The Bridge Between Brothers
Greetings fellow musicians. Godfather Mick opened up an invitation to me to act as guest-blogger. It was an offer I just couldn’t refuse.
In the interest of full disclosure, including myself in the category of “musician” is a bit of a stretch. I know Mick’s blog is frequented by true musicians who have worked many years at their craft; some who make a living under the title of “musician”. So including myself in that esteemed group just isn’t quite kosher.
The previous “legal” disclaimer not withstanding, I do LOVE music and love performing with a band called the “Bridge Brothers”; a group of which Mick was a founding father and which he has blogged about occasionally in the past.
We are a group local to the Alpharetta, GA area. To be more precise, we all live in the same neighborhood, Medlock Bridge, which happens to be situated in Alpharetta a.k.a. Johns Creek, GA. Don’t ask about the double name. It’s a LONG story that even the U.S. Postal Service hasn’t quite figured out yet. And when I say “local to”, I mean REALLY local. We live, practice and play all our gigs in our neighborhood.
The ‘hood is where we all first met Mick and where the Bridge Brothers band has its roots. I first met Mick as he was walking past my home one hot, summer afternoon shortly after he had moved into the neighborhood. He was taking his son, Andrew, for a walk. I was doing some manually intensive yard work. Both of us needed a beverage. Five hours, one empty beer fridge, and a phone call to his wife later, a bond was formed that exists to this day despite Mick and his family having moved to Texas. While I miss our weekend “sit, sip and picks” in the driveway, I know that despite the physical distance between us, Mick and I share too much in the way of roots, philosophy and experiences to ever really be separated. We still tip a beer together now and then while we catch up on things via phone.
Not long after first meeting Mick, he began searching the ‘hood looking for local “musicians” (there’s that loosely used term again) interested in the possibility of forming a neighborhood band. Much to Mick’s delight (and later consternation, frustration, fascination and a lot of other ‘nations’), 4 responses quickly arrived and the seed of the Bridge Brothers was planted. The original group, known as the MB5 was born shortly thereafter and played their first gig at one of our neighborhood’s social events. That was almost 7 years ago. Today, the group formerly known as the MB5 has evolved into the Bridge Brothers.
Like so many other 40-somethings (and in some cases north of 40), we are a basement band. We’ve been upgraded from “garage band” status due to one member’s wife’s gracious acceptance (or maybe just tolerance) of our whims and follies. It’s a good thing too. We’re getting older and an air conditioned basement is much more comfortable during Southern summers than a garage. We’ve survived various members coming and going, including Mick leaving the neighborhood. Mick’s leaving resulted in our getting kicked out of the comfortable nest he built for us. This required us to survive on our own; to work better together; to become better musicians (there’s that term again); and to do it all without Mick being there to guide, teach and, in some cases, harass us. It is a testament to Mick’s solid guidance and instruction that the Bridge Brothers is still alive and well and planning our next gig, Kreifest VI (more on that later) in September.
The Bridge Brothers is lucky enough to have a number of fairly accomplished musicians “on staff” (reminder, see previous disclaimer regarding the term “musician” being applied to me). Our group is currently comprised of Larry Wachs and Jeff Watts on drums/percussion, keyboardist/vocalist Tim Milam, vocalist Laurie Kimball, and Damon Randall, Steve Pateuk, Troy Kinnamon and me sharing one or more duties on guitar, bass and vocals. We have a first rate sound man, Darrell Sandlin, who keeps us sounding as good as possible (he’s got the tough job). Most importantly, we have spouses who are for the most part supportive of our pursuit of rock star status even if it is just within the ‘hood. Of particular note is their general acceptance of our expenditures on equipment. I swear we have more instruments, amps, lighting, sound gear, etc. than should be legal, and they actually allow us to keep all of our “toys” in the house. We’re looking for “roadies” to haul our stuff around for us, but most of our kids aren’t old enough to drive yet let alone lift the stuff.
This, FINALLY, brings us to the point of this blog post. The Bridge Brothers are preparing for our next gig, Kreifest VI. For the 6th year in a row, Bill and Cindy Krei have opened their yard to the neighborhood and invited the band to play an outdoor gig. The past 5 years have brought several hundred friends and neighbors out for the event.
As the band prepares for this year’s edition of Kreifest, Godfather Mick has asked me to report on the preparation habits, conversations, disagreements and other activities of the group. He knows how adventurous our preparation activities can be. He’s been there, done that. Don’t get me wrong. We LOVE to practice. The logistics of doing so are the challenge. Finding time when all of us are in town at the same time is tough. We are engineers, software developers, salesmen and, in one case, the host of Atlanta’s top-rated morning radio show (yes, blatant plug for Larry’s real job). In other words, we have lives outside of rock stardom. So getting everyone in a room together happens seldom. This being the case, we’ve been using a small-group session approach to prepare for the last few gigs. The general approach is to get the guitars/bass together to work our arrangements and get the general feel down. We then add in keyboards, drums and vocals. This layered approach to building the songs for the gig has been fairly successful. We haven’t had any complaints from any audience to date. This may have more to do with our requirement that each audience member consumes at least 2 “adult beverages” prior to us playing than with our practice habits. But we’d like to think it was our method that was at the root of our success. You can probably make an argument that the “2 beer minimum” rule is part of our method. Hey, it works for us and getting our friends and neighbors to stick to the rule is really no problem around here.
But back to practice. When we are in the same room, we are like any other “siblings”. We have all types of approaches from laid-back to ultra-detail oriented (a.k.a. obsessive). Sometimes we argue. Sometimes we throw things at each other. Thankfully this is a rare occurrence. Sometimes the beer tastes so good that we just skip practicing altogether. But for the most part, we all get along. And when it comes right down to it, we love what we are doing and can’t wait until we are able to do it again.
Fortunately, the audiences at our gigs are very forgiving. As Mick was fond of pointing out, they aren’t paying anything for the show and they are all our neighbors and friends who welcome the opportunity to get together and watch us indulge fantasies of our misspent youth.
Our first “official” practice for Kreifest VI is approaching. In future versions of this blog we will detail the happenings of our practice sessions and, eventually, the gig itself. We have some characters in the group and each practice session usually provides plenty of fodder worthy of blog-dom.
So as long as the pros don’t object to hearing about a group of aging hacks playing cover tunes in a neighborhood band, I’ll continue to provide details about the trials and tribulations of the Bridge Brothers.
For those out there who have considered pulling together a band on their own, unlike the warnings given for so many things these days, DO try this at home. It’s a rewarding endeavor that, unlike some things, you can continue to do in your old age.
More later. Keep on pickin’.
Postscript: thanks, Keith - keep us posted. I wonder about the "Godfather" reference,though - I'm afraid now I have to put some cotton in my cheeks, and hone up my best Marlon Brando. It could be fun! This is 'blue-collar' spirit at it's best, folks - looking forward to it, Mr. Keef!