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David Templeton's Seldom Seen: Dave Iglar a class-act guitarist and entertainer

Sunday, January 20, 2002

By David Templeton, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Seldom Seem, David Templeton's whimsical perspective on life and times in and around Washington County, appears weekly in Washington Sunday.

When it comes to guitarists in Western Pennsylvania, Dave Iglar rules the rock-'n'-roll roost.

The Oakdale man is a six-string virtuoso and six-shooter comedian whose pick and shtick have turned Dave Iglar and the Igniters into arguably the most entertaining bar band in metropolitan Pittsburgh.

Playing full time almost 30 years without hiatus, Iglar has done about 3,000 live performances and created a high-energy, ribald stage show combining lightening fast guitar work, classic rock music and the best comedy in the land.

With his wireless Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars, he climbs atop bar chairs and tables and sometimes the bar itself and uses anything he can grab -- beer and whiskey bottles, cell phones, forks, glasses -- to play slide guitar. He has played guitar with puppets and through towels thrown over the guitar neck without missing a note.

His in-your-face tactics prompt people to hand him gadgets from tables, pockets or purses to use as picks and slides. One guy held up a restaurant table, and Iglar used the table leg as a slide. Women sometimes hand him tampons. The most bizarre object was a vibrator a woman pulled from her purse. Unfazed, Iglar turned it on and found that it created "great sustain" on his guitar.

After all, this is rock 'n' roll.

"It looks like I'm effortlessly fooling around, but it takes technical ability to play guitar with a fork or a Godzilla puppet," he said.

He must tell his audience the music is real, not gimmickry or tape recordings.

But the raucous tales don't end there. Iglar often leaves the bar to jam in the streets, a wireless remote unit transmitting his music inside. This occurred last weekend at the Oakmont Tavern, where he straddled the yellow line of Allegheny River Boulevard and played guitar while his band continued inside.

Once, Iglar circled a tavern building and tried returning through the back door only to discover it was locked. No longer able to hear the band, he kept playing rifts until he returned through the front door.

And on yet another memorable occasion, audience members lifted him atop a van, where he played a rock classic until police drove up and shined a spotlight on him. The police were understanding, but it was difficult playing guitar while gracefully climbing off the van.

Each night, Iglar surprises even the band members with brilliant guitar work and comedic high jinks.

"Dave is definitely one of the most brilliant and exciting musicians I've ever heard, let alone played with," said Mark DeMeno, the Natrona Heights man who sings, and plays keyboard and backup guitar for the Igniters. "He has an unlimited supply of musical ideas. He's a virtuoso because what he is doing is a dying art form. There's never a dull moment. It's like the Barnum & Bailey of the local rock scene -- the greatest show on Earth."

During the Oakmont performance, Iglar made a similar claim about the band: "It's the greatest show on Earth. Trained monkeys."

Any rock history of Pittsburgh would be lacking without a chapter on Iglar. He started playing guitar at 6 and was playing in bands as a teen. At 17, he was teaching guitar and continues teaching two night courses at the University of Pittsburgh.

Twenty years ago, he was considered Pittsburgh area's best rock guitarist after twice winning the solo electric guitar competition at Mancini's Lounge in McKees Rocks, defeating dozens of noted local guitarists to claim the titles.

His band, Force Field, emerged as a rock mainstay in the Tri-State area in the 1980s. Later he performed as Dave and Shari with Force Field's lead singer Shari Richards. For a brief time, he fronted Dave and the Diversions before forming Dave Iglar and the Igniters about seven years ago.

The Igniters include bass guitarist Gary Ripper of Ellwood City, Beaver County, and drummer Roger "Dodge" Flugher of Jackson, near Zelienople, Butler County. DeAnna Dawn Denning, a teen-age singing sensation from Apollo, Westmoreland County, occasionally performs with the band.

Dave Iglar and the Igniters face a torrid albeit typical schedule of 22 gigs in the next two months, including Jay's Sports Bar at Southpointe's Iceoplex at 10 p.m. Saturday and March 1 at Otto's Pub in Canonsburg.

Iglar's one-man mission is to promote musicianship over technology, and he cites key influences as Roy Buchanan, Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana.

"I'm not so self-important to think people want to hear all my angst," Iglar said, noting his preference to entertain rather than enlighten. "I take the music seriously, but part of getting it across is to put people at ease."

That happens with healthy doses of comedy. He said it comes naturally. His family get-togethers sound like arguments between comedians Dennis Miller and Sam Kinison.

His guitar is his comedic straight man. While playing rock rifts, he improvises show tunes and children's songs. At the Oakmont Tavern, his jam during the song, "Sweet Melissa," turned into "Born Free." Don't be surprised to hear Mary Poppins. He also plays country, jazz and rock versions of the Barney theme and Sesame Street.

Iglar works furiously to get people involved in the fun.

His humor is relentless. Playfully angry, he makes a threat: "If you don't come up and dance, I'm going to come out there and put Cheerios in your pockets."

He plays the Beatles' "Today is Your Birthday" for people celebrating birthdays.

"In between songs," he tells the Oakmont audience, "you can come up for advice on love, money, health and driving."

Then he makes a somber announcement. "If we have any more requests, we won't have time for the Liberace Christmas medley." He proceeds to poll the crowd on whether they wanted rock 'n' roll or the Captain and Tennille, then later, Donnie and Marie.

By all standards, Iglar already is a local rock legend with fans who follow him from tavern to tavern. He ranks with the likes of Norm Nardini, Joe Grushecky and Donnie Iris. He's the better guitarist and provides more laughs. Skeptics need only to catch his upcoming performances at Jay's Sports Bar or at Otto's.

Because Iglar can rock, Iglar can roll. And guaranteed, Iglar can make you laugh. But please be advised: Dance or run the risk of finding Cheerios in your pockets.

The schedule for Dave Iglar and the Igniters and other information can be found online at http://www.daveiglar.com

David Templeton can be reached by e-mail at: dtempleton@post-gazette.com



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