It started with a text from my good buddy, Marvin Pomeroy. Circuit Breakers was looking for an available keyboard player so they could accept a gig at the Shooting Star Casino on the White Earth Reservation. Their keys guy had a prior commitment and couldn’t make the trip. Three nights of good jack with a great band? I’m there.
I embraced the opportunity vigorously: built a list on You Tube of songs sent to me by bassist/vocalist/leader Bill Moulder, ripped them all to MP3 to listen to in my truck, and researched chords for tunes I didn’t know or hadn’t played in decades. I immersed myself in their music. I like to be prepared.
The story of my career is that of being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment and the right attitude. That tradition is unending.
For me, the real heroes of Rock & Roll aren’t those famous names that got a lucky break that lead to fame and riches.
The true heart of the music comes from dedicated musicians like Bill Moulder, Greg Berthiaume, Bobby Purdy, and thousands of other local musicians that pour their souls into entertaining through bands like the Circuit Breakers and the hundreds like them in every locale across the country and around the world.
They aren’t in it to get rich. They aren’t in it to get famous. They are in it because they love music. They love to entertain. They appreciate the fact that they can do something that most people cannot. They are compelled to share their talents with others.
What drives Rock & Roll are musicians – many far more gifted than the famous names – that use their endowment of skills to tell stories of life’s loves, struggles, and joys.
“We just brightened the day of a whole bunch of people,” Bill Moulder declared proudly following our weekend of rocking the revelers at the Mustang Lounge,
“That feels great.”
And there it is. That is the addiction that they are compelled to feed regularly. They perform with a visceral passion that engages the crowd and provides an escape from the tribulations of their lives and the world.
I was immediately impressed by the tightness of the band. Bassist Bill and drummer Greg provided a seamless pocket sewn by years of playing together as a unit; a wonderful playground for a B3 player.
I got caught up several times – missed a few chord changes – marveling at the musicianship onstage. I drifted from the task at hand to enjoy the moment of sharing the venue with outstanding players. “How fortunate am I?” I asked myself repeatedly.
For me, this was a time machine trip back to my teen days of playing in garage and basement bands as we honed our craft with dreams of stardom. Memories flooded through my brain, white-water rapids from an idealized past.
Every member of the group was as good as any I’ve played with in my career.
Bill exhibited amazing vocal versatility and range, coupled with solid bass chops as he deftly directed the group like a virtuoso conductor.
Greg Berthiaume strikes his drums with nimble precision and no wasted motion. From tender touches to rollicking drum rolls to thunderous, driving beats that propel – he is a powerful force of nature, undoubtedly in the ranks of the best that I’ve had the good fortune to witness.
Bobby Purdy has me reaching for my Thesaurus (as I quickly exhaust my supply of adjectives) to describe the level of talent in this young man. 40 years my junior, this “kid” is as good as they get. Not enough that he is a guitar wizard, he sports a college degree in alto sax performance from the University of Wisconsin – Superior.
In short, Bobby Purdy flat out cooks.
We stepped from tune to tune with barely a breath in between. Prior to the end of songs Bill would lean my way to tell me the next song and key, often using his hands to sign the key to me so there was no mistake. Funny how E, B, C, G, D all sound the same on a rock stage. I’d play fifths until I could discern major or minor chords (bass players are notorious for not knowing or caring if it’s major or minor) .
This was an enormously challenging endeavor of following chord changes, watching for cues, adjusting Hammond drawbars to match song mood at any given point, controlling Leslie speed for dramatic effect, adjusting volume dynamically, composing extemporaneous rides, and performing to the crowd.
By night three (Saturday) I was at about 95% accuracy, playing with unbounded joy and abandonment. However, hand, wrist, and forearm fatigue plagued me. It has been three decades since I last played full 4-set gigs.
The weekend reinvigorated my soul and recharged my musical batteries.
Thank you, Circuit Breakers!
Thank you my brothers and sisters of the White Earth Nation!