ISSN 1551-8086
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   poets list
   Francisco Dominguez & Aire Celeste Norell
   Marie Lecrivain & Angel Uriel Perales
   Sheikha A.
   Steve Abee
   L. Ward Abel
   Carl Abt
   Hannah Adcock
   Elizabeth Addis
   Aderemi Adegbite
   Adeolu Emmanuel Adesanya
   Neil Aitken
   M.I Akande
   Shahd Al-Shemmari
   Lynn Albanese
   Alaina Renee Alexander
   Scott Alexander
   Gwyndyn Alexander
   Nicole Alexander
   Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
   Maureen Alsop
   Rafael Alvarado
   Steven Alvarez
   Veronica An
   Zack Anderson
   Kristine Anderson
   G.D. Anderson
   Amy Anderson
   Lori Anderson-Moseman
   Grace Andreacchi
   Renae Andruse
   Arlene Ang
   Roger Angle
   Stephen Anstay
   Azure Antoinette
   Theresa Antonia
   Aurora Antonovic
   Maria A Arana
   Carlye Archibeque
   Joseph Armstead
   Feral Artist
   Baron James Ashanti
   Charlene M. Ashendorf
    Askew
   Gregory Austin
   Shawn Aveningo
   maeghanne ayers
   Goodness Lanre Ayoola
   John-Patrick Ayson
   Jim Babwe
   Sophie Bachard
   Vasile Baghiu
   Bridget Bagne
   song-hue bahk
   Michael Baker
   Prerna Bakshi
   Anna Balint
   David Banuelos
   Jared Barbick
   J. Mae Barizo
   Peter Barlow
   Matthew A. Barraza
   James Barros
   Jeni Bate
   Jonathan Beale
   Richard Beban
   Gary Beck
   Gary Beck
   Lytton Bell
   Hakim Bellamy
   Michele Beller
   Laura Bellotti
   Stefanie Bennett
   Hayley Berariu
   Kevin Berger
   Lawrence Berger
   Mike Berger, Ph.D.
   Tom Berman
   luis cuauhtemoc berriozabal
   Craig Berry
   Nick Bertelson
    Besskepp
   Mary Rose Betten
   Cheryl Beychok
   Gwendolyn Beyer
   François Biajoux
   Jarvis Black
   Heitham Black
   Beau Blue
   Rose Mary Boehm
   Bonnie Bolling
   Julie Bolt
   Lek Borja
   Cristogianni Borsella
   Gerald Bosacker
   Amanda Boschetto
   Wendy Bourke
   Jack G. Bowman
   Jennifer Bradpiece
   Bob Bradshaw
   Marcielle Brandler
   Peter Branson
   Sumiko Braun
   Adam Bresson
   Quiana Briggs
   Jack Bristow
   paulo brito
   Alan Britt
   Michelle Brodeur
   Lynne Bronstein
   Charles Brooks
   Adam Levon Brown
   Leah Brown
   Deborah Edler Brown
   Jason Sanford Brown
   zoey brown
   Bob Browning
   Sir Mark Bruback
   MC Bruce
   Jeffrey Bryant
   Kate Buckley
   Robin M. Buehler
   Ron Burch
   Graham Burchell
   Maria Rose Burgio
   Betsy Burke
   Matt Burns
   Richard Burrill
   Tony Bush
   Zachary C. Bush
   Elissa Calvin
   Joseph Camhi
   Dana Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Velene Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Neil Campbell
   Luis Campos
   Janine Canan
   Lyn Cannaday
   Pasquale Capacosa
   Joey Capone
   Hélène Cardona
   Britton Laine Carducci
   D.J. Carlile
   Julia Carlson
   Alicia Carpenter
   Jonathan Carr
   Patricia Carragon
   Oscar Carrasco
   Jared Carter
   Michael Aaron Casares
   John Casey
   Lisa Castro
   Rachael Kelechi Caulker
   Nika Cavat
   Michael Caylo-Baradi
   Steve Ceniceros
   Michael Ceraolo
    Cerise
   Robert Cesaretti
   Cheryl Chambers
   Lita-Luise Chappell
   Shibani Chattopadhyay
   Lisa Cheby
   Beth Cheng
   Ralph-Michael Chiaia
   Juhi Chowdhury
   David Christensen
   Phil Clark
   Terry Clark
   Darice Clark
   Terry Clark
   Charles Claymore
   Jeanette Clough
   Kim Cochran
   Ed Coet
   Tobi Cogswell
   Megan Coker
   Bruce Colbert
   Merrill Cole
   Karen E. Cole
   Christopher Coleman
   Larry Colker
   Beverly M. Collins
   David Concepcion
   Christiane Conésa-Bostock
   Brendan Connell
   Alice Constantine
   Jack Cooper
   Flavia Cosma
   Rachel Coventry
   R. Paul Craig
   David Cravens
   William Crawford
   Natalie Crick
   Rosemarie Crisafi
   Carla Criscuolo
   Chris Crittenden
   Benjamin Crowley
   Susan Culver
   Joe Cyr
   Jim D Babwe
   Morgaine d'Abney
   Karen Corcoran Dabkowski
   Daniel Daian
    Dalton
   Catherine Daly
   Iris Dan
   Marie Lecrivain & Daniel Gallik
   Dan Danila
   Michelle Daugherty
   Piper Davenport
   Kathrine David
   Gareth Davies
   Holly Day
   Frank De Canio
   Gregory De Feo
   Steve De France
   J de Salvo
   J. de Salvo
   kumari de Silva
   Pijush Kanti Deb
   Shalla DeGuzman
   JD DeHart
   Diane Dehler
   Aurelius Demarco
   Darren C Demaree
   Gloria Derge
   Chris Derrico
   Lea Deschenes
   Maurice Devitt
   Theo Diamantis
   Mike Dias
   Martin Dickinson
   Edward J DiMaio
   Mark Dixon
   Peggy Dobreer
   Rosemarie Dombrowski
   Francisco J. Dominguez
   Linsly Donnelly
   Lisa Helene Donovan
   Kevin Doran
   Marvin Louis Dorsey
   John Dorsey
   Marvin Dorsey
   Laura A. Lionello & Douglas Richardson
   Doug Draime
   Donelle Dreese
   Dale Duke
   Jawanza Dumisani
   Henri Dumolet
   Max Dunbar
   t. joseph dunn
   Robin Wyatt Dunn
   Tyler Dupuis
    Durenda
   Walter Durk
   Douglas Dvorkin
   Ron Dvorkin
   Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi
   Alfie Ebojo aka alfie numeric
   Elisabeth Adwin Edwards
   Sabrina Edwards
   Patricia J. Edwards
   Miguel Eichelberger
   John Elison
   Julian Ellis
   Neil Ellman
   K. Eltinaé
   R.M. Engelhardt
   Margarita Engle
   Jon Epstein
   Sufi Erter
   Eli Eshaghian
   Michael Estabrook
   Alexis Rhone Fancher
   Richard Fein
   John Feins
   Emily Fernandez
   Melissa Fischer
   W.S. Fisher
   Jamie Asae FitzGerald
   Amelia Fleetwood
   Jake Fleshner
   John Jay Flicker
   David Flynn
   Arthur Charles Ford
   Liz Fortini
   Sesshu Foster
   Heather Fowler
   Clint Frakes
   Sarah Francois
   Amélie Frank
   Alex M. Frankel
   Allie Frazier
   E.L. Freifeld
   M. Frias Frias-May
   Suzanne Frost
   Delia J. Fry
   Elliott Gabay
   Steven Gabriel
   Timothy Gager
   Daniel Gallik
   J Gamble
   Ishmael Garay
   Jerry Garcia
   Daniel Garcia-Black
   Vince Garofalo
   Gabriella Garofalo
   Yvonne Garrett
   Nelson Gary
   Donna Gebron
   Ulrike Gerbig
   Janice Gero
   Ursula T. Gibson
   Rebecca Gimblett
   Tony Gloeggler
   Steve Goldman
   Vesna Goldsworthy
   Melanie Gonzalez
   Jeffrey Graessley
   Allison Grayhurst
   Jeff Green
   Timothy Green
   Jeanie Greensfelder
   Rhoda Greenstone
   Amos Greig
   John Greiner
   John Grey
   Summer Griffiths
   Danielle Grilli
   Brian Grillo
   John Grochalski
   Wendy Grosskopf
   Andrew Grossman
   Ro Gunetilleke
   Kenneth Gurney
   John R. Guthrie
   Debashish Haar
   Erik Haber
   Hedy Habra
   Tresha Faye Haefner
   Matthias Hagedorn
   James Hall
   Tom Hamilton
   David Harrington
   William Harris
   Matt Harris
   Dawnell Harrison
   J. Alana Hauenschild
   Kari J. Hayes
   KJ Hays
   Ann L. Healey
   Eloise Klein Healy
   Jessica Healy
   Jim Heavily
   Dan Hedges
   Paul Hellweg
   Samantha Henderson
   Jack Henry
   David Herrle
   JD Heskin
   Kenneth Hickey
   Jerry Hicks
   Marvin R Hiemstra
   Ed Higgins
   Carlos Hiraldo
   Sherri Hoffman
   Guy Hogan
   Ali Hosseiny
   Dave Houston
   David Howard
   Eric Howard
   Nate Howard
   Bryon D. Howell
   A J Huffman
   Hunter Lee Hughes
   Roger Humes
   Trista Hurley-Waxali
   Elizabeth Iannaci
   Thea Iberall
   Armine Iknadossian
   Gedda Ilves
   Alegria Imperial
   Victor D. Infante
   Victor Infante
   Augustus Invictus
   Susan Irvine
   Alexandra Isacson
   Natalie Itzhaki
   Amber Jacob
   Scott Jacobson
   Larry Jaffe
   Sonika Jaggi
   Emmanuel Jakpa
   Matthew James
   Andrea Janov
   T.A. Jennings
   Ivan Jenson
   Dani Jimenez
   Alex Johnson
   Michael Lee Johnson
   Lois P. Jones
   Strider Marcus Jones
   Tao Jones
   Georgia Jones-Davis
   Jasmin Jordan
   Quentin Josephy
   Liu Jue
   Ruth Juris
   Gene Justice
   Gary Justice
   Pete Justus
   Mikel K
   Scott C. Kaestner
   Sheema Kalbasi
   Peycho Kanev
   Rachel Kann
   Jay Kantor
   Paula Sfier Kattan
   Russ Kazmierczak
   James Keane
   Gretchen Keer
   Aaron Keller
   Collin Kelley
   Kamuran Kelly
   Raud Kennedy
   Bernard Kennedy
   Kathleen Kenny
   Stephen Kerr
   Hari Bhajan Khalsa
   Just Kibbe
   Jerome Kiel
   lalo kikiriki
   Ashley King
   Robert S King
   Franklin Lafayette King
   Sofia Kioroglou
   Rusty Kjarvik
   Kenny Klein
   LeAnne Kline
   Deborah P Kolodji
   Tracy Koretsky
   Edith Kornfeld
   George Korolog
   Dimitris P. Kraniotis
   Mark Krewatch
   Chris Krueger
   Amanda Krut
   Thomas Krämer
   Gerard Kuc
   Christopher Kuhn
   Donna Kuhn
   Len Kuntz
   Craig Kurtz
   Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
   Daniel Lambert
   Anthony Langford
   Donald Langosy
   Ray Lanthier
   Phillip Larrea
   Phillip Larrea
   Kasandra Larsen
   Wolf Larsen
   Ethan Latham
   Lisa LaTourette
   Marie Lecrivain & Laura A. Lionello
   Marianne LaValle-Vincent
   Kevin Lavey
   Judith A. Lawrence
   Eric Lawson
   Richard Leach
   Marie Lecrivain
   Anne Lecrivain
   Noah Lederman
   Pete Lee
   Emma Lee
   Kevin Patrick Lee
   N.M. Leepsa
   Alexandra Leggat
   Laura LeHew
   Gary Lehmann
   Sharmagne Leland-St. John
   Kevin LeMaster
   Michal Lemberger
   Kim Leng
   Roland Lesterin
   Tiffany Lettieri
   P.A. Levy
   Martin Lewis
   Cheyenne Lewis
   Anthony Liccione
   Cynthia Linville
   Laura Lionello
   Zachary Locklin
   Jessica Lopez
   Harold Lorin
   Tess. Lotta
   B.D. Love
   Adam Lowis
   Ron Lucas
   Andrew Lundwall
   Rick Lupert
   Suzan Lustig
   Radomir Luza
   Stosh Machek
   John MacKenna
   Sarah Maclay
   Stefanie Maclin
    Magdalena
   Gary Maggio
   Holly Magill
   Anthony Magistrale
   Marieta Maglas
   Suvi Mahonen
   Donal Mahoney
   Robert Maiolo
   Kelly Ann Malone
   Michael Malota
   Shahé Mankerian
   Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
   Chris Mansell
   H.E. Mantel
   April-May March
   Rick Marlatt
   John Marshall
   Agnes Marton
   Francis Masat
   Anthony Mason
   Lee Mason
   Hyatt Mason
   Johnny Masuda
   Mira N. Mataric
   Ellyn Maybe
   Michelle Mazzetti
   Mary L. Mazzocco
   Ted Mc Carthy
   Austin McCarron
   Terry McCarty
   Paul McConnell
   Brendan McCormack
   Deborah McCreath-Akbar
   Catfish McDaris
   Bray McDonald
   Karen J McDonnell
   Matt McGee
   Allen McGill
   Afric McGlinchey
   Terance James McGunigle
   Cat Angelique McIntire
   David McIntire
   david mclean
   Isobel McQueen
   Fernando Meisenhaulter
    Mephistopheles
   Corey Mesler
   Melissa Michaels
    Mike the Poet
   Scott Miller
   Richard Lee Miller
   Robert John Miller
   Hany Haggag Abdl Mobdy
   Richard Modiano
   William Mohr
   Sonnet Mondal
   Jason Monios
   Leslie Monsour
   Amanda Montei
   Patrick Mooney
   Carl Moore
   Greggory Moore
    Albert Lee Moran
   A.J. Morelli
   Christopher Mulrooney
   Frank Mundo
   Barbara-Marie Mundt
   Augusto Munoz
   Mark Murphy
   Craig Murray
   Kristine Ong Muslim
   JL Nathan
   Nimah Nawwab
   Leslie Maryann Neal
   Jason Neese
   Raghab Nepal
   Robbi Nester
   Mindy Nettifee
   Martina Reisz Newberry
   Beth Escott Newcomer
   Peter Nezafati
   Scott Nichols
   keith niles
   Dave Nordling
   Aire Celeste Norell
   Steve Norwood
   Laura Nye
   Toti O'Brien
   Charlotte O'Brien
   Suzanne O'Connell
   Katie O'Loughlin
   Peter O'Niell
   Tom O'Reilly
   Akor Emmanuel Oche
   A.J. Odasso
   Rita Odeh
   Kirsten Ogden
   Daniel Olivas
   Maurice Oliver
   Marc Olmstead
   Philip ONeil
   Nzingah Oniwosan
   Chika Onyenezi
   Nina Orlovskaya
   Sergio Ortiz
   David Ishaya Osu
   Scott Thomas Outlar
   Holly Painter
   Lizbeth Palma
   Heather Palmer
   Greg Patrick
   Miss Natalie Patterson
   David E. Patton
   Tim Peeler
   Steve Pelcman
   Angel Perales
   Alice Pero
   Angela J. Perry
   Helen Peterson
   Brenda Petrakos
   Adam Phillips
   James G Piatt
   Rebecca Pierce
   Gareth Pike
   James Pinkerton
   Rob Plath
   Kushal Poddar
   Contributors to poeticdiversity
   Meg Pokrass
   Traian Pop Traian
   Bethany W Pope
   Wayne E. Popelka
   Elisha Porot
   Adrian Potter
   Ren Powell
   Frank Praeger
   Luke Prater
   Kristena Prater
   Shannon Prince
   Stephany Prodromides
   Hattie Quinn
   Octavio Quintanilla
   Beverly J. Raffaele
    Raindog
   Catherine Rajca
   Steve Ramirez
   Mauricio Alejandro Ramos
   Vishnu Rao
   Ingrid Rattay
   James Rauff
   Kasey Ray
   Bili Redd
   Brian Redfern
   Marie Rennard
   Luivette Resto
   E.W. Richardson
   John Richmond
   Francisca Ricinski-Marienfeld
   Kevin Ridgeway
   Lillian Ridgeway
   Dee Rimbaud
   Elijiah Rios
   Cat Risinger
   Ariel Robello
   Ebi Robert
   John D Robinson
   Paula Rodriguez
   Nydia Rojas
   Daniel Romo
   Rina Rose
   Emily Rose
   Diana Rosen
   Poet-broker Rosenthal
   Alison Ross
   James Robert Rudolph
   Walter Ruhlmann
   Gina MarySol Ruiz
   Cody Rukasin
   Cody Rukasin
   Ashley Rumery
   David W. Rushing
   Maryann Russo
   Sonya Sabanac
   Howard Sage
   Russell Salamon
   April Salzano
   Bryan Sanders
   Lisa Marie Sandoval
   Cecile Sarruf
    Sasparella
   Ethan Sassouni
   John Saunders
   Lorraine Sautner
   Rati Saxena
   Iftekhar Sayeed
   Frances Schiavina
   Kim Schroeder
   Carol Schwalberg
   Peter Schwartz
   Ken Scott
   Sondra L. Scott
   David Scriven
   Justin Scupine
   LB Sedlacek
   Lisa Segal
   Anthony Seidman
   Anthony Seidman
   Oleg Semonov
   John W Sexton
   Jack Allen Shafer
   Dahn Shaulis
   Tom Sheehan
   Jake Sheff
   Steve Shickman
   Nancy Shiffrin
   June Shiitake
   Ferrari Silverpowder
   Rishan Singh
   Durlabh Singh
   Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
   Apryl Skies
   Knute Skinner
   Sam Skow
   Ratpack Slim
   Lee Sloca
   Carol Smallwood
   Clinton Smith
   Danielle Smith
    smzang
   Kate Soto
   Ghetto Speare
   Jeanne Marie Spicuzza
   Richard Spuler
   Matina Stamatakis
   Jan Steckel
   Julia Stein
   Eric Steineger
   Carl Stillwell
   Bruce Stirling
   Alex Stolis
   Karr Stratynberg
   Kevin Stricke-9
   Keith Stump
   Daniel Suffian
   Annette Sugden
   J. C. Sullivan
   Dee Sunshine
   Mani Suri
   John Duncan Talbird
   Sister Taxi Hopscotch
   Mark Taylor
   Barbara A. Taylor
   Jonathan Taylor
   Allen Taylor
   Paul Kareem Tayyar
   Alene Terzian
    The Unarmed Man
   A. Thiagarajan
   G. Murray Thomas
   Lynne Thompson
   David Thornbrugh
   Kari Thune
   Sarah Thursday
   Ilona Timoszuk
   Tim Tipton
    TJungle
   Chrys Tobey
    tolbert
   Imani Tolliver
   A. TOMIC
   Anthony Torchia
   Mary Torregrossa
   Evan Traiger
   Davide Trame
   Tri Tran
   Ryan Tranquilla
   Alain Marcel Treadaway
   Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
   Ben Trigg
   Paul Tristram
   Maja Trochimczyk
    Troy
   The TruthHearse
   Tatiana Tulskaya
   Yelena and Roman Tunkel
   John Turi
   Danny Uebbing
   Amy Upham
   Amy Uyematsu
   Philomena van Rijswijk
   Gene van Troyer
   Wanda Vanhoy Smith
   Brenda Varda
   Luis Rubio Vargas
   Carmen Vega
   Ms. Veronica
   Papa Vic
   Clee Villasor
   Ajise Vincent
   Curran D. Vinson
   Jason Visconti
   Anca Vlasopolos
   Daniela Voicu
   Claire Walker
   toren wallace
   r.k. wallace
   Evan Walsh
   Sharieff Walters
   John Wariner
   Deborah L Warner
   Christopher Watkins
   Brian Watson
   Lafayette Wattles
   Charlie Weber
   Ellen Webre
   Justin Weiler
   Viola Weinberg
   Florence Weinberger
   Desmond Weindorf
   Cindy Weinstein
   Denise R. Weuve
   Rev. Dave Wheeler
   Leigh White
   Megwynn White
   Kelley White
   J.T. Whitehead
   Claire Williams
   John Sibley Williams
   Patrick Williamson
   Martin Willitts, Jr
   Robert D. Wilson
   Jessica Wilson
   Amye Wilson
   Alicia Winski
   Tyler Joseph Wiseman
   Joseph Wistren
   Wayne Wolfson
   Terry Wolverton
   Nina Womack
   Seth Woolf
   Kirby Wright
   Gianna Wurzl
   Abigail Wyatt
   John Yamrus
   Müesser Yeniay
   Julie Yi
   Gregory T. Young
   Britney Young
   Omar ZahZah
   Mariano Zaro
   Michael Zeltser
    
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G. Murray Thomas
November 2013
   

 

In Praise of Bar Bands

      In the winter of 1980 I moved to Ketchum, Idaho. How I ended up there is far too complicated to go into here. Let's just say I was aiming for Southern California, and missed.
      Ketchum is the home of the Sun Valley ski resort. It is essentially one big party surrounded by mountains. I was able to enjoy both a very active social life and the Great Outdoors. I lived there for six years.
      One thing Ketchum did not have, at least in 1980, was punk rock.
      At first I found Ketchum to be a musical wasteland. There was one radio station in town (somewhat inevitably called KSKI), which tried to please everyone, and therefore ended up the blandest of the bland -- a lot of folk-pop and New Age music. (Later in the 80's cable radio came to the mountains, so we could also listen to a classic rock station out of Boise, and MTV.) True, the local record store (yes, singular) carried releases by the Clash and Elvis Costello, but there was no longer much possibility of discovering anything new.
      Or so I thought. Eventually, I did find musical salvation, and in the most unlikely place -- bar bands.
      I know. I hear you, “Bar bands? Isn't that the antithesis of originality? Cranking out cheesy covers of popular songs which were never that good to begin with? Yeah, that's the image.” But I quickly learned that there's more than that to being a good bar band.
      First, let me try to define just what I mean by a “bar band.” It's kind of one of those “I know it when I see it” things, but here goes.
      Not every band which plays in a bar is a bar band. After all, most bands start out playing in bars. But some of them just see this as a step in their career path. Other bands have accepted that entertaining a crowd in a bar is their lot in life. This is not to say that bar bands don't dream about the big time, they do. But they understand that their purpose, right now, is the crowd in front of them. They play to that crowd, not some supposed A&R man in the back of the room.
      There are some easy ways to distinguish the bar band from what I will call the “career” band. The bar band plays mostly (though not exclusively) cover songs. The career band plays mostly originals. The career band plays a short set on a bill with three or four other bands. The bar band is the sole entertainment for the whole evening. The career band wants you to sit down and listen to their music; the bar band just wants you to dance.
      Some bands maintain the approach of a bar band, even when they hit the (relatively) big time, that is, when they can sell a few albums, and book national tours. This is especially true of blues bands. These bands may play a big concert hall one night, and a small club the next. When they play the small club, they revert back to just trying to get the crowd to boogie. Some bands even prefer the small clubs for this very reason.
      So what kind of talents are particular to a great bar band? And what did I find so appealing about them?
      Of course, it takes technical talent to play the hits well enough that people will dance, rather than cringe. And there is no shortage of technical talent out there. There are a helluva lot more talented musicians in America than the Billboard Top 40 has room for. For that matter, even MySpace barely scratches the surface of the talent out there. I have seen musicianship in bar bands which rivals anything I've seen on larger stages.
      Still, technical talent, impressive as it may be, has never been the main thing I search for in music. As you may recall from last month, my two criteria for judging music are originality and energy. As far as bar bands go, energy is easy. The first requirement of a bar band is to up the energy level of the bar. That's their job. The more the people dance, the more they drink. (And the more they drink, the more they dance. Funny how it works out that way.)
      But what about originality? Does playing covers all night really stifle the original spirit of a band? Not necessarily. A really good bar band doesn't just play covers note for note, they tweak the songs, make them their own. And just because they're bar bands doesn't mean they can't play original songs. Most of my favorite bar bands sprinkle a few original tunes among the covers, tunes which the regulars grow to love.
      But all of that still barely touches the true talent of a great bar band. And that is to entertain a crowd, night after night after night. The primary duty of a bar band is to make the audience have fun. And they usually do that by having fun themselves.

      Back in Ketchum, it's not like I was looking for a new genre of music to enlighten me. I still had all my old punk records (and much else), back in my apartment. I was just looking for something to do. So I started hanging out in bars. A lot.
      There wasn't a lot to do in Ketchum. Understand, this was a town with one radio station, one record store, and one movie theater. And that one movie theater had one (!) screen. But there were six bars in a single block of downtown. Bars were where the action was, where the alcohol was, where the women were. So they were where I was.
      Hey, I was in my mid-twenties. Ready to have some fun in my life. Drinking and dancing seemed like a perfect way to spend Friday and Saturday night. Okay, and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as well. Sundays there was usually no music, so we had to settle for just drinking.
      Okay, I'm exaggerating. A little. But I was in those bars a lot, and I heard a lot of bar bands. In fact, bar bands served as a sort of radio for me. I heard many of the big hits of the 80's first not in their original version, but played by bar bands. Songs such as Tom Petty's “You Got Lucky,” John Cougar's “Hurt So Good,” Styx's “Too Much Time on My Hands,” and most of Billy Idol's hits evoke in my memory not the original artist, but some bar band (or, more accurately, some woman I danced with to each particular song).
      Bar bands also seemed to have their own Top Forty, songs which every band played. While it mirrored the actual Top Forty of the day, there were some songs which particularly reflected the atmosphere of the bar, and the town, and which therefore got a lot of play. The Cars' “Shake It Up” (“Dance all night/ play all day...”), Commander Cody's ”Too Much Fun” (“Threw me in jail for having too much fun...”), Prince's “1999” (do I need to quote it for you?), and some song called “Party Town,” (“Sun comes up/ Sun goes down/ Doesn't really matter in party town”) which, to this day, I have no idea who played it originally.
      Over time, I began to appreciate what these bands were doing, the particular challenges they faced, and which ones met those challenges.
      My favorite bar, Silver Creek, was a pretty standard one, one room for the bands, another for the pool and pinball, with a decent sized dance floor, and plenty of young patrons to fill it. My favorite spot was at the end of the bar by the stage and the dance floor, where you could get a drink quickly, and not miss an opportunity to dance when the right woman and/or song came along. And where, if you cared to, you could actually watch the band play.
      Silver Creek booked bands for six nights (Mon. - Sat.), three sets a night. The Mountain Northwest had a steady supply of bands which would tour around (often from resort to resort), playing a week here, a couple of days there. A week's gig was a good score, paying fairly well and giving the band a chance to settle down for a few days.
      But it also presented certain challenges. Mainly, pulling the crowd in night after night. In the first place, you need to know a lot of songs. Some bands got away with playing the same tunes every night, but the best had a different set list for every evening. Sure, they would repeat the favorites a few times through the week, but you got a different show every night.
      Then you have to arrange those songs into a coherent set, one which will get the crowd dancing and keep them dancing. Just like a good DJ, once you have a full dancefloor, you don't want to let up until the crowd is ready to take a break anyway; that is, until you have basically worn them out. And you need to know that too, when they are worn out, and will sit down for a moment whatever you play, so you give them a slow song or two, or take a brief break.
      Not surprisingly, I soon had a favorite out of all the bands which came through regularly. They were from Bozeman, Montana, and started out as The Paradise Valley Band (there is an actual valley, between Yellowstone and Bozeman, which is called Paradise Valley). Then they broke up, shuffled their personnel, and became Lucky Fingers. A couple of years later, another shuffle, and they were called Shades.
      What is, perhaps, surprising, is that PVB, and their later permutations, played music by the Grateful Dead, Little Feat, and other bands which would now be called jam bands. Bands which I was not a big fan of at the time. But it didn't matter, because whatever version came to town, they always put on a good show. They always entertained.
      They had a huge repertoire, and were able to mix it up to produce a strong show every night. They could relate to their audience, bringing them in, making the show a communal experience. They took requests, they told bad jokes (I met a woman in the bar the other night. She told me she liked to talk during sex. She wasn't kidding either. That same night I got a call from her.”) They put on a great show. And, perhaps most important, they had fun doing.
      Oh, and after the gig was over, they loved to party.
      (One of the greatest parties I've ever been to was the PVB reunion. It was held in the actual Paradise Valley, in a town called called Emigrant, which consisted of a bar, a general store, a Post Office and a church -- what more do you need for a town? The show was held outside of the bar, and brought together all the former members of PVB and every band they mutated into, and every permutation played a set. All on a gorgeous August day, in the middle of nothing but mountain meadows.)

      No discussion of bar bands would be complete without mentioning NRBQ. NRBQ (The New Rhythm and Blues Quartet) billed themselves as 'the greatest bar band on earth,' and they worked hard to live up that rep. Whatever venue they played, they treated it like it was a bar. They always played in a loose, almost ramshackle manner. They played whatever they felt like playing on a given night; you never knew what you'd hear. Mostly, they had fun playing, whether it was using a beer bottle for a guitar slide, physically abusing their equipment, or incorporating a belch into the chorus of a song.
      And they took requests. They claimed to be able to play any song the audience could throw at them, and they usually did, at least for a verse or two.
      I saw NRBQ three times. The first time I was in college, and, while I was impressed by their energy and versatility, I found them too mellow for my taste. This was in my heavy punk days, and before I had discovered bar bands -- that is, before I had a basis to appreciate what they were doing. I left before the show was over.
      The second time they opened for R.E.M. at the Pacific Amphitheater, in Orange County CA. (Yes, it was the all acronym show.) They did treat the Pacific Amphitheater as if it was a bar, but their splendor still got lost in that place.
      The third time was the charm -- I saw them at the Coach House (San Juan Capistrano, CA). It was the perfect venue, as it is essentially a large bar. They performed in all their glory, and blew away the friends (more true bar band aficionados) I had dragged to the show.

      Back in the fall of 1980, when I was deciding where to move post-college, the choices in my mind were Southern California and New York City. As I said, I chose California, and ended up in Idaho. It's interesting to ponder where my musical taste might have gone if I had chosen New York instead. Judging from where it was (I was starting to get into The Contortions and the whole No Wave scene), I probably would have ended up at early Sonic Youth concerts, rather than listening to cover bands in dark bars.
      That probably would have narrowed my musical taste, rather than expanding it. I could well have become a total musical snob, willing to listen to nothing that wasn't obscure or bizarre, certainly nothing that was commercial.
      Moving to Idaho forced me to listen to a broad variety of music. I couldn't listen to only the stuff I really liked, because there just wasn't enough of it. And I was too much of a music fan to not listen to what was there. I grew to appreciate the bands which had influenced my favorite bar bands -- The Grateful Dead, Little Feat, Dave Mason, even a certain amount of country music.
      But more, it broadened my whole perspective on music. I have always liked challenging, difficult music. Had I gone to New York, I well might have decided that the only music worth listening to was challenging music.
      Instead, I moved to Idaho, and found myself listening to bar bands. Listening for the sake of pure, basic pleasure. Bar bands taught me (or reminded me) that music can provide pleasure without intellectualization or analysis. Music can be, simply, fun.

copyright 2013 G. Murray Thomas