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RIP Terry Kath and The Cubby Bear

We finally got the chance to do it. Play The Cubby Bear where the great Chicago born and raised Terry Kath could have played. Playing such a historic place that you get to truly believe that one good rock show could change your life...

And that's exactly how we treated it.

The Hi-Waves were fortunate enough to step on that stage on June 8th, 2023, the night before The Grateful Dead would be playing, possibly, for the last time ever in Wrigley field.

We were nervous before it started.

We were the grateful living knowing the weight of that responsibility.

We were grateful for the opportunity.

We were grateful for the couple of friends and family that came to watch.

We were grateful for the 50+ folks that walked in the door during our set.

We were even grateful when those same folks walked out after it was over.

Now some folks don't reflect on things quite as much as we do. We are just wired that way and we truly believe that music is what is missing in the world today.

There is nothing quite like true self-expression through an instrument.

The general definition of instrument to encompass all the uses of the word is: a means whereby something is achieved, performed, or furthered.

We truly believe that is why we are up there.

We want to use our instruments to make a difference. Whether that is the screech of a guitar during a solo, the thud of a double bass to keep the time, the groove of a good rhythm guitar or the impact a single line of lyrics can have on a single audience members day. We believe it is called an instrument because it is just that.

It's just a piece of equipment, like a paint brush or hammer. You make it make a noise at a specific frequency that hits a nerve and hopefully makes your thoughts stammer a little to think about something differently.

The frequencies we selected by our ear, like paint on canvas or a carving on wood, were coordinated with each other to create a group of frequencies ultimately creating a song.

We grouped those songs together into a 45 minute set list and drilled it twice a week since Sean and Justin joined the band back in April.

That meant we had basically a month to get a setlist together for one of the most prestigious venues that you could play as a band.

Our belief is that we are up there to make a difference for those audience members listening. We are not up there for us, we are up there for them. We are up on stage for the people who are willing to give their time and attention to listen.

Some bands have been playing for years that don't get the chance to play here, and we were fortunate enough to have Matt play there with a band the year before who got us our in.

So we took this very seriously to say the least, and we knew that our new members were taking it seriously as well.

Through the month of practicing these mother fuckers didn't miss a single practice and we barely even needed to text to confirm that it was happening.

We were working with two professionals that would show up to play music.

Sure we would have a couple beers, a couple laughs, a couple long jams and a nice little 420 night cap.

But we realized that these dudes were serious about being in this band and we were too.

When the time finally came, we were all nervous but we were as prepared as we could be.

Matt and I showed up a little after we expected because of traffic on I-90.

We didn't feel great about being the last to show up, but our now good friends, Sean and Justin, seemed pretty cool about it and greeted us ready to give us the tour of the great Cubby Bear! We could tell they were a bit nervous, but fuck... so were we.

My wife Teja drove with us and she was lucky enough to get to see the infamous Green Room with us for the first time.

As we climbed those metal stairs for the first time we heard the boom of the headliners sound check, reality started to set in.

We were here, we are going to do something very few people get to do.

We open the door to the Green Room and are greeted by a stack of about 45 old chairs and a full sized fridge filled with about 10 miller lites and 10 bud lights still in the shipping box they came in....

'Wait what...'

To the left there is a corner setup with 2 couches, 2 lounge chairs, a coffee table and a tv showing the stage.

'Oh that's better.'

No volume coming out of the TV though which we thought was weird, but again, the shock is still fresh and the excitement is dipping into confusion a bit now.

I think to myself,

'Alrighty, a bit underwhelming, but ya know I get it. It's a Thursday and we are a nobody band. We have done nothing, I mean shit we don't even have an album recorded yet. The dudes that played here before have been in these shoes, so we should be too.'

But Justin said it best, "Weir' gunna do it myahn', weir' gunna play the fugkin' Cubby Bear myahn'."

So we ordered our complimentary meal and cracked a beer to start the celebration that we were even in this place.

We got to meet the 1st band on the lineup, Legasus.

The 3rd band, Scotch The Filmmaker.

Finally, the headliner, a colleague of ours who frequented our studio back in 2020- 2021, Mami Zaddy.

All of them found their way there as well and you could tell tensions in the room were high with excitement and wonder as to who would be best on stage.

We shook everybody's hand that we could before our set and I personally got to have a long conversation with the guitarist of Scotch The Filmmaker, Joe, about how guitar has become so over complicated with egomaniacs running the show of most bands.

We talked in detail about how if you study music a common piece of advice you get is "find the best musician you can and do anything you can to stick with them... no matter what."

We agreed to say, "fuck that" and I invited them to come to our studio to jam with us sometime.

We agreed you need to find a band that you can jive with. You need to find a band that you can have fun with and support each other through thick or thin.

All I could think of was the lessons that Ronnie Van Zant from Lynyrd Skynyrd taught us.

"Be the fucking best on that stage. It doesn't matter if you are opening for The Who, The Rolling Stones or The Local band from down the street. We are up there to be the best fucking band we can be. "

We wanted that to be us of course, but you just never know when you are in a room filled with talented individuals who have been playing for years compared to our 1 month.

Legasus gets called down for their setup and sound check and we wish them luck.

The nerves are reaching an all time high. That pit in your stomach is starting to form and it starts to become a more serious feeling or "holy shit. this is fucking happening."

Of course the food comes out at that exact same time and we start to try and eat.

I think I ate about 3 bites of my "safe choice" turkey wrap.

Matt who usually eats 2 cheeseburgers, a bag of cheese curds, a milkshake and a large pop from A&W only eats about half of his "safe choice" chicken wrap and some french fries.

Justin eats half his bbq sandwhich and I'm pretty sure Sean ate about the same....

So even though when asked "are you nervous?" the 3 of them would say "a little, but not really." just from that alone I could tell my bros were nervous.

Fuck. I was too obviously.

Matt did get me cracking up though.

There was a white piece of paper framed right next to the door with the start times of each band. Matt was hoping he would be able to snatch that piece of paper up as a commemoration piece for our time at the Cubby Bear and I tried to talk him off that ledge by saying, "Bro, I'm sure if you just asked they'd give it to you."

He just laughed and responded, "yah... but then there wouldn't be a good story."

He's always good at lightening the mood with some dumb shit like that, and it definitely worked for me.

I thought to myself,

'why is there just a white 8.5 x 11 in piece of paper framed by the front door of the Green Room?' Why isn't that put everywhere to make sure every musician sees it? We are all nervous as fuck, you can tell.

Not just us, but everybody. And we are all musicians.

We are majority of the time, the outcasts, the unorganized, the untimely, the creatives that can't count so good, the disenfranchised that don't want to be franchised.

And we definitely are NOT good with being on time... in regards to a clock at least. Now if that clock only goes up to 4 and then goes back to 1, 2, 3, that's a little bit of a different story. That is the time our little world exists.

In a cycle of short bursts that starts with 1, goes to 2, then 3, then 4, then we get to start right back over again.

It works out pretty well for when things don't go according to plan the first time around.

So while we eat and have a couple laughs, Legasus does their sound check for about 10 to 15 minutes. We see them leave the stage for a bit, probably to have a band pep talk, for about 5 minutes and they get back on with some fresh beers/waters and start their set.

In my mind I think, 'sweeeeet. The front of house people are cool. They understand that you gotta walk up to the stage ready to go and be in the mindset to perform. Going directly from soundcheck to your set can be tough as setup and soundcheck is quite a stressful event at times.'

So once Legasus get's going we do the respectful thing and go watch them since we can't hear anything through the TV in the Green Room.

The drums are funky, the bass is holding down the rhythm and the guitar is leading the way.

The vocals are good, but the harmonizing with their vocals is even better.

They are a very very good band that is rehearsed and very good at what they do, obviously.

I look to my left and see Matt looking actually pretty relaxed. I look to my right and Justin is looking a little nervous I could tell. I look past him at Sean who has his eyes closed tapping his hands on the table per usual. Everybody is looking better, but I know my nerves are increasing with every minute that I see this very good band handle their shit on stage.

I think to myself,

'How can I help my friends?'

I'm nervous as fuck too, but what is that gunna help?

I could go up there and tell them "not to worry", "it will all be fine","its ok if your nervous", but really what does that help?

I think back to my family, the folks who got me here.

My Irish heritage that is lived and breathed into this world through my huge family on my dad's side.

My German heritage that is about attention to detail and success by process from my mom's side.

I choose to go with my Irish side this time.

I think to an old Irish Proverb that my mom always had above the toilet when we were growing up:

" There's good ships.

There's wood ships.

Ships that sail the sea.

But the best kind of ship,

Is a friendship.

And may those always be. "

I walk over to Sean and pat him on the back. We talk about some thing, but it's a bit tough to hear. He let's me know he is a little nervous and hits me with, "This is the first time I've ever been in Chicago." I think to myself, 'This badass mother fucker has not even been to Chicago before and he's going to step up on the Cubby Bear stage? Holy fuckin' shit.'

I know I didn't help too much, but I hope the pats on the back and the conversation helped him know that we are here as a band. We step up there as a band and no matter what happens we are a band after this show.

Legasus announces their final song, so I step outside to let Justin know. I see him having a smoke with Katherine and ask if he's ready to go. He seems nervous still, but at this point I think he just needs some time to himself and I am glad to give that to him because I know exactly what that feels like, since I'm right there with him. We all head over to the stage, there is a staircase leading up to it on stage left. We get ready to start getting setup right as the last guy leaves the stage from Legasus.

Right as we start up the stairs the front of house/sound guy asks, "Where is your bass player?" while simultaneously being told by the stage attendant that we only have 10 min to get setup since the last band went over. We say, "Oh he couldn't make it, so we won't need a mic for that."

I think,

'FUCK. 10 minutes is no time at all to setup a 4 man band.'

But we just roll with it because that's what needs to happen to make this dream happen. He says, "Your gunna play without a bass player?" We say, "Yes." and Matt takes over the conversation as I leave to grab more stuff since I will be on stage left I prioritize getting stuff setup on the stage.

While bringing the stuff I still see them talking about it still.

I think to myself,

'why is this a conversation? We don't have a bass player, that just means that they don't need to mic an additional amp. End of story in my mind.'

So we finally get that sorted and I help get Matt setup, hand out the waters and beers to my bandmates and start to grab my shit. It has now been maybe 5 minutes and the stage attendant lady is trying to get our attention through the PA system by saying something like "this is Shannon(?) giving you the most up-to-date news." or some shit like that.

I actually can't even remember what happened, but she said after that, "don't worry we will just be doing some mic checks so don't freak out that we are starting."

'Alright cool. That 10 minutes sounds like its got a little wiggle room.'

Simultaneously, the sound guy comes over to me and asks about my rig. I say, "I have my Marshall head going into this Vox, so just mic the speaker as you normally would." He says, "Uhm... you are running two amps?" I say, "yes." Again, confused as to why this is becoming a conversation when they just told us we only have 10 minutes to get setup, which has quickly dwindled to 5 minutes approaching 2 minutes in my head.

Luckily, he picks up what I'm putting down which is simply... just mic the speaker bro... that's the whole idea here. You don't need to understand my whole rig to setup a mic in front of the speaker.

So I finally start to get my shit together and everything is hooked up. I run through my setup process starting at the speaker. 'Vox is on.'

'Harmmonica is hooked up to the Top Boost channel. Check and done.'

'Guitar line with yellow tape is running from the in of the Vox Normal channel out to the pre-amp out on the back of my Marshall.'

'Marhsall head is on.'

'Line is going for the input to my Ocean 12 reverb L/mono out.'

'Lines are going from the L/mono in to the rest of my board.'

'Tuner In is going to my guitar input jack out and volume knob is at 5....'

'Strum for sound please....'

'WTF... no sound....' I check all connections on my pedal board and finally felt a click.

The line from my guitar to my tuner was not all the way in.

'Strum for sound again please...'

No sound. 'Dafuqin' fuck bro!'

Where is the sound....

I faintly hear from the pa, "mic check on stage left."

My ears don't disrupt my thoughts. 'Dafuq is going on here with this stupid fucking shit. for fuck sake!!!'

I look up at the clock and I have 2 minutes left. "Fuckkkkk. What the fuckk..." 'Whoops did i say that out loud.'

I trouble shoot while the lady keeps asking for me to mic check the vocal mic in front of me. I finally realize that she is speaking directly to me and I say, "One second please." Luckily, Matt notices that I am in a situation here and try's to tell her, again, that the vocal mic is just to talk to the crowd, not for singing.

Matt buying me that 20 seconds of peace of mind makes me realize what I forgot. 'The FX Loop pedal for the Marshall.'

'FUCK! That's in the bag I put down by the bar already.' I take my guitar off and sprint to the bar where our stuff is. I grab the pedal, plug it in, turn the damn thing on. 'halle-fucking-lujah! We have sound.'

Immediately after I get the sound on. The lady asks, "What's that hissing?"

'It's a snake.' I tell her, out of breath, "Oh, that's probably my amp. It's a tube amp so it hisses a bit."

'Waaahhhhh, stop hissing in my ear. Your tube amp is too hissy.' She says, "Well is there anyway that we can make it not do that?"

'Nope.' I say, "Not really. Do you mind if I play real quick and see if you can make it work?"

'Just give me the chance please.'

She says, "Sure."

'Sweeeeettttt.' I play a little riff I've been working on and I think that was enough to flip her lid on the hiss of a good tube amp because she looked a bit surprised and says "Ok... I think we can make that work." Finally, she follows that up with, "Ok, well we are at time and I think we will just have to sound check during your first song." We say, "Cool no problem." because we get it.

We understand things don't go perfectly, and keeping everything perfectly on time is very hard to do.

We understand that working with people you just met is very tough to do, and to be adaptable to the changing equipment and sounds that you need to manage to aid the band on stage is a tough job to have.

We understand that you are in an equally tough position as we are.

So thank you for helping us make this happen and contributing to making us sound as good as you possibly can for the 45 minutes we are up here.

We start our set with our rendition of Althea from The Grateful Dead. We think it jams hard, not sure what other people think, but when you are on stage sometimes you just got to have a little Blind Faith that things will go ok.

We jam on to Black and Blue.

Then move to Pamela.

There are some hiccups along the way. Timing was off at times between us, but shit, we basically have been sprinting for the last 10 minutes and sometimes it takes about 10 minutes to get settled back down. But my fucking bros did it. They locked in very well and did their jobs like professionals. They kept time, the songs weren't longer then 5 minutes and we were on pace to get the whole set in. That has been the number one thing we were struggling with for the past month.

All the sudden I hear from my right (stage left), "hey we don't have your harmonica at front of house." I think,

But I say, "Oh that's ok, it's going through my guitar amp." So she repeats it again, "Yah, but they don't have it in the front of house..."

I look confused... cause I am... If they have my guitar amp miced up for front of house, they also have my harmonica as it's going through the same speaker. 'Don't they just have to move a fader to compensate for it?'

So she recommends, "Can you just play into the vocal mic?"

'You mean the one we didn't have time to sound check? are you serious? That looks like a Sure 58 I can't cup my hands properly around it without it feeding back.'

So I think logically for a second and try to come up with a way to trouble shoot our problem to find a solution.

'Maybe there is something wrong... like it's not loud enough... or it's too loud. If it's too loud that would really be bad cause Harmonica's cut through a mix like a hot knife through butter. ' I guess that's what you learn about when you build a studio with a very knowledgeable friend.

Well let's just ask the folks out there if there is a problem because from what I can see, I don't see anyone covering their ears or nothing. Ultimately, they are the judges here.

So I step up to the mic and say to the crowd, " Hey guys, is the Harmonica too loud? Harmonica too loud for anybody?" Majority of folks say, "No." I got my answer. I hope front of house got theirs.

We are not playing for the venue. We are playing for the people who took the time and paid money to be in this bar.

We are playing for the people who are paying the $25 for a jack and coke to have a drink while listening to live music.

We are playing for those folks who are paying the $15 for a tall boy of miller lite or bud light or coors light to have a nice cold beverage in their hand while they watch some talented people give them something that isn't bound by rules or process. We are giving them what we can with the hard work we have put in since we decided to become musicians.

If they are happy, we are happy.

If they say "It's good." The we say "It's good."

If you have to move a fader on the mixing board to control the volume of each instrument that is coming out of your speakers, then that's what you have to do as a front of house artist.

You are the final piece to the puzzle.

You are the artist that makes the other individual musicians art shine.

You are the varnish on a finished oil painting.

You are the polish on a newly built dinner table.

The last glimmer of hope for musicians to excel at what they have been practicing their whole lives for.

You are the last artist in the chain of artists that makes music possible for the rest of us.

You are in the hot seat with us.

You can either help or not. That is your choice.

But I may have fucked up a bit there for my bros...

Because of the above reasoning I made an executive decision to continue to play my harmonica through my guitar amp, I chuckled to myself quite a bit about that, but I don't think front of house felt the same way... We got through the rest of our set at pace to get the whole thing in and at the 40 minute mark I hear someone yelling at us after our second to last song. "You have 5 minutes."

'Perfect!!!!! We are gunna fuck these people up with this last one. It's about to go off.' At least that's what I thought she said.

It was the same lady we have been working with since the beginning and I actually have grown to appreciate her care in making sure she is giving the best opportunity for us to sound good as she can. I completely empathize with the position she is in as I do a similar job in the IT world as a profession.

Being the middle man is not easy and it never has been. That's why it's so important and why we talk about the middle class so much.

It ain't easy not being the richest folks or the poorest folks. Not being one or the other. You are the folks that have the burden, and responsibility, to make money from the rich, to make a life for yourself, and to pay taxes to help the poor.

At least that's how it's supposed to work.

But anyway that's a conversation for another day... I respond with, "Perfect! we only got one more song anyway." I finally get to throw her an appreciative smile. But then a booming voice is heard from the darkness. Another lady appears. She has a bull nose right and reminds me of El Eminopio from the Chip n' Dale series I used to watch as a kid. I met that gaze even thought I never saw it before. I've never met her, I don't even know if she is part of the show. But she yells at us all the same, "No! You have to get off the stage right now. Your time is up."

And points directly to a framed piece of paper. The same exact framed piece of paper that was hanging by the door in the Green Room...

In hindsight, it all makes sense now but at the time I was genuinely confused. So I say, "I thought we had 5 more minutes?" She says, "No you are 5 minutes over already. Your set was from 7:55 to 8:35." I hear, "Needs more cowbell." right behind me and see Sean smirking to himself pretending to be hitting a cowbell with his drumstick. Now I'm really confused, but I get back to the problem at hand.

La Eminopia.

'Have we really been playing for 45 minutes already? shit. I can't believe it. I guess we weren't on pace... I swore we were. The lady said 5 more mintues right? Why wouldn't they give a 5 minute warning or something... fuck man. This sucks.'

I look to my left at Matt. Then up at the clock above the stage and I do see it says 8:40. But I didn't think we started at 7:55... shiiittt... what time was it when i was counting down the minutes? Ah, fuck I can't remember.

Luckily Matt steps in and says, "No, I thought we got 5 minutes past the end time because the last band got off late?" She says, "No! You have to get off the stage right now." So in an attempt to represent the people we are playing for, since our last song is the best song per usual with a set list, I stepped up to the microphone to ask the people that I actually care about what their opinion was about this shit.

'Oooooh I can't fuckin wait to see where this goes.' I barely get out, "One more song?" Before Matt steps in, grabs the back of my shirt and says,

"Nah dude, let's just go." 'FUCK!' As we clean up he let's me know that they are probably making us get off because I pissed them off. Eh. fuck em anyway. Sean's right 'More cowbell.' I could tell he was irritated at me, which he has every right to be and if he punched me in the face that night I wouldn't blame him.

He has been working his whole life to represent a song he wrote, for folks like you and me, with a band he helped build.

He worked his ass off for these 45 minutes and it wasn't just for the past month, it has been for the past 30 years. But he didn't punch me. He still had my back. Even though we were now at each others throats.

Sometimes having someone's back isn't stepping up and throwing the first punch over their shoulder.

It's seeing the situation and making the best decision for your friends. It is stepping in when you recognize your friend is seeing red. Just like I was when she pointed to that framed 8.5 x 11 in sheet of paper that took her less then 2 minutes to type and print that no one else was following to this point.

Having someone's back isn't supporting them blindly.

Sometimes its tugging on the back of their shirt reminding them, "It's just not worth it."

That was the end of our Cubby Bear show.

The show we worked our entire individual lives to play.

The stage we recognized as a new band as being important to each one of us given that we shared it with some of the greatest artists of all time. We hope we did what they would do.

We hope Terry, Ronnie and Jerry were tugging on the back of all of our shirts in support of what we are trying to do with our music. Just like they did with theirs. Letting us know, "We are not here to fight back."

We are here to fight forward. Best, The Hi-Waves PS: We received an email the next day informing us that the production company that Matt worked with would not be booking anymore shows for next year or the year after that...

Not sure if that was the truth...

But if the truth lines between the lies now-a-days, then this article is our response: "Message received."



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