Walter Bitner

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Hooteroll? & The Forest Ride Again

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Saturday, November 13, 2021 at 6 pm
The 5 Spot, 1006 Forrest Avenue, Nashville 37206
$10 / COVID restrictions apply


click images to enlarge

Although the upheavals of the last two years have brought many difficulties and challenges to my life, as they have to everyone else’s, there have also been some silver linings. Any major dude will tell you.

This is the story of a silver lining.

The Forest, our band formed initially in 2018 to perform Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, reunites for a double bill with Hooteroll? at Nashville’s The 5 Spot on November 13, 2021. This will be the first time I’ve performed with The Forest since we performed with Hooteroll? at The 5 Spot on July 20, 2019, on the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk.

That 5 Spot show was unforgettable for so many reasons. Sharing a show with Hooteroll? was something Mike Lawson and I thought up when The Forest was doing our first run of DSotM shows at The Barbershop Theater in October 2018 (Mike is Hooteroll?‘s guitarist and my editor at Choral Director and School Band & Orchestra magazines) and the 5 Spot show was the first opportunity we found to make it happen. In honor of the anniversary we played recordings from the original broadcast of the moonwalk as part of the famous “travel sequence” On The Run in our half of the show – our complete performance of The Dark Side of the Moon.


Hooteroll? performs at The 5 Spot, Nashville, July 20, 2019 (l to r) Rich Mahan, Joe Bidewell, Mark Pavlack, Mark Shenkel aka Smiley, Travis Collinsworth, Mike Lawson.


Between the time we booked the gig and the night of the show, I had accepted my current position in Richmond so it was an especially bittersweet night for me. I fully expected at the time that it would be my last performance with The Forest, and my last gig in Nashville – we were in the middle of packing up our home and getting ready to move.


The Forest at The 5 Spot, Nashville, July 20, 2019 (l to r) Kate Atanian, Michael McLemore, Alex Blizniak, WB, Ryan Middagh, Eric Brewer, Danesa Harper, Andrew Guinn.


The last two years since that 5 Spot show have been a tumultuous, unexpected journey: seven months after we moved to Richmond, the world fell into the grip of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

For my first seven months in Richmond I did not hear from my friends in the band often – I was busy learning my job, my new organization, our new city. We spoke from time to time. The idea of using technology to continue our music-making – and our friendship – never occurred to us. For all intents and purposes, it seemed as if we had moved on.

The Forest “band practice” on Zoom, July 22, 2020

Many things changed when life as we knew it shut down in March 2020. Working remotely and isolated at home, Michael, Alex, Eric, and I began meeting weekly on Zoom by April to commiserate, trade stories, drink beer, and geek out about what brought us together in the first place: music. Weeks became months, and Wednesday night “band practice” became a staple of our lives. The pandemic roared on with no end in sight – we all stepped up our technology game. The “band chat” – a standing text message group – became a regular facet of our lives. I started learning how to use Logic Pro and when we moved into a house in August 2020, I began to assemble a home recording studio in the room above our garage. We swapped gear recommendations, shared recordings over the internet, played on each others’ projects. We experimented with different platforms and strategies for reducing latency and improving audio quality.

The pandemic had brought the band back together.


(l to r) Alex, Eric, Walter, Michael in the forest, October 25, 2020


Being in The Forest has meant a lot to me – to each of us. Pulling together to perform DSOTM back in 2018 was a big effort, and forged powerful bonds of friendship, bonds we might not have realized if the pandemic hadn’t intervened and reordered everyone’s priorities.

Some guys have a weekly poker night with their buddies, a home brew club, hunt or fish together, tailgate at football games…. we play in a rock ‘n’ roll band.

The Forest rehearsal, October 23, 2021

The passage of time brings changes, and we have seen each other through a few of these. Every one of the band’s core members has changed jobs in the last three years, some of us more than once. Andrew stopped living like a vampire after 18 years of working the graveyard shift. Three of us moved house – two of us moved twice. A baby was born, kids graduated. Some of us had health issues, surgeries, and at least one of us got COVID (we are all vaccinated now). All of us grieved for family or friends who died.

It was natural for us to wish to get back together and play again – music is what brought us together in the first place and forged our bonds of friendship. So we did. Four of us met for a retreat in the mountains in October 2020, and after everyone was vaccinated, The Forest began practicing in person again, our hard-won pandemic technology skills enabling me to participate remotely from Richmond. I have also traveled to Nashville to play with most of the original band this year – Eric (lead vocals), Alex (guitar), Michael (bass), Andrew (drums), Kate (vocals).


The Forest, May 21, 2021


We’re excited for our first performance in public together since the pandemic began. If you’re in Nashville and free the evening of November 13 we hope you’ll come by! Our set this time will feature a variety of what my kids call “Dad Rock” – late 60s and 70s rock ‘n’ roll. Overall you can expect more uptempo set tunes this time than the mostly mellow DSOTM we have become known for, and yes we will still play some Pink Floyd!

Keep up with the band on our new website!

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