By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
People call Rick Webb an idiot. I do; and you can, too, because he makes up one half of The Idiots, his duo with Aaron Normand. The Idiots will be playing every Monday night at JAX Food and Games in Killington starting this winter. In the meantime, catch Webb solo there, Sunday nights. This interview was a blast because Webb and I joked about everything.
I want to make clear that this is Rick Webb and not Rick Springfield. That confusion almost never happens, but I don’t want this to be the rare time that it does. Speaking of the Clear [River Tavern], The Idiots play there, too and love it. “When you play there, Dougie and everyone makes you feel like you’re at home, like it’s their house.”
Of the shows, Webb said to expect the unexpected. “At any gig, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I know the songs that I play, but half the time I forget half the songs. Twenty-five percent of the time I forget the songs as I’m playing them. I just try and be myself on stage, really more than myself. It’s a nice opportunity to be as weird and goofy as I can.”
Many musicians use an iPad as a cheat sheet. Webb got himself a music stand for new songs he’s learning, but that’s as high tech as he gets. “Initially I wanted to be a Spice Girls cover band but Aaron was above it. I had to abandon that idea. I play Johnny Cash to classic rock, but our kind of classic rock. Not if you’re 18 and classic rock is Nirvana. I’m sticking with the old term because I refuse to grow up.” Last week he played REO Speedwagon and said, “I’m not afraid to admit that.” I’ve seen him play Hanson’s “MMMBop” which he said is “timeless.” He also plays early 90s alternative (that’s where Nirvana fits).
Webb likes playing obscure one-hit wonders. “To go along with what I said about forgetting lyrics – Aaron and I will play ‘500 Miles.’ Honest to God I had that cassette single and listened to it 100 times and I still don’t know the words. The last time we played it, I sang the first verse four times, nobody cared because all they wanna do is sing the ‘Da Da Da’ part.”
Webb (43) was born in Glens Falls, New York, but grew up in Gansevoort. His father, mother and cousin all play the guitar. He played violin in the fourth grade, then cello, and then his parents got him an electric bass in ninth grade. The first song he learned, taught by his cousin was “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which Webb said is “only three chords.” On his 16th birthday his parents bought him an acoustic guitar and the tab book for Guns N’ Roses “Lies.” “That made sense because the tab book I got with the bass was “Appetite for Destruction.” Webb used to dress up as Axl Rose and lip sync to the songs.
Webb wasn’t sure about being a full-time musician until just recently. He would see others play and think how cool it would be for him to do that. “Recently I started getting more local gigs and more gigs in Vermont and it just kind of fell into place.” His first pro gig was with his roommate Brian Pemrick in Rutland at Brownstone’s in 2000. Pemrick would record the shows and Webb thought they sounded great, until he listened. “It was so bad. I used to be so nervous before the shows.”
The Idiots came about in 2006 with Webb, Justin Pill and Tommy Kinnally. They first played at The Lookout and Phil Black asked their name and Kinnally said, “Idiots.” “It was perfect because that’s what we are –idiots,” Webb said. They had a semi-regular gig at the Outback and eventually Kinnally left and Normand came in. Webb remembers first meeting Normand. “We played a gig at Long Trail and Justin said to bring Aaron in for one song. It was ‘#41’ by Dave Matthews Band. During the outro, Aaron was playing the balusters [I had to look that up. It’s the part that holds up the handrail]. It blew me away. He was like a little animal, like a rabid raccoon with a mission.”
Go see The Idiots and see how perfect they are for each other. “You can’t call him [Normand] a brother because it’s beyond that. It’s like we’re on stage as a little marriage. We think of the same songs at the same time before we play it. It’s that dynamic we have. We’ve played together for over 12 years. I’ve never had this much fun when I play with Aaron than at any job or even doing anything. It’s ridiculous. I almost feel guilty getting paid for it because of how much fun I have. Not guilty enough not to get paid though.” Besides playing together they share the art of Uber-ing.
Webb enjoys this “job.” He can be himself and people love it. “Most people, some people, at least a few people love it. One or two people love it and I get to do it consistently. It’s such a release. If I’m having a bad day and I play music, I get it all out. One way or another. Either passive aggressively, picking on people which is awesome, or singing the hell out of a song that is nice.”