cool) of radio, taking a page from the ultra-original Steve "Disco Demolition" Dahl playbook. He was a character. Wacky. Zany. Goofy. Silly. Didn't need to have strippers or tell fart jokes while on the air.

Johnny B. was that good, and hugely popular. Buzz was hugely popular, too, as a result.

Buzz plays harp (harmonica) and tends to favor the style of Sonny Boy Williamson. He knows the history of the music, and has a pretty large repertoire.

The band leader was Ron Shanaver. He plays guitar and sings.

...sat on their park bench like bookends*...

Ron and I go all the way back to 1989. We met at the Wise Fool's Pub, when it was one of the best blues clubs in Chicago. He was running the Tuesday night blues jam, using the Bubba band as the house band. He also managed the club. I was playing with the late, great L.C. Walker on Sundays. Even though I was 18, and underage, and just getting into the game, Ron let me hang at the club anytime.

Most likely because I brought a lot of friends on Sundays, typically a dead night for taverns. The bar usually had a good ring when I was playing. Sure, my friends were mostly underage too, but no matter. It was the '80's, when fun was still had without much guilt involved.

To make a long story short (and believe me, it's a very long story, the entire historical recollection and all) Ron and I developed an actual friendship (most of us musicians are more colleagues than friends, truth be told.) And when the drum chair became available (the previous drummer, though exceptional, was constantly late, which got him fired- hint, hint young playas,) Ron gave me the gig.

Like I said, that was around '93/'94. So the 25th anniversary show was only 15 years for me. Nevertheless.

...can you imagine us years from today*...

The show came in 2 parts. For the first hour, the Heirs of Moe performed. The Heirs is simply the Bubbas, sans Buzz. Ron had gotten the Heirs going during the waning days of the Bubbas, getting us extra work to keep our calendars full, without having to secure the money Buzz commanded. We didn't do a ton of gigs as the Heirs, but enough to get by. We played rock and roll: Blind Faith, Green Day, the Troggs, Leonard Cohen, Los Lobos, Bob Dylan, and a bunch of Neil Young tunes (Almost Cut My Hair, Ohio, Keep on Rockin' in the Free World.)

We had a blast playing those songs together, again. Ron, myself, and the bass player, "Dangerous" Dave Forte, had a couple of rehearsals, before the gig, in my kitchen. Good thing, too.

"How does that go again?" "What key is this in?" "Are you sure?"

These guys are all really good musicians, though, so we got our "sh-tuff" together quickly and efficiently, as we always had done. Never a worry (well, Dave worried, but that's just his m.o. It's not his fault.)

After the Heirs set, we morphed into the Bubbas. Buzz came up onstage, and it was deja-vu all over again. All of the songs came back like they had never left: Rainin' in My Heart, Walkin' the Dog, Walkin' Blues, Can't Sing the Blues in an Air-Conditioned Room, et al. We even did a coupla "new" ones like Dylan's Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat and Rainy Day Women #12 and #35 as if they were part of the previously regular repertoire.

The show was very, very good. The crowd was even better, giving us a call for a second encore (which, incidentally, Winfield's finest would not let us do. Hey, I wouldn't be me if I didn't rip on something, right?) Everybody had a good time. Personally, it was one of my favorite gigs of the year so far. I miss playing with those guys. incredibly strange*...

So it goes...

*Old Friends, lyrics by Paul Simon

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

An Open Letter to YOUR Representatives

I've written a letter that you all should copy and then send to your senators and representatives. You can find all of their contact info here (senators), and here (house reps).

If you are concerned about the state of health care in the U.S., then it would be in your best interest to do this. I've done most of the work. This makes it extremely easy to be part of the chorus demanding real change.

Again, the contact info for the Senate is

For your House Reps, go to

Senator Durbin,
I wanted to write you this quick letter, since the President will be addressing the nation on his health care "plans" tonight.

I find it unbelievably distressing that there may not be a so-called "public option" left on the table when all is said and done. This cannot be allowed to happen. We elected the people who are currently in office because this particular situation has gotten out of hand, and Americans will die in the street, regularly, if real reform is not accomplished. The insurance companies, by their very design, are a conflict of interest, and the best possible care available is unattainable if the bottom line (profit) is part of the equation. We're either giving total, appropriate care to those who need it, or we're not. This should not be a profit driven industry. Really, it should not be an industry at all. It should be not-for-profit across the board. A blogger that I enjoy reading has written extensively about the woeful health care in the U.S. in his blog:

Please read that post that I've sent the link for.

Anything short of a single-payer system is a failure, as far as I'm concerned. Having 60 dems in the senate was supposed to be a boon for the President's agenda, which, in fact, was the reason I voted for him (and other dems) and I feel that the opportunities we, as a people, voted for are falling by the wayside.

If these goals are not accomplished, then I will be forced to vote you out of office. I will be forced, in fact, to vote against every single person currently holding public office, dems and repubs alike. And I will be forced to use a loud voice in hopes that other voters will follow suit to vote all of you out.

Surely, you understand the gravity of all this, and will work with your congressional colleagues accordingly.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Mike Rodbard, Illinois resident and registered voter

So it goes...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rock Band Rebels and Barry O.

I've been listening to non-stop radio coverage about President Obama's planned, televised, speech next week. The day after Labor Day, in fact. He is going to be addressing school kids directly about that hot-button, partisan tainted, politically motivated issue:

The importance of education.

I know. I know. It's a polarizing topic (it is now, anyways.) After all, it's common knowledge, at this point, that the U.S. lags far (and sadly) behind most Western (capitalist) nations in terms of the quality of education.

Education is supposedly very important to Americans. Didn't our last president at least appear to try not to leave any children behind? I mean, he was in a classroom on 9/11. Of all places.

The importance of education, for those of you snoozing through the second paragraph.

So here's the short end of it. As I said, the President of the United States is going to make a speech on t.v. touting the importance of education. This speech is supposed to be aimed directly at students, during school hours.

Not surprisingly, schools across the nation will be showing it for the students. It seems kinda appropriate. You know, kids in school get to hear a speech from a sitting U.S president. An educational experience, no?

Allegedly, he'll be speaking of becoming smarter, more creative (gasp), and setting goals for yourself to become the best person you can be. Something to that effect, anyways.

Hardly a political ploy to advance any personal agendas. Propaganda? Sure, I guess. Although, any time a leader of anything opens his/her mouth about anything, I suppose that could be construed as propaganda.


Anyhoo, because of these planned words of wisdom and encouragement, parents are...what?

You guessed it: outraged.

The particular 50,000 watt blowhorn I'm listening to is citing Dallas, TX as a place where parents are expressing their outrage so strongly that schools are now making watching the speech optional, extending all the way to the teachers. A political speech in disguise, to be sure.

Optional for all. God bless Texas and the power of outrage.

In a country that is increasingly trying to legislate every. single. movement. that. we. make. or. think. about. making, I guess that we should just add this to the list. We now want our education to be clean and happy and sanitized. No harmful words or views or opinions will filter through our children's obviously under-developed (but well protected by the mandatory helmet) brains. Junior won't have to hear about real things about the real world from real people. We'll add to our shelter of protection for our little guy. Don't worry, little Billy or Sally, the nanny will protect you. Mommy's gotta run now to close that big real estate deal in the new, exclusive, gated community tucked away from the immigrants, the uninsured, and the, gulp, criminals (wink, wink) that don't have jobs and get Link cards while I work hard for my 97" plasma.

Now grab a juice box and go and watch your Lucky Charms commercial, you little fat ass. Maybe play a friendly game of World of Warcraft with your imaginary online friends afterwards.

And then maybe a little Rock Band.

After all, if you were in an actual rock band, the poor education you're receiving won't exactly give you inspiration (or fodder) to play or write anything interesting, and why would you want to be a musician anyways?

There's no money in that.

So it goes...