by Dan Bolles
Once upon a time, my dearly departed family band, The Middle 8, was playing a show in the cozy confines of Burlington's 1/2 Lounge — no easy feat for a sextet with an upright bass and accordion. We had a decent crowd that night, certainly befitting our 7D designation as "alt-country darlings" — thank you, Ethan Covey!
In between tunes, our co-front man Dave Stockhausen delivered a wince-inducing one-liner. Though the exact line escapes me, I can tell you that among our finer qualities — hooky twang-pop, sugary four-part harmony, etc. — stage banter was never really our strong suit. After a short, awkward lull — and maybe a passing tumbleweed and chirping crickets — a familiar voice echoed from the back of the room, "You should stick to music!"
Following a pregnant pause, the room erupted in laughter, including the band. Looking out into the crowd, we noticed our old pals, The Jazz Guys, at a booth, yukking it up — there may or may not have been some awkward white guy high-fivin' as well. Without missing a beat, Dave raised his gaze from the guitar tuner on the floor, glared at JG's bassist Herb van der Poll, the speaker of the remark, and coolly offered his retort: "And you should stick to comedy."
Oh. No. He. Didn't!
Actually, he did. The room again exploded at Stockhausen's riposte. Even Herb tipped his hat — I don't think he was actually wearing one, but you get the idea. It may have been the only time The Middle 8 was ever funny.
Herb van der Poll, on the other hand, is consistently funny. Long before The Jazz Guys blossomed into a seriously tight, lean, mean rock machine, their calling card was humor, particularly van der Poll. His "Letters to the Band" shtick is still probably my favorite of their many, many gags.
Though The Jazz Guys are presumably biding their time while guitarist Maarten van der Poll does whatever it is that he's doing in Thailand, it appears they're keeping busy. And still making with the funny. Exhibit A: this new vid from Stuck in Vermont auteur Eva Sollberger, which features Herb in the "role" of a mincing record store clerk, interviewed for the BBC by reporter Henrietta Henspecker. Enjoy.