Rob Webster is the town’s jukebox.
The local musician, who has been playing out and about locally as a solo performer for about the past 12 years, has amassed a catalog in his head of songs from the pop-culture canon. Whether he’s playing with his simple stage set-up with his acoustic guitar, or setting up his full-blown looping rig affording him the option to simulate a full band, he’s prepared to fulfill just about any request. Webster’s next show is Saturday at Union Social House.
His human-jukebox approach was nothing more than a desire to learn some of his favorite songs, which grew into a quest to learn some of everyone’s favorite songs.
“I just started playing everything, and that progressed. And as I got older, I had people asking me, ‘Do you know this, do you know that,’ and to try to please everybody, I started learning. I’m well up over 600 songs that I know how to play now just off the top of my head, let alone ones that are buried in there somewhere,” Webster said. “I always tell people, ‘Name me three of your favorite bands, or three of your favorite tunes.’ Chances are pretty good that I’ll know something by that artist, and if I don’t, I’ll know something along those lines. So it’s trying to please everybody, it’s been a lot of fun.”
Webster grew up in a Northwest Chicago suburb, coming from a family full of artists that included a drumming father. He followed in the footsteps of his dad, playing drums in a punk band before a guitar fell in his lap.
“An old girlfriend of mine’s parents got divorced and bought her a guitar, and she wanted nothing to do with it,” he said. “So I decided I’d start playing the guitar, and I started playing it. I was playing Nirvana, Green Day. It went from there.”
Webster then went on to perform around Chicago, which led to a meeting with the owners of the then newly opened Derailed Pour House. They recruited him to come to Durango to play their grand opening, which ultimately led to him coming to Durango every three months to play shows. Finally, he packed up the family and moved.
He’s hit it hard ever since, playing four to five nights a week around the area. When the unwanted guest that refuses to leave pulled into town in March, he switched over to playing internet shows. Now approaching his 14th week of playing cyber-concerts via Facebook Live each Monday, each week is sponsored by one of the venues he normally plays; it’s a way for him to still connect with the venues, and to let his audience know those venues are still there, waiting patiently for a return to “normal.”
The adage of when your plate is full you need to clear something off to make room for something new doesn’t fly with Webster. His solution to the full-plate syndrome is to “eat faster.” The man stays busy, writing originals tunes and adding to his jukebox repertoire, while keeping up with the day-to-day grind of the business and performance end of a musician’s schedule.
“People that don’t know about the music industry think we just sit on a barstool and just play our guitars. But there’s countless hours of emails, phone calls, text messages, Facebook, Instagram, and blah-blah-blah that goes into making it happen,” Webster said. “It’s a constant hustle. I wish we had 32 hours in the day, because I’d set aside six hours for sleep and the other 26 to get everything else done that I want to get done.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.