By Jack Hittinger, Anthony Gonzalez and Matt Schonert
Collegian Reporters and Freelancers
Ralph Heibutzki -- known by his stage name "Chairman Ralph" -- entertained a relatively small yet content crowd with a set of fun acoustic punk numbers, both covers and originals, on Saturday night at the Hillsdale Annex.
Opening of Heibutzki, who said that he gets his "Chairman" nickname from the Iggy Pop line, "I'm bored, I'm bored/I'm the chairman of the board," was Peter Cromwell, another local resident (and graduate of Hillsdale College) who played finger style guitar, mostly covers of Southern and classic rock groups like the Marshall Tucker Band and The Rolling Stones.
Heibutzki's style varied from Cromwell's more technical playing. His songs are punk through and through, with simple chord progressions and humorous wordplay that were at times political.
"I Fired The Dog," a crowd-pleaser that Heibutzki says he always plays, was a commentary on companies arbitrarily firing workers. In the song, Heibutzki sang about about firing everyone he knows: his dog, his wife, his son and his friends.
"There are graveyards full of indispensable men," sang Heibutzki in "I Fired The Dog." He explained that songs like "I Fired The Dog" as well as "Empire and Industry" were about being fired, drawing attention to recent layoffs in the auto industry. "Mission Statement" poked fun at companies with politically correct mission statements, while "Adult Schoolyard" compared the lives of adults to nothing more than schoolyard games.
Because of the smaller crowd, Heibutzki felt at liberty to improvise a little more and jam on a few of his songs.
"My fingers get the jammy feeling that happens to a lot of us up here," he explained afterwards. "My concerts are like the Mad Hatter. When you to go to his house for a party, you play by his rules."
Heibutzki was very talkative, conversing with crowd members often, and even made up some songs on the spot with lyrics about people in the audience. He elicited a laugh from the crowd when he made fun of a leaving concertgoer's Slipknot jacket.
Other highlights included covers of famous punk songs such as The Clash's "White Riot."
In addition to being a musician, Heibutzki has also published a book, called Unfinished Business: The Life and Times Of Danny Gatton, which is available on Amazon.com. Heibutzki is in the process of writing a book on the Minneapolis/St. Paul music scene, which includes popular artists such as Prince as well as legendary punks like The Replacements and Husker Du.
(Hillsdale Daily Collegian, 2/16/06)