We had a date in mind, but it turned out that Rick was going to be in Las Vegas with Paul Williams – yes, the same Paul Williams who’s written hit songs like ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’, ‘The Rainbow Connection’, ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’ and ‘Just an Old-fashioned Love Song’. Rick has been Paul Williams’ drummer for over 30 years. So much for THAT date.
Bob Culbertson is just as busy traveling all over the country/world doing Stick seminars and concerts, and had a full schedule. Just when it look liked it just wasn’t going to happen in 2017, Bob’s schedule changed a bit and low and behold, synchronicity! We had a new date that we all would be available for.
During the course of this, we also had some video interviews for the website with Bob Cooper, our original drummer and a founding member of the group, along with our old sound crew. That was a great day of reminiscing and enjoying each other’s company. Almost immediately, Bob Culbertson and I started discussing how cool it would be to actually get together with Bob Cooper to play some of the old Stickband originals from early on in the group.
Could we feature two drummers at the Stick Night show? Could we make it work? Heck yeah – we’d find a way for sure! We called Bob Cooper and ran the idea past him with the hope that he would be available for our chosen date. There was a bit more juggling of times and dates, but we finally reached a date that worked for everyone. I then called Emmett to discuss the details and to talk about possible venues. He looked at the lineup and thought that we should bring one more Stick player into the lineup, and he knew just who it should be.
Don Schiff is not only a great Stick player, but he is one of the world’s greatest NS Stick players, and since he and Bob Culbertson live pretty close to each other, Don just seemed like the perfect addition. He was very gracious and excited at the thought of this lineup, and was available on our chosen date. Again…synchronicity.
So there it was – we actually had a reunion/revival of the original founding members of the Stickband, along with Emmett Chapman, the creator and inventor of the Stick, Bob Culbertson and Don Schiff, two of the greatest and most well-known Stick players in the world, myself and two of the most talented drummers out there – all in one evening.
All the things we anticipate in our lives start off as something that’s going to happen in the future, something that becomes the present and finally becomes in the past. And so it went with Stick Night, the Stickband Reunion night – September 23, 2017. I spent quite a while preparing for the Stick Night reunion show in L.A., and it was really a great show and a lot of fun.
First – it was, and is always, a great honor to get to hang out with Emmett Chapman, although in reality, it’s like hanging out with a very old, dear friend, because that’s what he is. We have been friends for a long time.
We were at a venue that is a little concert hall in the back of an unassuming LA music store by the name of Guitar Merchant. This is a venue that Emmett uses pretty regularly to have his Stick Night performances, and many of the best players in the world have performed at those Stick shows.
The venue is tucked away at the back of the store, behind the music classrooms. It’s not large, but has a great vibe about it – it’s warm and inviting and looks very much like the sort of place you’d go to see top musicians do their thing without ego and in an intimate setting. It’s owned and operated by a very nice guy named Phil, who has a great deal of respect for Emmett and is extraordinarily accommodating.
Emmett’s approach to Stick Night is very laid-back, casual, and very comfortable. The format for the show was to have each performer or group (Stickband) perform two songs before moving on to the next performer. We did that all night long – two songs for Emmett, two songs for Don Schiff, two songs for Stickband and two songs for Bob Culbertson and Rick Allegra. Then we started it all over again.
Rotations like that keeps the night pretty interesting, as each performer brings a different energy and we keep on moving through new and interesting players.
One of the high points of the evening for me was getting to jam with Emmett. I played my electric trumpet with Emmett on Stick and Rick on drums. Emmett, of course, played his Railboard Stick, which has become his primary instrument. We did ‘Autumn Leaves’, a good old jazz standard but when you’re using the type of instruments we were and changing the time signature, it keeps even old standards interesting and fresh.
Emmett kicked off the show with his very unique playing style, followed by Don Schiff performing on his NS Stick. Don’s performances were wonderful all evening long. He’s a masterful player and quite fun on stage – he really lets his personality shine through, which works especially well in a small venue.
From Don we moved on to Stickband – Bob Culbertson, Bob Cooper and myself, performing original material from back in the day. The cool thing about the original material is that it’s really not dated, especially when you are playing on Chapman Sticks. From the Stickband, the show moved to to Bob Culbertson and Rick Allegra playing some high energy material from their album. They’ve been playing together for a long time, and they are both amazing players, so it was a real treat and a highlight of the show to watch them play.
So what was it like to be back onstage with Stickband? There I was, after six months of working on this website thinking about this very moment. I put in tons of preparation in anticipation of doing this concert, getting ready for this moment, standing onstage with Bob Culbertson and Bob Cooper on drums after so many years, performing the songs that we wrote so many years ago. My fingers were moving over the Chapman Stick, playing one of our originals, and I felt like I was I time traveling, playing in a band that I played in so many years ago when both Bob Cooper and Bob Culberson and myself were very young men, playing music that we created together, music that we created using instruments that hardly anybody at the time in the world knew anything about.
Honestly does anything get any better than that?
Ask any musician what it feels like to be on stage when the music is right and everything is going the way it should. That feeling is so incredibly addictive; it’s why musicians never get tired of doing the music. Our bodies may get tired and we may get tired of schlepping heavy gear around, but we never get tired of interacting with the music, never get tired of having the harmony swirling around in our heads and having our fingers hit the right places at the right time. Regardless of what the musical instrument is – a Stick, or drums, or a guitar or our voice – it’s magic. It’s Nirvana. It’s heaven on Earth, and it’s why we all do it.
So how did I feel after six months of working on this website and at least four months of anticipating the idea of going to L.A. to play the show? I’m energized, thankful and happy. My interactions with Emmett Chapman playing my electric horns made it just that much better. I want to play more, to write more, to spend more time with my friends, doing what we love to do.
The evening was documented on video, but there’s a lot of footage on multiple cameras, and it is going to require editing which does take time. Of course, as they become available, they will be uploaded to YouTube and will be available on the site. We’ll announce it on the StickbandSj Facebook page, so keep an eye out.
There are so many people to thank for bringing that evening together and for what is coming in the future. Scot Apathy, our web guy, went to L.A. with us and was there keeping everything organized throughout the evening – Emmett’s brother Dan Chapman and his partner Mike, who shot the video – thank you very much, guys. And of course, the man himself, Emmett Chapman. Thanks, Emmett, my good friend, for inviting us to L.A. for this great performance, and for dinner at your favorite Mexican restaurant the night before. Plenty of of great conversation and margaritas to keep the party happening.
For now, we do have plenty of photos. Enjoy them until we get the videos put together.