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King for a Day ... or More: Caroline’s Spine, April 30 at RIBCO PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 22 April 2010 07:37

Caroline's Spine

When Caroline's Spine plays RIBCO on April 30, the guy behind the drum kit will likely be more familiar to the audience than the band itself. Greg Hipskind, the longtime drummer for the Quad Cities quartet Wicked Liz & the Bellyswirls, has been the touring drummer for Caroline's Spine since last fall.

The Phoenix, Arizona-based alt-rock group, led by singer/songwriter Jimmy Newquist, had a pair of albums on Hollywood Records in the late 1990s. "Sullivan," based on the true story of the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo who died in World War II, was a modest hit. The band also had songs on the soundtracks to An American Werewolf in Paris and Varsity Blues in the company of Bush, Skinny Puppy, Green Day, Foo Fighters, Collective Soul, and Van Halen, among others.

Caroline's Spine never made as much of a splash as those bands, but it got airplay on independent radio stations and developed a loyal following in the Midwest and cities such as Dallas and Phoenix.

"Places that have always had corporate radio like the Quad Cities does, they never got a whole lot of radio play," Hipskind said. For that reason, he said, their gig at RIBCO will be their first Quad Cities appearance.

Hipskind said he remembers seeing the band eight or so years ago at Cedar Rapids' Third Street Live. He was never a big fan, but "Sullivan" stuck with him, and he lauded the group's high-energy show.

He said he got a call from a friend last June asking him if he remembered Caroline's Spine. "They need a drummer," his friend told him. "Are you available?" Hipskind got in touch with the band's manager and completed an audio test (drumming along to recordings of songs the band plays live) and a video tryout.

"It's a big show," Hipskind said. "They wanted to make sure I'm not sitting back there like Charlie Watts -- not moving."

After passing those tests, Hipskind had to learn the 20 or so songs the band plays live. "It's definitely more difficult drumming" than Wicked Liz, he said. He thought at first that he might be able to learn them by ear, but he ended up charting the drum parts of each song -- with each track taking 45 minutes to an hour. "It was a good time investment, I'll tell you that much," Hipskind said.

When the band closed last year's Taste of Madison -- Candlebox was the headliner the other night -- Hipskind was playing his second show. After seven performances with Caroline's Spine last fall, Hipskind was asked to join. In total, he's played roughly a dozen gigs. He said his favorite songs to play live are set opener "King for a Day" and "Monsoon" -- both from the band's 1997 major-label debut.

The drummer said he initially thought Caroline's Spine was simply another '90s band trying to cash in on fans' memories. "I didn't even know they were still around, playing live," he said.

But a pair of singles from the band's 2008 album, Work It Out, have "gotten tons of radio play," Hipskind said, adding that he hopes Caroline's Spine can continue to build its audience.

Another drummer is working with the band's other members on a new studio album ("I don't even know the new music yet"), and Hipskind said the current arrangement has its roots in financial common sense; it's cheaper to pay him and cover his travel and lodging expenses than flying a drummer around the country. "Money-wise [for the band], it works out better this way," he said.

But Hipskind said the gig has a bit of a rock-star vibe, with limos and autograph sessions. "In all honesty, I'd do it for free," he said.

Caroline's Spine will perform on Friday, April 30, at RIBCO (1815 Second Avenue, Rock Island). The bill also includes Head Held High, and the show starts at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $8.

For more information on Caroline's Spine, visit

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