There was an error in this gadget

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Table 7, Your Chicken Fingers Are Ready.

To say that being a musician in a touring band is like being on a roller coaster, that is an understatement.  One night you could be opening up for one of the biggest rock acts in the country and the next night you could be playing to 4 people in a town that isn't even on any maps.  Two of the most surreal experiences of my touring life was when we were scheduled to play in Atlanta while some A&R conference was in town, or something weird like that; and in New Orleans in a hotel ballroom for another A&R thing-a-majig.

The Atlanta gig started out bad because our van's engine completely locked up on us somewhere in southern Georgia earlier in the day.  Our road manager was about an hour ahead of us in his Ford Explorer and had to turn around and try to find us.  We had no idea where we were.  There were no road signs or mile markers anywhere around us.  It was over 100 degrees outside and we were in the heart of where mosquitos originate from apparently.  As we sat alongside the road waiting for our RM to save us, boredom began to set in.  Mickey then thought it would be a great idea to strip down bare-ass naked and run up and down the interstate on a dare since no one had come along in about 30 minutes.  As he is jogging back to the van wearing nothing but running sneakers, an old man on a tractor comes creeping along the other side of the highway,  he did his best not to look and we were dying with laughter.

A little while later a state trooper passes by us,  then turns around to check out why a bunch of characters like us are sitting on the side of the road.  After explaining our situation to him, we took a photo opportunity of all of us lined up against the van as if were being searched and the officer giving the thumbs up.  Assuring him that we had help on the way, he was off to fight some real crime.  Eventually our RM shows up and 9 of us have to pile into his modest Ford Explorer.  Im sure we took about 5 years off of his vehicles life because there was easily 1000+ pounds of man-meat in the front and a couple thousand pounds of equipment in the trailer that we had to hook up to it.  The poor 6-cylander engine was pushed to its limits over the next hundred miles or so to our destination.

When we arrived at the gig, we weren't sure if we were at the right place or not.  I can't recall the name of the place, but it was not a club or a bar.  It was a restaurant.  It was basically a Chili's, only by another name.  It was the place all right, complete with an 10-foot by 8-foot stage for us to play on in the middle of the dining room.  If you think I am joking, then you are sadly mistaken.  We had to cram my drumset, 3 quitar half-stacks, a bass amp and 5 guys onto this tiny little stage.  Every time I opened and closed my hi-hats I pinched Lonny's hip skin, leaving him wounded for about a week.  As we play the gig, literally there are people with family's eating dinner all around us.  Imagine sitting in Chili's trying to eat your sampler platter with your family and a loud ass rock band is blaring in your ear.  We made it through and vowed never to be talked into a gig like that ever again.

The other time was when we had to play for some A&R execs in a hotel ballroom in New Orleans.  We show up to the gig and there are about 20 or 30 other bands playing this thing too.  You only get to play a few songs for a panel of judges.  We had no idea what this thing was about or why we were even here, to this day I still have no idea what this whole thing was for or about.   Our manager was always kind of a vague guy.  He would book things that made no sense to us, but since he was the boss we didn't question it.

We arrive very early and spend about 6 or 7 hours walking around the Riverwalk and then drinking in the hotel bar.  We ended up being the last band to play, so we got to play a few extra songs.  We thought that maybe this was maybe a talent search for some record labels or something like that, so we brought our "A" game.  It was us playing on a stage, some of the other bands stuck around to watch us, and a table directly in front of the stage with about 5 or 6 people writing things down on pieces of paper.  This was well before American Idol came out, but this is what it felt like to me.  Basically, we played about 5 or 6 songs, then had to listen to people whom we had never met before, and didn't know from Adam tell us pretty much that we sucked and needed to improve if we ever wanted to go anywhere.  So it was pretty much a huge waste of our time and we gave an earfull to our manager about what a load of crap that whole thing was.

To be continued...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hey Desperado, I Don't Think That Was Beef.

One of the coolest experiences of being on the road was when we hit all the spring break hotspots along the gulf coast in the spring of '04.  We played everywhere from Panama City, Florida to Corpus Christi, Texas and everywhere in between.  One memory that will stay with me my entire life was when one night of overnight driving, I awoke in the passenger seat of our converted church van about 5:30 in the morning. Had a conversation with Clancey (who was driving and everyone else was asleep) and we talked about how cool it was to really be doing what we were doing.  As we drove we got to watch the sun rise in an empty stretch of Texas, which was so flat you could see at least 50 miles in any direction.  It hit me that morning that I had proved everyone wrong who had ever told me that being a musician was a waste of time.  I was living my dream.

Along the Spring Break stretch, we played in Acuna, Mexico.  It was strange as we were entering Mexico because we were the only vehicle going in and there was a 3 mile long line of cars on the other side of the highway waiting to get out.  We were given specific instructions to never go anywhere alone, there had been a rash of American kidnappings, and to keep some cash on us in case we got arrested and could bribe the Mexican police to let us go.

The club that we were playing at was the Corona Club.  To give you an idea of what the club looks like, just rent a copy of Desperado with Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek.  The bar at the beginning of the movie where Quentin Tarantino tells the joke about the guy peeing on the bartender, is the front part of the Corona Club.  Of course studio magic made the bar look tiny, but its actually about 10 to 15 times that size.  It looks exactly the same,  but the back part of the bar is huge.  It also has an outside area that is enclosed where the bands play and about 200 people could easily fit in there.  There is a scene in the movie when Antonio grabs Salma out of the bar and walks down the street with her, and in the background you can see the door to the bar and a small alley that slopes downward.  That is where we parked our van and unloaded our equipment.  As soon as we walked in there were signed pictures and posters from all of the movie crew, it was definitely an awesome experience.

We arrived at the Club early in the day and had a lunch date with the promoter of the show.  We ate at a very nice restaurant and I had some authentic mexican tacos which were outstanding.  After the meal, our road manager and promoter went back to the club and we (the band) decided to walk back to the club which was about a mile away.  We leisurely made our way back over the next few hours, stopping to check out the small businesses along the way, trying to figure out the conversion rate of things we wanted to buy, hoping not to get ripped off.  As we neared the club, we realized all that walking made us hungry again and decided to stop at a quaint little deli that had about 4 tables with mismatched chairs.  It was quite the seedy little establishment.  I opted for a meatless chalupa, figuring that I couldn't go wrong with a tortilla and beans.  I can't quite remember what Clancey ordered, but it was a tortilla covered with what appeared to be ground beef.  We scarfed down our food and as we were walking back to the Corona Club, Clancey looked at me and said, "Dude, I don't think that was beef."  Luckily, he only turned green for a little while and seemed ok.

The whole day we were walking around, there was an American student following us around.  He was quite aggravating because he was obviously drunk and trying to score marijuana off of us.  Which even if we did have any we wouldn't have been stupid enough to carry it across the border.  Our subtle attempts at getting him to go away were not working and we kept running into him.  Later that evening after the show we were all chilling in the van, trying to get some naps in before we made our trek back across the border, he sticks his head in the window of the van and wakes us up.  Very drunk and barely able to stand up he exclaims, "Hey guys, I can't find my friends!"  To which Mickey replies, "Well you won't find any in here!"  He finally got the hint as we all howled with laughter.

We crossed the border back into America somewhere around midnight and drove across the desert into the night onto our next destination.

To be continued....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

That Voodoo That You Do....

I think most Rock bands have to contend with substance abuse at one point or another.  Every time I've ever seen a Behind the Music on VH1, It was all about how drugs and alcohol can tear a band apart.  If it doesn't tear them apart then they become whiny little sad, selfish overgrown children who feel the need to have a band therapist and make a movie of it, all the while attacking your fans for doing the same thing you did as a teenager by passing around mix tapes; only now it is in digital form.

Drugs and alcohol pretty much tore my band apart.  Our singer "Gerald" was known for going overboard on occasion.  I'd seen the guy on more than one occasion take enough pills to down a bull elephant, but it never really affected his playing until one of the most important shows of our lives.  It usually just made him not fun to be around.

We got invited to play Voodoo fest in 2004, sharing the stage with the likes of Velvet Revolver and Green Day amongst others.  Granted, we were playing at 11:00 in the morning on the second day when most people are sleeping off the first night.  It was still important for us nonetheless.  Since New Orleans is so close, we all decided to drive separately and meet up at the grounds.  I and my friend bigWALL were going to make the drive in my little two-seater Nissan Frontier.  So we left around 7 or 8 in the morning and were just about to be in Slidell when I got a call from our manager, who was already on the festival grounds with our gear,  telling me that I needed to turn around and pick up our singer whose car had broken down in Gulfport, MS.  Easily 30 minutes back the other way for us.

I did much protesting because I didn't want Gerald and his girlfriend to ride all the way to N.O. in the back of my truck.  I didn't want to get a ticket, but there was no other way.  As I made the U-turn I let out a string of curses that would have made Andrew Dice Clay proud, and reluctantly made my way back to Gulfport.

When we arrive, Gerald's car is parked on the side of a bridge and he is almost incoherent.  Apparently, the night before his girlfriend decided it would be a great idea to give him some pills that he had never taken before.   He claimed that he was just tired.  I don't remember the exact details of what happened, but I seem to remember that someone else came by to pick up Gerald and his girl so they wouldn't have to ride in the back of my truck, the events of that hour or two are kind of fuzzy in my memory.  I guess from my being so annoyed I blocked it out.  But we arrived in New Orleans an hour later and made our way to the backstage area of Voodoo Fest.  I was in heaven.  We had our very own tent right next to DeLa Soul,  a huge Kraft Services area complete with huge TV's hooked up with Playstation 2's, and we received gift bags stuffed with goodies.  On top of everything, our show was going to be recorded for a measly $150.  There was a semi next to the stage with probably a million dollars worth of recording equipment set up to record every second of the festival.  The guys doing the recording gave us a preview by recording our soundcheck and it sounded MASSIVE, but we also did soundcheck without our singer.  We were so psyched, we thought we would be able to put out an awesome sounding live album from Voodoo Fest.  How awesome would that be right?  Then the show started.

I will mark this show down as one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.  Our singer could not sing on key, he was singing the wrong lyrics over the wrong songs, stopped playing and singing and began tuning his guitar right in the middle of a song.  It was terrible.  He kept yelling and it sounded literally like Fozzie Bear.  I wish I had the live CD to prove it, but its floating out there in the world somewhere.  I kept turning around to our road manager who was hunkering down behind my drumset pleading for him to stop this attrocity and get me off the stage.  He kept telling me I had to tough it out for the full hour, which was the longest hour of my life.  It was one of those times that I was glad I am a drummer so I could hunch down as low as I could so no one could see me.  Only about 10 people remained by the end of our set.

I was off my drumset and running down the ramp before our last note even rang out and I was livid.  Of course as soon as we got offstage we had to do an interview and take pictures for the VooDoo website, and Im sure if you could find the pictures online you can see the anger in my face.  There was (and maybe still is) a video of us on the VooDoo site which I would give anything to make go away.

I packed up my drums as fast as I could, scooped up bigWALL out of the crowd and got back to the coast as fast as I could.  For some reason I felt the need to go to the movies to get my mind off of things, so me and WALL went to see TEAM AMERICA and I promptly fell asleep in the theater.

To be continued....