Chat with Steve Mason, Alferd Packer Memorial String Band Member

April 17, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

It's said that nothing is certain, except death and taxes. Well, in Lawrence -- there's one other certainty tied to the latter part of that statement: a performance by the Alferd Packer Memorial String Band on Tax Day. Steve Mason, a member of the band, will join us at 2 p.m. -- just hours before the group conducts its annual Post Office concert at 7th and Vermont -- greeting last-minute filers with a party-like atmosphere of bluegrass tunes and roadkill stew. Chat with Steve about the history of the band, the reasons for the Tax Day concert and other topics.

Moderator:

Hello, this is Eric Weslander from the Journal-World, here to moderate a chat with Steve Mason of the Alferd Packer Memorial String Band.

Steve Mason:

It's nice to be here. This building is beautiful.

Moderator:

But enough small talk. Let's get down to business. You're chatting with us today because your band plays a traditional, time-honored gig on tax day at the downtown post office. How did it get started?

Steve Mason:

In 1986 I paid my taxes at the last minute. I had that let down of presure like when you've just finished an exam. I wanted to party, but there was no party. The next year, 1987, we had a visit from an ex band member and we were looking for a place to jam. The Post Office popped into my head. Great acoustics and a built in audience. We thought that they would throw us out, but they invited us back the next year. This is the 20th year we have played at the Main Post Office on Tax Night.

Moderator:

For people who haven't experienced the tax-night concert, what are a couple of the stranger traditions that happen there?

Steve Mason:

The crowd forms a gauntlet from the door of the post office to the inner door. The band plays The William Tell Overture and everyone claps along and cheers whenever a new late filer appears at the door. They charge toward the door with their heads down, just trying to get their taxes in by the 7:00 deadline, they come through the door and are greated by a wild party.

gayle:

Will there be dancing tonight?

Steve Mason:

Mike Rundle will call dances between 8:00 and 8:30. Other musicians are invited to join the Packer Band to make music for the dancing. Mike will also clog dance earlier in the night. Although retired, he's still the best tap dancing politician in the state.

trombeck:

What was it like the year Ralph Nader showed up for the tax party?

Steve Mason:

There are wide smiling, glad-handing politicians. Ralph is not one of them. We were ecstatic to see him. He kind of looked like he was afraid that we might bite him. Not, of course, an unfounded fear.

Moderator:

Who's the weirdest member of the band and why?

Steve Mason:

I think we pride ourselves on taking turns being the weirdest member. The thing I most love about being in the Alferd Packer Memorial String Band is the wit and even wisdom of the other band members. We drive 5 or 8 hours to a gig and never turn on the radio. The others entertain me.

trombeck:

You play bluegrass music at tax time. Wouldn't the blues be more appropriate?

Steve Mason:

yes

Moderator:

What's your fondest memory from the 20 years of doing the concert?

Steve Mason:

I've forgotten. No, really, it all flows together as a fun time. I have enjoyed watching people grow up or grow old. People that I just see once a year at the tax night party. Watching their children grow.

Moderator:

How do you describe the style of music you'll be playing tonight?

Steve Mason:

I like to describe our music by saying that people enjoy the music that they know. If you are trying to play a style that they don't know you have to give them other things beside the music. We like to add costumes and humor to the mix. We are in the ongoing tradition of old time music. We write most of our music so we are not technically preserving anyones tradition. But, musicians like to ramble about defining their musical style. When you hear us, you'll say "That's Bluegrass" and be done with it.

Moderator:

If I remember correctly, your costume includes a snakeskin top hat. What other supplies do you need to get into gear for a show?

Steve Mason:

We have a large cacaphony of noise making instruments. Jim Brothers is in charge of loading our fire arms and collecting and cleaning them after the show. We stopped using the guns in the show after 9/11. They didn't seem as funny and they were hard to get through airports. The band decided to start using them again. Enough time has passed. We won't be using them tonight though. Gun play in a post office? It's sooo been done.

Moderator:

Time for just a couple more: The post office used to stay open until midnight on tax day, but this marks the second year it's closed at 7 p.m. How has the earlier cutoff changed the event?

Steve Mason:

It all made better sense closing at midnight. The official tax deadline is Midnight. If you miss the 7:00 deadline in Lawrence, you can drive to Kansas City by midnight. But there are some good things about the earlier closing. Kids can come and still make it to school the next day. I can come and still make it to work the next day. We will be playing from 6:30 to 9:00. The Inner doors will close at 7:00. No more mail accepted. We have always played in the outer lobby anyway.

Moderator:

That's all the time we have today. Steve, thanks for coming in to chat with us. Break a leg tonight.

Steve Mason:

Yak, yak, yak everyone is talking about Asian pack animals.

Comments

Compy 8 years, 1 month ago

journal world. please stop making my life so difficult. why couldnt you mention the time change in the article. or even the time of the event at all, somewhere, on this whole site, or lawrence.com, for anyone to find. why publish the date and time and place of an event at all if it's going to be after the fact - or only a few hours before the event.. i just assumed the hoe down was still at midnight, as it had been in the past. well, i'll remember next year - how the world company once again dropped the ball on information i needed.

Jillster 8 years, 1 month ago

Compy, you just aren't looking in the right places:

The time change at the post office is in this article. It closed at 7pm last year, too.

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