Steam Donkeys Announce Public Input Forum
by Buck Quigley - posted 3:48 pm, February 17, 2012
In a move that’s being hotly debated among reclusive board members at various public authorities and foundations, local original music act and global think tank the Steam Donkeys are inviting the public to attend a forum at the Sportsmen’s Tavern Saturday night (2/18) at 9:30pm to run through the band’s set list. Members of the press, political operatives, hatchet men, bicyclists, community activists, puppeteers, and representatives of the local Honky Tonk community are praising the news as “a big step forward” in dealing with the problem of audience hecklers.
“We’re trying to take a proactive stance in dealing with the issue,” says Steam Donkeys front man Buck Quigley. “People pay the cover charge, and I agree they have a reasonable expectation to expect an entertaining evening. What we question is whether it’s appropriate to shout out requests for ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ or ‘Country Roads’ or ‘Freebird’ all night long. It’s a problem that bar bands the world over struggle with, and the ugly truth of the matter is it’s an elitist meme.”
When asked if he knew what the word “meme” meant, Quigley shifted focus.
“I often use words based on their sound rather than their meaning. As an artist, that’s not something I’m willing to give up,” he explains. “But the point I was trying to make was that nobody stands up in between selections at a Buffalo Philharmonic performance of Mozart and yells, “Play Dvorjak’s Cello Concerto in B minor! Woot!’ That kind of thing just doesn’t happen.”
Yet for the honky tonk musician, sometimes all that stands between him and a rowdy audience member is a thin barrier of chicken wire. And when the bottles start flying, that’s not always enough.
“I’ve even taken to wearing a tuxedo jacket at gigs, but it doesn’t seem to help,” Quigley observes. “Every once in a while you get that guy who listens to a couple of our songs and convinces himself we must know a few Black Oak Arkansas songs. And he ain’t shy about telling us so. We might know one or two in a sloppy sort of way, but that doesn’t mean we should always play them. We’re artists, first and foremost, and we won’t allow our vision to be perverted by the random heckler.”
Not that the band is incapable of bending its own rule.
“One time, I remember seeing an audience member write down a request for a Patsy Cline song on the back of a $100 bill,” said one longtime fan. “It was incredible. Immediately, the four piece ensemble suddenly conjured up the cascading string section that begins the countrypolitan hit ‘Sweet Dreams.’ Buck’s baritone suddenly soared to the rafters, and it was as if he were standing before us in a pink gown, black hair immaculately styled like Patsy’s—it was like you could smell the Aqua Net in the air. The only thing marring the experience was his goatee.”
Quigley remembers the moment. “All I can say is that since the days of the great composers who served at the whims of European royalty, musicians have always lived by one universal credo: Ya gotta eat! If someone writes down a song on the back of a big bill like that, I always try to do my best to oblige. I don’t care if the song is in Portugese.”
In the final analysis, that’s what makes bar bands so special. They have pride, but they’re not unreasonable.
“Try bribing Bruce Springsteen with a Benjamin these days. I highly doubt the Boss is going to drop everything and play a Fleetwood Mac song. But with the Steam Donkeys, you never know,” Quigley says.