Thursday, January 25th, 2018
$12 ADV / $14 DOS / ALL AGES / TAVERN
Ben Miller Band
Hailing from Joplin, Missouri, The Ben Miller Band is a one-of-a kind trio that combines the frenetic energy of bluegrass, the soul of the delta blues and the haunted spirit of Appalachian mountain music. Band members Ben Miller, Scott Leeper, and Doug Dicharry create a unique and modern sound while continuing the tradition of blending together many different musical styles, which has long been a trait of their native Ozarks.
Poet and songwriter since childhood, Ben Miller started playing guitar at age 16. He soon left his home in Curlew, Washington and began his musical career on the streets of Northern Europe, playing his distinctive delta-blues slide guitar and honing his one-man-band performance style which now includes guitar, banjo, harmonica, and foot percussion. Armed with a plethora of earthy songs about prostitutes, meth, scriptures, and the meaning of life, he met Scott and Doug in Joplin, Missouri and formed the Ben Miller Band in 2004.
Washtub bass player, Scott Leeper started playing drums at age 7 and by age 10 he was wowing audiences in his family's band, The Leeper's. Throughout his career Scott has played in a duo with his brother, performed as a one-man country act, and played drums for various blues artists. Finally, in 2004, Scott began playing the one-stringed washtub bass and singing backup vocals with pitch-perfect harmony for The Ben Miller Band. Comprised of a weed eater string attached to a wooden pole, this is not your ordinary bass. «Playing that thing may sound simple but it is deceptively difficult,» says Ben of his musical comrade. «You have to adjust the tension to change the note. It is incredible to watch him do it. We always have a few bass players right up on him in complete disbelief.»
Drummer and percussionist Doug Dicharry started playing trombone in the 6th grade and continued to study music throughout his college years. As an Air Force brat growing up, Doug moved across the globe every two years. During this time he assimilated an array of musical styles, from punk to ska, to progressive noise and school marching bands. In high school, he began playing trombone in various bands while teaching himself to play the drums. In 2004 he picked up the washboard, and with a bit of homemade ingenuity, made it electric. During that time, he met Ben at an open mic night in Joplin, Missouri and «followed him until he had to hire him.» Now Doug plays drums, trombone, trumpet, mandolin, percussion, electric washboard, and electric spoons for the Ben Miller Band. «I basically have musical A.D.D,» says Dicharry. «Playing all these instruments isn't hard, it's just loading them in and out that's hard. I feel sorry for whoever becomes my tech.»
Despite the eccentric and out-of-the-box appearance of The Ben Miller Band, «we're not some kind of gimmick band,» says Ben Miller. «Just because we use junk to make music doesn't mean we aren't serious about it. We are legitimately making real music, and when you hear us play I think you get that.»
Together for the past eight years, and playing over two hundred shows every year, The Ben Miller Band has crafted a tight, dynamic, and amazingly original sound that captivates and embraces people of all generations.
— Chicago Farmer
Chicago Farmer, the moniker Bloomington, Illinois’ Cody Diekhoff performs and writes under, is set to independently release his 7th album titled Midwest Side Stories on September 30, 2016. Midwest Side Stories is about hope, depression, job loss, meth, skateboards, a divided nation, used cars, the late shift, farms, factories, the destruction of our environment, and still being around to sing about it. The new release contains ten tracks all of which were written by Diekhoff (pronounced dee-cough), with the exception of the John Hartford classic “I’m Still Here.”
Folk hero Todd Snider says, “I love Chicago Farmer’s singing and playing and songs, but it’s the intention behind the whole of his work that moves me to consider him the genuine heir to Arlo Guthrie or Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. He knows the shell game that goes on under folk music… which is sacred to me. Chicago Farmer is my brother; if you like me, you’ll love him.”
Lyrically driven, Chicago Farmer delves into the social and political issues of today’s world, taking it all in and putting it back out through music as a commentary on modern times in the Midwest. With his unfeigned and relatable approach, Chicago Farmer has earned a place in the heart of this generation’s rise of protest songs. He composes music written and sung by and for the working man, the “regular person”, bringing to mind modern day folk tales.
“I arrived here, kicking and screaming the day that I took the stage, I went searching for some kind of meaning, like words looking for a page. Came up empty and full of worry that nothing could cover the pain, then these songs and stories began unfolding like an umbrella in the rain.” This is the opening stanza to the first song “Umbrella”, a song that speaks of the power of music in people’s lives and is dedicated to songwriters everywhere, including many of whom we’ve lost in 2016.
With heartfelt observations of the world around him, Chicago Farmer has been around the folk scene for a while now singing the stories he has written along the way, aiming to capture the essence of the human condition and putting it all on display. He has gotten to know a variety of players over the years and brought together a wonderful cast of musicians to perform on the album. Diekhoff co-produced Midwest Side Stories, with engineer Chris Harden at I.V. Labs Studios in Chicago, Illinois. Harden also played Glockenspiel and harmonized vocals on select tracks. Others on the album include vocalist and guitarist Ernie Hendrickson, drummer Darren Garvey, vocalist Heather Horton, and a handful of other Midwestern mainstays.
Cody has his finger on the pulse of middle America. Coming from a long line of family farmers and factory workers in central Illinois and growing up in a rural farming community has inspired many songs that are autobiographical in nature. Farms & Factories” is a workgrass song featuring fiddle, tempo changes, and the farming side of Chicago Farmer. In 2002 he moved up north to the big city where he came up with the name Chicago Farmer for what was initially intended to be a band, but ended up keeping the name for himself and started writing and recording albums. Eventually he moved back in 2008 to central Illinois where he makes his home in Bloomington. The Midwest is where he was born and raised. It’s where he first started to write poetry and where he would eventually set those words into motion with his guitar.
With Midwest Side Stories Chicago Farmer builds an adventurous narrative that brings issues to the front burner with folk/protest songs. “Two Sides of the Story” is an acoustically portrayed glimpse of the evolving division in the United States. It takes aim at the media, politics, and religion’s role in that division. “There’s two sides to every story, there’s two sides to every town, the side of town that tells the story. The side where the story went down.”
An upbeat electric working class protest song, “Revolving Door,” describes manufacturing job loss in the Midwest with howling vocals, a driving beat, and ripping harmonica. “My home state of Illinois continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the region, and manufacturing jobs continue to disappear.” Cody says, ”Politicians who work the current system to benefit themselves and their constituencies have sold out these industries and workers. While the CEO’s of these companies hand out pink slips to their workforce, they continue to hand themselves bonuses.”
“9pm to 5” examines the plight of the working American and pays tribute to those with unconventional work hours. At other times Chicago Farmer goes tongue-in-cheek with “Skateboard Song” which takes listeners on a ride with this folk story song, questioning our laws and priorities.
Midwest Side Stories is a follow up to 2013’s Backenforth, IL which rose to #33 on the Americana Charts as well as top #10 on several folk charts. Honest Tune wrote of it, “You can smell the dirt in the fields, hear the wind as it blows across the plains, and see the people that Chicago Farmer sings about. Each track captures a moment in time, whether for a person or a particular place. Imagine if a John Steinbeck short story had been written as a song, and this will give you a fairly good idea as to what Chicago Farmer accomplishes on his albums.”
Chicago Farmer is ready to kick down some more doors and put something new in as many ears, hands, living rooms, and car stereos as possible. Midwest Side Stories is available now on pre-order on Kickstarter and folks that donate will receive it at their doorstep several weeks before the official release. “We’ve set our goal at $20… because we love you.” Cody says, “My last album has a song called The Twenty Dollar Bill. It’s easily one of my top 3 requested songs, I especially love that it’s requested by people of all ages. It’s a story song inspired my grandparents and I’ve been told has moved a lot of people. We put a lot of heart, soul, sweat, tears, and even some blood into making this album. While the basics are covered, we still have a large hill to climb and any support that you can offer is greatly appreciated”
Midwest Side Stories captures everything that Chicago Farmer is capable of as a performer, songwriter and story teller. He draws you in with the emotion in his voice and holds you captive with the lyrical pictures he paints about the real struggle the common man is up against.