Tuesday, April 08, 2003

The Wire Mules

There was a band in Charlotte for a few years called the Wire Mules. They were around for a few years in the early and mid 1990's. They were composed of Jake Berger on guitar and vocals, Rob Tavaglione on bass, Lenny Federal on guitar and vocals and Jeff Nesbit on drums and vocals.

I remember first seeing the Wire Mules at the 13-13 club on a night when they opened for Southern Culture on the Skids. As an opening band they didn't get to play too long but something about the bar band intrigued me. I think my initial reaction was that they reminded me a little of the Georgia Satellites. They didn't sound anything like the Georgia Sattelites but they tweeked a nerve in me that said: rockin' bar band.

A week or so later I noticed that they were playing at the Double Door Inn. My friend, jeff, and I went to the Double Door to check the band out. We were enjoying the band a lot. They were still becoming a 'band' at this show and the dichotomy between the two guitars and the creative tension that eventually killed the band hadn't fully surfaced yet. They were cruising along and we were having fun but they hand't really wowed us as they got deep into their set. You gotta wow me to get me to come back and see you again.

Then they played "Ring of Fire." Jaker Berger sang the vocals on Ring of Fire as played by the Wire Mules. Imagine Johnny Cash meets Sonic Youth with your father's gruff recoverig alcoholic brother that your mother hates singing. Did you know that Ring of Fire played with electric instruments can be turned into a ten minute jam? It can and when it's done you're stunned. We were hooked. The way they played that song told us there was something special going on here.

After that night, for over a year, Jeff and I along with Wendell and Chris B. saw the Wire Mules on an almost monthly basis. We would end up in bars that we would never have gone and never went to again just because they were there. They would play all night long and they would play their asses off. They jammed but they were not a 'jam band.' They would jam on different songs on different nights. They didn't noodle until they found a groove but if one did surface at an opportune moment they would take it and throttle it. I can't even begin to describe the amazing wall of sound this band would put out every time we saw them. Lenny did most of the soloing and his style was ethereal and weaved throughout the song. Jakes guitar was more straight forward with a heavier sound, some called it Tex-Mex. The rhythm laid down by Rob and Jeff was as solid as it can get and they allowed Lenny and Jake to take a song wherever they desired and then have a solid platform to land it on when they came back to earth. My friends and I thought that soon they would gain a regional following and eventually perform in Charlotte less frequently and every show we saw we considered a privilege.

The Wire Mules provided me with a very important lesson. Each of these musicians in this band was and still is accomplished. They eventually broke up and I consider Lenny and Rob to be friends. Wendell and I still watch Lenny play on a regular basis and wish Rob would play out more because he's fun to be around and pick on. What I learned from seeing and knowing these guys was that there is no reason to become a musician and join a band other than to make music. I don't know if the Wire Mules had aspirations to break out of Charlotte, become a regional sensation and eventually make a go as a working band but I do know that they are all still playing music (at least Jeff Nesbit was the last time I saw him about three years ago) and they will until they can't no more as long as people keep showing up. That's why Wendell and I still go to see Lenny because he just wants to play in front of people and we're willing to support that.

With all that being said: Does anyone out there have a copy of a Wire Mule show?

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