What we learned at the School of Rock
How do you know you've "made it" in the music business?
"When you've had a good show, you feel good, and everyone has had a good time," says Rob Bell, lead vocalist for area band Roxschool. Using that as its measure, the group "made it" years ago and continues to do so two or three times a month.
Originally formed around 1985 by two Virden friends, guitarist Dave Packer and Bell, the group quickly became an area staple, headlining at the Knight's Action Park, opening for '70s stars Badfinger, and performing in clubs across the state.
First, though, was a little problem with their band's name. "We called ourselves FBI back then," Packer says. "You know, it could stand for lots of things."
"Yeah, but the real FBI guys didn't think so," Bell adds. "After getting a visit from some agents to our houses and gigs, they let us know it was in our best interest to change our name."
It wasn't until the officers showed up at 1518 East, a popular southside rock club of the '80s, and told the proprietors to remove the letters "FBI" from the outdoor marquee that the group decided it was time to call themselves something else. "It almost broke up the band, trying to come up with another name," Packer says. "Then we just hit on Roxschool and it stuck."
By 1988, family obligations and job duties forced the group to call it quits and the instruments were tucked away. Bell, who emcees the Miss Virden Beauty pageant, was looking for event entertainment in 2001 and called up his old band mate. "We got together in front of several hundred people and played 'American Pie,' " says Packer. "It went over so well, we did some Kiss and Doors songs, too. It felt so good, hearing the crowd and feeling the music and we thought, 'why not' so we decided to try and put a band together."
The reunited buddies enlisted the help of drummer Chris Winkler, a veteran of local '80s bands, Hitchhiker and Destiny, and 21-year-old bass player and classic rock fan, Ryan Creasey. First the guys just jammed out on the old familiar tunes, and then gradually worked newer material into the set list, which now ranges from the Stones and the Beatles, through Van Halen and Poison, to R.E.M. and the Violent Femmes. "When we first learned these songs they were brand-new," Bell says. "Now they're considered classic rock." Good dance songs and an audience-pleasing attitude drives the group to entertain. "If the crowd's not having fun, then we're not having fun," Winkler says.
"Yeah," Packer adds, "And we always have fun."
Roxschool's four-hour performance begins at 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, at Marly's Pub, 9 West Old State Capitol Plaza, 522-2280.