Monday, December 28, 2009

Music makes the world go 'round.

Everybody knows someone who used to be in a band, but I have had the pleasure of knowing the coolest and some of the most talented guys ever! The Urge was a local band from Central NY, and these guys could play anything. Each one of these guys have a long history of music playing, high school jazz bands, marching bands, show choirs, jazz singers, chorale. And as adept and talented as their musical abilities, their talent for being a great friend surpasses their musical abilities.

In order from left to right: Chuck Riley, Billy Finizio, Dan Machold, Terry Quill, Mark Van Epps

Chuck Riley, lead guitarist, helped me pick out and purchase my very first Technics individual components stereo system. 20 years later and I still have the receiver and turntable. Chuck liked heavy metal, especially Stryper, and he could rock out any guitar solo like a badass. Chuck is Mark's cousin and if there was ever a guy that stood by his friends and did the right thing, it was Chuck.

Billy Finizio, drummer, was a true percussionist and had an amazing talent on several instruments. He played jazz and rock with gusto. Now a studio musician in NYC working on original stuff, his garage was converted into "The Studio" that we all hung out at(even if it was haunted!). Billy opened up his garage and home to a bunch of friends that had no where to practice, yet wanted to take their music skills to a new level. Billy was the one that hung out at the studio the least (in spite of it being his house) and yet had time to listen to anyone that needed to talk with him. I didn't date in high school, and when I asked him to take me to prom just so I could go, he did not even hesitate to say yes. Prom Night was before the studio existed, but the garage was haunted, as evidenced by four of us, when we stopped at his house after the dance. There were red glowing lights in the garage window.

The garage was detached and sat back from the house, with an upstairs window over what looks like a chicken coop door typical in barns. Two years later, the guys all got together to clear out the top half of the garage and build up the studio into a hangout. Unfortunately it was not the last time spooky things happened, even though a rosary was hanging over our heads on the cross beam (from when a prior owner hung himself, atleast that was the story). Can I just say, Halloween was a real fun time of year!

Dan Machold, the keyboardist, was and still is a very cool guy. He didn't bow to peer pressure at all, was his own person at all times, and also saw the ghost at the studio. Dan actually jumped out the chicken window to get away from the ghost! Dan is now at the forefront of the music scene in Austin. I was two years older than Dan, but he and I just clicked as friends. We liked the same music and that seemed to be the bonding force.

Terry Quill, the rhythm guitarist was probably one of the most talented players ever! He still plays and writes songs and is involved in several groups in Central NY. Terry has the largest music collection of anyone I know, and his musical influences reach from every genre of music. His talent is bounded only by his aspirations. Terry was and will always be one of my very best friends. As noted in a previous entry, Terry was my get-a-way car from an alcoholic household. Terry knew more about me than many of my girl friends.

Dan, Terry and I spent alot of time together outside the studio. Record shopping was a regular past time for us. We thought nothing of going to Syracuse or Rochester's House of Guitars and spending a whole day flipping through individual vinyl records looking for the one piece of music we couldn't live without. Dan and I got quite into an argument when there was only one copy of "Boylan Heights" by the Connells. (he won). Terry found me the original Love & Rockets "Seventh Dream of a Teenage Heaven" for my birthday. And the sense of jubilation of finding "Class Tramp" by the Rave-ups (the band from the movie Pretty in Pink), actually had me dancing in the store. Every other time I looked at a record store, I could only find Raven, until that magical day!

Our other friends could not believe we would spend HOURS looking at records, but music was that important to us. We saw tons of bands together: REM, twice, (Terry had to help me to his car after some kid knocked me down the stairs at the concert, but I insisted on standing on my chair to sing to Michael Stipe, by then my boot would not come off because my ankle had swollen so much), Smithereens, Squeeze, Psy Furs, Elvis Costello, Midnight Oil just to name a few. Dan was witness to me being punched across the face by a maniac at a show- of all things- Hunters and Collectors doing a cover of Elvis Costello's "What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?"

Dan and I still talk about the music scene, though he knows much more than I do. Terry still plays and collaborates on writing music with others. I haven't seen either in atleast a few years, but I will never outlive the friendship. I love these guys dearly.

Mark Van Epps, the bassist was the stereotypical bass player. He lived for his music, made all the goofy faces while playing, was outstanding in his performances and was a perfectionist. Mark was the consumate big brother. Any guy I liked, he gave dirty looks. Any guy I brought to the studio, Mark sat between us. Mark and I worked at a record store together for a while as well. It was the most fun job I ever had. He and his brother Greg, were good ol' boys who partied hard, had intense feelings of friendship and were very protective. I felt very cared for when Mark got in his big brother mood. To this day, anytime I see some jazz or blues live, from David Sanborn to Robert Cray, I imagine it is Mark playing bass on that stage.

These guys and I share alot of moments and happy times: finding the musical moment in a song, buying string cheese, coke classic and Jax cheese curls in Wegman's at midnight, halloween parties that start at the studio and ended at the cemetery, County Line Road, Swamp Road, the Punk Rock at the park, struggling through music theory classes, jazz singers, show choir, playing at the Tannery at SUC Cortland, concerts, tacky house hunting...

They learned to play songs I requested like the Icicle Works, and even put music to some poems I wrote. I could never play well enough to be in a band (not much call for organs in rock bands, unless it is 1970), and had only a fair to good mezzo-soprano voice, yet they never treated me as a groupie, or a loser. I was just with them and that was it.

It was a second home at the Studio, but the home would not have been welcoming without the guys in The Urge. Many people look back at friends in the past with fondness, but I like to think these guys were and are truly special. The amount of people that have been to the studio is unbelievable and if I were to list some, then others might get upset I didn't list them, but here are some(excuse the mis-spellings): Al Noga (nyuh-nyuh-nyuh), John Becker, Marcia Brooks, Brian Gambrell, Steve Swartz, Tim Dacey, Thomi Long, Ellen Phillips, Gregg Namisniak, Bobby Ringwood, Marc Morfei, Karen Smith- and a bunch of others....

I don't look up all 500 people I graduated with in High school on facebook, I don't google names I knew from my past, I only keep in contact with a handful of friends since before college, but these guys are always in my heart. They are truly talented.


Dan said...

Aw, this is really sweet! And brings back tons of memories. I have told my friends about our record shopping - going to the House of Guitars and spending hours looking through unorganized piles of records. I went there for the first time in years about three years ago and it's the same but mostly CDs. Still piled up.

And didn't Greg's name have two g's on the end? Didn't we call him Gre-guh-guh because of that?

Chippy said...

How could I have not remembered that? I fixed the spelling, thanks.

It's just not the same looking through CDs. You can't stack them as high when you push them to the "no" pile.

I have been teaching my kids how to find the musical moments....