With so many fond memories of family and friends acquired over the years, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to put my finger on any certain timeframe which I could say was my favorite.
Indeed, I have been truly blessed to be able to call such a myriad of people my companions through this crazy thing called life.
However, what I can do is think back to an example of a time that would be hard to top, such as my time spent in the “limelight” (so to speak), playing music around west-central Indiana in a number of ways.
Beginning at the ripe, young age of 15, I quickly became obsessed with learning how to play the guitar after America’s music scene exploded with acoustic acts like Jack Johnson, John Mayer and Dave Matthews, to name a few.
I can still remember the pride I observed in my parents’ eyes when I asked for help purchasing my very own six-string, as they are and have always been very musically active throughout their lives as well.
Following in their footsteps, my parents and I took a trip from our home in Darlington to, that’s right, Greencastle to the very store from which my parents had purchased so much equipment in the 1970s and ‘80s. It was there that I set my sights on my very first guitar -- a Fender DG-7.
A moderately-priced instrument for beginners, I quickly tamed the beast of wood and metal to the fullest extent, practicing and playing for more than two hours each day until I was impressing everyone around me.
Nearly one year later I found an opportunity to join up with the praise band at my church, first with the congregation alongside my parents and then with the youth group.
It was there that I fully developed my abilities, thanks largely, again, to my parents and a youth pastor who was also very young and very passionate about forming a student-led praise team. For nearly three years we led religious events with song and rhyme through the form of a five-piece band, garnering the attention of hundreds of high school students and their parents throughout 2002-04.
Admittedly, we were not playing for our own glory, but for that of the Lord, Jesus Christ. However, I will say it was also very self-fulfilling to have my abilities validated in such a way.
Upon graduation in 2005 and my subsequent residence at Indiana Wesleyan University, I fell from the ways of music as I studied and focused on bigger and better things, only playing solo acts during the local coffee shop’s open-mic night.
It wasn’t until the early days of 2008 that I began to play seriously again, this time as a duet alongside a dear friend who was also very musically inclined and liked to accompany rhythms with crazy licks, solos and shreddings that would put any paper shredder to shame. And since his name began with the letter “M,” we decided to call ourselves “M&N,” or, for those having a difficult time with the play-on-words, “Eminen.”
It was with this title that we began practicing feverishly with hopes that a bar or a real music venue, preferably the latter, would offer us money to play at their establishment and attract patrons -- which in turn would act as another source of personal validation.
We began our expeditions at a music venue/restaurant/lounge called The Music Mill in northeastern Indianapolis, largely playing open-mic nights until the owner invited us back to play on weekends -- this time, for money!
Having developed our first “paying gigs” in Indianapolis, we began using the same formula of open-mic-to-paying-gigs around our hometowns of Crawfordsville and Lafayette, as well. To mention a few of the more-distinguished venues in these towns at which we played -- The Lafayette Theater, The Knickerbocker Saloon, The Reihle Bros. Pavilion and Rumors Bar & Grill, a cozy yet typical bar known for hosting aspiring musicians.
After nearly a year, my friend and I decided to take things to the next level and form a band. With my father being a supreme bassist, and considering my skills on the six-string, I decided to make the move to bass while my friend quickly developed a wicked ability on the electric guitar -- all we needed was a drummer.
It was in the late months of 2008 that we finally met our percussionist, a former Purdue student and Attica native who had been playing the drums since birth and was the son of Attica’s leading radio jockey.
With our newly-created rhythm section, lead guitar, lead vocals and backup harmonies finally established, we began approaching the same venues (and more) under the moniker Boondock Funktion, as we specialized in funk-rock-blues and were each from our own respective “boonie” like areas of the state.
From December of 2008 through February of 2010, the Funktion traveled throughout the state, playing any gig we could get our hands on. We traveled to a number of colleges and universities like Hanover College, Ball State University, Purdue University, Indiana University and IUPUI in addition to our regular venues cited above.
I can recall one particular evening at the Knickerbocker Saloon in Lafayette when I spontaneously combusted (as I like to call it) with an involuntary outburst after nailing a part of a song that had historically given us much grief.
It was during a cover of the song titled “The Warmth” by one of my all-time favorite bands -- Incubus.
At a certain point in the song, all three instruments (drums, guitar and bass) are required to stop in synchronization at particular, abnormal intervals while vocally holding a note (myself harmonizing with the lead vocals) that also had an abnormal pattern different from the first, making it all the more challenging.
We had practiced this part many times only for it to rear its ugly head during an actual performance. However, on this particular night, we absolutely nailed it. Now, what’s left? What’s next? When you nail it you’re supposed to go on with the rest of the song like nothing happened, right?
In my excitement and sheer joy of finally completing that portion of the song with seeming expertise, I instinctually yelled “Ha!” into the microphone as I looked at the rest of the band, ruining the moment and, I’m sure, taking aback several members of the audience.
We continued on in similar fashion throughout the year of 2009, ultimately culminating our efforts in November of that year through the form of a demonstrative compact disc that we then sold for $3 apiece at each subsequent show ($1 for each member of the band).
That demo can still be found on our now eight-year-old MySpace page: https://myspace.com/boonfunk.
It wasn’t until February of 2010 that we played out last show, fittingly at the Knickerbocker Saloon where we had put on the majority of performances and gathered the most popularity.
Sadly, due to several reasons, the Boondock Funktion ended its slightly more than one-year tenure in February of 2010 but still managed to leave its mark on the hearts of everyone involved -- myself, especially.
I’ll never forget driving three hours in the snow inside my two-door, compact car that was crammed full of equipment just to play a $100 show; I will never forget driving from Ball State to Indianapolis and back before a show simply to replace and guitar string; and I will never forget winning or ranking in the top three during multiple Battle of the Bands competitions in a number of different cities.
And I will definitely never forget the way it felt to take a blank instrument and express my inner-most feelings to those who would listen.
It is times like these we learn to live again, and I feel truly blessed for having the privilege of being a part of it.
Now, as I move through life in the Greencastle and Rockville communities, I still proudly boast the title of musician -- a musician who has had the honor of playing music with a slew of excellent musicians who I’m happy to call my friends.