Friday, August 2, 2013

My First Fail

  Well, not really - but perhaps my first professional one. It was on my very first gig out of college in which I was "hired" as a sub of sorts, to play in a band of complete strangers. Also my last for quite awhile.

  It was a typical northern Connecticut summer beach gig, with drinks flowing, biker chicks sagging, and biker dudes sagging even more. Classic cheesy pop and cliche, overplayed classic rock was the name of the game - not bad musicians really, and not even a bad frontman, but none of that mattered in the end.

  Because the gig was some distance away, I met the singer at his house halfway and went up with him in his car. I was a little nervous and very young and green, but he was actually a fairly decent guy to get along with and we pretty much just "shot the shit" the whole way up. Part of which was about how he didn't like to wear glasses, but just brought them for nighttime driving because his night vision wasn't what is used to be - plus he liked to have a few drinks on his gigs. And... you see where this is going.

  We arrived at the gig, I was setting up, some guy who claimed to play bass commented that he liked my bass, and should never lean it fingerboard first on the amp (which I do because the strings create some friction that prevents the bass from falling over when I fail to bring a guitar stand, which is all the time). When I wasn't looking, he picked it up, slapped a few notes, said I should get new strings, and put the bass back facing forward. Almost immediately it began to slip and I caught it just in time. Bye, know it all jackass, it's been real. For the record, I probably changed the strings a year later.

  And then, there's the gig. Not terrible really - the band was quite decent, they were nice guys and very good players, and the singer really did have the whole showman thing together well enough to please the crowd - I mean, we're not talking Carnegie Hall here (or even Arlene's Grocery for that matter), but he was workin' it as they say. Shots of tequila flew to the stage. I had one. He had maybe 5. It was a 3 set gig, which means 3 set breaks, in which the singer would have a couple of beers and a couple of shots before he would get a beer for the stage and drink whatever people threw in his face.  Multiply that by 3.

  By the end of the gig, I was fairly impressed with his ability to pack up gear and coil cables, let alone walk. As we walked to his car I did see that he wasn't exactly walking in a straight line, but I figured he had done this enough times to at least get us to his place - so quite stupidly, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and decided to see how his driving was at least until we got to the main road. Thankfully, I did not have to be the judge of his abilities after he slammed on the brakes and came to a stop with a DWI checkpoint about 5 feet behind us in the rear view mirror. He was basically arrested on the spot and thrown into the back of a police car.  Convincing the officer that I was capable of driving his car was not easy - not because I was drunk (which I was not in the least, having some anticipation that this scene might play out), but because no sober person with half a brain would have gotten into a car with this guy driving it.  I certainly couldn't argue, but I didn't have to. I got his keys. It was about 2am, his house was about an hour away. This is the pre GPS era of course - by the time I found his house, it was about 5:30 and the sun was coming up. I put my gear in my car, took one of his music stands for my trouble, and got home around 7.

  Frontman extraordinaire called me a couple of weeks later for another $100 gig, asking if I could pick him up. He said his license was suspended by some asshole cop, much to my complete and utter shock of course, and asked if I had his music stand. I said he must have left it at the gig. Well, at least that was easy.

  The guitarist and I went in my car, picked up our fearless leader, played the gig, and as we were driving back to his place he wrote out checks for us, each for $97. Oh right, of course - his booking fee. Such fun I would've had with that same situation now, with him in my car no less... Oh to be young, green and stupid, as opposed to 13 years later being older, jaded and stupid.

  At least I still had his music stand. A month or so later I played a wedding gig and left his music stand there. Too bad. For awhile, that made up for his $3 booking fee. But the memories - priceless.

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