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....