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Thursday, November 11, 2004

Stage Six – The final countdown and who has a magic marker

The band has arrived at the pizza parlor and has a hasty and edgy conversation in the parking lot about the gig. The singer is pissed because the drummer was supposed to be at the show for load-in at 6:00 for the show that starts at 10:00. Being that it is now almost 7:00 things are off schedule and the strain of the unknown is starting to crack the cool demeanor of the band of rock badasses. Following a stern admonishment about “focus” and “getting our shit together” from the singer the band shuffles into the pizza parlor and are greeted with the same words Bono probably gets when arriving at the venues U2 plays –

“Table for four?”

The singer is suddenly gripped by a wave of panic that coalesces in a tight ball of heat that centers at the top of the back of his thighs and radiates up through his balls and into the pit of his stomach. “How can they not know we’re the band?” And then the crack in the façade is born, the first focused look at the slob in the Tevas and the dork in slacks and especially the glue-headed feeb in the bowling shirt. “What have I gotten myself into? What the fuck is the matter with these assholes….they’re going to ruin my career!!!!” He stands silently while the bass player tells the maitre’d that they are indeed there to rock and asks where they should set up. Obviously the place is psyched for the rock but you wouldn’t know it by the look of puzzlement on the face of the menu distributor who yells to his boss, “HEY JOE ARE WE HAVING A BAND TONIGHT?????” With an affirmation from afar he nods at the band and points towards the west end of the dining room, “That’s where you play but you can’t bring anything in until we stop serving dinner.”


Uh-oh

Total and absolute panic envelops the singer. The rest of the band however feels a sense of relief and goes to the bar where they are treated to half price draft beers. They start drinking….and drinking….and drinking. Beer quickly turns to manly drinks like Appletinis and rum and cokes and time and sobriety start to slip away from the minstrels. The singer sitting glumly by himself watching TV gets up and frets….”we’re never going to get set up in time, what the fuck…..look at these jerkoffs….I have to do everything…….” Deciding to take what matters he can into his own hands he walks out to the parking lot and looks at the cars. Then he opens his trunk, unzips his gig bag, fumbles around in it for a bit and comes back inside. He asks the guitarist, “can I take a look at the setlists?” and gets a blank drunken stare in return.

Uh-oh numero dos.

Singer - “Dude….I specifically asked you to print off four copies of the set-list that we worked up at practice the other night….did you forget to print them or forget to bring them?”

Guitarist – “uhhhhhhh……….what difference does it make? “

Singer – “IT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD. IF YOU FORGOT TO BRING THEM YOU’RE JUST STUPID IF YOU DIDN’T PRINT THEM WE HAVE A MAJOR COMMITMENT TO THIS BAND PROBLEM…”

Guitarist (lying) – “Chill dude…..I uh, man I forgot them on the counter. But I totally printed them man. Look, I’ll write up new ones while we’re waiting.”

Singer – “This is fucked man….really fucked…”

Exit singer to the other side of the bar to huff impressively.

So the guitarist bereft of any writing utensil or parchment upon which to scrawl asks the barkeep for what he needs. The bartender, reluctant to turn over his only pen to a sticky headed tenpin refugee gives old six-strings a couple of unused dinner checks and the grease pencil the restaurant uses to figure out table assignments for the waiters. The band minus the singer put their heads together desperately trying to remember not only the order but what songs they were going to play.

“dude we were going to open with ‘Rain Falls’….what does he call the dunt da dunt dunt da song…..uhhh, I think ‘Plush’ was supposed to go fourth….I know we close with “Foolish Hearts”….” Twenty minutes later there are four setlists written in smudged and barely legilble black grease, all four are different.

At 9:15 the final pie has been served and the last spumonti delivered and it is time to load-in and get the rock on the road. The band carries in their stuff bumbling drunkenly to and fro and sets things down in exactly the opposite order of what makes the most sense for getting ready in a timely manner. As this is going on several co-workers of the singers have come in and he sets out to do his #1 job, schmoozing the crowd. This irks the band who is carrying in the equipment and trying to figure out how to hook up the antiquated and woefully underpowered P.A. system that the busboy pulled out from behind the wetmop in the dish room. There is one P.A. speaker and no monitors, two radio shack microphones, three microphone stands in various states of bustedness, one very dirty and beaten power-strip and no extension cords. The area where the band is to rock the fuck out is in front of a window, on the way to the bathroom and has a single electrical outlet in the corner.

At 9:55 the singer has come over to ascertain what the hell is going on with the band. He turns on the P.A. and a horrific buzzing sound comes through the single speaker. Everyone stands around looking at each other. The singer unplugs the speaker cable and plugs it back in, recreating the noise. He goes through this exercise several times. The busboy comes over and sets the P.A. up correctly and walks off muttering in Spanish, most likely about how he wishes it was he who was about to take the stage (floor) and live the dream….the ROCK!!!! The singer runs over to hi co-workers who are putting their jackets on and assures them that the show is going to start. He skips back over to the band and glares at them really, really, really hard and says “WE NEED TO PLAY….NOW!!!!!.” The band, drunk and woefully unprepared to start playing scurry to and fro and trip over their guitar cases and microphone cables. Somehow, someway they have their guitars on and plugged in. The amps are on and the guitarist says, “just one sec and let me tune up,” He steps on his tuner to turn it on and……………

Nothing happens. The battery is dead and while he is flush with guitar picks, guitar magazines, bandanas for wiping off his axe and other unnecessary accoutrements neither he nor his band of fellows have the one thing that can make more difference in the shitty show than anything else, a functioning tuner. He decides to use his awesome ear and sense of internal pitch to tune up the old fashioned way and plink-plunks his way up and down the neck. Satisfied…..the bass player tunes to him string by string. The drummer is thudding away on his snare drum and the singer is gripping his mic stand. The band has arrived, they are plugged in and ready to go.

Oh God.

Next up…..the gig and it’s consequences.

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