I'm in a quandary. It's New Years Eve. I have friends from Wicked Liz and the Bellyswirls playing at Kelly's in Davenport tonight that want me to come and see them play. And I have friends from Jim the Mule, a great eclectic rock band, wanting me to come see them play at Rookies here in Davenport, as well.
The only problem - I don't do New Years Eve. It's amateur night. I can't tell you how many times in the past when I'd be out on New Years Eve at the bars in Newton and you'd see guys in there with their wives and you just KNEW they would rather be anywhere else than sitting at a bar waiting for midnight to roll around. The women would all be talking at the table, the guys would be looking at their watches. When midnight would roll around, they'd drink their champagne, hit the noise makers a couple of times, then look at their watches and hustle their wives out the door. It was actually pretty funny to see.
Once again, I digress...
I've known the guys from Jim the Mule for about four years now. They've played at a number of events I've worked at, including kicking off the inaugural River Roots Live fest last August here in Davenport. (All the guys will admit they didn't bring their A-game that evening.) Jim the Mule's brand of music is sort of deep seeded with blends of 70's and 80's rock, and some modernization thrown in for good measure.
Tom Swanson is the leader of the band and plays guitar and does most of the lead vocals. He's got an interesting idea as to which direction he wants the music for the band to go. I sort of like the "free form" style of his guitar work and it works very well within the group.
Jason Gilliland (left) and Ryan Koning knew Tom from their days at St. Ambrose University and the first incarnation of Jim the Mule was formed about six years ago. Jason played the bass while Ryan played drums. Tom ended up leaving town for a while, but when he came back, Ryan and Jason got together with him and decided to put together a serious band.
They did a couple of projects and cut a CD, but just after that, Ryan left the group. I remember Jim the Mule had a different drummer for awhile, but I can't remember much about him.
Along about the end of 2002, Tom was jamming one night at a place and he got into a hot guitar dual with a guy by the name of Dan Videtich. Dan was a short guy with a blazing guitar and had to look kind of funny playing next to Tom's big frame on stage. Dan and Tom hit it off tremendously and Dan soon joined Jim the Mule as the second guitar player.
One of the local stores that I call on here in the Quad Cities, Planet Audio, had a new guy that started to work for them about four or five years ago by the name of Steve Merritt. I saw some pictures of a nice drum kit that Steve had put up on the wall next to his desk. I asked one time, "Whose drum kit?"
Steve said, "It's mine."
I said, "Do you know how to play those things?"
He said, "Oh, yeah."
Turns out that not too much after that, Steve hooked up with the guys from Jim the Mule and he became their permanent drummer. In the meantime, Ryan had rejoined the group as a percussionist and the band was complete a little over two years ago.
Jim the Mule is one of those bands that when I first saw them play a few years ago, I thought, "Boy, these guys need some help." I'm happy to say they've gotten a LOT better over the years and have garnered a great following in the Quad City area. And they're fun to hang with. We had a great time hanging out at the Bier Stube in the Village of East Davenport after the Thursday night of the Rib Fest this last year.
But sorry guys, I ain't coming to hang out with you tonight...