Two Acoustic guitar players find success by Virginia Grantier - Bismarck Tribune Never know what a Bismarck firefighter might do, if his name is Josh Peshek, 30 of Bismarck, who has this philosophy of grabbing for the gustoin life because he doesn't want to be on a deathbead someday with regrets about having left dreams untried.
"I'm not a person to stand back...I don't want to be a spectator," he said.
So even though Peshek knew only about eight chords on the guitar - and had only sung for church and high school musicals and such - somehow he got himself this part-time dream job of singing in a band and playing guitar for acoustic rock gigs here and at Dickinson. At places like the Prime Steer and Liquid Assets in Dickinson.
Maybe because his name was Josh? No.
"It was his bubbly personality," said a laughing same-named Josh Hewson, 33, of Bismarck, Hewson, an experienced lead guitarist, recruited Peshek to be the second, and last, person for Hewson's newest musical project - a two person acoustic-guitar duo.
Hewson, whose career is in law enforcement but who has played guitar since age 14, had been in an acoustic group called Adam's Bridge that had played gigs in the area back in about 2002. But that ended for him. About two years ago, he wanted to start up another acoustic situation and had heard through a grapevine the charismatic Peshek could sing. Something Hewson can't do.
Peshek, known to have an almost uninterupted smile on his face, his goal beign to "make every experience an enjoyable one," met Hewson in 2005 when Peshek was working at Stringbean Music & Coffee Shop, 510 East Main Ave. He worked there a few hours a week to be around the guitars.
Peshe was the one to teach the new employee Hewson how to make the different coffee drinks sold there. Hewson also had taken a part-time job there to be in the guitar atmosphere.
At some point, Hewson had heard Peshek had sung in church and school or something.
"He cornered me in a back room and asked me if I sang," Peshek said and laughed. "I asked him, 'Why?'
Hewson said the first time he heard Peshek sing he knew the voice, the raspiness, would lend itself well to rock tunes.
The first gig didn't happen right away. They honed for awhile, down in Hewson's basement guitar room - for about 1 1/2 years, give or take some breaks.
Finally, they decided they had to make the decision to go forward with having a real gig. "We decided we had to do it... try it once," Peshek said.
The new group, called Sportin' Wood, which has a couple of meanings including that they play acoustically, started out in a friendly company. They were entertaining for a garage full of for a Cinco de May party May 5, 2007. And that crowd was reportedly pleased, and surprised at what therir two friends could really do.
That was unpaid. Now, they've been getting paid, they have had about 15 paid gigs, in the last six months.
The duo plays some edgy comedic tunes by people such as comedian Steve Lynch and Jonathan Coulton, a folk guitarist. "If it makes us laugh, let's do it," is Sportin' Woods outlook. But they mainly do rock tunes, focus on rock standards - such as AC/DC's "Big Balls," and REO Speedwagons "Take It On The Run." They play at an acoustic volume level, which audience members like because they can have their music and still converse with friends at the same time.
"It's fun acoustic," according to a description by Correy Pierce, a local guitarist who also does sound production for local bands. "Josh makes the same old standards seem fun, just in the way he sings them, his inflection.. He doesn't seem to go through the motions. It's unique."
"He's got the voice."
Peshek's co-worker firefighter Rusty Krikava said he knew Peshek could sing.
He hears him at the fire station, "all too often," he said and laughed. "No, he sounds really good."
Sportin' Wood doesn't like stages. They like to play on the same elevation with the customers. However Hewson sometimes takes to clambering onto a bar, while all the while still playing his lead guitar gicks - a real crowd pleaser.
They're known for their in-between song self-deprecating banter. The two are targets for each other, all in fun.
Venues, restaurants, and bars, which often have trouble fitting a live band in their space, like the duo in part because the two guitarists take so little space. And it's a simple set-up. Basically they just bring in their guitars.
Hewson said if they did the typical bar band thing they'd have to find a drummer, a bass player, more people, more problems, complications and those gigs last usually into the wee hours. Hewson, married with a 4-year old son doesn't want that.
Peshek, a pastor's son whose parents played a lot of Beach Boys music, never thought he'd be playing in front of people. In his hometown of Pelican Rapids, Minn., Peshek was into water skiing and at one time planned to grow up to be a pro on the water skiing tour. He ended up in sales in Fargo, selling motorcycles and boats and such, but it wasn't an active enough lifestyle and he latched on to a firefighting career when at age 22 he saw a recruitment display. He said in his job he sees people on their worst day, but likes that he's there to help.
At 24, he picked up the guitar for fun, learned about three or four chords, never took lessons.
Hewson meanwhile was growing up with his grandparents in Dickinson, who were enthusiastic about his interst in guitar because he spent hours downstairs perfecting songs and so he was staying out of trouble. Now, in his Bismarck home, he has a sanctuary downstairs that looks like a guitar shop showcase, his guitar collection in rows ont he walls. Nearby are shelves of CDs, maybe 1,000 he guesses. And there's memorabillia, posters and pictures of his idols, like Eric Clapton.
Hewson's son, Conor, is named in after Clapton's son who died. "I thought it was a fitting tribute," Hewson said. It doesn't stop there. Conor Hewson's middle name is Patrick, which is Eric Clapton's middle name.
Peshek said Hewson is the intense planner, the one who has thime of departure for a gig down to the minute, has equipment ready, various details with the venue worked out. "I just have to show up," Peshek said.
And bring his sense of humor. "He makes me laugh," Hewson said. It's fun and it's more than that. Peshek said this phase of his life fits into his life philosophy. "To stand up in front of people (and play), you're putting yourself on the line," he said.
He can sum it up in a song, of course, in singer Garth Brooks' "Standing Outside the Fire," in which Brooks laments those who basically just watch life while others try.
Peshek plans to keep trying.
(Reporter Virginia Granter can be reached at 250-8254 or at firstname.lastname@example.org)