Koterblog

The Return of the Band

September 23rd, 2016

After nearly five years away from the stage, the band is, as they say, back together. We played our first show in Omaha,  in 1998. Since then, Prairie Cats have performed at SXSW, the now-defunct Derby Lounge in Hollywood, and Windows on the World at the World Trade Center. Last night, while gazing out at the audience, I was reminded once again, how lucky we’ve been to have met so many great people, many of whom have been with us since the start. Yes, there’s magic in the notes we play as a band, but there’s also magic on the dance floor…and as far as I’m concerned, I always have the best view in the house.


My Drumming Dad

April 10th, 2013

My father, Art Koterba, who passed away earlier this year, was a drummer and vocalist. Yet, rarely did the two of us have the chance to play music together in public. Two years ago, in April of 2011, Stefan Morel, a filmmaker from Toronto, was in town to shoot footage for a documentary that was to include scenes of my band, Prairie Cats, performing.

My parents had come out for the show, but it wasn’t during the break that Stefan and I had the idea to ask my father if he’d be willing to sit in on a song. I looked at it as a rare opportunity—not only would I have the chance to share the stage with my father, but also, we might be able to capture the moment with Stefan’s camera.

But my father, true to form, stubbornly resisted. He said that he wasn’t feeling up to it, that he wasn’t sure his feet could handle playing the kick drum and hi-hat cymbal. To be fair, at the time he was eighty-nine years old. It would take a bit more convincing, and eventually, he agreed to come on stage. After adjusting the drum kit, he dove in, playing on a song we certainly hadn’t had the chance to rehearse.

In that moment, he turned back the clock…he seemed twenty years younger.

But then, he always was young at heart.


Quiet No More

July 30th, 2012

Although it’s been six months since Prairie Cats decided to take an indefinite hiatus, I haven’t exactly been keeping quiet. Last month I dusted off my mandolin for a series of performances in Nebraska with Kentucky-based singer-songwriter, Andrea Davidson. Andrea is a triple threat: she writes great songs, she’s a terrific guitarist, and best of all, she possesses an incredible voice. Most recently, Andrea and I filmed a music video with award-winning filmmaker, Dana Altman, and Grammy-nominated sound engineer, Tom Ware. Although the video is still in the editing process, here’s a photo from the film shoot…

 

Jeff Koterba, Andrea Davidson, mandolin, music, guitar

Photo courtesy of Christine Brandt

 

I’m also excited to announce that my son, Josh, and I, will soon be joining forces to write and record a few songs, possibly even an EP. Josh is a gifted singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and sound engineer. He records and performs as Sail by the Stars. Although we’ve played music together before, we hadn’t written anything as a team until last year. To write a song with one’s son is a thrill that cannot easily be expressed. As his dad, I’m proud of him. As a fellow musician, I’m in awe of what he creates.


The Big Apple Revisited

June 28th, 2011

Not a gig goes by when I don’t think about the night my band, Prairie Cats, performed at Windows on the World at the World Trade Center. Ten years ago this week, all eight members of the band, plus our road manager and “boy wrangler,” EmJay, squeezed into a van and deadheaded from Omaha to New York City where we would perform at some of the coolest venues we would ever encounter. We grabbed a few winks in Sandusky, Ohio, but otherwise, by the time we got to New York, we were going on no sleep for two days.

The first night, a Wednesday, we played an outdoor show at the Hudson River Festival at the base of the World Trade Center. After we unloaded our gear it was my job to park the van in one of the underground garages at the Trade Center. I recall the security guard eyeing me with suspicion, requesting to see my driver’s license. Ironically, the security booth reeked of marijuana.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

Oh, the glamour of the road…

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

Here’s a photo from that show, the Statue of Liberty in the background.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

And yes, in case you were wondering, that was the summer of my platinum blonde hair. Hey, we all make mistakes.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

I’ll never forget gazing straight up from our vantage point on stage, the twin towers directly in front of, and above, us.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

As the night went on, the view only got better…

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

The following night we performed at the Rodeo Bar—a roadhouse in the middle of the city. This isn’t the bar, but rather our luxurious band lounge area. Complete with peanut shells on the floor. Just like home. Left to right: Jeff Koterba, Erik Johnson, Josh Koterba, Craig Crilly.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

It was a wild, leopard print kind of night. And to prove it, our drummer, Jeff Schoening, played the sticks on Larry Frederickson’s standup bass.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

We used to do perform a French-ispired song, “Lover DuJour,” where we’d invite women from the audience to come on stage and play the role of our French backup singers. That explains the berets. The Krispy Kreme hat, however, I have no idea.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

At least St. Elvis was watching over us. Or maybe he was having a staring contest with Larry. Not sure.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

That’s Craig on the tenor sax. After the show, while we were loading our gear into the van, we elected Craig to deal with the very drunk guy harassing the band. Don’t mess with Craig, is what I’m saying.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

One of my favorite photos of T-Bone player, Jason Grotelueschen. This, from our show at Jack’s Joint, Times Square.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

No one wails on a trumpet like Kevin Linder.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11Setting up on Saturday night at the Greatest Bar on Earth, Windows on the World.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

Our view from stage.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

Dan Schoening’s turn to wail on the trumpet. Same berets, different “French” girls.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

A little accordion action from Jason G.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

I bought this window pane suit exclusively for this show. It’s a miracle suit. Since then, it’s been through Hell and still, ten years later, it looks new.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11

As far as I’m concerned, Windows on the World was, and is, the coolest place there ever was. In my mind, the Greatest Bar on Earth is still jumpin’, a decade later.

jeff koterba, prairie cats, new york, world trade center, swing band, 9/11
For more photos click here:Prairie Cats 2001 Tour.

Ann-Margrock and Roll

October 11th, 2009

When I was a kid growing up in the 1960s, I was, as many kids were, obsessed with TV cartoons. One of my favorites was the Flintstones. Not necessarily for the animation—the drawings didn’t come close to the beauty of Disney—or for the story lines, which were all too often predictable, even for a mush-brained six year-old such as myself. To make matters worse, every few months, the episodes would cycle through and they’d start over. Eventually, you’d think I would have gotten bored. What the Flintstones could offer, however, that Disney and even Warner Brothers could not (unless you count the cross-dressing Bugs Bunny), was sex.

For me, both Betty and Wilma exuded a certain untapped eroticism—indeed, were they not the original desperate housewives? And that theme song, swinging as it did, with its horn punches and thumping tom-toms, had a cool, big band vibe that suggested martini parties. But it wasn’t even for want of Betty and Wilma, or for the groovy music that I watched the show every afternoon after school, Hostess fruit pie dripping from my chin. Everything came down to one episode, the one for which I would wait weeks and often months: the episode in which the top sex kitten herself, Ann-Margret, played herself, in cartoon form, as Ann-Margrock.

Although it would take until years later to realize it, Ann-Margret was the gold standard for sex during those years in which I waited patiently for her to show up every weekday afternoon. As I got older, of course, my desire for Ann Margrock waned, as did my need for the Flintstones. Every so often I might catch an old movie starring Ann-Margret, but mostly, I moved on to other starlets of the day.

Then, in 2002, I heard her unmistakable voice singing a duet with Brian Setzer on “Baby, it’s Cold Outside.” I had started a swing band of my own and in the process, had rediscovered Brian Setzer. Not to mention Ann-Margret. As I listened to her breathy voice, I couldn’t help but to picture her in cartoon form—skimpy loincloth and all, at the microphone next to Setzer.

“Ann Margrock,” would again make an appearance in my head a few weeks ago, when we got the call from a local casting director for the film, “Lucky,” which was being shot in the Omaha area.Would the Prairie Cats be at all interested in being in a movie? With Colin Hanks, up-and-coming actress, Ari Graynor, and…bigband drumroll, please…Ann-Margret?

We had a 6am call at base camp and arrived on set a short time later, in the backyard of a home in one of Omaha’s ritzier neighborhoods, next to a shimmering, but icy swimming pool—it was 42 degrees and my guitar hands were frozen into claws. We were committed to a “ten to twelve hour” day, and just when I was questioning whether this endeavor was going to be worth it, from across the pool, Ann-Margret appeared. After a few minutes of taking stock of the set, she gave us—I like to imagine it was mostly me she was focusing on—a quick wave. In an instant, the getting up at 4:30 a.m., and the long day that surely awaited us, was worthwhile.

Finally, as the morning sun began to thaw my hands, and as my band mates and I were waiting to shoot a scene, Ann-Margret approached us. She was beautiful, of course. Often, when in the presence of famous people, I get nervous, but for whatever reason—it must have been her voice—I felt at ease. It wasn’t until now that I realized that not once did I think of her as a cartoon, but rather the stunning woman she still is.


Bah-dum CHING!

July 31st, 2009

Those big band drums you hear thundering along on the Inklings intro page? Those are the thumps and smacks of none other than Prairie Cats’ own Jeff Schoening.