Wednesday, June 06, 2007

SoCo, No Lime

Subject: Guitarist - Rock Bottom
Venue: House Of Rock, South St. Louis County, Mo

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Hello gang! Yeah, I’m back. I’d written part III of “South’s Gonna Do It Again, Biker Style!” chronicling my day after the event, but somehow, it vanished from my computer! Damn it! Hours of work, misplaced like my car keys! That’s a bitch!

Rather than plow through it and try to recreate the vibe I’d written, I’m going to let it sit, and perhaps wax poetic about it another time. I still have notes. That next Sunday following the show in Poplar Bluff was loaded stories to tell, but, right now, I want to get on to some stuff that is more recent.

Friday, April 20th (4/20, dude!) was a bit of a milestone for the “new” Rock Bottom: a weekend gig at House Of Rock in South County. SoCo! Where the women look great, smell great, and cost even more! If Chesterfield is St. Louis’ Beverly Hills, South County is Bel Air! Or at least an upscale Orange County. Funny, South County rocks, though. Must be all those Arnold and Jeff Co. imports…

House of Rock is probably one of only a few “A” list rock clubs around these days. Back in the day, when Steve and I were young turks, and most of our current clientele were attending elementary school, dreaming of Zach and Kelly from Saved By The Bell, the A list hard rocking clubs were Stages, Granny’s Rocker, The All American Saloon, Bogart’s South, Pop’s, maybe a few others. Every weekend, the area’s, hell, the region’s top bands rocked crowds of three hundred to a thousand people, depending on what venue you were playing. There was a clique of musicians that partied and followed each other when not playing. Many of them are still friends of mine to this day.

It was great times. And good pay. Those clubs paid us pretty well. Paid our soundman pretty well, anyway. They had live music six nights a week, and we’d book our calendars with ten to fifteen, hell even twenty dates a month if we could!
All of those clubs are gone now except Pop’s, which burned down and reopened across the street. And Pop’s was and still is a different animal. Animal? Beast is probably a better word! Beast from hell!

Anymore, House of Rock is probably about the premiere rock club in the area like the “A” list clubs of those days, along with the Phoenix, its SoCo sister. The Landing just doesn’t have the hard rockin’ crowds it used to. St. Charles Baha Rock Club just isn’t quite A list in my book, and that’s about the best St. Charles County has to offer. Eddie’s in Granite is but a shadow of what Granny’s Rocker was like. But a shadow is all that remains.

House of Rock gets commercial play on KSHE95, and support from on air personalities like Favazz. It packs in crowds all through the week. In a sense, it was an honor to play a place like that again.

Needless to say, not only were we looking forward to playing, but we were looking to do well, and get our foot in this market. With area clubs drying up, we want to get into the best while we can.

I pulled into Ronnie’s Plaza where HOR is located filled with eager anticipation. And, warm memories floated through my mind as well. This used to be, or at least a few doors down, the original site of Brian’s Metal’s Edge in the early ‘90’s, before they moved over to a bigger room in Carondelet. Saturn Cats played there a few times. I can’t help but remember those days of big hair and fluorescent green miniskirts when I pull up to HOR.

I loaded in the side door by the pool tables as some couples shot pool. They were amicable, and I tried to stay out of their way, not to disturb their shots. Been doing that for a long time. Seems like every bar has a labyrinth of pool tables to navigate through to set up gear any more!

Pantera was screaming on the video screen, as they played song after song. I didn’t know they had videos for half these songs! And, with Pantera setting the stage for the evening, I knew we’d be in good company around here. Our brand of “metal” was tame compared to that!

Everything was set up on stage but my gear, and C.J., Boozie, and our roadie Donovan were nowhere to be seen. Just as well. I didn’t mind the privacy. Also, it was nice not to have to trip over Carson as he seems to always find himself in my way while I’m setting up my rig. HOR has a house sound and lights, both run by old friends. Friends from the days of yore. Tommy ran sound and lights on a number of occasions in all the big clubs. This was already shaping up to be a trip in the “way back” time machine, it seemed.

I tried to enhance that time travel trip by inviting my old girlfriend up from Farmington. SoCo isn’t that far a drive for her, so I figured she might make the trip. Been over a year since I’ve seen her. She text me while I was setting up to let me know that she couldn’t find a babysitter, and that she had to work the next morning anyway. If she’d only known sooner, she said. I promptly informed her of our next Eddie’s date, which will be right after her birthday in May. She didn’t respond.

During setup, a ball cap crowned pool player struck up a conversation with me from across the rail separating the side stage and the well worn billiard tables.

“Whatcha guys play?” he said, while gently twisting his pool cue at his waist, waiting his turn to shoot.

“Eighties stuff,” I told him. “KSHE kind of songs.” He grinned and nodded with approval, then went back to sizing up his next shot.

I finished the last details of my rig onstage, when he approached me again.

“What do you drink?” he said.

“Bud Light.”

No, there was very little hesitation in my voice. And with that, without playing a note, someone had bought me my first drink for the evening.

What I didn’t have the heart to tell him was I was preparing to hit TGIFriday’s next door and grab some dinner before the show! I had an hour to kill, and figured I could sneak in a nice dinner instead of junky fast food. Plus, I just wanted to relax, and enjoy it all. Dining out has always been relaxing for me, for some reason.

I chugged down the beer he offered for me and attempted to seem cordial, and then split out the door as quickly as I could down the plaza to a crowded TGIF.

TGIF bustled with business, but there was still room for “lonely guy” me. When I dine by myself, I can’t help but think of the Steve Martin movie, “The Lonely Guy”, where he announces the table for one, a spotlight casts down on him, and everyone stops to gawk. In truth, most of the couples here didn’t notice me. They were caught up in their courtship rituals, and the scattered after work party tables carried on, celebrating the end of another work week without even noticing my single status as the wait staff paraded me by them, off to my corner table of the establishment.

I ordered a draft beer and a steak from my obligatory smoking hot, sexy waitress, and sat back to people watch. With one eye on my watch to keep track of how long I could stay, I relaxed, and peacefully “centered” myself for what felt like an important show.

Also running through the back of my mind was tomorrow’s events. You see, every spring, I take my daughters to Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee and go fishing. Scrappy, our old drummer from Knucklehead, was already down there, along with other friends that make the pilgrimage every year.

We’d planned this annual event months earlier (in fact I made them move the date to this weekend) when the HOR gig came up. So, instead of cancelling either one, I was going to have to find a way to do both. Once softball season kicks into gear, there’s no time to go fishing. This trip was my one big chance to spend time with my girls and spend time on a lake, and this was the only weekend to do it.

For this to work, I was going to have to behave myself tonight; not drink too much (not a big issue, HOR beer prices are usually pretty steep, and I don’t know that the band gets a break). I would be forced get up very early to drive a couple hundred miles and set up camp, if I had any intentions of meeting Scrappy on the lake hopefully by noon.

Do I know how to punish myself, or what!?

Back at HOR, everyone else had showed up as we were nearing “go time”. For the first time in a while, some nervous anticipation hung in the air amongst the band members. C.J. seemed most anxious, while Steve and I were verily relaxed, but focused. Boozie was, well, Boozie. He admired his new custom base drum heads he’d just installed that were made up to match the black skull backdrop hanging behind him. They looked sharp! Perched underneath the massive array of lights that sprouted over the stage, Boozie’s drumkit and steel cage stood like some heavy metal icon. It looked awesome! We’re starting to look like we know what the hell we’re doing!

Familiar faces began to appear, as well as some sporting our new tee shirts! Awesome! That’s what I wanted to see! Nothing better to say “we bring in a crowd” than to have people stroll in with your tee shirts on! What a great idea. And, they are cool shirts, too!

First set got underway, and, well, it was less than stellar. Unfamiliar club, unfamiliar stage sound, unfamiliar sound man. We weren’t in our comfort zone. The back of the stage is covered with a sound resistant “egg crate” foam, which dampens the sound coming off the back of it. Great for mixing sound, but deadeneds the stage volume. I made some small blunders in a couple places on easy songs, but nothing catastrophic. Still, not the home run start we were looking for.

Off stage on break, everyone welcomed us, and things seemed to be going quite well. Huh, were they listening to the same show? Mrs. Boozie approached me and softly whispered, “you know, I like Jeff and all, he’s a good soundman, but, man! You guys sound AWESOME out here!”
WOW! Guess that wasn’t translating to us very well on stage. I thought we were average, at best!

A couple area Guitar Gods showed up, Danny Brown Jr. and John Ringling, so the intimidation factor was high for me, LOL! I have immense respect for both of their talents. I’ve only known DBJ a couple years, but John and I go back to the days of The Granite City Game Room, back in high school.

Both of them told me to turn it up, as they couldn’t hear me in the mix enough. I told them that was a good thing! But, I turned up none the less. Got to get a feel for the dynamics of this stage and room. Later, soundman Tommy leaned over to me, instructing me to do the same. Not an issue!

Much to my dismay, I found that beer prices were very reasonable to band members, and Jaberbombs, well, the were almost giving them away to me. YIKES! I knew how much my daughters were counting on me to take them to take them to Reelfoot first thing in the morning, so, I did my best to contain myself. One or two won’t hurt, though…

The second set geared up, and we felt much more confident after the warm response everyone gave us on break. Our “money” songs hit the spot, and we were on a roll! My guitar sounded nice and loud, like I like it, which gave me some “jump”. Things were settling in.

On the next break, it seemed we were managing to sell some of our cool shirts down here, which I was really excited about. Get them wearing our shirts, and let that club owner see that on other nights when where not here. Great promotion!

As I wandered over to the men’s room, some tall, wild, curly haired brunette approached me with a lustful, drunk look in her eyes.

“Hey baby! You rock!” she told me, then proceeded to plant a huge kiss on me. Good morning! A wee bit frisky, aren’t we, lassie?

She had a knockout body, and nice face, but something about this woman just screamed “stripper” to me. Along with “psycho”. Perhaps I’ve been in this business too long. Or, maybe long enough! I wasn’t going to get caught up in this game.

I tried to act amicably, “take one for the team”, as it were. Schmooze it up. Gotta image of the band to maintain. Rock stars!

But, while flattered, I wasn’t all that interested, despite her sexy appearance. Not that I had any better options brewing, mind you, to keep me from pursuing some fun. I looked at her advances for what they were: just some drunken, squirrelly fun. At least we were making fans!

Perhaps I should introduce her to C.J.?

Third set crowd had thinned a bit, but over all, we did very well considering HOR favorites Joe Dirt were just down the road at The Phoenix that night. We finished strong, and on a positive vibe. I think we settled in quite nicely. All things pointed to a successful evening, and I look to filling some dates in the rest of the calander down there. In fact, as of press time of me writing this (June…) they shot us three dates for the remainder of the year, but we’re only available for one, Labor Day Weekend, Friday night.

Tear down was quick and orderly. They don’t allow us to mill around there at all. I take it the Sounth County branch of the local gendarme like to bust balls, and give them trouble about how late people are there. I had a half full bucket of beer beside my amp that I really wanted to kill, but I proceeded slowly, focused on getting up early tomorrow. I passed one or two remaining ones out to those helping us load. Everyone, from old friends to new, slowly said their goodbyes, and with hugs and waves, the pleasant evening’s vibe slowly ebbed out the door.

Loading out, sure enough, I saw SoCo’s finest sitting out in the parking lot, squad cars pointing towards the building. They were watching.

Donovan helped me load out, and I gave him a ride back into Granite. I checked my watch (well, the digital clock on my SUV’s CD player), and we were making record time up Interstate 55, across the river into the East Side. Hell, we had time for a beer at Eddie’s! What’s one?

But, as I crossed the tracks into Granite, I convinced myself that was a bad, bad idea. I had a long road and long weekend ahead of me, and two darling girls to entertain. I’m not about to let drinking come in the way of that. If I head home now, I’ll get a solid 4 hours sleep before I have to travel 230 miles south.

I dropped Donovan off along the way back, thanked him for his service, and headed for home, eagerly anticipating the swampy, Cypress lined shores of Reelfoot, and the dinner plate sized crappie it holds.