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Music: Echoes of Tropical Paradise Reach Pennsylvania Suburbs

October 24, 2010 2 comments
Gabe Schick, The Tune Dude, with guitar and steel drum

Gabe Schick, The Tune Dude, a one-man-band who sings and plays guitar and steel drum, has been entertaining in Skippack for three years.

Ask me to name the most important ingredient that goes into making Skippack Village a magical town, I will answer it is the musicians who entertain at our pubs and restaurants. A good musician, a moving song, and a beat: These elements can transform an ordinary evening into a night of adventure or self-discovery. My favorite memories here in Skippack and other places on this planet are of musical afternoons and evenings.

I prefer listening to local musicians at one of our local establishments to watching a major headliner in a stadium or concert hall.  When the audience numbers many hundreds or thousands, I am part of a mob, an unnoticeable, undistinguished element. In contrast, at an intimate venue in my neighborhood, I am a distinguished part of a select company. Each person attending a local performance contributes to the outcome of the evening, hopefully for the better.

I take my role as a member of the audience seriously. Because I have not a microfiber of musical talent, it is the only role I can play. I sit and listen intently to each performer who takes time to entertain in Skippack. And I especially enjoy playing my part when my friend Gabe Schick AKA The Tune Dude comes to town to play at the Cabana Bar or Justin’s Carriage House.

The Tune Dude’s music is an upbeat, mellow mix of folk, reggae, and rock flavored occasionally by stealthily snuck-in jazz chords. He plays many familiar songs: For example, Brown Eyed Girl; Me and Julio; Take the Money and Run; and Jimmy Buffet tunes. I enjoy his relaxed, silver-tongued vocals and his laid-back, likeable stage persona. But The Tune Dude takes a step beyond the likeable ordinary: He is the one-man band reinvented: In addition to strumming a folk guitar, he accompanies himself on an instrument most magical, the steel drum, adapting its exotic sound to all kinds of songs.

Sometimes called a steel pan, this percussion instrument is made from a 55-gallon drum and was first used by traditional Carnival bands in Trinidad and Tobago. When The Tune Dude taps on his steel drum, out pop joyful, metallic calypso notes: I hear echoes of a tropical paradise right here in our suburban Pennsylvania town.

Close up of a steel drum

Sometimes called a steel pan, the steel drum is a percussion instrument first used by traditional Carnival bands in Trinidad and Tobago.

A native son of Pennsylvania, Gabe grew up in the Poconos. He started playing guitar at age 12, jamming to Pat Benatar, Kiss, Van Halen and other 1980s acts. He later took up drumming. He had a short stint in college during which he enjoyed life too much. Next, he enlisted in the Marines, following in the steps of his father, uncles, and grandfather (with regard to joining the military, not necessarily with regard to partying).

As a marine, Gabe travelled the world. He worked days as a mechanic on the F18 fighter aircraft, afterwards jamming at a club on his base for enlisted personnel or, in Australia and Thailand, with local bands in hotel lobbies. Music became a way of reaching out and connecting to people with different professions and from different cultures.

Toward the end of his enlistment, he joined musicians he met at a San Diego beach bar to form a rock band and would later leave to join another band. He stayed in California until he met his wife, Erin, and moved back to the East Coast in 2002.

The year before, his wife had given him a steel drum. For a long time, it sat in its case untouched. Over time, Gabe grew weary of rock band politics. In 2006, he decided to strike out as a solo act. It was then he rediscovered the beautiful gift from his wife. It became the key to breaking away from the standard mold of the guitar-strumming folk rock singer.

Since returning East, Gabe has finished his degree, built a family and entered a more steady-paying career as an independent insurance agent, but he continues playing in Skippack and other towns and also for private parties and weddings. As he progresses through the stages of his life, The Tune Dude maintains and develops his musical voice; the beautiful steel drum notes that punctuate his songs underscore his individuality and creativity.

The Tune Dude is one of many wonderful musicians who play in Skippack. A few others: Dean Garofolo comes here to sing the songs of Elvis Presley (my favorite are his renditions of gospel songs that were interpreted by Elvis). Two of my wife’s favorite dance bands are Anna Marie and Kenny B and Plus 3 & Company. There is a wonderful rock and soul band called Cellar Ratz. Last night at Hotel Fiesole, I enjoyed a wonderful swing band called the The Wanamaker Lewis Band. My apologies to all the musicians and bands I neglect to mention: this blog is just beginning and there are many more entries to come.

Gabe Schick AKA The Tune Dude is available for gigs and private parties. Contact him at (609) 240-1767 or tunedude@thetunedude.net.

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Categories: Music, People