OnlineRock: Empowering Musicians  

Why We Do This?

It was 7:00 Sunday night when I was finally finished showering, shaving and pasting my black spandex pants onto my spindly white legs. Ready for the gig at last, I was in a bit of a rush as we had arranged to meet at the club at 8:00 sharp. I had a forty-five minute drive ahead of me and still had to pack my gear into my car. So I collected my guitar, amp and effects unit and when I opened the front door it was immediately apparent that this would not be an easy journey. The rain smacked me right in the face as the gale force winds drove it past where I was standing and into the living room.

I slammed the door shut as fast as I could, as I was afraid my "coif" would be spoiled. Then I had to figure out a way to get my gear (and myself) into my car without all of us incurring water damage. No easy feat. So I found some Saran Wrap and encased my gear (and myself) in it. And headed out the door.

Finally, I was on my way to the gig. But the damn rain did more than threaten my "do", it caused an hellacious traffic jam! So there I was sitting in traffic on the freeway while the road crews in their stylish day-glo orange jumpsuits took 30 minutes to clear the road of a nine car pile-up. Once the first obstacle had been overcome, it was all uphill from there (now I know what it must feel like to be salmon swimming upstream to spawn). Anyway, I get to the club and there is absolutely no place to park that is remotely near the place, and it’s still raining to beat Noah. I figured the only shot I had was to double park in front of the door and huff my gear inside as fast as I could. So I did. By the time I was finished, I was wet, miserable and had a $30.00 parking ticket on the windshield. I still had to park somewhere, so I drove around the block 10 times until finally I found a parking space. I grabbed an old newspaper from the back seat, jumped out of my car (in the process forgetting to lock the doors. more on that later…) and ran the block and a half back to the club.

As soon as I got back to the club, I grabbed my gear that I had left right inside the door and made a mad dash to the tiny little backstage area where I was supposed to meet the guys. It was 9:00pm by then and I was having a complete anxiety attack. When I got backstage, only the drummer was there.

"Where the hell is the rest of the band, man?", I asked incredulously.

"I don’t know! I was here at 8:00 man, like we agreed on. I thought we were gonna do a quick run through of those new tunes. You know, I’m really pissed ‘cause I’ve been here since, like, 7:30". He said with a mixture of anger and resignation.

"Damn, me too!" I said, as my anxiety started to morph into anger. "I’m pissed ‘cause I just suffered through a goddamn ‘odyssey’ to rival Homer just to get here!" I was starting to get dramatic; "and those bastards don’t even have the common courtesy to...".

As I was declaiming , the keyboardist, the other guitarist and our bass player came stomping in. They looked just like I did; wet, miserable and in the grips of an anxiety attack. Maybe I had been a little hasty in lambasting them.

The bass player took off his sopping wet leather jacket and threw it down on the cement floor so hard that it sprayed the rest of us. "The f****** goddamn piece of s*** van broke down in the f****** rain!!!".

The keyboardist looked at me with the picture-perfect expression of depression and disgust seemingly permanently etched into his face. "That about sums it up" he said as his voice trailed off and back he skulked into his own private hell.

This was the situation the night we were scheduled to open for a major international rock act at the biggest club in town. And to make matters worse, we knew that an A&R rep for Arista was going to be there that night. We had practiced four hours a night for the last five nights to make sure that we would be at our very best for this show. We even worked up three new tunes that we were sure would be some of our very best stuff just so we could impress the record guy.

You know the old saying, " If life serves you lemons, make lemonade "? Well, I guess we didn’t have enough sugar or something. After being put through the wringer just getting to the club, there wasn’t much left in us to be able to pull off the gig. We frantically set up our stuff, we were supposed to go on at 9:30 and we weren’t even all there until 9:10. We had a 45 minute slot, then the headliners were scheduled to come on at 11:00. The place was packed, this gig was the wet dream of everyone in the band! As soon as we finished setting up, it was time to play. No time for formalities! But it just wasn’t meant to be. WE SUCKED!!!!!

Later on that evening, after we hastily tore down, I watched as the roadies for the "Rock Stars" set up their mics and put the finishing touches on the stage (as is the custom in many clubs, we had to put up our stuff in front of the headliners set-up) and put the cymbals on the stands. " Wow, I thought to myself, roadies! Boy, when we get big enough to have roadies, it’ll be soooooooooooooooo great! It’s just so hard at this level, nobody to help".

As I was thinking this to myself, it got a lot harder real fast as I could hear the drummers voice rising in a sparring match with the keyboardist, " Look you *#%$!, I don’t have to take this from you! Find another drummer, asshole!" If there ever was a gig from hell, that was it! By the time I ran back to where they were fighting, the drummer was out the door and gone for good. And the keyboardist was looking suicidal.

My drive home from this nightmare was just as bad. When I got back to my car, my tape deck was gone ! I had left the doors unlocked in my haste to get in the club and someone stole my tape deck just to insure that this was absolutely the worst night of my life!

Sound familiar? Maybe not as epic, but something similar? Of course it does! So tell me one thing, WHY DO WE DO THIS? Is it masochism? A taste for the absurd? I’ll tell you why we do this, because we have to! We do not have a choice. Because if we don’t do this, we will shrivel up and die. It’s not a lifestyle issue, it’s life! And for all of us who play and sing, at whatever level we’re at, music is the water of life. As the great high wire artist Karl Wallenda said so perfectly; " The wire is life, all the rest is just waiting around."

Stay Tuned,

The Virtual Musician

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