August 1995-1997
"Paying the Dues" years

The album "Busker Soundcheck" was released by Fuse Records in August 1995. Busker took off on a series of tours and mini tours and the record sold an "indie" respectable 5000 copies before Fuse folded. Great reviews, and considerable radio play for the opening track "Gool" (mp3). A remixed version of "Trip To Mars" is on here, some strange hidden tracks, the epic "Take It Easy with That Thing" and the standard Busker range of dynamics, from the heavy duty "Helium Cannonball" to the folky "Chunk of Coal".

Red Tower Records - In Store Show 8/95 - Photographer unknown
Sold 100 copies of the Busker Soundcheck CD that night.
Enough CD's were sold in the first two weeks after release to earn a brief spot on the Billboard Top Indie 100. Lots of hometown fans made the record the #1 of the week at stores such as Red Tower and Crow's Nest. Busker headed back to the southeast for shows in the Carolinas, Virginia, West VA, Georgia, and then a trip to CMJ in New York with stops along the way and back. Once again, the record got fantastic reviews in many national and local magazines and newspapers.
One bizarre weekend excursion found the band heading for Minneapolis, where the temperature reportedly was heading below the continental U.S. record of -65o F. The Busker van made it to the Uptown on Hennepin, the show went on to a small, brave crowd, and the next night the band  headed to Iowa State U. in Ames, Iowa where it was a mere 45 below. Ever see transmission fluid freeze? The next morning Hillary Clinton was giving a speech in the student union, and the secret service entrance was the same as the band equipment unloading door. Around 10 AM Paul went to load gear into the van, only to be pinned to the wall by Secret Service agents who called him a "communist". It finally worked out that the gear got loaded, just in time for Hillary to end her speech, with the Busker van chugging out of Ames in the middle of the First Lady's entourage, and following all the way to Cedar Rapids. (FBI records support this). The show at Steb's that night with NIL8 was great, and the following late afternoon, driving back to Chicago, the temperature had climbed to a balmy +3o F. "It's 3o" was nearly spontaneous as the band loaded gear into the practice spot that Sunday night. It was recorded on a 4 track cassette machine.
Photo by Brandy B.
The Busker Soundcheck Holiday Show tradition took hold at the Empty Bottle show in 1996. There had been several Christmas shows previously, but this time around it was previewed in the Reader, the Sun-Times and on the radio, including a killer review for the new "Wesley Lee Roth" CD. Tons of people showed up on a cold night and Busker let loose with an holiday set - over an hour of Yuletide tunes, including the first time for "Little Drummer Boy Jam" and others. Christmas shows followed at Metro ('97) Lounge Ax ('98) and Double Door ('99). These were fun.
WXRT continued to support the band, and Q101 and Rock 103.5 were alll playing different tracks off the Busker Soundcheck CD. Busker followed it up with the EP Wesley Lee Roth at the end of 1996. The CD - "It's 3" "Cyberhigh" and "Wesley Willis" was recorded on a 4-track cassette machine. In 1997 a four song CD was recorded at Trax Studios which included an early version of  "Come On Around". After a very busy 1996 (one tour with NIL8 the band played 5 shows in 3 days), and trip to the east coast for another CMJ Festival, most of the shows in 1997 were on weekends in the midwest, frequently in Kansas City, Wisconsin, downstate Illinois and Iowa. Busker played a lot of shows with the Spelunkers, an outstanding band from Bloomington, Illinois.
St. Louis 1995 Brandy Brandt

New York City around Christmas 1996 - Bobbe Willis
Moving into 1996 and '97, the mood of the band and the Chicago scene wasn't as optimistic as before. The big Chicago signing frenzy had not produced any big sellers, and the overall rock spirit in Chicago was dampened. "Indie" bands were now just major label bands in vans, trying to look like the next Nirvana or Pearl Jam. "Alternative" music was already just a music industry label. And if you were still an actual "indie - alternative - underground" band, you now had to compete with bands for gigs and press that had the heavy hand of the music industry pushing them along. Busker needed a kickstart, and an engineer named Johnny K, a fellow southsider who had seen the band at PJ Flaherty's way back, seemed like the right guy to record the new crop of Busker tunes.

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