Chris Gelbuda
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Chris Gelbuda

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF
Band Pop Acoustic


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"MUSIC: Playing The Field -- Sox pregame shows have La Salle County connections"

When it comes to baseball, Chuck Giacinto of Streator made it pretty far, but not to the major leagues.

Ottawa native Chris Gelbuda is working to reach the big time in music, and recently made it to his baseball field of dreams.

Music industry veteran Kevin Chalfant has performed at big venues before, but never in a jersey with his name on the back.

In the past month, all three rocked out behind home plate at U.S. Cellular Field prior to Chicago White Sox home games.

"It was a thrill playing on that field," said Giacinto, a former second baseman at Streator Township High School and Illinois Valley Community College. And in a way, he made "The Show" by playing keyboards on a big-league ball diamond.

All three musicians performed at "The Cell" thanks to "Rock the Sox," a pregame live music series featuring recording artists the White Sox sponsor before many home games. As fans settle into their seats, they can hear sounds other than the crack of the bat and announcements over the ballpark's loudspeakers.

"It enhances the pregame experience through entertainment," Amy Sheridan, White Sox manager of game operations, said about Rock the Sox, which has existed since 2005.

Gelbuda played the field April 24 as a member of Matthew Santos' band. An independent folk-rock singer and songwriter, the Chicago-based Santos was guest vocalist on the Lupe Fiasco hit "Superstar," and will release a solo record this summer.

A "indie soul pop" with his own CD set to be released in mid-summer, Gelbuda has been attending ballgames at U.S. Cellular Field much of his life. Richard Gelbuda, Chris' father, grew up in Bridgeport, the Chicago neighborhood where the ballpark is located.

"I wouldn't have enjoyed the experience nearly as much at a Cubs game," said Gelbuda, who received a Sox jersey with his last name and the numeral "10" (as in 2010) on the back as part of the gig. The Sox beat the Seattle Mariners 5-4 on a walk-off home run, and Gelbuda wore that black jersey the same night when he played a solo acoustic show at Berta's Tap in Ottawa.

"I left The Cellular, drove back to Ottawa and set up my equipment (inside Berta's). It was a great day," said Gelbuda, who works full-time as a singer-songwriter and performs in Los Angeles and Chicago.

Chalfant is one of the vocalists on Voices of Rock Radio, the group that includes keyboard Giacinto and guitarists Michael "Ralph" Gardner of Streator and Mike Higgins of Oglesby, Streator bassist Randy Hatzer and Tonica drummer Tim Higgins, Mike's brother.

Voices of Rock Radio played May 2 at a festival in Elgin, and the Sox asked Jimi Jamison — one of the group's vocalist and former lead singer of Survivor — to perform at Rock the Sox.

"He thought it would be a lot more fun if he brought some guys along," Chalfant said of Jamison, who invited Giacinto, Chalfant and Jim Peterik — an ex-Survivor member and co-writer of that band's No. 1 hit "Eye of the Tiger" — to perform with him.

Giacinto was asked that very day to play at the ballpark, and complied.

"It might be a once-in-a-lifetime thing. You rearrange your schedule and go do it," he said.

The four-piece group played four tunes: "High On You," a Survivor standard co-written by Peterik; "I've Got A Lot To Learn About Love," a hit Chalfant co-wrote and sang lead vocals on as a member of The Storm; and Survivor hits "The Search Is Over" and "Eye of the Tiger."

In addition to receiving Sox jerseys, the four were treated to dinner and watched the game at the ballpark's Jim Beam Club. After the game, Chalfant met Jerry Reinsdorf, the team's owner.

"Their organization ran things like clockwork. They spoiled us rotten, and I was totally stoked," Chalfant said about the 5-1 White Sox win over the Kansas City Royals.

Gelbuda and his bandmates received the same treatment. One of the Santos band's songs performed at that game can be viewed live at

Gelbuda and Chalfant thoroughly enjoyed the White Sox experience. So did Giacinto, who grew up as a Cubs fan.

"I'll tell you what, they won me over," Giacinto said of the Sox. - The Times Press -

"Gimme Cover"

The haze of cigarette smoke mingles with the winter air of the bar. Then a hum sparks through the drafty room, and a group of five stringy-haired, grunge-clad men take the stage.

A cigarette dangles from the lips of the guitarist, who is also sporting a black top hat and a Jack Daniel's T-shirt. The blond head-banging bass player is wearing a cut-off CBGB muscle shirt.

"You know where you are?" the lead singer screeches into the microphone, swaying and lifting his left forefinger toward the crowd. "You in the jungle, baby."

Rock stars? Not quite. These are what Chuck Klosterman dubs the mock stars, copycat stand-ins for crowd-pleasing originals, and there's an onslaught of them hitting the Iowa City music scene. Evenflow, a Pearl Jam tribute band, and Nevermind, a Nirvana representation, are set to play the Yacht Club, 13 S Linn St., on Saturday at 9 p.m.

This isn't just an Iowa City thing - approximately 3,000 such bands are registered on, a site dedicated to tracking tribute bands.

"We're more impressed by the quality of the tribute bands than anything," says Yacht Club owner Scott Kading. "They never miss a note. The guitarists, everything - they grew up listening to this stuff, and they're perfect. It's incredible."

Tribute bands: striving to fully embody someone else. Look like, act like, sing like, play like, and drink just like the originals.

"I'd say I'm a lot like Brad [Nowell]," says Chris Gelbuda, the lead singer and guitarist for the Sublime tribute band Second Hand Smoke. "I mean, I'm husky. And I like to get drunk when I play."

The first time I call Gelbuda, he is a little preoccupied.

"Can I call you back? We're going to need a minute to find a spot on the beach here," he says. Five minutes later, my phone rings. "All right, I'm ready to talk. We're all settled in, just like a Corona commercial."

Twenty-three-year old Gelbuda is talking to me from Puerto Rico. Second Hand Smoke has four shows to play in and around San Juan, where the market for tribute bands is huge, appealing to both tourists and locals. He says that if the group were an original band, it would never be able to play shows such as these.

"A lot of people think tribute bands are bullshit," he says. "I don't think they'd say the same thing if they were where we are right now."
So they learn the songs, talk the talk, and wear the same beer-stained clothes. But why would some spend all this time playing other people's music? The No. 1 perk: Walk into a bar, and a tribute band doesn't need to find its own fans. A decent tribute band automatically has them.

That's the appeal - music aficionados want to hear songs they already love. Why pay to hear some subpar original band eke out shaky tunes about the members' ex-girlfriends when you can go listen to a couple of fellow diehard fans flawlessly pump out your favorite songs?

After its début show in Iowa City in February, Second Hand Smoke's music exploded on the tribute scene.

"It was packed," Gelbuda says. "People were practically hanging from the ceiling. We thought, 'Man, we gotta do this more consistently.' "

Seeing that Sublime is not around anymore, Gelbuda's main goal is to be a Sublime tribute band for the hard-core fan, not just the kids who memorized the words to "What I Got." The band members researched the specifics of Sublime's live performances, wardrobes, albums, and attitudes, and the members have everything except the token Dalmatian.

Gelbuda and his band found a lot of these hard-core fans in Iowa City, and Second Hand Smoke plans to return to the Yacht Club in late September.

"People really have an urge to see this stuff live," Gelbuda says. "To a lot of younger kids, it's almost retro now."

Flash back to 1993, when the genesis of a different tribute band was taking place.

At age 15, J. Gil faced a dilemma.

The future Nirvana tribute-band member had $40 in his wallet, and he had a tough decision on his hands: buy an identical guitar pedal to Kurt Cobain's, or use the money to see Nirvana play at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.

"Luckily, I skipped the pedal," says the now-29-year-old Gil, who has been playing guitar for 16 years. "I was fortunate enough to get to see Nirvana before Cobain OD'd."

Gil and his two younger brothers, Alex and Sam, form the Nirvana tribute band Nevermind.
Playing in a tribute band is kind of a double-edged sword," Cobain-model J. Gil says. "At times, I feel really guilty for what we do. We didn't write or record this stuff. I'm just a passionate fan singing along with everyone else. When we get in that room, we're all on the same page."

He may just be a passionate fan, but he's a fan who intends on sounding and looking just like Cobain. Mirroring the band adds more points to the show, he says, and he's always on the lookout for tattered jeans and cardigans.

The guys from Nevermind have taken the concept of replication and run with it. Nirvana toured in 1993 with a pair of female anatomical models with angel wings, setting each on opposite sides of the stage. Prices for used look-alikes started around $1,500, and after 10 *years* of surfing the web for similar props, Gil "found the next best thing": female mannequins.

"I found some angel wings at a costume shop," he says. "It all cost around $900. Granted, they don't do much, but people do notice. I'd still like to add guts and all kinds of organs, but that's another huge task in itself."

Looking the part is only half the work.

"To really do this music and do it right, people need something to watch," says 17-year-old Des Moines resident Richie Lee. Lee performs as Buddy Holly, Elvis, and Richie Valens. "Anybody could just go listen to a jukebox. I move around; I intrigue them. You've gotta really put on a show for them."

Before a tribute band can begin to conquer these kinds of small details, it needs to learn the repertoire. That repertoire can be rather daunting, especially if the original band is still pumping out albums.

Pearl Jam's entire inventory totals somewhere more than 200, including all the songs it covers.

"We never make a set list," says Eddie Vedder-double Steve Lopez of the Pearl Jam cover band Evenflow, which has been successfully touring since 2001. "A lot of people are just *Ten* fans. A portion of the fans are hard-core and want to hear anything Pearl Jam ever played. We feed off the crowd. We're out there advertising for Pearl Jam."
The last time Pearl Jam came near Iowa City was, well, never. Thus, fans who don't have the opportunity to see the real thing can still enjoy the pseudo version, with a few minor mutations.

"I used to have hair down to my shoulders," Lopez says - one can sense sincere remorse in his voice. "I cut it, just like an idiot. But I'm growing it back now. It's taking forever."

It's not easy living up to these musical idols.

"I think Anthony Kiedis is an amazing performer," says Iowa City resident Matt Grundstad, the lead singer of Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute band Lunatix on Pogostix. "It's been a real challenge for me as a vocalist to sing with his intensity. I've learned a lot by studying what he does. Learning how to play other people's music helps you develop the skills to write your own stuff."

These methods are far from anything you'd find in a music-theory textbook, but for now, tribute bands are hell-bent on giving a show worthy of mock stars.

"We love it because people are just rocking out," Gelbuda says. "By the time we finish a song, people want to get up onstage and sing with us. The fans are psycho - no, they're rabid. In such a good way."

E-mail DI reporter Ann Colwell at:
- The Daily Iowan


Fall From the Sky EP (Unreleased - Oct 2010)



Chris Gelbuda started playing in Chicago blues clubs at age 16. By the time he was in 20, he was touring nationally with several bands. At 26, he has a brand new EP under his belt and he is ready to take the world by storm. The 5 song EP, entitled "Fall From the Sky", contains a handful of potential hit songs produced by Mikal Blue (Award winning producer/ASCAP songwriter).

Currently, Chris is touring while deciding on a publishing company.

His live sets range from having a full band to doing shows acoustic, solo. Either way he performs, he will surely win you over with his honest and direct delivery.

You may have heard Chris play guitar with artists like: Todd Carey, Matthew Santos, and Andrew Ripp.

You may have heard Chris's guitar work on recordings by Lupe Fiasco, Japanese Cartoon, Matthew Santos, and Carey Ott.

"How Did I Lose Track of You" was a collaboration with Tim Fagan, who won a 2009 Grammy Award for his contributions to the song "Lucky" by Jason Mraz feat. Colbie Caillat.

"Life I Live" and "Deeper" are collaborations with Carey Ott (Nashville/Dual Tone Records).

"Fall from the Sky" and "Hard to Say Goodbye" were written solely by Chris Gelbuda.