Okay, now that I lounged around the house watching TV for 12 hours today (a rarity), I'm rested to tell the tale.
The gig was a house party for New Year's Eve. I got a call from the bass player to help set up the stuff like the drums, PA, mikes, etc. so I got there at 4:30pm. We had everything in the basement by about 5:30pm and the drummer had to â€œmake his space.â€ We talked with the owner of the house about how we'd like to rearrange by moving a bunch of stuff to make it more dance-friendly which entailed moving a couple of couches and various stuff. There was a massive bar down there that flanked our setup so that we had to deal with that. The space was probably about 25' x 35' which is not huge but doable.
Finally I got to set my equipment up after the drummer and bass player laid claim to their spots. I set up at the far left (from the audience view point) and put my amp on a stool. The left PA was just next to my amp so I hear the vocals very clear. On the right side of the drummer was the bass player who put his amp up on top of the PA speaker. I generally play at practice right next to the bass player so we can talk and signal one another. Oh well. I was worried about that.
So we started the sound check about 5:45pm and played bits of some songs and asked how it sounded to people who were already there. Funny, the house owner got a call while we were doing the sound check and the person on the line said, â€œThat sounds good. They're playing some nice â€œHound Dog!â€ or something to that effect. Made us happy.
The Jim, the bass player, and I had practiced a song at his house a song that we wanted to do without Frank (the main guitarist) and apprised Joe, the drummer, of the song at sound check. Apparently Joe and Jim used to do Blister in the Sun as a warm up song at practice ten years ago so Joe remembered it okay and we played it a few times to get it down yet I had to tell Joe to drum faster and he was like â€œReally?â€ Been awhile for him. But it sounded good at sound check. I felt decent as I left.
Anyway, I went home to get a shower and tweak my stuff in my music book. I got back to the party at 8:15 and Frank was there (remember, the main guitar player and leader of the band) and was tuned and ready to go. Joe and Jim showed up about 8:45 and wanted to go on at 9pm as we had planned. I talked to them about going on about 9:40 because I wanted the crowd to be bigger.
The set list was made in the time before we went on and I had it right on my music stand off to the right for reference. We started with a slow song (to get the fingers moving), a medium song next and a JAM song the 3rd song. After that one my right hand was shaking a bit from the adrenaline as I reached for my beer. It sounded good. We played a few more and then the set list went to h*ll. Frank was changing things left and right. We got a request for Louie Louie which we planed to do in the third set but ended up playing it as like the 6th song. I told the bass player not yet but we did it anyway. He said we gotta do request when they come up. I don't know. It's my third gig. I rolled with itâ€¦.
My buddy Tom and John were there so we talked briefly between songs and I asked if I was too loud and whatnot. They're metal heads and don't' dig just regular rock and roll so it's tough pleasing them. But at least they said they liked my sound so that was decent. My amp was naturally overdriving (even on the clean channel) which was a bit odd on the â€œsweet/slowâ€ songs. I put light overdrive on most of the other songs with my overdrive channel and it seemed to work. It's a first for me in that I seldom use the overdrive channel on the Fender amp.
Frank told me I was too loud a few times and too soft a few more so it's tough to gauge. Jim was 15' away and told me to turn up because he could only hear Frank. It's a common thing when Jim is not next to me.
I laugh that Jim was so apprehensive before the show. Usually is me freaking out trying to mellow. I always down some Pepto Bismol a few hours before the show to calm my stomach then have a beer before we start. Jim normally has a few quick beers before playing in practice but that night he drank water the first set and I saw his really pensive self. I talked to him about the show and he said he wanted to make sure he remembered all the words while singing, which was unlike his normal self. He mellowed by the second set and had a few beers.
All in all, I did mess up some stuff and I knew generally when I did but I did not dwell on them because I was told not to while playing a gig. â€œSmile and pretend you meant to do itâ€ is what Jim has always told me. I heard Frank play some things off and Jim's face told it all, too. Still, we had people dancing right up in front and singing along with many of our songs and that means happiness. I'm not one to normally look up from my guitar until I've located then next chord especially if I'm doing barre chords. Still, on some songs I played open and was really familiar with the song so I got to look out into the crowd. That's some of the best excitement. That is, looking out at the people and seeing smiles and happiness. Well, and at NYE, maybe drunken stupor. Who knows?
We have a following of maybe 20 people who attend each show no matter what. It's good for me to see those who encourage us and would love us if we tanked. Funny Joe (another Joe, we played his outdoor skateboard rink in September) was there. He pulled a fast one on the drummer and me. He said something like, â€œI got free tickets to a band from a radio station and I have front row.â€ I said cool man, what band? He said â€œNo Traceâ€ which is us! I know it's corny, but I appreciate he likes us personally and our music.
Grab coffee: break 1 for you readers
Okay, so we played 3 sets. From about 9:40 to 10:30 and about 10:45 to 11:55 which cut really close to the NYE thing. Things were going well. The people were dancing even to songs we never thought they'd like.
During â€œLast Dance with Mary Janeâ€ (Petty) Frank's guitar strap unhooked and he almost lost his guitar. I was looking over and, knowing I'm the only guitarist, kept going and thinking, â€œOh please let me keep this going.â€ It took him about 15 seconds (which seemed like eternity) to get it hooked back on while we all kept playing. He kept singing right on so it worked out! Just a funny visual in my mind and I joked with him about it at practice this past Tuesday.
Sorry I'm not going in order, but I'm just reminiscing about it all. The drummer had some trouble at home. His wife and kid had been up for two days sick and he may have had to skip the third set. He was not his usual lively self looking out into the crowd and having fun. Rather, he often was looking down at his drums and it kind bummed me out. Nevertheless, Frank seemed really lively that night and was even dancin' a bit on some songs while he played and hopping about. That made me smile lots.
Jim looked over at me often smiling about what I don't know. Well, I do now. Frank skipped some parts of a couple of his songs and he always seems to do that even at practice. I never know what he's going to do on those songs so I just listen to all of us to hear if we're going to the next part. Sounds weird, but it works.
Set one was over and we all took a break. A quick cigarette with Jim to see if he's mellowed out and he was. Finally he drank a beer. I got to talk with some of the people in the crowd about various things. It was cool.
Well, just before the second set Frank was still outside smoking and the 3 of us were all downstairs about ready to go. Jim says let's play Blister in the Sun (the song he and I wanted to do without Frank) but Frank just got downstairs still with his coat on. Jim told him we were going to play a song without him and it pissed him off. Jim said let's do it now but I had to, uh, expel some liquid to make it through the upcoming set but Jim said now and then we'll go straight into the second set.
Being the new-guy-on-the-block, I had to do it. We played it and it sounded pretty good! People even grooved with it. Lord knows I didn't know anyone would know such an obscure song. At practice Tuesday even Frank (who did not play with us) said it sounded good so that's an amazing compliment. Granted, it's a way-simple song. But the first time live. Yea.
Yep, now into the real second set. We were all over the place. The set list went out the window and I had to use my left ear to hear Frank and Jim hash out what we'd do next. When I'd hear what song I'd flip to the right page on my music stand on the right and set the patch on my floorboard. It was chaotic (in my mind) from then on. I like a set list. You know what you're doing. Oh well. I'm learning.
We had some decent songs and got some compliments/comments in between songs. The mistake was made to play two more songs past 11:45pm. It's NYE. So we played â€˜em and it was like 5 to midnight and everyone was getting ready to ring in the New Year. At the end of the set I got my pre-planned hat out. It's a 2' tall Cat in the Hat. I put that puppy on and walked upstairs. It' was kind a joke but if you can't have fun on NYE you should be an accountant! Lots of people saw the humor in my hat as we all celebrated and hugged about the New Year.
It was so fun I kept it on for the first song of the third set. Jim got a kick out of that. I told him I'd be wearing two hats at the show. He was smiling. I had to take it off (as I knew I would) because I get to hot while playing. Heck, I was wearing shorts and a tee shirt! But I always wear that during practice or gigs any time of year. I get too hot.
So we start the third set about 12:30 or so. Oh, I take my watch off when I play guitar so I don't always have it handy to tell the time. I can't play with a watch or rings on. Weird. Fortunately Joe made it back for the third set. I was worried he wouldn't and we' have to play without drums. Still, he had his head down most of that set just thinking about his kid and wife sick, tired, and (presumably) agitated.
By then we, and the crowd, were having a great time. Pete at 60-something-year-old retired guy was there sure to fill your beer from the pitcher. We joke he's the band manager because he used to attend all the practices (before I joined and I attended, too). He's the COOLEST guy. Makes the party for sure. He made all of us feel at home.
So we rock out some more tunes and finally about 1:30 (I figure) Jim says it's last song. We do it and (as usual) I don't want to stop. I never do. Especially at a NYE party. So we had all planned to leave our equipment (drums, mikes, amps, everything) there at the party and just pack up the next day. Who wants to tear down that late on NYE?
So the guys just mingle and float about. Frank (who lives 32 miles north of us) had to pack up because he had a gig the next day. So he was about to start packing up maybe 1:40pm but I said, â€œLet's play!â€ So just he and I played. He chose a song we don't do as a band. An Eagles song called Lyin' Eyes. I've only practiced that with him maybe 4 times in half a year but it went over. We had a bunch of the girls come up and sing along in another mike. It was cool. We were having fun and, hey, if the ladies are having fun, I am too!
After that Tom (from the crowd) asked if he could play drums on Holly's Not Fade Away. I said sure and we had no drummer so why not? Frank and I had not tired that together for a year or so and I know I messed parts up. People said it sounded good but I know I made plenty of mistakes. But the girls liked it. Tom put down better drums than I would have thought for a non-drummer.
Break 2 for readers
Guess that was it. Frank had to pack up. He started by clearing his amp and guitar. Meanwhile, four blondes came around to his mike and were flipping through his music book. They started singing John Denver's Leavin' on a Jet Plane his music stand (with the lyrics in it). Frank cut them off after a few bars and said he had to get his book and stand. I moved mine over to center â€œstageâ€ and they continued from my book.
I'm not really familiar with the song because I've only played it maybe twice so I (maybe a bad idea) tried to play it. I was reading it from a distance so that was hard but worse; I didn't know the song in my head. If I remember right, he does a lot of songs in drop-D tuning so you have to stretch to get a G chord in a funky shape.
Anyway, I winged it but we restarted the song like four times! We tried a few more songs until about 2:30 and called it. The girls were done so I had to hang it up. I hate to quit playing even if I suck. So many of us went upstairs and about ten minutes. I talked to a guy earlier who said he had played guitar and bass in a band that played big clubs in Chicago year's back. So I went back downstairs and offered him my guitar and he had a bit of fun.
Meanwhile, Joe (not the drummer, the proprietor of our second gig) said he used to play drums. He got on the kit and started jammin. Sounded decent for a guy (who I thought) was feeling a-ok earlier in the night. Eventually I got my guitar back and messed with some stuff. Finally the crowd was, well, not a crowd. It was late and sane people would go home to cozy beds. All I knew is I did not plan to drive home no matter what even before the gig so I was content with whatever went down.
There were some kids (I can call them that now that I'm 36) around all night. They were not downstairs but here and there but they were still awake and full of energy. I saw them bouncing about even during sound check and helping move the couches and things. Well, that late at night, I figured these teenagers would be sleeping. Nope, guys and girls that young still up sober as can be. They came down in the basement and one guy said he knows drums so I said, â€œGo ahead and give it a whirl.â€ Sounded decent.
Another guy was looking at my guitar and amp and I asked if he played and he did. So, the typed I am, told him to pick it up and have fun. He played pretty well. Still, I have no idea what type of music it was. Well the kids played for a while and about 4am the house owner who we affectionately call â€œThe Governor,â€ came downstairs and said its time to quit.
So I guess they stayed downstairs but I went upstairs and hung out. We played a bit of poker after I took my paltry $4 out of my wallet. Yep, that's all I had in my wallet all week. We played for a while and I don't know the game well and lost it (or really) just gave up after awhile. The keg was done at that time so Joe 2 made us some hard drinks with what I call free-pouring.
Well, ever tasted gasoline? It tasted like that. We all hung out and talked. The Governor took off to bed about 4am and the rest of us hung out. Well, after some more gasoline the sun was rising. I was shocked. I have not seen the sun rise in a decade. I even stayed up late after working ten hours the previous night to wake at 11am the day of the gig to try to make sure I'd be good until 3am as far as sleep.
Nevertheless, I saw my last hallucination about 7:30am. The kids were STILL up and eating the scores of pizza that were available during the party. I ate some and said I'd be hittin' the floor even if the rest were staying up. It was 8am! The drummer came back at 12:30 and woke me up. I got 4.5 hours of sleep and was not ready to get up but I did. Oh I felt I needed some food and lots of sleep. Still, everyone came back and tore down the equipment while I suffered for having too much gasoline and not enough sleep. We all talked and joked about the gig and got our stuff done about 2:30pm. Funny, Joe 2 was STILL awake (read: had not slept all night) when I left. I got home, made some huge food and had to nap. Slept 3 hours and felt much better.
I totally veg'ed out Saturday night and Sunday. I played/practiced very little in that I felt spent.
All in all, it was a great time. If I were to do one thing different it would be (well many things):
1. Not try to play songs with drunken girls at a late hour unless I know the song well.
2. Don't drink free-poured drinks late at night.
3. Call it a day by 4am because by then it HAS to be time to go to bed.
As a side note, we were supposed to play this gig for free. The drummer did not feel right about asking to get paid. Lo and behold, the Governor paid us $250 for the 3 sets so that was just all the more cool for the night.
I can't wait to play the next show! God I love playing (even if I suck). It just is like a drug. At practice Tuesday I was talking with the guys to see if we can get some more gigs lined up. For me, a bar gig would be the deal. Yet they tell me (from their days of playing bars) that you have to bring in a certain amount of customers to buy drinks and they say that part sucks. We'll see. But I think that would be the coolestâ€¦â€¦