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Friday, October 3, 2014

Hot-Air Balloon Landing Gives STL Musicians a Surprise Meeting

Posted By on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Wade Durbin, second from right, and his girlfriend's family in front of the balloon of terror. - COURTESY OF WADE DURBIN
  • Courtesy of Wade Durbin
  • Wade Durbin, second from right, and his girlfriend's family in front of the balloon of terror.

The St. Louis music community is filled with so much talent that it's difficult to walk down a city street without running into at least one person who's in a band that plays regularly. But sometimes it takes a bird's-eye view to really bring the point home.

That's what Wade Durbin and Beth Bombara found out recently when Durbin's hot-air balloon made a surprise landing outside the Illinois studio where Bombara is recording her forthcoming album. It's one of those things that only happens in St. Louis. Or, you know, Oz.

It all started a year ago when Durbin -- bassist for indie-rock group Pretty Little Empire and guitarist for Misfits tribute band We Bite -- learned that his girlfriend's mother had bought a Groupon for tickets for the family to celebrate her birthday in a hot-air balloon. Redemption time finally rolled around on September 28, and the group headed to New Athens, Illinois. Durbin, who does not like heights, put on his game face.

"I've got sweaty palms, a sweaty upper lip, and the reality of this is just hitting me. The thing wasn't even assembled or out of the trailer yet," Durbin tells RFT Music.

Contrary to many people's assumptions, hot-air balloons aren't always inflated before riders arrive. But watching the 40-minute assembly wasn't good for an acrophobe like Durbin.

"I might have even been better about it had it been fully assembled," Durbin admits. "I just saw that they were using these locking carabiners to put everything together, and I'm like, 'Man, I don't want to see where the rabbit comes out of the hat.'"

The view from the balloon. - COURTESY OF WADE DURBIN
  • Courtesy of Wade Durbin
  • The view from the balloon.

Durbin took off in the balloon with his girlfriend's four family members and eleven other people, including the balloon crew. In a large, open-air wicker cab, the group flew over the Illinois countryside with no flight plan, literally going where the wind took them. Durbin stayed toward the center of the basket to keep his fear in check but still managed to catch some crazy views.

"The farmland is laid out like this big quilt, and that's cool," Durbin says. "We flew over this country farmhouse where people were out firing guns in this homemade range, and I'm like 'OK, let's not land there.' Are they planning for an apocalypse?"

Meanwhile, Bombara was recording tracks at Jettison Studios in New Athens for her fifth independent release, which she says may be available in the spring.

"I'm still working on a title, but it covers some musical ground that I've not explored until now," Bombara tells RFT Music. "But we were in the studio listening back to a vocal take, and the engineer got a call from his neighbor telling us to look outside because a hot-air balloon was coming in really close."

Continue to page two.

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