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Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2005 02:59 pm

No setting Suns

Original members join up for reunion shows on Friday and Saturday

The original Suns of Circumstance
The Suns of Circumstance got their start more than 18 years ago, when Mike Burnett and John Walter, two Springfield High School music chums, teamed up to play songs for a party. Burnett, a friendly sort, held large parties with many attendees, and the duo soon found it necessary to add fellow Springfield High grad Bob Berning on lead guitar and Larry Kruder as their drummer. The quartet clicked musically and continued playing the parties and practicing, all the while melding the individual members’ distinct tastes and styles into a cohesive sound. Burnett, as lead singer and rhythm guitarist, brought in tunes by James Taylor and the Grateful Dead. Berning, known as “Cowboy,” had blues on the brain from his recent stint with Springfield Shaky. Drummer Kruder was into prog-rock bands such as Genesis and Yes. And bassist and vocalist Walter added songs by new-wave artists Echo and the Bunnymen and Elvis Costello. When the time arrived for the first official bar gig, the group brought along their party crowd and everything continued as normal, just in a different location. “In most bands you work promotion and play around to get an audience,” Walter says. “This is the only one that I’ve played with that already had a built-in crowd.”
The group consistently packed On Broadway, the largest venue in town at the time, and rode the wave of popularity for about two years. In 1990, with the band still peaking, Walter decided to move to San Francisco and try something different; Kruder joined Kool-Ray and the Polaroidz, a touring Midwest rock band; and Burnett and Berning took a break. Within a year, Berning and Burnett had decided to give the Suns another go. “It just sustained itself and took on its own energy,” Berning says. Over the years Frank Vaines, Eric Shaver, Rick Mari, Mark Cole, Jeff Kornfeld, and more than a few others have been members of the Suns of Circumstance, but the original quartet has not played together since the early days. When Walter planned a hometown visit for this week, Berning and Burnett set up the weekend band reunion. “We may get together and practice, or we might just wing it,” Berning says. “Either way, it’ll be a lot of fun.”

The original Suns of Circumstance perform Friday, Oct. 7, at the MC Tap and Saturday, Oct. 8, at Frankie’s, 2765 S. Sixth St., 217-523-0308. Both shows run 9 p.m.-1 a.m.
St. Louis bluesman Brian Curran returns to the capital city for one night of double gigging on Friday, Oct. 7. The fingerstyle-blues guitarist and funny (so we hear) entertainer takes the stage at the no-smoking, no-drinking, good-eats establishment known as the Sun’s Up Koffee Kafe (1001 N. First St., 217-522-5348), 7-9 p.m., then heads over to Café Kanichi-Wa (1117 S. Grand Ave. E., 217-544-3500) for smoking galore, alcoholic libations, and plenty of pool, 10 p.m.-1 a.m.
Music stores around the country are hosting the Music Edge Fastest Drummer Contest, featuring the amazing Drum-o-Meter, a fabulous machine that measures the speed of your single-stroke roll, among other things. Local contestants may qualify at Daddy-O’s Music Shack (1405 Stevenson Dr., 217-529-4840) for a spectacular showdown of the top 10 local strokers on Saturday, Oct. 8.
Greg Garing is not a household name, yet his promo posters call him legendary. He has worked with some of the most heralded names in country music, yet his first album of country songs used extensive digital sampling. In other words, the man is a bit of a contradiction — but bless him for it, ’cause he takes chances like other folks take breaths. After a stint in Nashville and a run in New York City, he’s on a cross-country tour, connecting with the hardcore country-music faithful and serving up heaping helpings of sad songs done right with an honesty and sincerity found in only a few performers. He makes a honky-tonk stop at the Underground City Tavern (700 E. Adams St., 217-789-1530) on Friday, Oct. 7, between shows in Nashville and St. Louis.
Remember the Western swing-jazz band that was traveling Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles last year? Cow Bop started with $100 and lots of faith in the goodness of others, hoping to make it all the way to the Pacific Ocean. They must have fulfilled their quest, because now they’re doing it again. Cow Bop rolls into Springfield on Friday, Oct. 7, for a 7-10 p.m. show at Gabatoni’s (300 E. Laurel St., 217-522-0371) and another gig at Turasky’s (Old Route 36, Dawson), 8-11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8.
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