Thursday, September 3, 2009

DeKalb Rocks! Reunion - Pre game

2 nights, 12 sets, 7 bands reunited. And it appears this was the first annual. Gotta say, 100% success. But let me back up a bit.

I confess. I was a Facebook naysayer. IT'S TRUE! People, I was the guy that would never sign up. You know me. Everybody knows me. You know plenty of me. But I got the call. Like an old girlfriend you never got over. A voice from the past you always hoped you would hear, but knew you never would. "DeKalb is looking for you."

And that is the message I received from my ol' pal Stacey. She was the DJ on WDKI that had the shift before mine. We've kept in touch over the years. Here or there, we'd check in. Usually her shouting out about another fallen landmark from the town left my heart in. And my dangling participle. Probly still dangling. From a tree branch inches from the lagoon.

Anyways, Stacey sent me an email that I should hook up with Facebook cuz a group had kicked up to locate and document the music scene from DeKalb, IL in the 80's. Now ya see, I only lived in DeKalb for a little over three years, but DeKalb has never left my heart. I packed a lifetime into those three years. Christ, that townstole my heart. Never cared about a high school reunion and never lasted long enough at any one college to remember anyone enough to bother with alumni weekends. And never cared about footballs. But when DeKalb came looking for me, I wilted like ... well, like a basil plant in my yard during a long, hot summer. (Sorry, basil plant.)

So I bit the bullet and Facebooked up. The karaoke band was winding down and I could justify my breakdown to the intranet set with the idea that another online presence for One O Ball wasn't a bad idea. I've always been a proponent of least amount of effort promotion. So with that, I went through the sign up rigamarole. And immediately searched for this DeKalb Rocks! group.

Oh, my. So many long lost friends. So many bands from the distant past. So many pictures. So many memories. And my "Friend Request" inbox filled like a mob rat's car in the Hudson. (Speaking of, and totally unrelated, Wise Guy season 1 was reissued on DVD a couple weeks ago with a $15 list. For that price, you should own it.)

Almost immediately, I dove into the archives, posting mashnotes and love letters to my old heartthrob. She was the one I never got over. Ordinarily, I would show some restraint. But you know how it is with that one you never got over.

Didn't take too long before the creator of the group, Tom Rose, sent me a note. He was taken with my enthusiasm. Tom and I had been on a bill or two back in the day. He was a member of Blue Green God, who were on the That Green TV Band bill. (See the earlier post. You look it up. I'm on a roll. No time to search for a link.) But we didn't know each other at the time, outside of a vague acquaintance.

So, cutting to the chase, round about May, I got a note from Tom asking if Otis Ball & The Chains would be interested in appearing on a DeKalb Rocks! Reunion bill in Chicago in August. I had to pass. I'm running an owner operated business, I've got a 13 year old dog, just unpossible. Nice idea, but you know, ya can't go back. Besides, why is it in Chicago? Shouldn't it be in DeKalb?

Tom told me he knew there was a market in Chicago and he didn't want to bite off more than he could chew with two shows. Well, goddamn. What if I could get a DeKalb show? It's CornFest weekend! The annual back to school event for Northern Illinois University. Piece of cake! He dared me. Fucker.

So after a quick Google search, I found the website. They had a handful of cover bands and a lotta empty slots. I shot out an email. Hey, CornFest! I'm gonna hand you a bill of the cream of the crop of 80's DeKalb bands for the music stage. Couldn't have been more than 90 minutes before I received the response.

"I apologize Otis, but we are all booked up for this year's fest. Thanks for the interest."

That was it. Now it was personal. Not only was I gonna perform, but I was gonna book the DeKalb show.

So I sent out a note to the club that was the premiere live venue when I was there. Otto's. A quick websearch told me they still were the place to play. Another 90 minutes and we were in. My sweetheart wanted me back. Wanted all of us back. Goddamn. I'm going home.

What followed was a whole lotta emails, phone calls and persistence. All credit to Mr. Tom Rose. He pulled the trigger on this event. He was doing ground work long before I got involved. He tossed me some contact info and we became new best friends. We were in constant contact for the next 3 months. Contacting bands, working promotion, digging up archives. It was work, but truly a labor of love.

The time flew by. And so many bands were in with so little effort. First all in musta been happy hunting. And honestly, I was a Ball of jelly just knowing I was gonna get to see happy hunting again. Two nights in a row! We were contemporaries. I was always amazed they never got signed up. They were The Replacements without the deathwish. Parker had the songs, Fowler had the licks and FISH! had the attitude. Plus, they soon added Mundo, who they could always fire for a good story.

And the reunions just kept falling into place. Ring 13 and SubVerts, who were DeKalb before my time, but their legends lived on. Ring had done a reunion at Otto's just a couple years ago and packed the place. SubVerts were Chicago's punk rock pioneers, via DeKalb.

And with a little persuasion and nudging, we got our headliners. The Service's return to DeKalb and Blatant Dissent (or do you say Blatent?) finally reuniting, after many false starts, in Chicago at The Abbey Pub. Some more emails got us blackcandlelove and a solo performance from Dan Chambers of Smile for DeKalb.

And that's how it all came about. I guess there's more to tell. So stick around.

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