Monday, August 13, 2007

Monkeys & Train Wrecks

Subject: Guitarist - Rock Bottom
Venues: Rumors, Wood River, Il & Club 111, Pontoon Beach, Il
July 2007

The past few weeks saw us at a couple old places with new faces, so to speak. Club 501 was an old favorite of ours to play in both Knucklehead and Rock Bottom. There were always familiar faces, both behind the bar, and sitting at it. It was an anchor for our Riverbend crowd, and we were sad to hear of its closing. In fact, without 501, we didn’t really have anywhere to play north of 270 where many of our fans are from.

When it reopened as Rumors under different management, we were more than happy to get a chance to play there, despite our loyalties to some of the old group. We need a good place up there to play, and dates on the calendar. This band is a business, as much as it’s pleasure. A successful Wood River bar would go a long way for us.


When I loaded in, the remodeling of the place stunned me. They did quite a job! The bar had been redone, brought out into the club in a half circle. In back, a wall was constructed forming a hallway towards the bathrooms, which were redone, and looked pretty nice. New coat of paint and color scheme adorned the walls. In all, they did the place right.

One casualty, however, was my side of the stage! They built a DJ booth there, and pushed one of the pool tables back in that corner. I was cramped, to say the least! I managed to set it all up, and did my best with what I had. Oh well, I’m getting old, and don’t move around all that much anymore, anyway! Guess I don’t need that much space.

We started late, as usual. Not what I wanted to do first time in. Can’t say I remember much about the performance overall, but what I do remember is the crowd rocked! More people there than I think I ever saw at 501’s best day! They packed the place, and while there were many familiar faces, we made new friends that night as well. Didn’t take us long to feel very comfortable there.

My sweetheart, the super sexy Becca showed up with her sister and her boyfriend, and the party was on. She was in a mood to party, as her divorce papers came in the mail, making her officially a single woman. Woo hoo! It’s on, baby!

But, as she drank more, her mood turned darker. Before I knew it, I was the enemy, it seemed. What the hell? What did I do? I’m a warm, fuzzy guy! I gave her some space, and let her blow off steam with her sister. It brought my mood down, though. Made me realize how much my emotions affect my playing, because so much of what I do is from the heart. For a good part of the show, despite the great crowd and atmosphere, I was going through the motions, and I knew it. She was upset, and it was upsetting me. I knew I shouldn’t let it bother me, but it was. I’m not a robot. Emotions are what give my guitar playing its soul. But it times like these, I can’t pull from them, my emotions are elsewhere. I wasn’t really sure what was bothering her, either.

Much of the remaining night was damage control, and figuring out what comes next. Sometimes it’s hard to keep your personal life off the stage, and I guess we’ve all been through it in one fashion or another. In fact, 501 was the site of the first gig I had to play after my wife and I separated, and it was difficult to perform. But I managed.

After the show, we went home, and had a very long talk. It was very good for both of us.


The next night was much better on a personal level. Without delving into too much of her personal life, Becca was much more comfortable and at ease. She was truly enjoying herself tonight. That made my mood brighter, which made for a better performance.

Also, she dressed up in a dynamite “Catholic School Girl” skirt and white blouse. She looked fucking incredible! Wow! Never in my life have I ever been with a more sexy, attractive, dynamite woman. I was one lucky guy, let me tell you! I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She was a little embarrassed and a bit shy as she doesn’t normally wear this kind of outfit. But, I think she got used to it after all the compliments. She looked like a doll!

Saturday saw another excellent crowd at Rumors, and several familiar faces appeared. Former Jagertyme buddies “Derrileck” and “Brat-ley” were in attendance, as well as some other musicians that I’m not as familiar with. Everyone seemed to like the new place, and the evening had a nice buzz, or electricity to it. And, it was good to see the “boys” all out stopping by for a visit. Shawn from Leadfoot was around, too.

Derrileck was wasted when we invited him up to play, but he does what he does, and a good time was had by all. Several others came up, and somehow I tried to keep a semblance of a solid final set through all this. It wasn’t working. Time was ticking away, and we were getting very close to closing time with way too many songs we wanted to play and a packed house. Would have been a lot fucking better if we’d starting on time, but as usual, that didn’t seem possible.

“Do this one,” someone would say. “Naw, do that one.” It was a mess, and I was frustrated.

This was our first weekend with the new owners, and we had packed a terrific crowd. We put on a rocking show. Now I wanted to end it with a nice big bang, but instead we were heading, in my opinion, for a disaster. A mere fizzle. Come on, guys! Let’s rock this mother fucker! I want this fucking place to explode!

But, it wasn’t. It was just us drunks fumbling for what to play next, and a restless crowd waiting for us to kick some ass, not stumble on it.

At that stage, I just kind of flipped out, and screamed something in frustration, and played whatever the hell it was. Actually, I think I even played the wrong one. I don’t know. I also know I had to pee really, really badly. So, when the circus continued, and another train wreck occurred, I walked off stage and when to the john. Fuck it! I gotta pee!

They invited Timmy up to play (he’d never sat in before), and that was fine with me. They broke into Cold Gin with Chuck singing. Not a great ending tune, but, whatever. I was past caring now. Tim had trouble as he thought it was a different key, or something. They couldn’t get it started. Another train wreck. So, I bailed him out and returned. Can’t even remember what we finished with. I think I tried to do You Shook Me and Steve walked off again, but B.C. from Ivory Tiger finished it off saving the day.

When it was all said and done, apart from the disastrous ending to the evening, the weekend went very well I thought. The place really rocked, the owners seemed pleased, and we had a new place to play in “The Woo”, which means more dates on the calendar.

Becca and I were very happy in each other’s arms, having worked through her anger and emotions she’d been holding back with all she’s been dealing with culminating with her divorce. I guess I released some of my own. Which is odd for me, because honestly, I can’t remember a time when I’ve been happier, both with the band and my love life.

Sometimes, that mean little monkey just pops out!


The next weekend brought us to debut at a place in Pontoon Beach that I’d never personally played before. While it’s had a couple different names, it’s reopened as Club 111. I strolled in not quite knowing what to expect. A poker buddy of mine runs the joint, and he’s pumped me up with all the great shit it’s going to be. Sounds great, but, hey, he’s my poker buddy. Do you think I believe a word he says? Come on! I’ve watched him play poker!

As it turns out, they’ve made it look very nice. They built a different stage, and Boozie was able to get his monster kit loaded on. There was plenty of room for me, and the house P.A. looked more than adequate, suspended from the ceiling in a very professional manner. The house lights were very modern, and looked great. I think this place will do just fine!

One thing that did bother me: they were charging cover at the door. We’ll see how long that lasts, but I’ve never been a big fan of that. That will keep your crowd away, if you ask me, especially when they have free alternatives. Cover charges just don’t work around here anymore.

I can proudly say that we brought in a tremendous crowd, all decked out in Rock Bottom shirts! You guys do us right! It was a great site to see at the new place. I wasn’t really playing all that hot, and getting used to a different sound man and new room was a challenge. They lined the top of the hall with an acoustical foam padding to dampen the sound, and that took an awful lot of the low end out of the mix, as well as my guitar sound. Made everything sound very “bright”. Held the volume down, but definitely took out some low end. With some tweaking, I’m sure the sound guy will dial it in.

But, with the large crowd and the new venue, we were all smiles. On the big screen TV mounted on the wall, as well as other TV's mounted throughout the bar, they played a bizarre tape loop of a series of silhouetted women dancing across a rather psychedelic series of backgrounds. Very hypnotic. Like a trance club, or something. What was wild is the speed of the dancers and their movements seemed to be computer controlled to adjust to the different beats tempos of the mix! Wow. Also, upon further inspection, the black silhouetted dancers where topless! Woo hooo! Nipples! Kinda sexy, honestly!

Both nights went off very well, and we brought a good crowd to a new venue. Looks like the place has a chance. The stage was a little rickety, as some times I’d approach my mic, and the stand would sway around. Come back here! The monitor mix wasn’t too bad for me, and I could hear my guitar well, but the dead stage made the sound, well, not as revved up as I like. When my amp really screams, I get off on it, and play better. That wasn’t the case there. Will take getting used to. With that, I’d say my guitar playing wasn’t setting the place on fire.

The end of Saturday night, Steve turned to me, well the whole band, and announced "if we don't play Sweet Child for my boss by the end of the night, I will walk off the stage again, and you guys can finish by yourselves."

Ok then! The Diva has spoken! Sweet Child it is! I don't really have a problem with it. It's a great money song, and a good way to end on a strong note. We played it, and the dance floor was packed.

Afterwards, the crew torn down the stage, and I sat waiting at the bar patiently for my cut of the pay, and tried to unwind for the night. I honestly like to tear my own shit down, but these guys really must get a kick out of being a part of it all, so I humor them and let them take care of things. I watched them out of the corner of my eye while pounding one more brew, then tunred my focus on my sexy, sexy Becca. She looked great, and I was ready to get home and cuddle as soon as we got our money.

About that time, the bartender informed us basically everyone was to leave: now! I mean it wasn’t a tick past 3AM, and it was time to get out! Uh, excuse me?

He basically explained that the Pontoon Beach police had come in recently and read them the riot act for not having everyone out, including the owner, he claims! I told them they were probably just rattling their cage, establishing who “THE boss” is. I know the Chief of Police, I told them. I’ll be happy to tell him I’m not going any where until I get paid, and get my thousands of dollars worth of equipment loaded up.

He rambled away and continued to harass others at the bar to leave, including Mrs. Boozie. It was getting kinda ugly. The boys had my gear torn down, and quickly, a lump of money appeared in my hand. Hmm, guess it’s time to go, then! Before the brown shirts return, and load me on a cattle car or something.

I pulled the car around and loaded up the gear. Around back, there was quite a commotion. Mrs. Boozie was almost to tears, screaming she’ll never come back! My poker buddy manager quickly apologized to diffuse the situation, and promised that won’t happen again. She seemed consoled a little bit. I heard they even locked Steve out before he could get paid, and wouldn’t let him back in either! Sheesh!

Geo and Kat from Ivory Tiger pulled in, and delivered the bad news about B.C., their drummer. Guess the “Mighty Mite” jumped off the speaker column during Crazy Bitch and broke his foot. Ouch! Our condolences, B.C.! We all kind of commented on the crazy way the night ended, but apart from that, it seems like a nice place to play. Just need to work out the kinks, I guess.

We really do pull for these places to be successful, because our relationships are symbiotic. They give us dates so we can keep playing, and we bring them and keep customers, and sell drinks. Win/win.

But, leaving there that night, I felt like sometimes, I just don’t get it, I guess…