Went and saw Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers last night at the Firebird in downtown St. Louis. GREAT show. They tore up the stage. Col. J. D. might be the last of the great living front-men. It took me about half the show before I could peel my eyes off of him long enough to realize that there were other guys on the stage.
The really interesting part, though was meeting the bass player. He’s a guy called Mark Robertson. Nice guy. Most notably, he had previously been in such bands as This Train and was a member of the Ragamuffin Band in the years leading up to (and just after) the death of Rich Mullins (having seen Rich the day he died). He also produced Mitch McVicker’s first record. Running across him was a surprise. The Shakers aren’t exactly a Christian band. Knowing that they had toured with acts like Hank III and The Reverend Horton Heat, (and with song titles like “Where’s the Devil when you Need Him?”) I went in knowing what to expect…and I didn’t expect to see Mark.
He talked with Dave (Knobel) and me for about 20 minutes about his days on the Christian circuit. For the record, the guy’s still very much a Christian. Music’s just his job, not his ministry. He maintained that it’s always been that way for him, even when he was in the Ragamuffins. He’d occasionally do radio interviews where they’d ask him if he saw his work as a ministry or a job and he’d usually reply, “It’s a job. You don’t get paid for ministry.” People hated that.
During the conversation, we talked a lot about Rich Mullins (one of the few Christian acts I’ve ever really dug) and a lot about faith and music. It was pretty cool…and probably very weird for Mark. I’d imagine the Rich Mullins/Shack Shakers crossover isn’t too big. He actually thanked us for talking to him. I don’t think I’ve had a touring artist say that to me before.
A few additional popcorn notes about meeting Mark:
- He plays a string bass that he had hand made. The guys who made it carved the entire book of Nehemiah into the binding.
- He’s not a fan of Sarah Palin.
- He’s also not a fan of Carmen.
- He used the f-word at least twice, and also spoke reverently of Jesus (which was like a cool-breeze on a Summer’s day, to me).
- Other folks were gathering around listening to some of his Christian-rock stories and they weren’t immediately repulsed—which might be the best ministry he’s got going right now, playing in the sleezy bars. (My opinion, not necessarily his.)
- Rich Mullins “smoked like a chimney.”
- He was making more money with This Train, but the Shack Shakers are better known, world-wide.
- He still sees the other guys in the Ragamuffin Band pretty regularly, and Rick Elias borrowed a bass from him that he’d really like to get back.
- The difference between playing for 500 people and playing for 50? “For 500, I get paid a little better. For 50, I play a little better.” (We were closer to the 50-range, by the way…probably closer to 100-150 by the end of the night.)
So…that was a fun, weird evening. Also, due to a slight mis-direction, I saw the place where Washington ends (in the city). That was weird.
…and Dave (this time Brink), I bought you a shirt. You owe me $15. …also, you left your sunglasses in my car on Friday. That doesn’t really have anything to do with this post, but I thought you might be missing them.
…and happy Father’s Day, Dad.
In an unrelated note, my spell-checker isn’t catching a lot of things…sorry for anything terribly stupid that slipped through.