Last month, Switchback celebrated their twentieth anniversary with a wonderful show at the historic Athenaeum Theater in Chicago. It was so special that I feel sorry for those who missed it. All tunes played were their original, and this is the very first show of all original as far as I know.
So why should this title be “Ten years” instead of “Twenty years?” It’s for myself since I met Switchback ten years ago; November 19th 2003 at Whistle Binkies Pub in Rochester, where I temporarily lived as company assignment. I still remember the moment very well, especially the energy/power of their music that rocked the pub which was played by just two persons, Marty and Brian. I loved the tunes and immediately made myself their fan. And what surprised me was that Marty told me to bring my bodhran and play it at their next show without knowing anything how I play. I was very happy to get that chance but I didn’t know their tunes. I really need to practice. What could I do? On the day, I also made friends with Jeff Harrington, who was the president of the fan club then and he worked in Rochester. I asked him if I could borrow some CDs, and he kindly lent me including newly released “10th Anniversary Collector's set.” Of course I bought for my own later. I played with the CDs again and again, and made my first debut on December 10th 2003 at Binkies. The very first tune I played with Switchback was “Connemara Man” which is still one of my favorites. Then I could tell why they didn’t care much about my skill: since they were so professional and stable, they might be confident that they could play/keep their music even though I played badly.
Fortunately I didn’t mess the gig, I think, and I was allowed to come to their next show at Oak Center. It was unique place over the general store. Jeff told me that the show was kind of an important one, as they were the first band to play there twice in one season. Since I loved their music and shows and enjoyed playing some tunes with them, I tried to attend them as much as I could. In January 2004 I chased them three days in a row: Decorah on 15th, Dubuque on 16th, and Cedar Rapids on 17th. I learned how to set up and close the stage, and pack the gear into their van. I was happy to be of their help. I also found out that they were treated very well everywhere they played and welcomed by the audience/fans. Some matters that impressed me were: when Marty sang Danny Boy at La Rana in Decorah everybody in the restaurant including who were there just for their dinner became silent and listened to the song. At The Red Lion in Cedar Rapids, they provided the audience with regular spoons and many played “Spoons” with Switchback music. This was particular for this pub and I haven’t seen this kind scene at any other place.
So this is my beginning with Switchback, which was ten years ago. And I’m proud myself on my having been their big fan and good friend for ten years since then. I believe I have seen over 130 shows including house concerts and nursing home shows.
For this ten years, there were several changes for them. Maybe these are the steps to become higher level musicians that they want to be. I understand the importance of collaborations with symphonies, and performing more for art centers and less for bars and pubs. And getting drummer Nick will help extend the variety of sounds, even though they can rock the house just by two. I believe they will change more from now on. As a big fan of Switchback, I’ll keep in touch with them expecting them to become bigger and greater.