Photo of Nora Edinger Bob Gaudio, a daytime defense lawyer, performs at the Wheeling Town Center Public Market in late September. A decade in the local music circuit, Gaudio said he gives concerts almost every weekend and loves it.
WHEELING – Wheeling’s appetite for live music is such that sometimes only a full symphony on the city’s biggest stage will do. Or a big name that offers fresh flavors from afar. But, other times, a neighborhood guy with a guitar can hit the spot.
One of those local guitarists – a public defense attorney by day – and another man from Wheeling whose literal side gig helps local musicians get, well, gigs shared an inside look at this flip side. friendly city music scene.
Lawyer Bob Gaudio said his introduction to his hometown circuit began in 2011. A blues musician friend performing at the Italian Festival knew that Gaudio had previously sung and played guitar in a band at the time. He nagged until Gaudio joined in some sort of rehearsal in a hotel room and the chef-turned-lawyer suddenly found himself strumming on a riverside stage in front of his friends, neighbors and business colleagues.
“It just bit me, the bug,” Gaudio said of the sheer exhilaration of the performance. “I was like, ‘Why don’t I do this? “”
Those two songs quickly led to a brunch reservation at the Vagabond Kitchen, which was then in the basement of the McClure Hotel, Gaudio said. And that, by a strange twist of fate, put him in contact with Jon Banco.
Banco, himself a saxophonist and backing vocalist, both performs with the regional group Eli and the Mojo Kings and delivers acts for 30 venues in the Wheeling area. He listened to Gaudio’s relaxed voice and acoustic guitar and recognized a potential addition to a talent stable that now includes around 60 artists ranging from jazz to polka, Banco said.
Gaudio was hesitant at first. He had a big career. He had a family. Life was already busy enough. But, he jumped up and said he was thrilled with the results. He now performs at venues such as Undo’s, Wheeling Brewing, Later Alligator, Public Market, Wilson Lodge, and Quaker Steak & Lube almost every weekend.
One weekend at the end of September, he had four concerts, which barely left time for mundane chores such as cutting the grass, he noted. But a musician should do what a musician should do, he added.
“All artists have an egos where we wouldn’t sit in front of people we don’t know to create art,” Gaudio joked, noting that he has business cards but draws the line at the bottom. merch. “It also brings me peace and joy. I say to the audience, ‘Welcome to my therapy session.’
He thinks they think he’s kidding, but it’s probably the truth, he said. Gaudio explained that his daily work brings him in touch with humanity at its lowest point – including murders and crimes against children. Music, which he considers the greatest achievement of mankind, gives him a necessary distance from it.
It has become a multifaceted distance. While Gaudio performs covers of musicians ranging from John Lennon to Linda Ronstadt, he also writes some of his own music, which he has recorded professionally on simple guy songs with guitar for his family.
He also plays every day whether he plays or not, he said. When a performance includes friends in the audience, people singing, or a great view of a sunset, he said there was nothing more beautiful.
Booking agent Jon Banco got it.
While Banco also reserves renowned artists at Oglebay Park and other venues in the city as its main job, it has been for a decade in a parallel career that spins dozens of local musicians in restaurants, bars and occasional weddings.
The reservation margin is the result of its own performance.
He got to know the owners and managers of venues and realized that he could program other artists as well. “It was putting the ‘B’ between the ‘A’ and the ‘C’,” he said.
Banco said it was not difficult to find talent in a city with a long history of live music and an education system that is committed to providing ample opportunities for students interested in the performing arts. The Wheeling Park graduate said he even experimented with the steel pan game when he was in high school.
“It’s always different, but it’s still quality,” he said of the variety of acts happening locally. “It’s pretty amazing the quality of the musicians we have here.”
He noted that some artists who can still be heard locally have the talent and desire to work full time in the industry. Ohio country teenager Gage Joseph is one of them, he said. He also mentioned Crandall Creek, a Moundsville-based bluegrass band. These artists perform a lot of original things, which he believes is necessary to become great.
Ironically, sometimes it is difficult to convince local audiences that the original music is good music, he added.
“Maybe that’s great. But, if people don’t know that, they can’t sing and that sort of thing. For that reason, he said most of the musicians on the local circuit play either all covers. , or mix only a few of their original songs in a concert.
Big can be great if that happens, but Banco has a soft spot for professors who make some money playing back-up instrumentals on weekends, someone like Gaudio or the 40s guys doing a version. well polished from a garage tape.
“They know they will never be signed or picked up and they are literally doing it for the fun of it.” He suspects the audience feels this and has fun with the musicians.
This mutual joy is also what drives the place side of things, he added.
He said restaurants, bars and other sites in the Ohio Valley are actively seeking artists.
Even at the height of COVID-19 restrictions, he said the sites were finding a way. He knew a restaurant owner in Moundsville who had installed a video and audio feed in his restaurant and built a sort of sound booth so that musicians could sing along without fear of the virus spreading.