When I asked Zach Hackney and Chris Webster how they came up with their band name, Vaguely Familiar, they answered by just reading off some songs from their typical set list. “We play Night Moves by Bob Seeger, Feathered Indians by Tyler Childress, Slow Dancing in a Burning Room by John Mayer, and Cover Me Up by Jason Isbell, just to name a few,” said Zach. “They’re popular songs, but not super popular. When we start playing the opening strains of a song I can see the audience snapping their fingers and saying ‘Wait, wait, don’t tell me, I know this one’!”
I caught a set of their songs at the Rivertown Grill last Saturday and it was really fun and engaging to try to guess the next song coming up. They started up on a tune and it was just so darn familiar, but it wouldn’t quite come to me. Until they got to the chorus. It was “Patience” by Guns N‘ Roses.
But it’s not just the novelty of their eclectic song list. These guys can play and sing! The show was very entertaining and highly professional.
“Chris and I go way back,” says Zach. “I went to Madison High School and Chris was a little ahead of me at Southwestern. We had a band when we were very young called Rock Box with Mitch and Matt Marsh. Chris was lead guitar and they pulled me in for rhythm guitar and vocals.”
“I also had a band called The Weekend Classic,” after Rock Box, adds Chris. “It was a pop punk band, and we toured the US for about four years solid. But then life happened, as it usually does. I got married and had a kid. Zach has two kids now, with another on the way. We both took a break from playing music.”
Zach picks up the story, “Then about a year ago we decided to get back together, just the two of us, and start playing some shows. So we started rehearsing and started building our set list. Then COVID hit. So we kept rehearsing. And we rehearsed some more. And we added more songs. We have about three hours of songs now without a problem, maybe even more.
“I guess Chris and I know each other so well from the early days, it just feels so comfortable to be back playing together again. I think we have confidence in our playing now that maybe we didn’t when we were so young.”
“We sound great!” Chris chimes in. “It just feels right, and it came together so easily. All the old songs came back, but even the new ones we pick out seem to fall right into place.
“Anyway, next thing we know a year has passed since we began rehearsing and it’s early 2021. Time to get out there! We did a show at The Taproom and a couple at Rivertown Grill. We’d like to play some shows at Mad Paddle and maybe Red Bicycle Hall. But we’re just getting started, looking for more places to play and share our unique sound.”
“The music scene in Madison is growing by leaps and bounds,” continues Zach. “I work in Kentucky and I travel around a bit, and people from other areas and states view Madison as a kind of little Nashville, a music city. We want to be part of that growth. We want to help make it happen.”
HOT TIP OF THE WEEK
Looking a week ahead to St. Patrick’s Day on Wednesday, March 17, we have a couple of fun options for live music and Irish celebration. At Mad Paddle Brewstillery Rusty Bladen will be bringing his brand of high energy fun, along with his special backing band the Feckin’ Eejits. I’ll not be translatin’ that band name fer ye, as it lies well beyond my ken. For a slightly more traditional experience you can also head over to Thomas Family Winery on Wednesday where I’m sure Steve will have some Irish fare on hand, and a fun Celtic music jam happening around the tables. Bring your instrument if you want to join in.
This Week in Music
Thursday, March 11
Mad Paddle Brewery — Brian Hopkins
Friday, March 12
Mad Paddle Brewery — Tracy & Elaine
Off Broadway Taproom — Anthony Ray Wright
Saturday, March 13
Mad Paddle Brewery — Jordan Tyler Band
Thomas Family Winery — Croghan’s Crossing
Off Broadway Taproom — Joe Clark
Wednesday, March 17
Mad Paddle Brewery — Rusty Bladen St. Patty’s Party
Thomas Family Winery — Celtic Jam Session
Charlie Rohlfing is a retired advertising man and partner in The Red Bicycle Hall music venue. Look for his distinctive fedora bobbing above the crowd, anywhere live local music is happening.