By Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden, 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 18, 2013
SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --
As a stage for acts and visits by musical groups like Shinedown, Lindsey Stirling and KISS, the Brick House served as Saber Nation's epicenter for rock and soul music.
The aura of past jam sessions from different genres caked the house's walls, adding to venue's ambiance as well as a challenge for new bands to add to the room's legacy.
But the forces of acts past had seen nothing yet when it came to the power of the blues.
Neither fears about Friday the 13th nor ice-cold temperatures kept away more than 50 Saber Airmen and their families from grooving to the tunes of a Texas musician during a complimentary concert at the Brick House Dec. 13.
Hamilton Loomis, a musician from Galveston, Texas, and his fellow band members visited Saber Nation with support from the 52nd Force Support Squadron during the European leg of his "Give It Back" world tour.
The concert marked the band's second gig at Spangdahlem -- both appearances came about by the enthusiasm of Saber fans, Loomis said.
"I've got some good friends here who are very supportive," Loomis continued. "When we toured Germany, they traveled to see us and said, 'If you have days off on your tour, come to the base.' Last year, we hooked up a last-minute gig. We had such a great time then that we booked it this time."
Cedric Rodgers, an education services specialist with the 52nd FSS and one of the fans Loomis referred to also attended the concert. He said he first heard Loomis's unique blend of rock and blues while living in Australia in 2009.
"I went to a blues and jazz festival and heard these guys singing and thought, 'That is no Australian band - that's the genuine stuff from Texas,'" Rodgers said. "I ran about a block to where I heard the song coming from, and there they were. And I've been following them ever since."
Far away from the shine of their native Lone Star State, Loomis said he and his ensemble came to the Eifel region to spread their music about honoring their mentors and inspiring a new generation of musicians to the Eifel region.
"Specifically, I'm referring to the knowledge, insight, stories and advice that we learned while growing up," he said. "I had some unbelievable music mentors from Houston like Joe "Guitar" Hughes -- a great Texas bluesman who took me under his wing when I was 15. He showed me the ropes and taught me so much about everything music ... it was a complete education that no school could ever give you. He wouldn't tell me what key he was playing in, so I had to think on my toes and learn very quickly. The best way to do something is to just dive in--he was amazing."
Loomis said he also attributed his inspiration to blues icon Bo Diddley, who encouraged him to be original and find his own voice.
"I have a huge connection with him," Loomis said. "In Europe, many people have said, 'But you don't sound like Bo Diddley.' And the reason is because he told me not to. 'Innovate--don't imitate. You have to be original and do your own thing,' he said. 'You have to sound like Hamilton.' Back then, I didn't know what 'Hamilton' sounded like. It's a never ending journey of finding yourself and your sound, honing your craft is a constant thing. I'm forever a student."
As a student to both Hughes and Diddley, Loomis said he pieced the concept of "giving it back" after years of following in his mentors' footsteps - a theme not unlike the fourth verse of the Air Force Song, where "in echelon, Airmen carry on."
"It's an obligation - a duty," Loomis said. "Those guys helped guys like me and my generation become better musicians and honestly better people. It carries over to everything in life, and I found myself wanting to do the same. It feels right and feels natural to do that. That's what the whole 'give it back' theme means."
And from those lessons from blues legends, Loomis and his band took to the wooden stage of the Brick House with one mission: bring down the house and rebuild it brick by brick with soul.
Under the changing fuchsia, blue and green spotlights of the stage, Loomis shredded his guitar between rapid inhalations on his harmonica or belting out lyrics in melody.
While playing on a military installation, Loomis noted the similarities between working in uniform and being in a band.
"Like the military, we're a team and rely on the others members as a collective," he said. "Although I'm the front man, without the core group behind me, I couldn't do what I do."
When not tinkling the plastic keys of a keyboard, band member Fabian Hernandez from Austin, Texas, hit notes so high on his saxophone they had to be scraped off the ceiling after the show.
The rat-a-tat-tat drumming from San Antonio's own Armando Aussenac, along with machine-like pedal-stomping and cymbal-blasting, matched the collective head nods from the audience to his beat.
As the lone non-Lone Star State native, Dante Ware from Davenport, Iowa, plucked his bass guitar with such force that the contents of patrons' drink glasses thumped like a Tyrannosaurus Rex went on the loose.
But Ware's persistent groove -- just like his fellow band members' combined efforts -- persuaded some in attendance that perhaps it wasn't an ice age that brought the dinosaurs to extinction: they must have caught the blues.
Finally, in addition to writing his band's songs, Loomis also completed a fan's request list including a fate-tempting rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" on - of all days - Friday the 13th.
For Loomis, he said the music isn't just part of the band's routine--it's the only thing.
"It's everything to me -- I eat, sleep and breathe music," he said. "Music is more than just something that is important to me. Music is a way to reach people and bring people together. It's a universal language, and that's what is great about being able to travel all over the world. You don't have to speak the same language with your mouth. When you speak with your instrument, anyone can recognize, hear and feel that when you put your soul into it."
And according to audience members like Airman 1st Class Cliff Ludwig, a security forces apprentice of Rome, Ga., the band could consider the Brick House gig as another mission accomplished.
"These guys are awesome," Ludwig said. "The way Loomis plays guitar is unique. He's definitely found a way to take something old school and bring it into the modern world, and that's hard to do."
Ludwig said he came to the show after receiving an email invite from Andrew Rice of the Spangdahlem Community Center.
"He manages to get people no one else gets, and they're always awesome," Ludwig said. "I put faith in him, and they were indeed awesome. This definitely needs to be done more. I feel sorry for the people who didn't come out."
Fellow attendees like Rodgers also said they agreed about the band's performance.
"In one word: Outstanding," he said. "They wanted to come here and support the troops in the middle of a European World Tour. They've played Scotland, England, Luxembourg, Holland, France, Germany, and they came especially here to Spangdahlem. That means a lot."
After an autograph session with fans, Loomis and the band headed out to resume their intercontinental tour, but not without parting words for Spangdahlem Airmen.
"We appreciate what you do very much," Loomis said. "Be safe out there. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. We'll catch you on the flip side."