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Wednesday, July 30, 2008 01:55 am

Tattoo parlors and Buddhist blues

Jake La Botz plays Jacksonville’s House of Ink on Sunday


In 2006 blues artist Jake La Botz wanted to get on the road and play some paying gigs, but he was tired of the hit-or-miss bar scene, so on a whim he booked himself a cross-country tour of tattoo parlors. The resulting shows were such fun and so successful, he made the event an annual tradition.

When I talked with him last Sunday, La Botz was hanging out in southern Colorado at a Buddhist retreat, finishing up a month of meditation and study before hitting the road for his upcoming lengthy tour. Yes, you read that right: La Botz is a practicing Buddhist who takes his lifestyle seriously, even if it takes him to tattoo parlors while singing the blues.

"It's interesting going between the two worlds of traveling musician and silent meditation," he says, "but actually it's just one world and it makes a good balance."

The Buddhist bluesman begins his 2008 tattoo-parlor adventures in Peoria on Aug. 2, plays in Jacksonville on Aug. 3, and continues nonstop for a month or so throughout the eastern and southern U.S. before returning home to Los Angeles. He then plans a short meditation break back in Colorado before heading to Europe for a romp through France, Belgium, Germany, and stops in between. Yes, he'll be playing any tattoo joint he can in Europe, but, unlike the States, they won't be his only venues there.

La Botz grew up in Chicago, hanging out with old blues players, and has led a colorful existence in his relatively short time on earth. If you start with the stolen car in Colorado and end with an appearance in Sylvester Stallone's latest Rambo flick, this guy has some stories to tell. The business of the pilfered car is way behind La Botz, along with the long list of odd and very peculiar jobs he held while struggling to make ends meet. He stumbled into acting by making connections with the independent-film world during a stint playing everywhere in LA.

"It's hard to be both a musician and actor," La Botz says. "Because the music touring is set up so far in advance and movies just kind of fall in your lap, doing both is tough to work out."

La Botz is counting on more acting roles in the years to come, but for now he's content with sticking to the solo acoustic tour of tattoo parlors in support of the 2008 release of Sing This to Yourself and Other Suggestions for a Personal Apocalypse (according to his self-penned description, the recording is the "most depressing album ever").

"Someday I'd like to write my memoirs or stories, but that's a lot of work and I'm a musician, which means I'm lazy," he says. "As long as I have a voice to sing with and can hang on to a guitar, I'll keep going in that direction."

Jake La Botz plays at 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3, at House of Ink (725 E. College Ave. in Jacksonville, 217-243-5464). Audience members are not required to purchase or wear tattoos, but if you're thinking about getting a piercing . . .

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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