Meet the Fare Boys


Its been a long journey

My first musical memories are of Chet Atkins and Sons of the Pioneers on my parents’ RCA Console stereo -- me with my plastic Roy Rogers guitar.

My first single, The Monkees' I’m a Believer /Not yer Steppin’ Stone -- really turned it up for me: I wanted to be like Mike Nesmith, and play a Gretsch Guitar – like Mike.

However, my first guitar was not a Gretsch. It was a very used Kay Super Jumbo Concert. It felt like I was playing an upright bass on my lap, but I was determined. With the help of some Black Diamond strings, and evil prodding by my brother, I conquered that beast.

My music moved on from the Monkees to the Beatles, and John Denver, and to the music on my brother’s 8-track: The Moody Blues, Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears (he played trumpet.)

My eclectic musical tastes really bloomed when my Mom worked at the Public Library. I spent time every week in the music section, finding my earliest influences: Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck, and David Gilmore. The library also introduced me to Jazz: George Benson, D’jango Rheinhardt, Al DiMeola.

Even with all of this Eclectic Electric music running in my brain, I still leaned toward playing the "folkies:" Dylan, The Eagles, Paul Simon, James Taylor and, yes, John Denver. Then the High School Jazz Band came knocking, and I began studying to audition.

I worked diligently on theory and reading, which prepared me naught for the most frustrating and unfair "NO" that I had ever experienced. Armed with a head full of chords, a Univox Les Paul and a bizarre Pawn Shop Accordion Amp; I was ready.

The audition was over before it started though, when my “partner” (a 9th grader on bass) leaned over, and in a panicked whisper, asked "What does the ‘B’ with a little ’b’ beside it mean?" (Note: that is a B-Flat)

I immediately raised my hand to get a new audition partner, but was denied. Then, after the most atrocious musical moment possible, I was summarily dismissed, with a "…Tough luck… You may leave." I have been a little rough on bass players ever since.

Instead of throwing my guitar away in disgust, I doubled down for another year of theory, arrangements and improvisation. The most important lessons: Owning an "out" note, and making it work in context, playing "in the moment," and the art of the "great song." I found that a great song can be played in almost any genre, and I have been re-purposing songs ever since.

This allowed me to return to Jazz Band auditions with a bit more attitude. The only problem: they were auditioning vocalists, not guitarists. So, I sang. (And accompanied myself on guitar)

How that went:

Mr. L: You are really not a singer.

Me:    I know.

Mr. L: But your guitar playing…

Me:    I know!

Mr. L: Would you consider playing guitar in the Jazz Band?

Me:    I’ll let you know.

Two days later…

Me:    You realize why I “auditioned” for vocalist, right?

Mr. L: So you could show me what I missed…

Me:    Now you know.

Mr. L: So, you had no intention…

Me:    Nope

Prior to graduation, Mr. L congratulated me “for getting one over on him” as that had “never happened,” by a 17 y/o punk like me.

So, it was back to rock, folk, and some bluegrass. I had been writing some too, mostly soundtracks for plays.

In college I played solo in small showcases and coffee houses, and as “filler” for larger events: until a University Wide Talent Showcase, where I was the host. That is where I ran into Kim Polk, a big name on the local acoustic circuit who said: "I’m putting a band together -- you are going to be my guitarist, and band leader: Get a bassist, a drummer, and a keyboard player. We will start next month." I jumped at the challenge.

I used the last of my student loan to buy an Electric Guitar (Yamaha SBG 500, like Carlos Santana,) Amp, and PA. I found a bassist, who knew a drummer, who brought with him a keyboardist; rehearsals commenced. Kim quit before her first practice, and we decided to go on without her. We hired another friend of a friend, and "The Tease" – a female fronted new wave cover band, was born. Over the next two years "The Tease" went through several lead singers, two drummers and traded the keyboardist for a second guitar player, before morphing into a thrash band called "KGB Secret."

At the onset of the Tease, I had never played a guitar solo in a band, and quickly found out that I could not learn recorded solos either. I had spent all of my practice time working on scales and "shape theory;" unlike almost everyone else, who learned solos note for note by playing them over and over. All I could do was improvise, in the feeling of the original solo, then (hopefully) learn my improvised solos over time. In KGB, I just had to play loud and fast.

Meanwhile, I discovered the Edge, Andy Summers and Adrian Belew and wanted to emulate the nuanced textures of these masters. KGB’s sonic bombast did not allow for nuance. The music that I had started writing, with nuanced textures and pop sensibilities, didn’t fit.

KGB Secret, the band that I started, fired me. They had come expecting the worst, but I just laughed a little, thanked them, and gave everyone a hug. I was relieved that I didn’t have to quit. I am not a good quitter.

Shortly after being fired, I formed Circle 13, with bassist Chris Z and KGB’s Mike Johnson on drums. C13 specialized in nuanced, textured pop songs. We had 13 songs and opened for my friends’ bands. Chris left for grad school, but Derek Bond was waiting in the wings to take C13 to the next stage: Modern Logic.

Modern Logic by the Numbers: 10 years, 1200+ shows, 6 Bassists, 2 drummers, 6 Acoustic spin-offs. An untold number of managers, agents, road managers, engineers, roadies, techs and flunkies (and the wonderful Modern-Logic-Ladies-Auxiliary Corps); 1 pilot, 2 trucks, 4 records (one unreleased); 2 movie tie-ins, 1 cancelled tour of the Soviet Union. 1 record contract that died with Freddy Mercury. The pinnacle was playing at President Clinton’s first inauguration. The nadir was my emotional breakdown when the band retired, as I had no “Plan B”

After Modern Logic, I was tired, retired, and done. It was a while before I signed on to play "texture guitar" with Yesterday’s Boy, bass and lead guitar in Uncle Remus, and created (power trio) CowGoMoo, and the "wall of sound" Alt-pop Neon Kings.

After Neon Kings ended with the emotional break of my then best friend, I hung up my guitars for good. I couldn’t handle the “part-time” band concept. For me there was just too much at stake to risk it with “hobbyists.” I didn’t pick up a guitar for a long while, except for the occasional benefit or open mic.

Then I met Adam JR Stoffel. He played drums in an Outlaw Country Band – Ice House Road, and was excited about music. His enthusiasm rubbed off on me. His bandmate, Rob, had some ideas, so JR and Rob and I tried to start a new group (an 80’s cover band with a female lead singer—start over much?!?), but it really didn’t fit. I didn’t want to go back to the beginning.

Then I saw IHR. They were struggling. They were a hot mess, but I could see the real. I could feel the soul. The singer, Bobby Sims had the “X-factor:” Authentic, real, true. It was country, but not Country (and definitely not “Outlaw”). They were bending genres, with some great songs. Great songs about Cowboys. Great songs about Cowboys that just needed some guitar.

That brings us to the present day. BiG!, thebandbig, Tobe Fare. Stay tuned. The best yet to come! ~g


Mr Positive

Adam “J.R.” Stoffel is the drummer for ToBe Fare. He started his drumming career in his basement when his (now ex) wife bought him a set of drums for Valentine’s day in 2006-ish. She’s been regretting that decision ever since. JR taught himself how to play, alone, in his basement. When he had the chance to play drums with other people he jumped, and hasn’t looked back.

He formed a band with his friends. “Ice House Road” played many dive bars and bull rides, and their music reflected the cowboy lifestyle. Gary Hawthorne joined the band several years later and gave the band a harder edge, a boost of energy, and some new songs.

When Ice House Road began to fizzle out Gary and J.R. started playing small acoustic sets at breweries and bars. Gary on acoustic guitar, and JR on a cajon. The amount of sound emanating from the stage inspired the band name “Big!”. It was a lot of sound for just two guys playing acoustic instruments and singing their asses off.

BiG! recorded an album, changed their name, recorded some more songs, and then changed their name again. (try finding a band called “BiG!” on any streaming services, good luck). The new name, “ToBe Fare” is inspired by a little bit more knowledge about how Search Engine Optimization works, and the show LetterKenny (JR’s a big fan).

When he’s not drumming in ToBe Fare, JR can be found doing a multitude of other really fun stuff. He performs on stage in musical theater, does stand-up comedy, plays disc golf, rides his motorcycle (he’s a bit of a badass), and produces his own podcast, Three Things With J.R. which regularly features the rest of the band.



JR has used myriad mixed up, hand-me-down drum kits. He finally bought a really nice set of drums that fit his style, big, boomy, and powerful. John Stubblefield is a Charlottesville musician and drum builder, and to get a set of Stubblefields is kind of a big deal around here.

Thanks to the eagle eyes of bassist Bryan McKenzie keeping a close watch on Facebook marketplace, JR was able to score a set of Stubblefields directly from John, a set he had been playing himself for several years. The kick and toms are blue, the snare is red, and, To Be Fare, they sound BiG!

JR uses Zildjian cymbals, and his preferred sticks are the Lars Ulrich signature AHEAD sticks wrapped in a ridiculous amount of grip tape. 

Bryan Mac McKenzie


Allegedly knows what a Bb is

Mac McKenzie grew up in a musical family. His father is a fan of hillbilly music and his mother was an operatic-trained mezzo soprano and classical pianist who could read a staff of choral music and hear the instruments and the voices in her head.

Mac, who also can hear voices in his head, grew up on the sonorous tones of 60s rock stars such as Johnny Rivers, The Mamas & The Papas, The Beatles and The Guess Who. He dreamed of being an ax man with a fine blade like George Harrison but soon discovered he lacked the long, thin, weak and womanly fingers of a guitar princess but possessed instead the muscular stumps of a bass man with fingers that look like Jimmy Dean Breakfast Link sausages

It was all good. It turned out that all Mac really heard, anyway, was the bass. Joe Osborn, Carol Kaye, James Jamerson, Sir Paul Mac, the sounds just came without trying as opposed to the painful contortions it took to play a freakin’ F chord.

After learning the notes of the first two strings, Mac was gigging with a high school band appropriately called Noise. He played for a short time in a college band called Band Name Here and then gave it up to focus his time on work and learning the other two strings and playing higher than the fifth fret, which likely drove his first ex-wife to divorce him.

He later helped found the late 80s band Dwarftoss, which gave up its cool name with the lightning bolt 'SS' and two dots over the 'a' to look Satanic, and became a B-side blues band called Bad News.

It was his first really successful bar-gigging band and he got bit hard by the performing bug, immediately running to Walmart to buy a sport coat to go with his POW-MIA black T-shirt and biker boots he wore on stage.

After a 20-year hiatus, during which his attempts to learn cello convinced his second ex-wife to leave him, Mac began playing again in the Central Virginia Blues Society. He joined other members to create the band the band Someday.

Having met Gary years before while hanging out at Charlottesville Music, he casually mentioned that he’d love to play in any band the Gary created. When Gary discovered that Mac knew what the B with the little b next to it meant, he asked him to join BiG and then thebandbig. To be fair, since he was already in the band, he was also asked to be in Tobe Fare. 


Mac has Goodwill-sourced sport coats, ties and hats to match every one of his several bass guitars because if you can’t play good, you should at least look good.

For Tobe Fare, he relies on “Michelle,” his Drake Custom Model 7 bass that is named after his third wife, who has yet to grow to hate him.

Give it time.