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...