Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Subject: guitaristRock Bottom

Weekend of May 19th, 20th, &21st, 2006

Venue: Eddie’s, Granite City, Il

Welcome to another mammoth edition of my weekly (perhaps weakly) diary/blog/whatever the hell this has become. I do receive positive comments about it though, which are much appreciated, so I try to keep up as best I can. Around Metro Computer, we have a saying: “Good, Fast, and Cheap. Pick any two.” Since you are getting this for virtually free (insert Rush song lyric here), that leaves either Good, or Fast. And sometimes, I’m not sure I can deliver on either!

That being said, lets delve into the continuing parade of events on Stage Left as a member of Rock Bottom.

Sadly, there is little to report it would seem. Of course, I always say that, and you faithful readers of these ramblings are then treated to 6 or 7 pages of shifting threads, and foggy recitations of alcohol influenced memories from the past weeks’ shows.

Friday night at Eddie’s started off pretty much with a bang. We had a great crowd from the get-go, and we jumped right into the action. Chuck had meandered over toward me in the first set and mumbled something about “first show off a break in the action is always the rough one, eh?”

But, in all, it didn’t seem too rough as I remember. I certainly don’t remember playing all that poorly. It all had a nice groove, and we had a comfortable time entertaining the crowd. The shots did flow, and I was feeling “very little pain”, so to speak (as I wasn’t really in any pain! But if I were, I certainly wouldn’t have felt it!).

I did take a moment to remember an old girlfriend, Vicki. May 19th was her birthday, and she died from a car wreck 10 days after her 19th birthday, on Memorial Day 1988, coming back from Carlyle. The last time I ever spoke to her was on her birthday, 18 years ago. Certainly never thought that would be the last time we’d speak.

She is one of those “don’t know what you’ve got, ‘til it’s gone” memories I hold, and she is forever gone. No going back. No telling what my life would have been like if she were alive today. And with that, there is very little use pondering the “what ifs”. But, I do remember her.

The blur of the night, the lights, the action, the music, the pounding of the rhythms, the people, the friends, the fans, the attractive women (wink); all of this wrapped around me and covered me with a calming sense of comfort. Within the chaos, I seemingly find my inner peace, sometimes. Although not always. Tonight, though, was one of those nights were I felt like a square peg in a square hole, I suppose. Not sure how to describe it past that. The party was on, and I was sucking the very marrow out of life, as they say. Carpe Diem!

With the rush of the evening still fresh in my consciousness, I’d glanced down at my cell phone to notice where an old flame of mine had texted me a flirty little message. We’d dated many, many years ago, before I’d met my ex-wife, and in the past year or so have rekindled at least a small spark. On occasion, we set fire to some romance, and have some fun. I think she’d like to take it further than I’m interested in going. For whatever reason that is pointless to quantify, I’m just interested in being a bachelor, for now. And I make no bones about that with her (or anyone, for that matter).

So, with some sexy banter back and forth via text, and a quick phone call from her (she was tired of text!), I’d arranged a late night rendezvous at my place in the neighborhood of 4:00 am…

By 7:30, I woke her. I think we’d had barely an hour’s sleep. As she gathered her things and wished me a good morning on her way out the door, I struggled to find the energy to climb out of my “crypt” I call a bedroom and prepare for a very long afternoon at the softball diamond in Fenton. On top of that, it was another gig tonight, back to the softball diamond in Fenton the next morning, and then even more Rock Bottom on Sunday, as we were to play a benefit for a cancer victim. I knew I was in for a long haul. Where was I going to find the energy for all this? I had no energy to even get out of bed!

The day was long at the ball diamond, and the sun began to beat down as the days move closer and closer to summer. I had found a surprising wealth of energy considering the events of the past 12 hours and the amount of energy I expended and the alcohol I consumed. Perhaps my little “after party” had helped me work off the “buzz”, so there was no trace of a hangover that next day? Merely some fatigue, and a tiny sense of satisfaction.

My daughter didn’t exactly burn up the batter’s box. She struck out a couple times, and looked timid, but her team was as powerful as ever, bulldozed two of their three opponents that day, and settled for a tie against their arch rivals with the game called on time. Yeah, a tie sounds odd in softball, but they allot 75 minutes for each game, and since this game only affected how they shook out in the championship bracket the next day, there was no need to determine a winner. Besides, they had girls waiting to take the field after us.

With the final game ending sometime after 5:30, and the drive back to town, I gave myself about 3 hours to rest before Saturday night’s show. It was somewhat difficult to fall asleep, but I managed to sneak a couple hours in. Of course, that left me even more fatigued when I awoke, surfing the “snooze button”, unable to rouse myself out of bed again. I needed more sleep, but that was a luxury I couldn’t afford. And no one to blame but myself, and my libido! I needed sleep, and I needed sexual attention. I opted for the later at the expense of the former, and now it was time to “pay the piper”. I forced myself out of bed, drug a dull razor across my face, and ran my fingers through my tattered mane. That was hopeless. Time to go!

I arrived at the show very groggy, and out of sorts. I’d given myself very little time to prepare, so to me, it seemed as thought I walked in, tuned my guitars, and Pow! We were playing. I “fat fingered” my way through the first set, and nothing I attempted seemed to sound like I’d hoped. I stuck to the basics, just praying to get through the night.

All four of us seemed out of sorts. We struggled through the first set, and there was no real reason to chalk it up to. We just missed the mark. The crowd was much sparser than the night before, and perhaps that was a saving grace! I was truly uninspired, and couldn’t wait for the night to end. Each of the other band mates had their own shining moments of mediocrity, so I guess I didn’t feel bad. Still, I always try to perform my best regardless of the circumstances. But tonight, I just knew I was turning in a suckass performance, no matter how hard I try.

I managed to drink a beer or two, and as I’ve grown fond of saying “alcohol is fuel, you know!” The alcohol did give me a slight burst of energy (and I think I compounded that a bit later with some Red Bull from the Jagerbombs!). But, in all, I was very mindful of my alcohol intake this evening. My daughter’s next game was very early Sunday morning, even earlier than Saturday’s. I did everything in my power to remain in control and avoid “boozing it up”, where I’d find myself dragging my sorry carcass to the diamond, and being a complete embarrassment to my daughter. I’d gotten off light this morning and appeared presentable. Tomorrow would be the real challenge! If I wasn’t careful, I’d be a zombie!

My old flame texted me again, while I was on stage, offering a repeat performance of the night before. I respectfully declined. While I’m always in the mood to conclude the evening in rockstar/pornstar fashion, and she’s a very passionate lover, tomorrow was “championship day”, and I wanted to enjoy it with my daughter, not recover during it! One more night like that with her, and I might not have the strength to walk up the steps!

I hit the sack immediately upon getting home at 2:45, setting the alarm for 7 am, and after muscling my dog Wednesday out from the middle of my bed, I collapsed in a heap.

7 am rolled around far too soon, and I think I surfed the “snooze button” again once too many times. In a hurried rush, I managed to fall into my clothes (including my special “championship day” Hawaiian shirt for luck), and made it to the game 25 minutes away shortly before the ump declared “play ball!”

It was a glorious afternoon for my daughter. She played very, very well, instrumental in scoring some key runs at the plate, and they went on to beat their rivals in the championship game, taking the second of three championships from them so far this spring, after ignominiously losing the first championship to them earlier in the season. We’ve got a friendly little rivalry going with this group. They are very good, and very competitive, which, after dealing my daughter’s team their first loss in 38 games and stealing a tournament championship from them in the last inning, has made our girls play much harder, and work to improve. And improve they have! In all, 5 first place finishes in tournaments this spring (and one second, grrr).

The excitement of this achievement that I can vicariously share with her began to wane once I arrived back in town, and my cell phone began to ring.

“Where are you?” Katrina asked, who was overseeing the “entertainment” aspect of the benefit. “Are you back yet? We’re waiting for you so they can start.”

I could hear the loud rancorous sounds of a band in the background as she shouted over them. I was unsure if she could even hear my response.

“I’ll be there in 10 minutes,” I told her. My energy level plummeted as I headed for Eddie’s. I was feeling worn out as the prospect of playing another set sunk in.

As I arrived, Ivory Tiger had just wrapped up, and had begun to vacate the stage. My gear was all set up from the nights prior, but I’d let others use my rig today, without me there to show them. And believe me, there are a number of quirks to my rig! I think I’m the only one that knows how it works!

Needless to say, it had been tweaked to death, and the tone I’d crafted and grown to love was gone. I would spend the next few hours during songs trying to dial it back in, and figure out what the hell had been changed around so drastically! It sounded like ass!

I also found time for a pork steak, which was delicious. Shawn “661” needed a break from running sound all afternoon, so that allowed me to fill up on a porksteak, and chug a brew. Alcohol is fuel, you know!

I made a tour of the bar, and saw many familiar faces. There was a good crowd for a Sunday afternoon. Several of my Mac N Mick buddies were there putting on a good afternoon drunk! They were excited to hear us play. Always big supporters of Steve and me. I kibitzed with the Ivory Tiger chaps, and shook a few hands of friends and acquaintances. It was a friendly mood there that afternoon.

There were a number of young children present, as often are at these types of benefits. They scurried to and fro, under parents legs and around chairs. The thought occurred to me: call my mother and tell her to bring up my girls! This might be the only opportunity to see me play like this for them. She grudgingly agreed, and they were on their way.

Steve approached me with a list of things we could play, and what had been played. Honestly, I wasn’t the slightest bit concerned.

“Hey, if Steve Hall hasn’t sang it, then the song hasn’t been played,” I impishly declared.

Steve burst into nervous laughter, and mumbled “yeah, well.” Then he stopped, and declared “that might be the nicest compliment you’ve ever given me!”

In truth, while what I said was true, it wasn’t meant so much to stroke his ego, or brag about his talents. My main point being Rock Bottom has a core group of songs that is, or is becoming “our sound, our style”. Unlike in Knucklehead, where we didn’t mind what other “money songs” were played. You see, in Knucklehead, playing benefits meant we played whatever the hell we wanted to hear, mostly Zebra, Rush, Triumph, Krokus. Screw the money songs!

But, Rock Bottom is a “money song” band, and that’s what I intended on playing.

Unfortunately, after about the first 4 or 5 tunes, it became apparent that my song selection contained ALL songs that Ivory Tiger did. Without my knowledge, Ivory Tiger was forced to play for some three hours straight to cover for bands that failed to appear. That meant the bulk of their song list, I suppose. And so much of their song list mirrors our own. They, much like us, are a “money song” band, with a few variations.

Steve became increasingly uncomfortable that we were playing the EXACT same songs that IT had just performed, and began to push me in other directions. I sort of had an epiphany that first: I didn’t want to come across as we were trying to upstage IT, and second: what exactly would be the crowds reaction to hearing Man In The Box three times tonight?

I began to veer off the “money” songs, and into what I considered weaker, less popular songs that are sprinkled in our list. And, by this time, extreme fatigue had begun to set in. I simply didn’t want to stand up there holding that damn Les Paul up anymore.

We plowed on, and the tired crowd received us amicably. My mother arrived with my two daughters, and they sat towards the back, by the sound board, in arguably the loudest area of the night club! Shawn “661” was UNGODLY loud, having already been ordered by the police to turn down once. Once Steve and I arrived, he jacked it up again, bringing it back up to ear splitting decibel levels. 661 claims that he doesn’t want anyone to walk in, see all that equipment, and say “is that all the louder he can get it?” Have no fear, Shawn, no one in the world will ever walk in and say that. Or walk by. Or drive by. Or live within a quarter mile…

So, I had the pleasure of playing for my daughters, a real treat and probably something that I’ll never get to do again. I have to admit, though, I sucked. It was a horrible afternoon for me, playing wise. Whether it was the fatigue, or my sound that had been changed which killed my vibe, or the long day in the sun; whatever combination of reasons: I played like a turd! For my girls, I dedicated Van Halen’s Eruption, and truth be told, it didn’t sound too much like Van Halen! Pretty choppy, and scattered. Oh well! At the end, Boozie had ran off to the bathroom, leaving me hanging out to dry on the beginning of You Really Got Me. My fatigue was turning into irritation, at both myself, and the situation at hand.

After fumbling through some B list songs, Geo from Ivory Tiger had made his way on stage on bass. Then Floyd formerly from Jagertyme! appeared on drums. Not too long after, Wes from Ivory Tiger grabbed the mic, and we muddled through a couple tunes. We began to stare at each other, grasping for something to play. More to the point, they began to stare at me, and what I wanted to play. I was no fucking road map, I’ll tell you! I was beat!

The fact is, between Ivory Tiger, and our first hour and a half on stage, we’d done every “standard” there was to be played, so that left winging odd ball tunes off the cuff. And I sensed that was a real recipe for disaster. The chemistry with all of us was shaky at best, as we all come from different bands, and the common songs we know were all played! It was as uncomfortable as a fart in church.

I glanced out to the crowd to find Steve, to see if he could bail us out and find a direction to this madness! Wes could always play drums (even though he’s left handed, and Boozie’s kit is right. Quite the ambidextrous talent, ole Westley is!).

But, there was no sign of Steve! He’d ducked out! He mentioned to me that he didn’t want to play more than 45 minutes, despite how they were asking us to play for about an hour and a half. But I didn’t know he was bailing! Damn him! Boozie was pretty tanked too, so he hid from the stage, letting anyone who wanted a shot on his drumkit the privilege.

Tired, confused, irritated, and far too sober, I was reaching the end of my patience on stage. When the hell is this going to end? Normally, I love playing with these guys, and really enjoy branching out, and exploring off the cuff music to spark that spontaneous magic that makes the evening memorable.

But, tonight, I was worn down, and really just wanted to get the hell out of there. I was playing like a Neanderthal, and any inspiration to come up with that “perfect” jam song was gone. I had no suggestions, and everyone else’s offerings were greeted to “no, dunno that. Naw, can’t play that. Uh, I could try it, but I don’t really know it…” So it goes.

Mercifully, we somehow managed to wrap up the bizarre Rock Bottom transmogrification somewhere in the neighborhood of 10:30. Where I found the energy to tear down so fast is beyond me! I was packed up and ready to load out in what seemed like mere moments!

I paused to down a beer, and conversed with some friends. Chuck wandered over, and offered me some warming praise on my skills. Warm, but undeserving. I played like shit. I felt like shit. A grueling weekend.

All’s well that end’s well, and as I understand, over $5,000 were earned towards that cancer victim’s benefit. That certainly made whatever I had to endure worth it. All my whining and complaining is nothing compared to what he and his family must endure. God bless ‘em.

I finished up a beer, and talked myself out of pounding another. My bed sounded really good right now! I bid my inebriated friends from Mac’s “adieu”, and slapped Chuck on the back as I made it out to the parking lot.

Another weekend like this, and I’ll be needing a blood transfusion or something. I must be getting old.