Thursday, September 06, 2007

South's Gunna Do It Again, Biker Style! 2007

Subject: Guitarist - Rock Bottom
Venue: field outside Poplar Bluff, Missouri
Labor Day Weekend, September 2007

Labor Day weekend was our triumphant return to Poplar Bluff to rock the “South’s Gunna Do It Again, Biker Style” rally. We were all anxiously awaiting this gig, as last year’s was so much fun. The weather looked like it would hold up beautifully: low humidity and what promised to be a cool evening. Two awesome weekends in a row for that festival! It’s a bit of a drive down there, but I don’t mind; the scenery is very appealing and easy for me to get lost in the subtle beauty down there. And this time, I would be sharing it with a dear friend, my sweet Rebecca.

Friday night before, however, Becca and I made our rounds through our favorite spots, and I ended up a wee bit tipsy! How many Jagerbombs did I do? We probably finally fell asleep sometime after 4. I’d meant to go home and sleep in my own bed, but, well, things didn’t work out that way let’s just say.

When I woke up Saturday morning, I felt a little rough, but not any worse than normal. To my horror, it was just after 7AM! The sun shot through the blinds, which I’m hardly used to; I’m used to sleeping in the sunless crypt of my basement dwelling. The neighbors had fired up some chainsaws and were cutting down trees next door. BRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! Are you fucking kidding me?!?

After giving up any chance of sleeping in, I crawled unwillingly out of bed (well, Becca’s bed) and I took the kids and Becca to breakfast (good ole Cracker Barrel!), eating a hearty meal of chicken fried steak, eggs, and biscuits. Yum! Then, it started to hit me. I wasn’t feeling all that great! Not good! I took some Imodium, and prayed I didn’t have an attack somewhere out on the highway later on this afternoon.

We packed up, and hit the road a little later than I’d wished. Traffic was light, and the journey a familiar one. I shared some road stories with Bec about the days of playing Bonne Terre and Farmington, pointing out various features to supplement my tale. We held hands tightly and traveled into the piney Ozark forest. Most of the way, I felt mildly sick to my stomach. Last night must have been a real bender!

We made the trip in good time, and everything felt a bit more familiar, which undoubtedly sped up the trip. We passed by Lake Wappapello, renewing my interest into spending some weekend down there. Rebecca agreed while she continued to feverishly scan the radio for any kind of music that might appeal to her. St. Louis stations were fading out of range, but she found plenty of local options. She’s a real channel surfer! Here, honey, try the remote control!

After checking into our Super 8 once we hit town, settling in one room over from the last time I stayed, I called around to see where everyone was, and what dinner plans were. C.J. and Ness were at the hotel on the first floor, while Boozie was out at the fairgrounds, wrapping up and heading into check into the hotel. Steve was, well, we don’t know. Nothing unusual!

I decided to wait to set up after dinner, as it only takes me about 15 minutes to throw my rig up. I showered and primped as Bec put her hot looking outfit on. What a sexy gal! I can’t take my eyes off her! Cupid’s arrow has struck a direct hit into my heart, I must admit to you all.

While I was calmly excited about playing out of town, and looking forward to a nice repeat of last years show, I was still feeling almost nauseous. Sweats would come and go. When will this hang over go away?

Boozie strolled into the motel with his lovely wife and some friends: Spanky and his woman. They decided to pass on having dinner with us, opting instead to get cleaned up and get back out to the stage. C.J. called from the parking lot of Colton’s, the same steakhouse that C.J. and I invaded last year, wondering when I was going to show up. This year, we brought reinforcements! Sexy ones!

We met them at the parking lot, with Mikey along, to my surprise! Everyone bore wide smiles as we strutted up to the front entrance. I kept an eye on my watch; we had less than an hour until 7, which was the “suggested” starting time for the show. That made me kind of nervous, and with the gut wrenching nausea I was feeling anyway, I wasn’t sure how hungry I was. But, still, I knew I’d be eating a nice, thick steak! I love dining, and I love doing it out of town. What fun! Besides, what’s the odds of Carson having his gear set up?

We sat calmly in the waiting area for a smoking area table that would seat the 5 of us. C.J wore sunglasses to mask his red contacts, but after a time, elected to remove them, exposing his bright red irises to the establishment. C.J. and I explained to Mikey and the ladies the reaction we received last year when we stopped in for dinner here before.

“Yeah, the funniest looks were from the teenage girls,” C.J. added, flashing a devilish grin.

At one point, it was mentioned to us we could go to the bar and grab a drink while we were waiting, and C.J. sprung up from his stained oak wooden bench. “I’m headed to the bar!” he declared. We followed along behind, around the corner and into the restaurant proper.

Groups of couples sat along the wall at their tables, all facing us, slowly chewing their food and glaring at us as the five of us paraded up to the bar. Hello Poplar Bluff! I ordered a Bud Light, and Bec asked for a Jack n Coke.

“Woo!” she exclaimed after a quick swig. “Try that!” Her eyes were popping out of her head at the strength of the dark mixture.

“No, thanks,” I said. I’m barely keeping anything down right now I thought to myself. This Bud Light will do me just fine!

No sooner than we’d gotten our drinks (and C.J. even picked up the tab, God bless ‘em!), we were seated. In back. Off to the side. Away from everyone. Probably just a coincidence.

We ordered up some grub, and I kept an eye on my watch. 6:35PM. Hmm, how far is it out there? 7PM is out of the question. This was making my already upset stomach a bit more tense. I just have this thing about starting on time. Dunno. Guess I’m getting old.

The steaks were wonderful despite my gastrointestinal condition, and the conversation was amusing. We were having a good time. Becca’s Jack and Coke’s were getting her pretty buzzed. I overheard C.J. talking on his cell, something about wireless mics.

“Uh huh,” he said. “Well, tell them 8PM is doable.” He flipped his phone shut. “Steve is about 35 miles away, and he forgot his wireless,” C.J. announced. What? I glared at him with a puzzled look. He smirked.

“If you’re a singer, how do you…” I pondered aloud.

“I don’t know,” C.J. replied.

And it was left at that. Well, that meant I had plenty of time, but I still felt ill. I don’t think this is a hangover. I think this is something else. Stomach flu, maybe?

We settled up our tabs, and the waiter even noted that he’d remembered us from the year before. C.J. had remembered him as well. Can’t say that I did. I can imagine the waiter remembering us, and C.J.’s red eye contacts. Those are hard to forget, to be sure!

On the way out to the grounds, I swung in to pick up a case of beer and some ice. Dinner was settling in my stomach like a large rock. Wow, I don’t know if I’m going to make it through this! Couple that with the sun going down, and I was really feeling like we were going to let them all down starting so late. Maybe I panic too much?

We swung through the hills and back roads to the festival site. Becca clutched my hand tightly in fear as I swooped and darted through the countryside along the darkening country road that I’d driven before.

“Slow the hell down, or I’m walking!” she commanded. The stiff Jack and Coke’s must have really taken hold. I pressed on, just telling her to relax. I need to get there. Don’t worry about it. She should have seen me in my J.S. Express driving days! I could go faster!

Memories of last year leapt into mind as we arrived at the grounds and parked along side the stage to unload. Fond memories. It was good to be back. The set up was almost identical to last year’s. Bonfire setup to my left. The infamous red cage with dancing pole just of to the left the stage, Stars and Bars proudly flying above it. And a very good sized crowd gathered around us. Many had been setting up lawn chairs and seemed eager to enjoy the show.

Donavan sprung to my aide to help me unload my rig, and I started setting up. Boozie approached me on stage left, giving me the lay of the land.

“They said go ahead and wait until after the bonfire lighting, which will be about 8:30 or so,” he said. “So I told him we’d go on at 9. He said that’s cool with them, so.”

“Hell! Suits me! As long as they’re cool with it.” I said.

“Well, we can go on anytime after they start it, really. Prolly after 8:30”

That took some pressure off. Pressure that I’m sure I didn’t need to feel, but I did. Still, my stomach was tight, and I would sweat, then stop. Real up and down. The show must go on, however. I’ll make it through some how.

Set up wasn’t as smooth as I wished, but I managed to get it all fired up and working. The wireless felt awesome as I could roam around the nice stage and cool runway leading out into the crowd. I was ready to start. Antsy, in fact.

From out of nowhere, explosions kicked off to my left. I glanced up to see flames shooting through the air. Several guys in flame retardant suits sprayed flames at the pyre, igniting it and the poor hapless motorcycle resting atop it. What a sight! I didn’t get to see it in all its glory last year, as I was in the Porta-Potty when they ignited it! This year, I watched it all from the stage, above the crowd. It was glorious! Burned up reel guud! The explosions and racket startled Becca, and she quickly made her way over to me on stage and we watched it together.

After what seemed like an eternity, we were able to get the show off the ground. The mix on stage was off by a mile. While I could hear my guitar well, no one else could, and Boozie’s monitor was nonexistent. Carson scrambled to correct things, and before long, my amp was blazing through each monitor! Yee ha! Everything started to come together about three songs later.

I ventured out onto the cool runway with my wireless, and was quickly plunged into darkness! This year, Carson didn’t run and PAR64 light cans out at the end of the runway to light us, as they were drenched last year in the wet tee shirt contest. Damn! I can’t see a thing! The rest of the night, I was much more cautious about venturing out too far!

I fired up Metallica on cue, and immediately felt as though I may hurl my guts out. Oh, I felt miserable. But, I slogged away, trying to act like a rock star. In all honesty, I was very close to puking! What a miserable time! I’d looked so forward to the show, and now, there was very little enjoyment for me.

The crowd was great, though, and we had a successful set. After knocking the first one off, I’d crawled off my side of the stage when fireworks shot off into the night sky. Huge fireworks! Rather impressive. I climbed down the stairs backstage with cold Bud Light in hand, looking for my sweetie, who was out playing around, having a good time.

“You gunna do the contest again this time, Deron?” some stranger asked me, meeting me at the foot of the stage steps.

“Oh, I dunno.” I said. I was dreading this moment. In my condition, I really didn’t think I had it in me.

“Come on, I’ll throw another $50 in it for you,” he said. Judging from that offer, I take it he’s one of the coordinators around here, then. That got my attention.

“It’s not the money, man” I told him. “Look, I’ll do it if you need me. Next set?”

“No, we’ll do it now, after the fireworks, he informed me. “Hey, I had someone that was going to do it, but he disappeared on me. Let me see if I can track him down.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “If you don’t, I’ll take care of it.” And, he disappeared into the crowd as I sat along side my Durango, choking down a beer. Becca appeared by my side, and I sat talking with friends and acquaintances. Everyone was having a great time. Very shorty thereafter, the coordinator reappeared and informed me that he’d found his man, and they were getting the show on the road. I tipped a beer to him and said “knock yourselves out!”

Girls began to line up along side the stage in preparation for the contest, adjusting breasts and outfits. I saw some of the other staff dudes wander by with a dB meter to get readings. Good idea!

Theresa got herself ready for the contest. Defending her title, I suppose. Get it? TIT-le?

Anyway, I really didn’t pay all that much attention to it. I tried to relax and get over this stomach thing I had. It didn’t stop me from drinking beer, I can tell you that! I managed to keep pounding some brews, and sometimes I’d feel ok. Sometimes, I felt like I was going to hurl.

The stage area was filled with commotion, ladies parading around, and drunks staggering to and fro. I couldn’t tell if they were with the staff, or just plain there! I was a little worried about lack of security wandering backstage, and around all my stuff on stage! Please! Don’t fuck anything up! Oh well, what are you going to do?

The speaker cabinets blocked most of my view of the shenanigans, and that suited me just fine. I wasn’t interested. Hell, I had my winner right here, Rebecca! None of those girls even caught my eye. I wasn’t the only one that saw her that way, either. Rebecca made quite an impact there, with guys hitting on her left and right. Girls too! She bought a straw cowboy hat (at my request) to go with her outfit, and let me tell you! It attracts more women to her than men!

Steve pleaded with us to all scream loud for Theresa, and we did just that. There were one or two others that came close, I suppose, but in the end, Theresa defended her title yet again! There were some grumblings about her success, and the other girls kept on their toes to watch Theresa’s back. Strutting around backstage with her trophy (and little else) sharing pictures, I congratulated her with a hug.

The crowd cleared out, and when we started our second set, it seemed sparse out front along the runway. Ruh ro! Where did everyone go? This isn’t cool!

Before long, they straggled back up to the stage, and things were hopping again. We put another good set in the can. I was feeling somewhat better, and Bec was feeling no pain! She was pounding Jell-o shots. Still, I was now getting anxious just to get this over with, and get back to the hotel where I could rest!

“Still not feeling good, babe?” Becca asked me.

“It comes and goes,” I tell her. “I’ll be ok.”

“We don’t have to stay after. We can go right back to the hotel if you want?”

“We’ll see.”

We all decided a quick break was in order and to get the final set onstage as quickly as possible. Everyone but Carson, who was no where to be found! When he emerged, we waited even longer before he seemed to get the picture, and stop the break music! In the silence waiting for an intro to kick in, some female voice shouted “Iron Man!”

“Come on, Deron!” Steve jokingly coaxed. She shouted it out again.

So, I played it! C.J. rolled his eyes, and paced in a circle a few times. Not again! Then, for the hell of it, he followed along, and we muddled through it! It wasn’t pretty, but, hell, this was a biker rally, and they’d all been drinking since noon! Yee ha! What the hell?

The crowd remained surprisingly strong, and we played a good solid third set. Mikey joined us on some Van Halen and some Sex Slaves (that’s the Jack Daniels song). Spanky played some drums. Before long, my wish had come true! It was over! I’d survived! And without hurling my guts up or shitting my pants! Bonus! At about 20 after 1AM, we called it a night.

Bec and I stayed for a while after, and I finished off the rest of my beers in the cooler. I think someone helped themselves to a few, but that’s no big deal. It’s all good! Had anyone asked, I’d obliged. Bec seemed to be having a blast. That’s exactly what I wanted for her. I love to show her a good time!

At 2AM, I can honestly say I felt better than I’d felt all day! At last, it felt like I was over the hump! I was tired, though. It had taken a lot out of me. C.J. broke out his acoustic over at a table and commenced to sing, but I stayed over by Bec and Boozie and friends. No real reason. Just to be with her, I suppose. A couple times I thought of wandering over and joining in, but, I guess I knew that would lead to me staying far too long, and I really needed some rest! No Camp Fire King for me this year, sadly.

Sometime after 3AM, we said our goodbyes and made our way back into town and the Super 8. Everyone was in excellent spirits when we left, unlike last year when poor Boozie shut the door on Mrs. Boozie’s hand! Overall, I’d say everything was a rousing success.

I drove slower on the way home, partially to appease Becca, and partial to avoid any surprise appearances by the local deer population! It didn’t take long! Somewhere along a dark Highway B, a ghostly image of a doe and buck magically appeared off to the left side of the pitch black highway. I slowed to observe, trying to anticipate whether they were frozen from my headlights, when the doe bolted across the pavement! As I slammed on the brakes, the huge buck slowly staggered across, a few feet from my front bumper! He gazed at my vehicle, and staggered off.

“God Damn!” Becca screamed! “Did you see that?”

How could I not? If I didn’t, we’d be wearing one of them right now!

“The males always send the FEMALE out first!” she claimed. “Those bastards!”

Huh? Misogynistic bucks? Never mind. I just need to focus on anymore nocturnal surprises!

We saw at least 6 or 7 more on the way home, but none quite as up close and personal as that. And no bucks THAT size! I even called Boozie and them to warn them: watch out for deer!

Back at the hotel, we wandered down the hall towards the stairs to our room. Becca was visibly tipsy, and getting squirrelly. I just wanted to go to bed! She started to act like she was going to push me into one of the doors, then said “hey, let’s go knock on all the doors! Wake everybody up!”

NO! Jesus! This motel is full! She’s out of control! Nothing worse than being mostly sober around someone that isn’t even close! We’re going to jail!

I tried to calm her, but that just made her more ornery! As we stumbled up the steps, she started to exclaim “ROCK BOTTOM RULES!”

“Shhhh!” I pleaded with her to her maniacal giggles. “I can’t take you any where!”

I shuttled her to the room, and off to bed so I could finally SLEEP!

We woke up the next morning and I felt much, much better. We took a shower (yes, together: WOOHOOO! Yeah, baby!) and got cleaned up, ready for a bright new day! I called Boozie to see where they were, and they’d already made their way to Perkins for breakfast.

We strolled in, and poor Mrs. Boozie looked beat! They must have really tied one on after we’d left! They were almost finished with their food as we ordered ours. I ordered up some Eggs Benedict. Something different! My cell phone rang, and caller ID notified me it was C.J. Maybe they were looking to hit some breakfast, too.

“Hey man, whats up?”

“Nothing. Broke down on the side of the road.”

“Dude! Where are you.”

“About 30 miles from Poplar Bluff. You still in town?”

I informed him I was, and he told me he needed a fan belt if I could muster one up. No problem. Be there shortly. I told Boozie and Spanky the issue, as they brought out my food. It wasn’t Eggs Benedict. What’s… never mind. I’ll just eat it and go.

After perusing the Yellow Pages, I found a local Auto Zone. On the way, while searching for said Auto Zone, I found an O’Reilly Auto Parts instead.

After singing the jingle several times to Becca, who was not amused (Oh, Oh, Oh, O’Reileeeeey!), we pulled in and managed to get the belt he needed. I hoped he had tools. I hoped he knew what the hell he was doing. I hoped he didn’t ask me to help, because I’m no friggin’ good with fixing cars!

It took us about 45 minutes it seemed, in fact it seemed even longer concidering he was not that far out of town, but we tracked him down on the left side of the road, at a BP station. A van had pulled up along side, and I suspected some helpful locals had stop to aide him.

“Deron, meet my Uncle Bob! He’s from Peidmont. I gave him a call!”

Oh, excellent! That was a relief for me. While I’m more than happy to oblige in any help I can offer, it was nice to know he had some family with him that can take care of any other issues that may arise. While Becca and I had planned to take the “long way home” and maybe just sightsee, simply enjoy the afternoon, I still had my children back at home and wanted to spend a few moments with them before I turned over weekly custody of them to my ex-wife.

C.J eagerly began work repairing the belt, and I decided to hang around, make sure he didn’t have any other issues, and possibly be any help I could, to what must have been a very frustrating situation for him. He did manage to knock himself in the head pretty good with a wrench or something while underneath the van, so we were sure it was fixed right!

“Not fixed until you draw some blood!” he declared. Indeed!

After about 45 minutes in the mildly hot late summer sun, as dusty trucks barreled by heading towards Poplar Bluff down a dry, drought stricken highway, C.J. put the final touches on repairs and gave the engine a turn. It started right up, and the belt seemed to operate just fine.

Not so fast! A strange squealing and grinding sounded out from under his hood. C.J and his uncle muttered to each other, and they pointed here and there. Then C.J. motioned Mikey to shut it down. Something was a miss. Uh oh. Did he install it improperly? Was it the wrong belt? Am I making another trip back to Poplar Bluff? Say it aint so!

“Yeah,” C.J. grunted, “that’s what it is.” I peeked under as C.J turned away, and inspected the tensioner, which is what I gathered they were concerned about. Indeed, it had failed. Upon inspection, it was easy to discern that the bearings had failed, and ground down to scrap. It probably caused the first belt to fail, and now must be replaced. No offense, C.J., but I’m not really in the mood to head back seeing as your uncle is here, I thought to myself. But I didn’t really want to say that. If he needs me, I’ll do it, no questions.

Boozie and Spanky appeared having arrived on the scene, and all of us peeked into the engine compartment.

“Should we go get the part?” Becca blurted. Hey! Don’t volunteer me so quick!

“Hang on,” I told her.

C.J. and his uncle continued to mill around, asses the situation, and plot and scheme. Boozie and Spanky stood quiet.

“We can go get it,” Becca announced, staring at me. “Do you know what they need?” she asked.

“Just wait!” I told her.

Jesus, you don’t need to volunteer me! I’ll do it if I have to. But I’m not sure that I have to! There’s options!

Magically, C.J.’s uncle produced a tension pulley brand new out of a box! Amazing!

“I had a problem a while back, thought I needed it, but it turned out to be somethin’ else,” he explained in a slight Ozark drawl. I briefly inspected it, and by gum, it looked identical to the mangled pulley on C.J.’s forlorn van.

“Well, now I have to get this belt off here I just put on,” C.J. muttered, taking a crowbar to the belt, attempting to pry it off its moorings.

I hung around for a bit while the two of them wrestled with it, but before long, I felt it safe and appropriate enough to excuse myself. Looks like C.J.’s got it under control. His uncle drove back to Piedmont to retrieve some tools to complete the job properly.

“Mind if I head out, man?” I asked him.

“No, thanks for your help, man. I greatly appreciate it.”

With that, we pulled out of BP, and headed for home. I’d hoped he’d be able to manage the situation, but there was little more I could do for him. He didn’t need me there to hold his hand. He’s a big boy.

The ride home passed quickly as every feature was more and more familiar. Becca snuggled up close beside me, and I was relaxed. Very, very relaxed.

I love road trips!

What about Bob?

Subject: Guitarist - Rock Bottom
Venues: Eddie's, Granite City, Il & Club 111, Pontoon Beach, Il
August 2007

Gigs have come fast and furious on the Rock Bottom front, and more are on the way! The calendar is getting solidly booked through the end of the year, which on the whole, I’m very happy about. Obviously, making some extra cash doing something I greatly enjoy is a real plus. I also love it because that means that I’m playing more, which means my playing improves, since I rarely practice. As I’ve blogged about before, I rarely practice outside of the gigs, because that really won’t do that much to help me. I know how to play, and I know what I want to play. The trick is doing it on stage, on demand, under the lights, and while flailing your head around like a lunatic. That precision only comes under fire, in the heat of combat, so to speak. The only way I can break through another “plateau” of learning is regular onstage experience. And, I think that’s working. I feel my playing has been pretty solid, though it can stand some cleaning up here and there.

There are some slight drawbacks to having such a full schedule. Working all week at the dayjob, and then working all weekend, no matter how enjoyable, still leaves little time for anything else. Sleep becomes a premium. I also have less time to spend with the kids, and what time I do have, I’m probably tired and hungover.

I’m taking one weekend off in October, however, and taking my beloved Rebecca to Cancun. That should recharge my batteries! She’s never been out of the country, nor has she been to a beach! I can’t wait to show her, and I know we’ll have a wonderful time. Greatly looking forward to that trip! Mas cerveza, por favor!

Past few gigs have been pretty typical. Eddie’s in August was C.J.’s birthday, and we had a hell of a time. Becca bought me a new guitar for my birthday; a brand spanking new Ibanez my kids have codenamed “Bob”. She’s a beaut. I needed to either have Violet fixed, or look for something else. When Becca got wind, she insisted on buying me something for my birthday. I figured will all the money I’m shelling out for our Cancun trip, I don’t feel bad if she really wants to kick in and buy me a new axe. I shopped around for days, visiting numerous shops. Nothing was to my liking or needs. Becca had no idea I’d be this difficult to buy for! But, I have professional wants, and I’m not about to let her waste money just to buy me something to “feel good.” I want to be able to use it. Basically, I need everything Violet is, and maybe a little bit more.

I happened into Mojo’s in Edwardsville, a place I don’t often visit, but we were in the neighborhood. Figured it wouldn’t hurt to give them a shot. I met “Bob”, a strat style guitar with a stunning white and red tribal paint job against a black background. The fretboard was bound like my Les Paul, and unlike violet. Much like an Ibanez Just Mr. Tommy has, that I’ve always liked the feel of. There’s a couple marks in “Bob’s” favor.

I decided to pick him up and put him through his paces. He shined. I tried a few more prospects, but more and more, I liked “Bob”. It was close to exactly what I was looking for and hadn’t found yet.

The paint job was cool, which was a bonus. The neck felt awesome, just like my Les! Only, it’s a 24 fret job, a bit different, and not my first choice. That’s taking getting used to. The Floyd Rose locking tremolo was very similar to Violet, so that was one necessary feature I was looking for. I’ll have to replace the neck pickup with a split coil humbucker like Violet, probably an EMG89 so I can get that sweet clean tone I love. But the main pickups sounded good, and seem to have more body than Violet, which was a big gripe I had with playing it. Violet has a much thinner tone compared to the Les. “Bob” has balls.

“This is it,” I told her, making up my mind on the spot. She smiled, and obliged.

Friday night I fired it up at Eddie’s, and quickly discovered I’d forgotten a disastrously important difference I’d overlooked; Bob is set up to standard A pitch (440hz)! We are tuned down to Ab! Well, I want to tell you, making that alteration on a floating tremolo is a real bitch, and extremely frustrating to make minutes before a gig! I managed to adjust it well enough to work, but the floating bridge basically tilted back to the body, sticking my whammy bar at about a 45 degree angle! Also, the strings felt much more slack, playing like spaghetti in my hands! Ick! Other than that, Bob played and sounded much to my satisfaction. Just need to make some tweaks when I get a chance, or let my buddies at J. Gravity handle it.

C.J. had a big surprise too, one that I was kind of in on. After the first set, his girl barged into the bathroom where C.J. was “doing his business”, wearing a brand new Gibson Thunderbird! Happy Birthday! Needless to say, I heard he pissed himself! We all got new toys!

C.J.’s new toy suits him very well. All black, kinda flat black, it’s a stunning instrument! He’s been nothing but smiles over it. Nice job, Ness!

I also bought a nice new wireless, and it worked swimmingly. I didn’t roam too much; that wasn’t the point. I just liked to have the freedom of not tripping over chords on my side of the stage! It runs on AA batteries, as opposed to the older 9v. I tried using rechargeable ones, but I guess I bought the wrong kind. The technology is there nowadays, but I need the Lithium ones or whatever. I’ll find out. Regular ones seem to work fine for now.

Crowds were great at Eddie’s, and both nights were very enjoyable. Man, is this fun or what? Paul Joseph popped in for a visit (his birthday is in between mine and C.J.’s) and we forced him to grace us with a couple tunes. It was like pulling teeth, but Paulie granted us (me) the favor.

We whipped out Alice N Chains Rooster, an old Knucklehead favorite on Steve’s request. A little rusty. Not a disaster, but, not real sharp. Boozie wasn’t as familiar with that one. Then, Rush was in order. Anytime Paulie is in the house, I have a compulsion to play some Rush! Tom Sawyer suited us fine, and it passed off as slightly better than mild. Boozie nailed his parts, but without the keyboards, I guess we did it ok.

I wasn’t done, however. Let’s see. Ah! Triumph! Lay It On The Line creaked forward, and panic seemed to set into most of our eyes on stage! Eeek! Perhaps too ambitious? Steve, of course, wailed. That’s the important part. In all, good fun, but, not as smooth as I’d liked, or remembered the way we used to kick ass on it.

Both nights had good crowds filled with great friends. Saturday was a bit better than Friday, but that’s the norm there at Eddie’s, for some reason. In all, it’s always a kick ass party when we play there. And, no one was critically injured in any fracus that I can remember! Bonus!

We rolled into Club 111 a week later, and I tried to change string gauges to my preferred gauge. More frustration! And, I’d foolishly told Bec I’d pick her up after I got set up, putting more pressure on myself.

I struggled and struggled, and time quickly ticked down to show time, but eventually got the fulcrum leveled out, the tension right, and the feel as I want it. Boy, did it play and sound beautiful! I fired up the Blue Voodoo and pointed the amp towards Boozie, instead of out into the crowd as last time. Last time, the stage seemed very dead, and my amp was kinda dry up there.

Something in the acoustical ambiance of the stage in this new configuration made my rig boom, and it sounded monstrous! Right on! I basically used Bob the whole show, getting used to him, working out kinks. I barely touched Black! Bob sounds that good! Sorry to say, but Violet is a thing of the past. I still need to get that special pickup installed, but that’s just icing on the cake.

Friday night wasn’t exciting, and the crowd was a bit of a disappointment. I felt kinda bad for the new club, struggling to find a solid crowd and pay the bills. It’s a challenge with their location, and lets face it, summer time is kind of a down time for bars. Too many people out on vacation, BBQ’s, camping, what have you. They are just trying to stay afloat through these lean times, and hope by fall they have a good enough name that people come regularly. We’re here to help!

Saturday night was the complete opposite! The crowd rocked! More and more kept coming in, and we kept the ones that were all ready there. I kept a pretty tight reign on the setlist, making sure we played money songs when we had dancers, and that really kept the flow moving. It worked to perfection! Quite a show, and we really made the bar some money! “Can’t wait to have you guys back!” Denny told me. That’s what we want to hear.

That’s when we’re doing our job.