As I write this it's been four years since the 1997 Midwest TabCon took place. My recollections of the event are now fuzzy, but I've always meant to put together a brief review with my thoughts of how the first TabCon ever went. It appears that I've finally found the time.|
It started out, as I recall, on the rush-tabs mailing list. I'm not exactly sure who first thought of the idea to get together and perform live, perhaps Jimmy Pena, but the idea began to circulate on the list and everyone liked it. All the tablature that was being created could now be put to good use! I believe it was Chris Marquardt who first coined the term "TabCon".
Plans were formed, participants formally solicited, and a studio located in the Milwaukee area. When things began to solidify and it looked like the gig would really happen, I asked my friend Al Kunickis if he wanted to join in as well. He was interested and we "signed up". In the meantime others from Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana were joining in too. Sean Jones turned out to be a focal point for the entire event, the glue that was keeping things moving forward. He booked the studio, organized the music to be played, and by whom, as well as offering up his home to those coming in from out-of-town.
When the fateful day finally came, Al and I jumped into my car and headed for Milwaukee. We had reserved our spot on Sean's apartment floor and were excited to get there and meet him, and at the same time a bit hesitant; after all, I'd never meet Sean face to face, and now I was going to be spending the night over his house, a complete stranger! He could be a mass-murderer for all I knew! During the drive, Al decided to get some last minute practice in and played his guitar in the car most of the way to Milwaukee, a scene that would repeat itself over the years for future TabCons. I must admit that I felt woefully unprepared myself.
Sean was as personable a fellow as one could ask for, and he didn't look anything like an axe murderer, so I felt comfortable not long after meeting him. Several others were already there at Sean's place, waiting for us to arive, including as I recall, John Hefter, Matt Lee and Doug White. We loaded gear into Sean's basement for the evening, talked some and waited for others to show up; in the end, no one did so we headed out for dinner at a local restaurant. I believe Chris Marquardt met us there. Plenty of small talk was made as people got to know one another. After dinner, we all agreed on a time to meet at the studio in the morning, and then headed back to Sean's place.
Al took the couch (I think I lost a rock-paper-scissors to him!) and I was on the floor. Sometime, in the very early morning, I think around 2am, Sean's doorbell began to ring frantically. I heard Sean get up and answer it, and as it turned out it was Branden Robinson. He was supposed to stay at a hotel that evening, but there was a snafu of sorts, and he had no where to go. Sean cleared a spot for him in the spare bedroom, and we all feel back to sleep.
The next morning, everyone was up bright and early to prepare. Everyone went through their morning rituals. We loaded the gear into the cars and we were all set to go; everyone except Al. Al was just getting around to taking a shower and brushing his teeth, a scene that would repeat itself over the years for future TabCons. After much pressure and a threat to leave him behind, Al got in gear and we headed off to the studio.
The place was closed up tight. We got to the studio at the designated time, but the owner of the place was nowhere to be found, and our pounds on the door went unanswered. It was a *very* cold November morning, and the neighborhood seemed less than inviting. A half-hour late, the owner finally arrived and admitted us. We hauled our gear in and began to set up. It was fortunate that all the performers were men, as the studio's "restroom" consisted of nothing more than a hole in the ground in a dark, dank basement room, with no light in it. I aimed carefully.
Our skills were put to the test as we ran through the songs. There were some great performances, and some not so great performances, a scene that would repeat itself over the years for future TabCons. Everyone was having fun, but there were some frustrations along the way with misbehaving gear and our ability to accurately remember just "how the song goes". At the halfway mark we took a break. Someone had ordered a 6-foot sub and we began to eat. Earlier that morning I realized that I had forgot my bag with a spare change of clothes in it at home. I was beginning to smell a little gamey after all the sweaty drumming, so Sean drove a few of us to the local Wal-Mart where I picked up a package of fresh T-Shirts and a stick of deoderant. Everyone was thankful of it.
And so the story goes. We returned to the studio and finished up the set. Gear was broke down and loaded up. While I knew I'd return if there was another TabCon in the future, I wasn't so sure everyone else felt that way. It was a lot of work and preparation for one day of performance. Not long after it was agreed that if the event was two days instead of one, it would have more to offer and be better worth the effort. In the end, everyone who played at the 1997 Midwest TabCon returned to play in at least one other in the future. With that, Sean pointed me and Al toward the expressway back to Chicago, and with a round of handshakes, we were off. This was, as it turns out, the start of something really good. Friendships built on the mutual like of music by a rock band called Rush, and our desire to have fun performing it together.