Thursday, January 26, 2006

Got to Pay Dem Bills for Gary Schepers

Gary Schepers, local sound man and tuba player, is hospitalized; almost lost his leg; may lose some toes; hosts a flesh eating bacteria;has no medical insurance; and watches his bills rise as steady as lower ninth flood waters. Where's the good in all that?

Well, Gary didn't lose his leg and thanks to his nasty foot infection found out that he is diabetic so he can take the regimental precautions to keep himself healthy. Thanks to lots of press coverage many folks in similar positions may have learned a valuable lesson re: health, infections and precaution. I know you're thinking I'm really stretching for that silver lining.

But there's more good in all that because Gary is loved by a powerful musical community that has rallied to create a series of shows around town that, charity aside, is astounding. So what's good for Gary is good for the rest of us. We get to see a bunch of great acts, reflect on the amazing amount of local talent and help a guy out to boot.

Gary is like the Forrest Gump of Alt Country. He went on the road with Uncle Tupelo and he did sound for the first Bloodshot shows. He plays frequently at the Hideout with Devil in a Woodpile. So it's no surprise that the series reads like a who's who of Chicago Alt Country. Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Sun Volt) played last Friday at Fitzgerald's with the ubiquitous Robbie Fulks. Robbie is one of my heroes. He keeps himself amazingly busy with his own music and also hosts a showcase at the Old Town School of Folk called Secret Country that has brought many hidden "living" treasures to Chicago from around the country. Anyway I digress. There were other good acts on this bill and a whole other gig across town featuring the New Duncan Imperials. Sunday there was a family friendly noon show at the Hideout with Wee Hairy Beasties. WHB features my favorite local alt-celebs Jon Langford and Sally Timms who both played in the Mekons, probably the best band out of Wales ever and one of my all time favorite bands. They've both released some fine solo stuff and play with multiple other outfits including the Waco Brothers and Three Johns. Jon and Sally are true local treasures. It's always worth catching their performances. WHB also features the local country legend/singer/bartender Kelly Hogan. Also on the sold-out Sunday Family Bill, the Blisters which features Spencer and Sam Tweedy, spawn of Jeff (Uncle Tupelo, Wilco). The Blisters' set left my friend and bassist, Jacob Smith (who brought his daughter out for her first concert), musically crushed because they were good and sullen like jaded rock stars...and they're like nine years old. I'm glad I skipped it. Last night, Poppa Tweedy played a sold-out show at the Abbey as his contribution to "Sound Check."

Which brings us to tonight...
Kelly Hogan headlines up at Martyr's. Then tomorrow catch Bottle Rockets and Tijuana Hercules at Schuba's. And the final "Sound Check" performance will be next Saturday at the Hideout with the very classy North Carolina act Freakwater (afternoon show). Oh and I don't know the details but there's gonna be some kind of auction too. Local Sound Legend Steve Albini is contributing to the auction. Check the Reader for info.

That's a pretty darn fine turn out for ol' Mister Schepers and I'm sure if he weren't tied up at the hospital and concerned about keeping his toes attached to his feet and his money in his wallet, he'd be pretty darn happy about all this.

Now, imagine if this group could be persuaded to do another series to get some insurance for the Schepers of the world (and where would the music community be without dedicated freelancing souls running the boards and what not???) ? The money is better spent proactively than reactively but then there's nothing about this alt country music that sells insurance, it's all bleeding hearts and tragedy so what are you gonna do?

*photo by Jim Newberry from the Chicago Reader.

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