Favorite Music Experience

I can narrow it down to two. My favorite band is probably The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. I saw them twice back in the 70's, once headlining in London and the second time opening for Jethro Tull in Charleston West Virginia. It's the second time that is the case here, just because of the situation.

They were the opening act. SAHB were legendary for their ability to steal an audience out from under the headliners. They opened for Slade in the early 70s, when Slade was the biggest thing in England. One particularly rough night Alex walked up to the mic and said "I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that this is our last song." The audience cheered, Alex grinned. The cheering stopped, why was this guy happy about this reaction? "The bad news is that it's a f&%$ing long one." A lot of Alex's early fan base was made up of Slade fans that they won over during that tour.

When I saw them the second time, they were trying to break through in the US. They never quite made it, but they did win over a lot of lifetime fans.

The show was in one of those big barn halls that seat around 10,000 to 18,000. I was in the same room in 2011, and it hadn't changed much in 35 years.

SAHB had their gear set up in front of Tull's. The drums on one side, the keyboards on the other. In the middle was a raised platform, probably 10 feet up, with a mock brick wall with Vambo Rools spray painted on it. I heard several people wonder about this. My comment, just wait, you'll see.

At 8pm the audience was greeted with the sound of bagpipes ... from the back of the hall. This made the entire audience turn around to find out what was going on. It was two pipers, who then proceeded to march to the front of the stage. In the meantime the band came on and when the pipers got to the stage and finished their song, the band just exploded over the audience. By the end of the show Alex had the entire audience standing up and waving back and forth in time with their last song. They left them screaming for more.

Second Favorite Music Experience

A close second was the year before in London at the Royal Albert Hall. I have been a Benny Goodman fan since I was very young, mostly because my Dad was such a fan. I had this one chance to see him play.

It was the Benny Goodman Sextet. Benny on Clarinet, Piano, Vibes, Saxophone, Drums and the amazing Slam Stewart on Bass. It was an hour of the Sextet. After a certain point Benny stepped up to the mic and said "we need a trumpet for this next song". A trumpet player came on and did a piece. Then Benny said "we need a couple of trombone players." The audience got it and started to applaud every extra musician as they entered. After a handful of songs there was an entire big band on the stage and they played for another hour, this time big band charts. One of the most amazing shows I have ever seen. I got all my favorites, from the small group stuff to big band, all in one show.

Eric Coleman - It began so simply

For Eric it started with punk rock. Already a music freak, the idea that there was this music that took everything back to basics was a revelation. When he ran into Tim Johnson playing guitar at a party, the Iowa punk scene really began. Tim, Charlie Chesterman and Eric became the Crayons (a band that had almost as many names as members, this is the one he remembers). They never got out of the basement, but it was a start. Then Aaron Johnson came into the picture and White Lunch was born. Three guitars and drums. There are recordings somewhere. That fell apart pretty quickly and Charlie and Tim formed The Law.

There was a Disturbance in the Force

A couple years later Eric formed Jim? with Mike Kuhl, a fellow standup comic, on guitar, Tim Grant on Bass and a couple different Urich's on drums. Troy was the longest serving member of that particular family. The problem with a punk band fronted by two standup comics is that, well, there are jokes there. Jokes that only Mike and Eric really got. They found them hysterical though.

At which point further gentle mayhem was had

There were a couple of side projects in there somewhere, the best was Only Humans, a quickly formed punky, B-52ish jam band that played one show. Tim on guitar, Mac Paul on bass, Mike Harper on drums, the now obligatory Urich on lead vocals (really, they're everywhere) and Eric on percussion and lead vocals on one song. It was really fun, but destined to not last.

In the Wee small hours of the Synth-sation

Eric bought a cheap synth and started writing brittle Kraftwerkian songs with very quiet, almost whispered, vocals. He met Mike Sangster at an all day concert in Lincoln Nebraska and they formed Soldiers In A Field. A few songs can still be found out on the net if you look, they were quiet, odd, lovely, discordant. Mike wanted to bring in more instruments, guitar and real drums. Eric wanted to stay with the synths. Mike went off to form the Hollowmen and Head Candy; Eric dropped out of music for almost 18 years.

Years gone by

One thing that happened, Eric, who didn't want guitars in SIAF bought a guitar almost immediately after the band split. But he never played anywhere. He wrote songs, occasionally auditioned for other bands, moved to Chicago where he hung out with 11th Dream Day and Friends of Betty. But it wasn't until Labor Day 2000 that he got back into performing.

A New Beginning

He had been writing some new songs and that sunday his now ex-wife made him go to the open mike and perform. His set went well and he started going to Boheme Bistro, almost every sunday night for close to 7 years. That was his practice space. He performed at a combination of Science Fiction Conventions, Coffee Houses and Folk Festivals for 8 years. Then things went horribly right.

That's no moon...

In 2007 Eric made the foolish mistake of telling Daniel Gunderson his idea about a hard rock filk band. gundo, as he is known to most folks, said "let's do it". That was the beginning of Toyboat, who continue to terrorize fannish folks and their pets all over the midwest and Canada. Definitely the most fun Eric has had making music. Toyboat are equal parts serious and silly. They will follow Mike Nixon's tender love song Zombie Momma with Raven's sinister Wicker Man. They started as a cover band and now 80% of their repertoire is original songs.

And then it all went...right

Eric was writing music that fit neither Toyboat or that frothing at the mouth comedian (the best comment ever on Eric's guitar playing came from Alyse Middleton, who referred to it as "Eric's hillbilly punk strum"). So he started looking for a singer. One night in a circle he heard this young woman, who had been introduced to him by Alyse and her husband Evan, sing. There was the voice.

Life could not better be

And so began Cheshire Moon, and the rest of Eric's life. He found a songwriting partner and his life partner. The love of his life. You can hear it in the songs. Cheshire Moon is all about the feelings that Lizzie and Eric have for each other. There are a couple of them that, if you listen close, you can tell are about their relationship. But it's the joy they have with each other that comes through on everything Cheshire Moon does.

And in the end, the love we take...

Eric the solo performer is, for all practical purposes, retired, although he will pull the occasional solo song out of his sleeve in song circles and such. Toyboat continues to rock Fandom, although without Eric. Problems with his hands and several surgeries have made it so that he can no longer play set drums. Cheshire Moon is now his musical focus, and he continues to weave an odd yet beautiful tapestry of sonic mischief.

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