Colorado Local Legends
Review: Ziggies Bar
By Jerry Roys
Published: June 22, 2008
There was a storm on June 1, and the thunder came from inside of Ziggies Bar, 4928 W.38th Ave., when 10 of Colorado’s top bass players laid down their lighting licks and rained down deep pocket grooves for the Rocky Mountain Bass Slam.
Low-end lovers were treated to triple, duet and so-low bass compositions, with drum and bass loops, sequenced rhythm tracks and a Didgeridoo, which is an Australian Aboriginal wind instrument, as accompaniment. The boom was a little late on getting lowered, but once the rumble started, it kept on rolling.
The organizers of the event were Glenn Tapia, bassist for local bands BiggaDigga and Du4Roux, and Paul Rogalski, bassist from Mojomama and owner and instructor for Mojo’s Music Academy. They had the idea for the event a couple of years ago, but this year their idea became reality.
"We thought it would be cool to have an event that features bass players," Tapia says. "Take them out of the back and into the front, show a different side of the bass."
Paul says it was easy to organize. Both he and Tapia took a list of bass players and started making calls.
"People didn’t hesitate at all," Rogalski says. "We wanted to get a couple of female bass players, but the ones we called were booked for that day."
Another big part of the event was the fact that it was a fundraiser to help supply musical instruments for the Jefferson County Open School and The Denver School of the Arts. Along with the music, the appreciative audience was treated to a meal provided by the staff at Ziggies, who were busy cooking and serving food.
Tapia plays bass for the Wednesday night open jam at Ziggies along with the club’s part-owner Cherie DuFour, who by the way is one smoking guitar player with soulful vocals.
Tapia says he thought, with the live musical history of Ziggies going back to 1964, it would be the perfect venue for the event. Ziggies was recently bought out of bankruptcy.
This is not your daddy’s Ziggies. New owners Dufour and Carla Jordan have spent a lot of coin and have made many improvements to the old bar, which still features great musical acts nine times a week. Jordan says one of the clubs goals is to provide the public with great local live music. Emilo, Emilo recently played at Ziggies, and the three-piece band with Jeff St. Andrews on bass kicked ass.
What else was nice was the relaxed atmosphere, and the volume level wasn’t overbearing. It’s a club I recommend. For a complete schedule of the upcoming entertainment at Ziggies go to www.ziggieslivemusic.com. The Rocky Mountain Bass Slam is just one example of the quality entertainment the club provides.
The Slam started out Miles Davis-cool. Tim Carmichael played his 100-year-old-plus upright bass. Scott "Gusty" Christensen accompanied him on the didgeridoo. Carmichael’s playing was flawless, and his and Christensen’s musical arrangements were unique. Carmichael’s phrasing, note placement and use of percussive hits on the old upright, which added rhythm to the composition, were tasteful and very cool. Christensen’s didgeridoo playing painted a perfect background for the composition. Carmichael also played a fusion piece on his Tobias electric bass that just smoked.
Speaking of smoked, if Brian Hornbuckle slapped and popped those strings any faster, the friction just might have set that bass on fire. Hornbuckle, sometimes referred to as the Jimi Hendrix of bass, was the next act up. Hornbuckle, who had one gig before and after the Bass Slam, showed up with out his bass. It didn’t matter; he abused one of the Warwick basses that were sitting on the stage. Known for his percussive slap and pop technique, Hornbuckle was simply dead-on. His partner in rhythm, Sherman "Sticks" Arnold, was amazing on the drum kit. His phrasing was in sync with Hornbuckle’s percussive slaps, while the dynamics and how they played off of one another was enough to give you goose bumps.
I was standing next to Ron "B6" Buckner and Tim "Mac" McMurray when Hornbuckle was finished, and Mac said, "Man I’d hate to follow that." B6 just smiled and started towards the stage. Buckner got the B6 moniker for playing a 6 string Modulus bass. Mac was his partner in the duet performance with Jason Torres, from Buckner Funken Jazz, on the drum kit. Mac played tight in the pocket while B6 laid down some tasty licks and melodic runs over the top. I asked him what his feelings were about the gig, and B6, who was all about getting instruments in young people’s hands, said, "If kids have instruments, it gives them something to do, keeps them out of trouble. It’s too bad our programs are diminishing like they are." Mac felt the same way.
"I think it’s awesome," Mac says. "What I like is there are a lot of young kids here today. They get to see so many ways to play bass. It might inspire some kids to start."
Some of the youngsters who were present were the Gray brothers, Chris, 15, Jerry, 13, and Ryan, 11. Jerry said he thought it was cool to get all these bass players in one spot. Chris and Jerry ended up winning the two giveaway basses donated by Guitar Center.
Two other young people who were there to experience the event were Chris Nugent, 15, and his band-mate Taylor Fitzke. Chris attends one of the Denver Open Schools which Warwick donated a bass and amp to.
Next up was Tempa and the Tantrums and Custom Deluxe bassist Dave Foret. His partner was Paul Rogalski, co-founder of the The Rocky Mountain Bass Slam. Dave is a master of the groove, and as I have said before about pocket players, the man gets so deep into the pocket he gets lint on him.
Foret, a Louisiana native, can really lay down the New Orleans funk. He, along with Custom Deluxe drummer Michael Ray, laid down such a thick groove that you really didn’t need to add nothing to the Gumbo. But, Rogalski sprinkled the right spice on top of it all. All three tunes they played were based on New Orleans funk, and they just kicked ass. Foret was originally supposed to perform his piece with Kerwin Brown, who was a last minute cancellation. This was a great job by all three performers. True pros.
The next bassist up had his band in a box, or the rhythm section anyway. Jaysun Morgan sequenced all the tracks he used for his performance. He says he has been working on getting his arrangements down for the past 10 years. Morgan a number of techniques and effects. He used right and left hand hammering and tapped on the strings the way a piano is played, double stops and traditional playing. His performance showed the diversity of how a bass can be played and also of the style of music performed. His sequenced tracks are a work of art, with not only rhythm tracks but also string sections put in. His performance just added another layer to the show.
Speaking of string sections, I have seen bassists bow an electric bass, but never with a gutter spike or a 10-inch-nail. Jeffery "The Saint" St. Andrews dropped a few jaws when, in the middle of his monster performance, he grabbed the nail and started to bow the strings on his old BC Rich bass, which by the way is canvassed with some fantastic art of his. St. Andrews says the first time he ever did this he used a nail he had found in a cemetery. He said the nail had oxidized and the rust acted like rosin, which would grab the string.
St. Andrews plays bass with Emilo, Emilo. The band also features the master of the pocket and drum fills, Sherman Arnold. Since they have both played together numerous times, Arnold has great a intuition on where St. Andrews is going. The dynamics, crescendos, decrescendos, phrasing and pocket worked like a machine. St. Andrews’s melodic playing and double stops, which by the way is hitting two strings at one time, slaps, pops and funky playing all just seemed to fit in perfect. It was an amazing feat when you realized that there were only two people performing, bass and drums. If you get a chance to catch these two performing in Emilo, Emilo, you won’t be sorry. Sure put a smile on my face.
Rogalski and Tapia were up next. All the acts were diverse, and the founders of the Rocky Mountain Bass Slam had to be on top of their game. And believe me, they were. Tapia played the groove and sat tight in the pocket with Mojo Mama’s drummer, Mike Fogerty. His groove was head-bopping, and Rogalski’s melodic runs and well-placed notes let the tunes breathe. There were a lot of performers improvising, but these two cats had their stuff rehearsed, it was polished and just kicked ass.
Looped, that was what Matt Skellenger was. An no, I don’t mean drunk. He was the last act up. Skellenger joked around, saying, "No one likes me, that’s why I play be myself." Skellenger really didn’t need anyone but that little box he had. This dude was just amazing. He used so many different techniques in his arrangements. He started off with a groove, then stepped on an effect that looped the groove into repeating itself. He then layered another piece on top of that. Skellenger even used some percussive hits, and looped them, as well. To top it all off, he played his bass like a piano, tapping the strings, which was just amazing.
The gig ended with Rogalski, Tapia and B6, with Fogerty on the kit, doing a free-form jam. Rogalski and Tapia want to make this an annual event, and eventually get all the great bass players Colorado has to offer to participate. This was a piece of history I was honored to be a part of. The two founders are already getting ready for the next Rocky Mountain Bass Slam. All the players said they would do it again, and Rogalski and Tapia want to get more players involved. This event could easily become a two or three-day-event in the years to come. It’s not going away; it was just too much fun for everyone, players and audience alike.
Kudos to my partner in Do the Dream Productions, Alonso Barraza, who did a fantastic job in filming and editing the event. Go to www.rockymountainbassslam.com and get on the email list for the next Rocky Mountain Bass Slam. You will not be sorry. Also, I’d like to extend big "Thank You" to the staff at Ziggies Bar for their great hospitality.
Before I forget, The Rocky Mountain Bass Slam has a host of well-known sponsors, such as, Ziggies Bar, Coors, Warwick, Genz Benz, Shecter Guitars, GHS Strings, Drum City Guitarland, Mojo Music Academy, and, of course, Colorado Local Legends and Do the Dream Productions.