Saturday, January 28, 2023

Ralph Covert to return to The Venue in Aurora in February with string quartet

Ralph Covert and his string quartet will return to The Venue at 8 p.m. Feb. 25. Photo by Eric Schelkopf



Chicago area musician and Glen Ellyn native Ralph Covert doesn’t need the backing of surging guitars or thunderous drumming to put on an energetic show.

Covert proved that in October when he and his string quartet put on an uplifting and memorable show at The Venue in Aurora. They will return to The Venue on Feb. 25 for another show.

The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets range from $20-$25, available at The Venue’s website at The Venue is located at 21 S. Broadway Ave. (Route 25) in downtown Aurora.

I had the chance to talk to Covert about the upcoming show. He also fronts the band The Bad Examples and has a children’s music project called Ralph’s World, in addition to releasing several solo records.

I also had the chance to talk to him about his latest project with the Chicago Children’s Theatre.

Q – How many shows have you done with a string quartet and how did you come up with the idea to use a string quartet?

I did some shows with a string quartet on a few songs going back as far as the “Eat at Godot’s” record. The very first show I did with a string quartet was the “Eat at Godot’s” record release show at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.

It’s one thing to say, OK, let’s just slap some strings on it. But we were trying to really use the strings to do unique things with them.

We look at what we can do that will be fun and entertaining but also unexpected and refreshing.

Q – It does seem like many of your solo albums are more, I guess, acoustically based.

Yes, definitely. And that’s not accidental.

I have The Bad Examples as a vehicle for being rocking. I also have a lot of songs that are little more reflective, little more intimate.

In fact, my friend Chuck Troyka, who was the executive producer at “Eat at Godot’s,” was always a big fan of my acoustic stuff and really deserves a lot of credit for championing that aspect of my music.

Q – And I guess the string quartet kind of fits well in smaller venues like The Venue, right?

It does. But I think it would scale really well and remain intimate even in a really big venue. I think what we do with this combo, because there’s such deep musical textures, that you could put it in the Park West in Chicago.

Having no drums and bass allows it to be bigger in a way because it’s not beating you over the head.

Q – Do you think you are connecting more with the audience in these string quartet shows?

I absolutely do. There’s an emotional immediacy.

Q – I was at your show in October at The Venue and it seems like the string quartet lifts a song like “Another Beautiful Day” even higher.

That’s exactly right. The string quartet adds so much texture and depth. 

Having Steve Gerlach on guitar and Mike Hartigan on keys on stage elevates everything. The three of us playing together, we collectively make each other better. It always happens.

They’re both such brilliant musicians and they’re such great listeners. And they so deeply, deeply care about the end result and the song.

We elevate each other when the three of us play together. And then you add on top of that the string quartet and that ability to take Michael’s arrangements and fill them with so much power and nuance, it’s just wonderful.

Q – Are they going to be back for the show next month?

Yeah, they’ll be there. It’s going to be the trio plus the string quartet.

Q – And of course you have a new project. Chicago Children’s Theatre recently premiered a video featuring your story and song, “Edward The Tap Dancing Elephant.” The video also features green screen tap dancing by Chicago tap star, Time Brickey.

I have a long and loving relationship with the folks at Chicago Children’s Theatre. In 2009, they debuted “The Hundred Dresses,” the musical that Gary Mills and I wrote that has since run off-Broadway and has been performed all around the country.

Q – What are you working on now?

The main thing we’re working on in the studio now is a new Ralph’s World album. I’m over the moon about how the tracks are sounding.

Because of the new video for “Edward The Tap Dancing Elephant,” we may well put the song on the new album. The video is so fresh and new.

“The Rhyming Circus” was the album that the song came out on in 2008 on Walt Disney Records. I feel that’s one of my best albums, but it never really got it’s due because that’s when the economy collapsed, in 2008.

Disney had booked a 90 show summer tour. The economy collapsed and they cancelled all but six shows.

So the album never had a chance.

Q – How have people been responding to the video?

It’s been phenomenal. People have been loving it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Great Moments in Vinyl to bring Billy Joel's "The Stranger" to life at The Venue in Aurora

Photo provided by William Lindsey Cochran



Billy Joel's album "The Stranger" was the album that turned Joel into a household name.

The band Great Moments in Vinyl will perform the album "The Stranger" when it takes the stage at 8 p.m. Jan. 20 at The Venue, 21 S. Aurora Ave. in downtown Aurora.

Tickets range from $15-$20, available at The Venue's website, Along with playing the album, Great Moments in Vinyl will share insights about Joel and his music.

I had the chance to talk to Great Moments in Vinyl founder William Lindsey Cochran, who plays bass in the band, about the upcoming show. Cochran has had a lengthy career in Chicago radio, including being part of WXRT and WNUA. He currently works for MeTV-FM.


Q – Great to talk to you. I understanding that Great Moments in Vinyl will not only be performing the album "The Stranger" at The Venue, you also will be telling stories about Joel and his music. What do you hope for people to get from hearing those stories?

I use the stories to do a couple of things, including to fill the time between songs. I try to keep people's attention and to keep the focus on us by telling stories.

And it also brings people into the music. You pay more attention to the music and the song itself rather than thinking, "Do we sound like the album?" 

I talk between each song for about 45 to 50 seconds and either I'm setting up the next song or giving some sort of backstory about the preceding song or just talking in general about the artist.

We try to bring out the live passion for the music.

Q – Great Moments in Vinyl has been performing since 2013. What was your idea in forming the band?


I knew I wanted to do a tribute band and I enrolled in a Bruce Springsteen class at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago and a Van Morrison class. The instructors were really good and had this stuff down.

One of the instructors put together a Bruce Springsteen show and asked me to play bass. And I had so much fun, I thought of putting together my own band.

I did two Bruce Springsteen shows and two David Bowie shows using these Old Town School of Folk instructors. And then I had another group of guys I was hanging out with that wanted to do prog rock, so we did two Pink Floyd albums. I brought in some ringers to make that work.

And it just kind of took off from there. I think this will be our 100th show when we play The Venue.

It's been great. It's really just me finding the musicians that want to do a certain show.

Q – How do you pick which artists and albums to pay tribute to?


There's a lot of things that go into that process. And some of it is just, what do we feel like playing. 

We do get requests from fans. Some people want to hear Bob Seger, so we're going to do that at the Joliet Area Historical Museum sometime in the spring.

I'm willing to tackle anything. We've done ABBA. How many bands that do Led Zeppelin are also going to give you ABBA?

Q – You've had a long career in radio. What have you tried to do on the radio?

When you think about it, you have thousands of listeners, but it's really a one-on-one medium.

When you're on the radio and you're live or when I'm doing a promo, it's like I think I'm talking to that one person.

Yes, thousands of people are listening, but you're not talking to thousands of people. You're talking to one person.





Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Learn about the story behind the song at monthly songwriter showcase series at The Venue in Aurora

Musician Aaron Kelly hosted the Jan. 5 edition of the monthly songwriter showcase series at The Venue in downtown Aurora. Photo by Eric Schelkopf.


Those who want to know more about the art of songwriting would do well to check out the monthly songwriter showcase series at The Venue in downtown Aurora.

The songwriter showcase series takes place the first Thursday of the month. Singer-songwriters Aaron Kelly and Demi Clara take turns hosting the event.

The series offers a look into how a song is born. During the Jan. 5 edition, Kelly was joined on stage by fellow musicians Noah Gabriel and Arreis.

They each told the stories behind their songs. And with the audience learning more about each artist, that in turn strengthened their bond with the audience.

Musically and performance wise, it was a diverse night. Kelly’s storytelling style was complemented by the commanding vocals of Arreis and Gabriel’s emotionally charged songs.


The Venue is located at 21 S. Broadway Ave. in downtown Aurora. More information is at The Venue’s website,

For more videos from the Jan. 5 songwriter showcase series, go to

Monday, January 2, 2023

Chicago band Led Zeppelin 2 to perform back-to-back shows this month at House of Blues in Chicago


For the members of Chicago band Led Zeppelin 2, replicating the look and sound of a Led Zeppelin show is a constant goal.

If you listen to critics, it is a goal the band has already achieved. Led Zeppelin 2 has been called one of the most authentic Led Zeppelin tribute bands on the scene today.

Led Zeppelin 2 will perform at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 13 and 14 at the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. Tickets are available at

I had the chance to talk to Bruce Lamont, who performs as Robert Plant and Paul Kamp, who performs as Jimmy Page, about the upcoming shows.

Q – Great talking to you. I know that you will be playing back-to-back shows at the House of Blues in Chicago this month. The first night you will perform "Led Zeppelin IV" in its entirety and the next night, you will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of "Houses of the Holy." What made you want to choose these albums to play and what should audiences expect from the shows?

Bruce Lamont – When we do the annual two night run in Chicago, we do our best to do something special and unexpected. The 50th anniversary of “Houses of the Holy” is why we chose that as the centerpiece of Saturday night's (Jan 14) show.

And on Friday (Jan 13) is the “IV” show, an album that we didn’t get to play out enough during its 50th year anniversary due to COVID restrictions and such. We have a few surprises still for each night.

Q – Bruce, I know you first heard Led Zeppelin's music in your parents’ 1970 Ford LTD. What kind of impact did the band have on you?

Led Zeppelin was some of the earliest music I remember hearing. And, ironically, I didn't know what I was hearing at the time as I was only 4 or 5 years old.

Q – In forming the band, what were your goals and do you think you've exceeded them?

Bruce – It was meant to be fun (and it still is) and the thrill of just playing Zep’s music. But, at the time, we didn’t realize what would happen or expect it to become anything beyond the first love of just playing the music 

Q – The band has been called one of the most authentic Led Zeppelin bands out there. That must be a big compliment for you. What do you try to do to make the band so authentic?

Bruce – It is always a work in progress, but we appreciate anyone saying that. Each one of us really attempts to get "inside" each [original member of Led Zeppelin], especially on a live level.

We hope to capture those nuances as best as we can.

Q – Are you surprised there are so many Led Zeppelin tribute bands out there, including an all female Led Zeppelin tribute band called Lez Zeppelin? Have you listened to any of these bands, including Led Zeppelin tribute band Kashmir, also from Chicago? What do you think separates Led Zeppelin 2 from these other tribute bands?

Bruce – We are not surprised at all; they are the best rock band in history!

I personally have only checked out the Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience, who were really great. The musicians were killer and being able to hear from Jason’s perspective of growing up with what he did. Hats off to them (and Roy Harper).

I have been saying this for awhile now: The more Zep, the better!  

Q – Paul, you have been called one of the accomplished guitarists in the Midwest and drew great acclaim as a member of Chicago band Busker Soundcheck. What first attracted you to the guitar and how have you tried to stand out from other guitarists? 

Paul – Thanks for that mention. When I was very young, my dad listened to Glen Campbell, Roy Clark and Chet Atkins – and I still do. Glenn and Chet are really fantastic; they sound just as good today.

I found Led Zeppelin albums in my cousins’ record collections and as soon as I heard them, I knew it was a step above all the other music I knew at the time.

I heard very innovative guitar and compositions and when I listen to Zeppelin now, I still hear the same thing. Plus there’s some magic dust in the production – when Zeppelin comes on the radio, it still sounds better than other bands – and it was recorded 50 years ago!

I used a bow in Busker Soundcheck from the start. I also got to know old blues, slide and bottleneck delta blues, acoustic fingerpicking (I do it the same way as Page, with both a pick and fingers) and open tunings on acoustic, and I learned lead guitar by ear from a book that taught pentatonic scales and boxes and that was all long before I ever imagined I would be in a Zeppelin cover band.

So I was pretty adept at the styles and techniques Page used when we started Zep 2. It was fairly easy to learn the riffs and solos, but that said, I am still hearing new things in Page’s playing and relearning parts.

Q – Jimmy Page has been called one of the greatest and most influential guitarists of all time. When you first started playing the guitar, was he one of your musical influences? Do you feel honored to be playing Jimmy Page in the band?

Yes, from the start it was Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, but a lot of other people too. I probably learned a lot of the same stuff and styles that Page learned so we sort of went to the same school.

A lot is derived from old blues and Chuck Berry-style rock and roll. It's how I would recommend a new player learn too; that’s the fundamentals of rock music and you build on that.

I am most happy to have the honor to play Jimmy Page when I look into the audience and see people, young and old, just having a good time. I just happen to be the guy on the stage playing the guitar.

It's fun to see people enjoy it.    

Q – What's next for the band?

Paul – Well, what's next for now is getting ready for the 2023 set, which is the 50-year anniversary of the “Houses of the Holy” and we’ll play that entire album – plus a lot more – for most of our 2023 shows. I find that with the track "The Song Remains the Same" that is a lot of guitar playing and each time we come back to that one, I feel like I learn it from scratch, always hearing new ways to do certain parts.

Then there is "Rain Song," again a complex guitar part and just a fantastic composition. One that’s tricky for me is "The Crunge," hard to find that 11/8 groove and I also like to drop in the keyboard bits, play it on a Fender Strat with a whammy bar.

I really enjoyed some of our big outdoor shows in 2022, so I will look forward to those in 2023. Crowds are coming back after the pandemic made live music very challenging and it seems the audiences for Led Zep 2 are getting younger, overall; lots of Zeppelin fans in their teens and 20s and that’s encouraging.
We’ve always talked about recording some more songs, maybe a even writing a few as a band. That’s been on hold for awhile. We’ll see...