Friday, January 18, 2008

Auld Lang Sine

Well, haven’t been writing too much, even though we’ve had quite a few gigs, and there were stories to tell in each one, that’s for certain. I guess I’ve kinda lost my passion for blogging about it all. I even toyed around with telling you all I was taking a sabbatical from here on out, but, well, never really felt like writing even that much!

But, as it stands, I still may throw a story or two out there, when I feel like it. If anyone even still reads these things. I pretty much feel I’m writing to myself, and, well, hell, I already know the story! But, I often get nice comments on the stuff I’d written in the past, so occasionally I get a hankerin’ to wax poetic about it. Occasionally.

Club 111 has been a difficult place for us. It’s kind of sad, because we really like the place, and the guy that runs it. He’s an old sound engineer pro that’s been working in the area for quite some time. Steve and I never worked with him, but we have mutual acquaintances, and road stories to share. We moved our poker game there on Wednesday nights to help bring the guy business, support him like we do all the bars that book us.

One show, however, was one of my worst in memory. Somewhere along the line, my beautiful Rebecca had some difficulty out on the dance floor. C.J. warned me, trying to get my attention, but I figured it was just her getting a bit light headed, and I was sure our friends would tend to her. While I was understandably concerned, we do have a job to perform, and I wanted to show to continue seamlessly, rather than cut everything off for something personal on my part. This isn’t about me. As they say, “the show must go on”.

Well, I was mistaken. Actually, unbeknownst to me, and pretty much everyone else, she was attacked on the dance floor. Some psycho Hoosier broad, while calmly dancing with her and chatting, suddenly grabbed my beautiful woman by the hair and body slammed her head first into the floor! Confusion ensued, and eventually her troublemaking boyfriend escorted this bitch out, and caused all manner of ills out in the parking lot. Allegedly threatened to kill Steve’s woman, brandishing a pool cue, what have you. Police were dispatched, and he was carted off to the cooler. I guess the psycho bitch, after receiving some punches from her boyfriend, got away in her car. It was bedlam.

Once I finally learned of it, most of the ruckus had settled, leaving me basically powerless to resolve anything. Everyone crowded around Beck to help tend to her, and I was kind of shut out of that as well. I was confused, and Beck was very dazed. I do thank everyone for their attention, and helping see she was alright. It was just a plain fucked up mess all the way around.

Of course, I some how turned into the bad guy for not stopping the show, for not riding in on my gallant steed as a knight in shining armor to rescue her and save the day. I had absolutely no idea it was occurring. On top of that, it would have been hard to finish the show locked up in a Pontoon Beach holding cell for assault and battery, too. But had I seen it, that’s probably exactly what would have occurred. I would have lost it.

Security tapes caught everything, and the fine police work by Pontoon Beach had her identified and in custody in a few days. Beck refused to go to the hospital, and despite a few days with a huge lump and splitting headaches, she suffered no lasting effects from the attack. Just the scars of being brutally attacked for no reason. Her crime? Being just too damn sexy!

About a month later we were back at Club 111, and Beck was hesitant to attend, but she did. It was close to the holidays, and money was tight, I’m sure. Our crowd was very lackluster. Many of our good friends showed up to support us, and we always appreciate that. But, since overall the place was dead, even their loyalty didn’t keep them there long. There were better things to do, to be sure.

With that, about halfway through the show I gazed out into the crowd, recognizing all 7 or 8 faces in attendance as close friends. It was a bummer. Reminded me of some of the horrible gigs I first had years and years ago at tiny little joints like this where, again, the only people that showed up were my close friends, or the band’s girlfriends. It was a time warp all over again. And, not a pleasant one. It sucked.

So, to relieve the torture, the boredom, and the frustration, I started jacking around with whatever song came into my head. It was a fuck around practice, at this stage. One of the brighter spots was The Scorpions, Big City Nights. We pulled that one right out of the ass, and sounded like we’d meant to play it! Right on! Those are moments on stage I live for! When it all comes together like that, it’s a real rush for me.

Speaking of Rush, I fucked around with my favorite Rush riffs, too. I always do that. One of the reasons I love Rush is Alex Lifeson has those classic guitar riffs! As soon as you hear it, it’s like “BAM!” Great tune! Spirit of Radio, Limelight, Working Man. Whatever. You open that with guitar, and it’s just like “yeah! That kicks ass!”

But, I have no intention of playing the song. I just fuck with the cool ass guitar intro for my own personal enjoyment. Sometimes Boozie will jump in, because lets face it, drummers love (and hate) Neil Peart! It’s fun.

Chuck, looking exceedingly bored (as he often does) handed his bass to old buddy Kene Turcott from Frantic, and Kene jumped in and fucked around with us. Hey! Cool! Jam session! This might be fun! Who else is out there? We have been playing for a while, probably break, time, but, who cares. Let’s have some fun!

So, we played a couple tunes, which were mostly disasters, and just chuckled. That’s about all you can do when a gig fizzles out as this one did. Look for something to pass the time, amuse ourselves.

Mercifully, we only butchered a couple things, and I too decided it was time to set the guitar down, get a fresh beer, and regroup. Figure out what the fuck to do next. This was a disaster, and I felt really bad for Jimmy at Club 111. He’s trying so hard to make this work. This is his livelihood. He’s got real money tied up in this. I don’t. I’m just here to drink beer, impress my girlfriend, and have fun with the buds. No one shows? Hell, I don’t care! But not him. He’s got to make this work. And it’s not working.

As all this is rolling through my head, C.J. starts to break down his gear. Quietly. Just tearing it down. “Yeah,” I thought to myself, “he’s probably right. This sucks. No real reason to finish the night. Ought to just pack it up and go home. Maybe that’s what I’ll do, too. Hate to just leave, though, and rat fuck Jimmy.”

Either Steve or Boozie approached me, and pointed out C.J. packing his things.

“He’s pissed,” they said.

“Yeah, this sucks. I guess I don’t blame him,” I said.

“I guess he’s all pissed off at you, and he’s going home. That’s kind of bullshit.”

Huh? Pissed off at me? Moi? What the fuck did I do? Hell, I didn’t even want to play the show!

See, we were scheduled to play the whole weekend, but to make this club work, Jim has started booking Latino bands on Saturdays, and with radio support from the local Hispanic AM station, they are starting to draw good crowds. It’s going to save his business. So we were double booked. C.J. didn’t really want to play the gig at all, and I didn’t care either. But Steve complained about losing the money, and got us in there for Friday only, which C.J. and I agreed to do. Now he’s pissed at me? For what? This catastrophe isn’t my fucking fault!

“Yeah, well, you started playing that Rush song, and he got pissed off, and said ‘I’m done!’ Guess he’s really pissed.” I was told.

Now, I had to hit the side of my head to make sure I heard this correctly. He’s what?

“You’ve got to be kidding?” I said.

And with that, C.J., without saying a word, packed up his shit, and loaded out. The next morning, he removed himself from friends lists on our My Space accounts for each band member, spouses, and even close friends. Talk about passive aggressive. C.J. was indeed “done”. No whimper, no “fuck you”, no “so long and thanks for all the fish”. Just quietly removed himself from our My Space. That’s the 21st Century way of breaking up, I guess.

Well, Steve tried to do some damage control, and it was relayed to me that should I “apologize” to C.J. for trying to make him look like an ass, things would be set right.

So, that’s it, huh? I need to apologize. Hmm…

I gave it some thought, and then I thought some more. Then, I realized I was doing all this thinking because, well, what the hell was I apologizing for? If I did something wrong, I’m quick to apologize. I have no ego to bruise. I’d much rather make amends than hurt someone.

But this was different. In fact, this was insane.

Sorry, I’m not going to say a damn thing. I don’t owe him or anyone anything for what happened that night. Not a God Damn thing. So don’t expect one from me. Steve probably thinks I could have just to make it all go away. But, Steve also knows me very, very well. I’d never do that. Steve was right.

Boozie didn’t really give a shit. I concur with Boozie. Let’s move on.

So, with that in mind, I gave my old buddy Paul J. Smith a call, and he was more than happy to oblige. He hadn’t played since his fill in stint with Just Mr. (in fact his bass hadn’t been out of it’s case since July he tells me!), but this was all run of the mill standard shit we play, and that’s the way we want to keep it. Rock Bottom has a great base of fans, and we want to treat them like gold. Yeah, putting Paul in the line up pretty much makes the band Knucklehead (in fact, trivia note: Boozie was the original Knucklehead drummer until Scrappy became available, and we’d wondered how we’re going to have a 19 year old play drums for us at these major clubs, so we kind of tossed Boozie overboard, and he never lets us forget that!), but different fans came to see Knucklehead. Rock Bottom fans want Rock Bottom, not Knucklehead. And we want to give them Rock Bottom, because they are wonderful, wonderful fans.

So, Schatzee’s in Belleville was something of a reunion. It was something of a setting right between old friends. And, I think more than anything, it was just business as usual. Paul fit in seamlessly; we played our typical Rock Bottom set, for the most part, and got a great response from the crowd. It was a blast.

We did venture out of the Rock Bottom box just a tad, and played some stuff WE wanted to do, and it was received warmly. Instead of Dokken’s Breaking The Chains, we did It’s Not Love. Not sure that old one was remembered by those in the crowd. But, we also threw in Rush (because I’m such a cockhead!) Tom Sawyer (Boozie nails that song, but I found out he hates playing it in the last set), and Alice N Chain’s The Rooster, a Knucklehead staple. I also whipped out Nickleback’s Figured You Out, because Paul has the 6 string bass, and that song is tuned WAY down to C. Chicks LOVE that tune.

The one song I played strictly for me was some Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Sky Is Crying. Paul and I briefly had a Blues/Rock trio called Three Blind Mice, where I played a tribute set to SRV. Anytime I’m with Paul, I like to play one for old times sake. It feels so good to belt out the blues. One night I think I also played Texas Flood, which Steve later told me sounded even better. Great stuff. Love getting a chance to play it once in a while. Not all the time, but once in a while.

We also stepped out of bounds with Iron Maiden’s Two Minutes To Midnight, and Sabbath’s War Pigs, but, again, no one really seemed to mind. Everything went swimmingly, all things considered. I know it wasn’t really Paul’s “cup of tea”, but he performed professionally, and handled everything we threw at him.

The end of year Rumors gigs went very well, too. He’s built a good following there, and they seem to dig our music. Plus many of our regulars showed up, and lots of familiar faces and musicians. The party was on. I had some of their steak kabobs, and while a bit more pricier than Fast Ed’s, they were delicious to be sure. Very, very tasty.

New Years Eve seemed to go on forever, as they decided to stay open until 4AM. At midnight, when 2008 rolled in and I kissed my beautiful woman, I then fired up a big, fat cigar courtesy of Scotty Garber, and gave a big “FUCK YOU” to the Illinois State smoking ban, now considered in effect. To mark the notorious event, we even played Motley Crue’s version of “Smokin’ In The Boys Room” just out of spite.

The party dissolved into a free form jam session by about 3AM, with members of Frantic, and others slogging away. We were trashed. Poor Kene Turcott could barely stand up finding his way through the songs. While I’d warned Beck that we might not have a good crowd (I’ve had more than one New Year’s Eve gig that was desolate), it turns out the place was packed to the gills! It was past 3AM, and we were going on strong.

Paul’s woman began to succumb to the smoke (ironically) and with that, Paul had to cut the party. He apologized profusely, but it was I who apologized for us going so long without really warning him. He understood, and knew it was a party, he didn’t want to cut off everyone’s fun. He apologized yet again.

And with that. We brought in the New Year. And it will be new, to be sure. But, worry not, Rock Bottom fans, it’s still going to be the same great brand of Rock Bottom music you appreciate.

We just might have a few new wrinkles to it, that’s all. I might just have to blog some more, now.