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Thursday, June 23, 2011 06:52 am

Bottoms up

A tribute to the bass

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Trip Wamsley performs for BassBerg, Sun June 26, 2-8:30pm at Marly’s Pub.
Last year our introduction of the first BassBerg event contained a list of silly bass player jokes collected from sources not particularly friendly to our bassist buddies. Let’s begin this year’s tribute with a few puns upon the bottom echelon of the music world, the lower portion of the melodic scale, that down deep place only a few have the depths to discover.

From Bill McKenzie, the organizer of BassBerg, come these delightful zingers of, “helping our friends in low places” and those who “hang out with the bottom end of the band” we salute you. We begin at the bottom as bass players of the Springfield area congregate to celebrate the often underappreciated, but extremely essential, instrument of the bassist. As you may be aware, Springfield now boasts an annual Guitar Town and Drumfest, celebrating those obvious instruments, while continuing to give thanks to the bottom for supporting the top at the second annual BassBerg.

This year, local bass players join to welcome international star attraction Trip Wamsley to the stage. The virtuoso bassist, a whiz among the wizards of bass, studied with contemporary masters of the instrument such as Michael Manring (1994 Bassist of the Year in Bass Player magazine), endorses Glockenklag Amps and Alembic Guitars (two of the best in high-level equipment for you non-bass beings) and graced the pages of Bass Player magazine as a featured artist.  He grew up in a musical family, discovered the joy of playing bass early on and stuck with our four-stringed (and sometimes more) friend as a lifetime study. Trip produced several albums with bass as the leading instrument creating audio paintings of real genius. Live he supports the bass with backing tracks, looped accompaniments and a host of other technically stunning and appealing choices guaranteed to wow and please. McKenzie describes his experience seeing Trip as “a really, really interesting and dynamic show that totally blew me away.”  Along with his Sunday performance, Wamsley holds private lessons the day before at the Rock Shop.  

LowPhatt, an “incredible collection of premier musical powerhouses” organized by central Illinois’ bassist extraordinaire Jeff Cunningham, with Chris Warren on second bass and assorted other musicians, is the second main act.  Other performers include Chas Blythe, Lynna Thornhill, Brad Beneky, Geoff Ryan, Eric Tinsley and “Chille” Bryant with various supporting musicians and sometimes the bassists’ regular bands. Other musicians attending will surely play additional types of instruments such as drums, keyboards, guitars, saxophones and the like, but never fear, the bass is the star of show, front and center, for this event.

Sadly, as in last year’s memorial tribute to local bass players Jerry Turley and John Peterman, in 2011 we’ll pay our respects to bassist and renowned piano tuner Charlie Brittin who passed away a few months ago after a long battle with cancer. Eric Tinsley organized a band featuring musicians who played with Charlie through the years, especially that fine group of players involved at the Hope Church congregation band. Charlie blessed us all for many years with his sensitive and caring listening, tuning and playing. We extend our sympathies to his family and the community for the loss.

With the addition of several fun surprises (imagine a bass event without playing Big Bottoms by Spinal Tap), a 50/50 drawing and bass guitar auction, BassBerg becomes a fundraising party as well as a celebration of all things bass. The event, sponsored with generous help from the Rock Shop, Recycled Records and Troy Roark of The Real Estate Group, donates all proceeds to Friends and Fans of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Now you have the lowdown on BassBerg, come dig a little deeper and get to the bottom of all this to experience the best of the bass.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.
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