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Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 09:02 am

Fun with Greg Fundis

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Greg Fundis plays with Old Shoe Sat., Jan. 19, 9 p.m., at Donnie’s Homespun at Vinegar Hill Mall.

Most frequently in this column, the musicians I interview are either in Springfield or from another place. This week I was very fortunate to speak with drummer Greg Fundis, a hometown hero now residing in Chicago, working on a very successful and balanced career in the business of making music.

Greg grew up in Springfield and recalled trying to reach Mike Kincaid’s drum pedals during a youthful visit to Bootlegger’s as his first live performance, percussion action. As he says, “From there it just kept going,” with the good-natured person and extremely talented drummer playing in his share of local groups in the 90s. He then moved to the Windy City in 1999, spending several years touring nationally with the acoustic-original jam band, 56 Hope Road.

After the group went through changes and phases, Greg ended up working with Chicago native Fareed Haque, simply listed as “a modern guitar virtuoso” in his website press. Fareed works with different musicians, including Fundis in Math Games!, backing the guitarist “in an innovative musical adventure.”

“We’ve been to Europe and South America plus all over the U.S. playing this incredible music,” said Fundis. “I feel really lucky with this group to draw on jazz traditions and modern electronica to make a new kind of music the old way of just playing it.”

A few months ago Greg joined Old Shoe, a popular Chicago-based group around since 2010 as a rocking quintet. Manned with experienced, songwriting musicians from all over the country, the band comes from a rock ’n’ roll-roots place, embracing the Americana song style. Old Shoe does things in a progressive and positive way, resulting in regular gigs and tours, two original CD recordings, 2013 festival invites to Summer Camp and Wakarusa, an extensive and vibrant fan base called Shoe Fam and the hosting of Shoe Fest, the band’s very own festival held annually in Manteno, Ill.

“I really enjoy playing with Old Shoe. It’s like a family feeling in the band and members are in their mid-thirties balancing families too,” said Fundis. “We adhere to getting at the message of the music, while keeping it loose and making it fun. Ultimately we all play for the song.”

Fundis manages to balance the touring schedules of these two bands and teach percussion on a regular basis, all while spending time with his own wife and child. He gives the credit to careful organization from the established groups, “working together and making commitments” and to support from his family, “the most important time,” as well as to a good dose of fine fortune. “I know I’ve said I’m lucky a dozen times,” and he means it.

“Success is in the eye of the beholder and I’ve been fortunate to take my music much farther than I ever thought I would,” he said. “I’m so grateful for friends who come out to see me play and for my musician companions and especially for my family. Balance is everything and that’s where it’s at. It’s a good place to be.”

On a personal note, I’d like to thank Mike Parkes for inviting me back to perform on Sundays at the Brewhaus starting this weekend. Thanks to Nate, Keith and Rodney, and especially Danielle, for supporting the move, and to John Brillhart for graciously taking the bump again, and for playing the early slot with Geoff Ryan and Gary Fifer, as Johnny and the Two Gs. Welcome back to the beautiful Brewhaus in lovely downtown Springfield. We took a long break and we’ll see you this weekend with the Raouligans as we play on to 1,000 Sundays and beyond.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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