Monday, September 14, 2009

DeKalb Rocks! Reunion - Post game OB&C

There was a reunion within the reunion. Like those Russian dolls. When I was asked to perform at the reunion, my first thought was I didn't have a band. I knew I had a bass player. Killer's been with me since '82. He goes back to PunkFest back in high school. He's my buddy and as fine a musician as any goofy front man could ever ask for. And he's fearless. We have a stage telepathy where he just seems to know where I'm going when I stray from the script. When there even is a script.

But who to play drums? I nosed around at hiring a pro, but then I remembered Killer telling me that our old roommate, Doug, had recently taken up drums again. You think he'd be up for it? Why don't you ask him, Killer? Well, I will. And he was! I'll be damned! That sentence musicians everywhere long to scream from the rooftops, "We're getting the band back together! "

Now it was just a matter of sending mp3s, a few phone calls and I'll see ya at the shows! But I wonder. I wonder if there's some way to make these shows really special. Maybe dig up an old song. Like maybe Hot Day! One of the first OB&C songs. The very first song ever played on the radio. Tom Ellett's Local Patrol on DeKalb's own, WKDI! Yeah. That's good. But I need something else. Something big. Like a special guest. HEY, VIPER!

I have often mentioned our old pals Kissyfish. Our sister band from Madison, WI. We played on each other's bills whenever we could. I can't speak for KF, but I loved booking those double bills just so I could see the band and hang out with them. And I have often been told I look a lot like their front man, Ryan. Twin sons of different bands. Ryan and I both did some wandering post those DeKalb days, but Ryan recently settled back in Wisconsin. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

So I shot a note to Ryan. Ryan has been better known over the years as The Viper, fastest uke in the midwest! Turns out, he hadn't played guitar in years. And he wasn't sure he'd be available for the weekend. Definitely not the first night. But he'd get back to me about the DeKalb show. Didn't look good.

As the weeks went by, I came up with set lists. We were walking on stage with zero rehearsal. Had to do as much pre-show planning as possible. Until Killer came up with the brilliant idea of squeezing a practice in. We'd have to do it Saturday afternoon, a matter of hours before the first show. Killer said we could do it in Doug's basement. Which I found quite amusing when I called Doug and he asked where we were rehearsing. heh

But he was fine with that. And with days to spare, I got a note from The Viper. He was in. Both shows. Oh, man. Dream band!

So there we were. Me and STD, pulling up to Doug's house for the first original OB&C practice in 23 years. Killer was outside before we even got out of the car. And as it turned out, Ryan was about 15 seconds ahead of us. We'd been following him for about a mile and didn't even know it. So after some catching up and makeshifitng a practice space, we got down to business.

As usual, I was the least prepared of the bunch. As I knew I would be. That's a luxury of fronting the band. Also too, I knew I could count on the band. We rehearsed both sets plus two extra songs that we didn't have time to perform at the shows. Luckily, STD filmed the practice, so I have outtake footage for the documentary! After practice, we were on the road to Abbey.

We were first on the bill, which means last band to soundcheck. I was fine with that. Get the pesky rock and roll outta the way early, leaving the rest of the night for minglin' and socializin'. And beerin'. There was plenty of all.

First pal to arrive was Jode! Jode and I go way back to 80's pizza delivery. STD and I DJed her wedding! The German wedding planner tried to intimidate us, but it didn't work. We had a Wookie bodyguard. She was also one of the privileged few to get an invite to the exclusive Ballroom Blitz. Always fun seeing Jode.

But that wasn't all. We had a couple more This Is Your Life attendees. The one, the only, Dianamal made it to the show! So we played her theme song. Really nice hanging out with her again. And then The Viper told me to go check out the bar. Where I found My Cousin Kenny's Pablo! I hadn't seen Pablo since the infamous Chicago ComiCon show! (Still waiting for those pics.) I got STD to take a picture of the OB&C/Kissyfish/MCK reunion.

I made a special pre-Otto's trip to the place where it all started. 516 S. First St. It was a trip crossing the railroad tracks and walking to the house. I made that walk every day for a year over 20 years ago. It's amazing to realize that it's all still there, relatively unchanged.

A couple more pals turned up at Otto's. I knew Stacey Deegan would be there. She was the one who finally twisted my arm into signing up on Facebook, which started this whole thing rock and rollin'. And she's working at NIU these days, so she was a whole lotta help on the ground getting this thing up and running. Plus, she had the NIU flag for the finale!

It was fun meeting some of the folks who were DeKalb high school students back when OB&C were playing the all ages basement shows back in the day. And it was an excellent surprise when Carl from IMSA showed up! I got to eavesdrop on a conversation between Carl and Ryan concerning a road trip to St. Louis many years ago.

The weekend flew by way too fast. While I'm still stunned I managed to cram as much in as I did, there just wasn't enough time. I could have easily spent the weekend just hanging out with STD, Killer, Doug and Ryan and still wished it had been longer. I guess we'll just have to do it again.

Addendum - Here's something fun I found! The Viper posted a note about the shows with a shot of the setlists!


  1. This is Ryan (the Viper) commenting. I'll say for the record that my favorite moment of the two shows was when we played "Hot Day" at the second, Otto's show -- only I wasn't playing on it, so I got to watch from the floor and shout "hot day" when the choruses came around. I pretended that no one had seen me setting up and that everyone assumed I was just the kind of spontaneously combustible fan that Otis Ball and/or the Chains would naturally produce. Carl helped.

  2. This is Otis (The Ball) responding. My favorite moment was The Viper's expression while Killer and I did the backup vocals on Lonely Little Vampire.