Saturday, August 29, 2009

DeKalb Rocks! Reunion vids

Hey folks! What a magnificent, historic weekend! I'll have stories and pics up shortly, but in the meantime, here's a link to my DeKalb Rocks! YouTube video playlist with tons of live clips from the weekend. Dig in!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

DeKalb Rocks! Reunion Countdown - 1

Last song, people! It begins tomorrow night at Abbey Pub in Chicago. The DeKalb Rocks! Reunion, featuring the reunion of the original Otis Ball & The Chains. We start the show off at 6:30 sharp! And I have an excellent surprise guest lined up. We do it all over again on Sunday at Otto's in DeKalb! Birthplace of Otis Ball & The Chains! Show starts at 5 with a video presentation in the Underground. The rock starts at 6 and we hit the stage at 7:30. You have been warned!

And we close out our week of sneak previews with the one, the only Charles Manson's Birthday. No choice but to. This version is the demo featuring the last DeKalb version of OB&C. Killer, Kathy Howard on drums and Leslie Frank on keys. Produced and recorded by our buddy WEZ-L. That's WEZ-L up thar.

Grab it or watch it!

So one more once, folks. It's gonna be a good one. Here's all the info. See ya there!
Abbey Pub, Chicago Sat Aug. 22
Otto's Dekalb Sun Aug. 23

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

DeKalb Rocks! Reunion Countdown - 2

Sure, it's been almost 20 years since I played DeKalb, but I ain't ripping cobwebs from my guitar for these shows! No sir! Yes, you'll hear the old hits this weekend, but I've got new material too! And it's good! And I still make videos too!

From the man who brought you Charles Manson's Birthday, presenting Fire Needs Oxygen! Grab it or watch it!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

DeKalb Rocks! Reunion Countdown - 3

Well, I said all the songs in this week's countdown were gonna be in the setlists this weekend for the DeKalb Rocks! Reunion shows. But I can't guarantee today's selection. It was never in a setlist. It was only played as a final song and I only called it on special occasions. Had to FEEL it.

Having said that, I have a good feeling about this weekend. I am strong, I am invincible. I Am Otis.

Biggie Smalls, Biggie Smalls, Biggie Smalls.

Grab it or stream it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

DeKalb Rocks! Reunion Countdown - 4

Here's one of the last songs I wrote in DeKalb. Almost made the first album. But I didn't quite finish it in time. So it made the second album, Favorite Love Songs. Which remains unreleased. I'm really happy with this home recording. Still sounds good to me. Just lil ol' me and my drum machine. And you'll get to hear it in DeKalb this Sunday!

While I got ya, I'm going on early both nights! Get there by 6:30 or cry all the way home.

Grab it
or stream it.

DeKalb Rocks! Reunion Countdown - 5

The big shows are days away! Saturday night at Abbey Pub in Chicago and Sunday night at Otto's in DeKalb! Come early! Stay late! We're gonna rock the days away hyah at the MP3 Club. Every day this week, I'll be posting a set list sneak preview.

We're starting off with an old favorite. Walk On Water goes way back. It was one of the songs on my first demo that got me my record deal. They Might Be Giants sang the back ups on the album version. And it's the song I sang at Day of Action while the parade crossed the Kishwaukee River. (If you listen closely to the last chorus on the album version, you'll find a secret nod to my old hometown.)

But this is the original home demo recorded in DeKalb in '86 on my 4-track Tascam cassette recorder, back at the First St ranch. Killer on bass and joining in on the back up vox. A couple years later, we cut a full band demo with our buddy and producer WEZ-L.

This song been berry berry good to me. You can hear it live this weekend.

Grab it or stream it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Here In the happy hunting Grounds

Here we go, folks. As I write, the party starts one week from tonight. It's been a whole lotta work, but a labor of love, to be sure. Never had any interest in my high school reunions and I never spent more than a year at any one college, so that was out. But I left my heart in DeKalb. (Thanks to STD for pointing out the capitol K.) I can't wait to see all my old pals and palettes! And I'm very excited to be promoting an all-star line-up that never could have happened at the time. We really have the cream of the crop from a decade of DeKalb bands. Once in a lifetime! Well, actually twice. Sat Aug 22 at Abbey Pub in Chicago and Sun Aug 23 at OTTO'S! (Everybody gotta go Otto, OTTO!) And I GUARANTEE! you need to attend both shows for the full spectacular. Each show boasts its own surprises, unique to the evening. Plus fun memorabilia to be purchased and jealousize yer non-attending buddies with.

But there is one thing I am looking forward to above all others. and that is the opportunity to go totally bonkers over happy hunting one mo time. The songs of Matt Parker partnered with the guitars of Tim Fowler is about as winning a rock combo as I have ever heard in my life.

I arrived in DeKalb in the summer of '85. The first time I saw hh musta been fall of '85 at Two Fool's. Mighta been the first show after Fowler and drummer Dave Fishman had left DeKalb's Blatant Dissent. At the time, Two Fool's was the place to be. A basement punk club. Really just a basement. But so many bands came through that joint. And underage were welcome. So it was a great opportunity to hobknob with the local high schoolers. And watch em get drunk for the first time.

(Note on Two Fool's - Owned and operated by Larry Henrikson, the owner of the exceptional Axe-In-Hand guitar shop. I bought my Strat and my blue thin-body Alvarez acoustic from Larry. Here's a note from his son posted to the DeKalb ROCKS! Facebook group.

It was for the most part a fun experience living on the property and hearing the bands play.

The Two Fools really was a coffee house at one time. Originally called Juicy John Pinks back in the mid seventies. They moved out and I think operated downtown for a time. Two friends took over the space and the Two fools was born. I'll have to sit down and think about the details, come back later and post. Anyway, they sold sandwiches, soft drinks, and other easy food/meals. I thnk eventually it failed, but my father continued to rent out the space to bands and groups for a place to perform. A variety of bands and music. I can't say I remember everyone who performed down there. Dress for success, Blatant descent, ring thirteen, Get smart, etc, as well as bands that evolved from some of these groups. I think my brothers band performed there, not sure which one. I even played there once back in the spring of 86, horribly I might add and received the honor of being called a poser which was exactly what I intended to do.

I was btw, the skinny guy usually sitting behind the counter up at the Ax. I apologize if I ever pissed anyone off. I wasn't always crazy about cleaning up the messes. Please feel free to share any stories, hopefully I won't be too embarrassed.

I'm happy to see any pics of the old property. Sadly, it's all been torn down. I still have dreams that I'm working and living there.)

But I digress. The happy hunting I first fell in love with was the three piece. Frank Mundo came in on bass sometime in '86, freeing Parker up to play second guitar. And adding an extra ... enthusiasm to the mix. This version of the band broke up in '88, just before I left town. I'm very happy to report that I documented one of their last, if not their very last, shows. An afternoon show on the MLK Mall at Northern Illinois University.

The band reformed after I left. First with Tom Ellett on drums, replacing the Fish Man, and Parker back on bass. When Parker and Fowler moved to Chicago, the band had one more go round with Tom Rose of Blue Green God on bass and Sport on drums.

I dunno for sure what to expect from these reunion shows. I haven't asked too many questions cuz I wanna be surprised. And I understand there will be surprises. (You better be searching Priceline, Mundo!)

For all the fans and friends, and all those who want to find out what the big deal is, I recently unearthed a tape Fish sent me back in the day of an unreleased album recorded in '89 with Tom Ellett on drums. Plus I tacked on some demos from the Fishman era. Cover art with liner notes included in the zip. Grab it NOW! What are you waiting for? As good as the best Placemats albums.

And here's a vid from the aforementioned '88 NIU show, courtesy of ME!

Seriously. happy hunting alone is worth heading out for the shows this weekend. But WAIT! THERE'S MORE! The Service, Blatant Dissent, SubVerts, Ring 13, blackcandlelove, Dan of Smile! AND OTIS BALL & THE CHAINS! I haven't even started talking about my end of this pardukee. But check back on Monday. It's the final countdown!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bastard Son of Shake Appeal - WKDI 1988

Oh, to be so young and optimistic. My very first radio interview! And what better station than DeKalb's own WKDI? None better! In May of '88, my buddy Jim Moran asked me to appear on his show, Bastard Son of Shake Appeal. I had my record deal and I'd be off to Jersey at the end of the summer. I was a local personality and this was my Black and White Ball. So to speak.

We chatted about my future as a rock star, I played acoustic versions of many of the songs that would end up on my first album, as well as a tape of Charles Manson's Birthday live at Wesley Foundation and a home recording of an otherwise unheard song called Yes. A complete rip off of Big Star's Thirteen. And a sing-a-long version of Lion Sleeps Tonight with Jim and everyone who was at the station that afternoon.

Haven't listened to this tape since it was recorded. I had a lotta fun digitizin it. One more week and I'll be back home in DeKalb. I did an interview today for the Daily Chronicle promoting the big Otto's show on Sunday, August 23. It's just like starting over.

Sos grab the Bastard Son show hyah and I can't wait to see ya!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Well, I went out tonight. I know! Shocking! But I had a couple really good reasons. My buddy John's band was playing walking distance from the house. I've known John for a couple years now. He's the landlord of the rehearsal space SKFTB used for quite a while. (Reasonably priced rehearsal space in Jersey City! I can hook you up.)

I've never seen his band Wellbaby, so that was a pretty good reason. Plus they were going on at 10, according to the intranets. PLUS my Ibanez Digital Delay was in the space and I left a message he should bring it to the show. Cuz I'm gonna need it for the upcoming OB&C shows in Chicago and DeKalb August 22 & 23. You know all about those. Scroll down if you don't.

Sos anyways, stars in alignment and all. Zip in, zip out. See my buddy, grab a tap brew, get my delay, home before midnight. Right. No problem. Cept it was a rock show. So ... problems.

Soon as I arrive, I spy Hickman and his band out front. OK. Well, I knew the show wasn't gonna start at the scheduled 10 PM start time. Cuz it was a rock show. No duh, right? Plus, I got a text to voice message from him earlier saying they were starting at 11. (I don't have a cell phone. I hate em. I'm serial. Cereal? Hate em.)

So I showed up a little before 11. The intranets said they were the first of three bands. But now they were second. Awright. Buncha pals I haven't seen in a while, so I was OK hanging out. And the first band was OK. Reminded me of a lotta the bands I used to see in opening slots in the early 80's in Chicago. Kinda fun skronk garage ruckus.

And my old pal Billy Filo was there! Filo was the first guy to book SKFTB. Gave us a home at Uncle Joe's. We closed that place down. Literally. In the literal sense of the word. I'm serial.

OK. So first band played a fine 30 minute set. John and the boys started setting up to play. But the other band on the bill said they were next. I dunno where they came up with that. John's a nice guy. Way too nice. He demurred and let them go second. So now I'm cranky. Then they start playing. Now I'm REALLY cranky! Turns out they're a goddamn Weezer cover band. Christ.

So I head outside to bum some smokes and burn off the burn. But after 40 minutes, I have had enough. I ask the manager what the hell is going on. He shines me on. He's another old buddy, so I don't make a scene. But this is unacceptable. I gotta do something. So I walk through the crowd and stand in front of the band. No closer than the four people that are there to see them. For some reason, this is unacceptable to the band and the fans. Matter of fact, the bass player takes his bass off and walks over to me. Now I have two fans and the bass player yelling shit at me.

For the record, my hearing is shot. One on one, I'm fine. I'm not deaf, but in a crowd or a loud environment, I hear every third word under the best of circumstances. It was quite clear that I was being agrressed upon, but I honestly had no idea why these people were freaking out. I was not wearing a happy face, aggressively, but I had a beer in one hand and my digital delay in the other hand and I was not threating anyone physically. Just standing there looking pissed. Didn't say a word. (OK. Not entirely true. I yelled for Sweater Song once.)

Well, didn't take too long before some of my pals were pulling me away from the front. I had no idea why this escalated to such a hostile environment. Part of me wanted to stay up front just on principle. But I wasn't there to make a scene. I just wanted to see Wellbaby, get my delay and go home. So I let them pull me back. As I moved to the back, folks were smiling and giving me very happy looks of approval. I still had no idea why any of this was happening. Until the biggest grinner told me he had thrown an orange at the band while I was making my way to the front. The band and their roadies thought I had thrown the fruit. heh That splained a lot, Lucy.

So long/short, I was a hero for doing nuthin but walking to the front of the crowd for five minutes. And Wellbaby went on shortly after said incident. And I got my delay. Which I need for the shows in a couple weeks. You know about those? Anyways, Wellbaby was great. And I got some beer. And a couple smokes. And I went out. And my basil plants got watered with material that I understand is quite nutritious for planty material. (You might wanna wait until after a good couple rains before you accept my invitation for a homemade pesto dinner.)

And if you think that's a good story, you should really show up at Abbey Pub in Chicago Sat Aug 22 and Otto's in DeKalb Sun Aug 23. I'm cereal.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Abbie & Cynthia Show (WKDI 1986)

Hey! Heard about the big DeKalb reunion? Only 2 weeks away! It sure has me all nostalgic and such and such. Been digging through the archives. Finding a lot of fun stuff and digitizin digitizin. WELL, found a real find today! The Abbie and Cynthia Show! Anyone familiar with my album will recognize that name. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let us back up a bit.

It's fall 1986 and I'm living in Dekalb. Writing songs, recording demos, trying to put a band together. And working nights delivering pizza. Not a bad job for a young rocker. Days free, decent money and lotsa free pizza. But it does screw with a normal sleep schedule, if that's a concern. It wasn't for me. I loved late night/early morning radio. Larry King, before he got all tooled out, was my driving companion. And the Traveling Bozo schooled me on 50's country music as I drifted off to sleep. And there was always the NIU campus station, WKDI.

Well, one night I fell asleep to KDI and woke up to nutty nuttiness. How did a couple yammering coeds get in my apartment? Oh, right. It's the radio. Wait. This can't be radio. Oh yeah. College station. What the hell is this? And why aren't they playing music? They're just chatting about ... nothing. Yet strangely compelling.

Exactly one week later, I found myself going out of my way to catch the 6 AM Tuesday broadcast of my new favorite radio team. And it was immediately clear that I was their one and only fan. They begged for calls. Anyone. Just to let them know someone was out there. Musta been the third week I called in. Nuthin to say, just wanted to let em know someone was listening. And I was hooked.

Found myself calling in every week. They didn't know what to make of me. Why would anyone listen to their show? Christ, why was anyone even awake? But after a few weeks, I dragged my ass down to the studio with coffee and donuts. Pretty sure I scared the hell out of them. But they didn't kick me out.

It was clear that Cynthia was the instigator of this assault on the airwaves. More often than not, Abbie didn't even show and Cynthia was left all by her lonesome. Didn't really matter to me. She could handle herself just fine. Never at a loss for words. So what can a poor boy do, but record a theme song? Which I did. Unfortunately, by the time I finished the song, they had been pulled off the air. I never did find out why, but there was a nasty rumor about cart malfeasance. Probly never know for sure.

Anyways, a couple years later I was in Jersey and making an album. Why waste a good jingle? So I brought my demo to the studio, we dumped the 4 track master and I added new vocals. Bam. Easiest cut on the record.

And to wrap up our story, I went back to DeKalb for my big homecoming show in 1990. While I was in town, I was invited to an off campus party. Hanging around. Didn't know too many people. Out of nowhere, two unfamiliar hands covered my eyes. "Do you remember me?" I knew that voice. It was Cynthia! I'll be damned! Got to chat for awhile and invite her to the show. And that was the last I saw or heard of Abbie and Cynthia. Ladies, if you're out there, come join us at the big reunion shows.

And while you're at it, grab these airchecks I've carted around all these years. Play em at 6 AM for the optimum listening experience. Jingle finally included.

Or just enjoy this fine sample.