Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bon Tempe - Profiles in Cacophony: Aches

Sounds like it looks, look like it sounds, feels like our bizarre and wonderful alto sax/flutist Bob Akers. Obviously the nickname is simply a shortening of his real last name, Akers. How great life would be if it were only that simple! But no. And now that I've had occasion to actually write it down, it occurred to me that this nickname has been a self-fulfilling prophecy all these years. For Akes is not the nickname one would expect for a fellow named Akers. Spell it Acres and you've got Green, Frosty, 40 _____and a Mule, Sunny, Windy, Peaceful and any number of adjectives. But for some reason we chose Akes. Or, more accurately: Aches.

To be honest, for the first several years of Bon Tempe's career Akes was a fine spelling. In fact any spelling would have worked because we had no idea what to call this alto sax/flutist fellow anyway, except perhaps a damn fine player who knew buttloads more about music than any of the other guys did. The reason we were at such a loss for a salutation was that for several years Bob Akers didn't talk. Wait. I take that back. He did talk. We saw him talking to other people quite regularly. He just didn't talk to the rest of us! When Kenny the Corn Nibbler was on the drums, and Meathead was blowing like a wounded foghorn, there really wasn't any need for anybody else in the band to say anything. Of course Nellie frequently voiced his displeasure with the sounds coming from the horn section, and I babbled senselessly about shit like crunchy roasted nibs, Kenny and Albondigas each had independent running monologues that only ceased when interrupted by the music we periodically played.

Bob, unlike the rest of us, was a real musician. He didn't read books, he read music, and we were amazed. Stick a sheet of music in front of him and he could play it, bingo, if not just like it was written then interpreted in a sneaky fashion that made everybody believe it was what was written. Since he did little communicating outside of blowing on the saxophone or flute,  we knew little about him. We knew that he came from the general direction of Corte Madera and when he spoke to others they were generally from that area as well. He had an older brother and a girlfriend that he had been with since he was old enough to walk, his arms appeared unusually long and a hunched over shuffle gave him a somewhat simian-like profile that would later serve him well as a postal service employee. And he pretty much always had that crusty fresh-outta-bed look. For several years Akes idea of a rock n' roll get up was to wear a navy pin-striped railroad engineer's cap. Think about that for a minute and if you still have questions, send us an email (with your hat size so we can enclose a navy blue pin stripe railroad engineers cap in there for you!)

When Akes did start talking it was a sad day indeed for we realized that, like many real musicians, he made absolutely no sense. And thus Akes turned to Aches.  But whatever Aches lacked in verbal communications skills he more than made up for with primitive engineering skills because wherever he went he always had a fresh role of duct tape and a can of WD-40. It's long been known that these are really the only two inventions mankind has ever truly required: moves when it shouldn't? Tape her down! Doesn't move when it should? Give 'er a squirt! What Bob realized was that all sorts of musical accessories could be substituted with duct tape, particularly but not limited to microphone clips. Aches could tape a microphone onto a straight stand such that you needed a few cherry bombs along with the WD-40 to get it off. This isn't to say that Aches would ever forget to pack small accessories like microphone clips. Did I say that?

So why Aches and not Akes? This, I'm afraid, is something I can't readily explain, as it's more of a feeling than a logical deduction. You could be sitting there listening to this friendly-looking fellow as he makes truly lovely sounds on his horn, only to realize later that you have an earACHE. Or a toothACHE. Or a buttACHE. It's just another aspect of that legendary Bon Tempe magic at work, only this time coming from that mild-mannered man with the horn in his hand and, hopefully, the reed in his mouth. Also known as Bob Akers.

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