Ben Grillet

Ben Grillet

After hitting the Sioux City music scene more than a decade ago, Ben Grillet, 40, sets some attainable goals for himself.

"I wanted to play (the Motorcycle Rally) in Sturgis, S.D., and I wanted to play Awesome Biker Nights. Both things happened for me," the veteran musician from such past groups as Red Dirty Turkeys and GypsyLover, explained. 

So, what about Saturday in the Park?

"Nah, I thought playing Saturday in the Park was only a pipe dream for me," Grillet, the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for Ben Grillet & The Black Bloods, said. "That is, until (SITP co-founder) Dave Bernstein called a few weeks ago, asking if July 6 was open.

"I told Bernstein that we have a gig in Nebraska that day, but I thought he had the Abe Stage lineup already set," Grillet said, recalling his conversation. "Then, Bernstein said, 'No, I don't want you and The Black Bloods on the Abe Stage. I want you guys to play the main stage.'"

Grillet let that sink in for a moment before telling Bernstein: "Um ... we'll reschedule our Nebraska gig."

It's true. Grillet, along with his Black Blood bandmates, lead guitarist Tucker Long, bass guitarist Eric Meek and drummer/backup vocalist Steve Carlson, will be bringing a "Red Dirt Country" sound to the 29th Saturday in the Park at 12:30 p.m. July 6 in Grandview Park's Bandshell.

Congratulations on SITP! That's so exciting, man!

"Thanks, being on the main stage will be cool! Being a part of a lineup that includes George Thorogood will be awesome!"

But you've paid your dues. How did you get started in Sioux City?

"I was at (the former) Pete's 20th Street Tap when I met (bassist) Eran Ellerbeck and just connected. That first night, we started playing an acoustic set and didn't stop until closing time. That was ten years ago and still one of the best nights of my life."

I know you and Eran eventually started Red Dirty Turkeys, right?

"Yeah, the two of us played all acoustic sets for a while, but we missed being in a band. We hooked up with (guitarist) Mitch Martin and (drummer) Matt Van Meter."

But Red Dirty Turkeys ended when Eran moved out of town, right?

"Knowing Eran was leaving, I was already looking ahead."

To GypsyLover?

"Uh-huh. That was me, (guitarist) Tucker Long, (bassist) Josh Ronfeldt and (drummer) Steve Carlson. For a while, GypsyLover was hotter than s---."

Oh, I remember. It was a great group.

"But that band ended. I went back to playing acoustic sets but began to miss my road brothers. Tucker, Steve and Eric Meek have been the Black Bloods ever since."

Seems like you guys play all the time.

"If I could play fours nights a week, I would play four nights a week. I try to limit our engagements in Sioux City to keep things fresh."

That's cool. It seems like you've stayed true to "Red Dirt Country" roots, though.

"Well, this may be the result of me being stubborn more than anything else. I like country and I grew up listening to Waylon Jennings, George Jones and Merle Haggard. However, I also love Stone Temple Pilots, Motley Crue and Faith No More. I have plenty of musical influences."

Ben, you've been a part of the local musical scene for a while. You've seen band come and go and musicians move around from band to band. What's it like being a musician in Sioux City?

"Honestly, it's a bit like 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon' where you going, OK, that guy's in this band when he used to be over there. We all become 'kissing cousins' after a while."

Not disagreeing there at all.

"You know what? This is a great time to be a musician and a music fan in Sioux City. There are so many great young musicians around as well as places for them to play. If you wanna hear an acoustic set, there are places for that. If you wanna hear a band, there's places for that as well.

Yup, there's something for every musical taste.

"And if for some reason, I can't play music anymore. Well, that would be OK. But no matter what park bench I land on, I'll know I'll have plenty of interesting stories to tell."


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