Archive | March, 2013

Bar Fights

25 Mar

Bar fights. Have you ever seen one?  I have. Have you ever seen one when you were too young to even be in a bar?  I have.

They say, “If you’re gonna be a musician, you have to pay your dues and play shows that drag the bottom of the barrel along the way”. Well, I have.  Along with my old band mates, we paid our dues and then some, but our first payment was at a bar I like to call “Satan’s Armpit”

Look, if you’re gonna be a musician, you have to take gigs that not only suck, but frighten you every once in a while. There are bars out there musician walk into and are lucky if they walk out alive. Satan’s Armpit was one of those places

It was in a town called Rich Hill and upon arriving, I got the distinct impression there were showdowns at high noon on the streets. The people inside were the roughest type you’ll ever meet and I was really waaaayyy too young to even be there.

I remember the flyer out front misspelled our name and our guitarist’s dad came along as our bodyguard. We were under strict orders to not leave his sight.

It was a four hour gig, meaning we were to play four sets. The first one went off without a hitch. We would play an original and a cover here and there. People would look up long enough from their drinks to clap. So far, so good. Nothing scary happened yet.

Second set started to get more animated. The alcohol was flowing. People started moving around to our songs. Uh oh….

Our third set had unleashed the demons.  I can’t remember how old I was, but there was a woman twice my age hitting on me and literally rolling around on the ground while we played, trying to seduce me….and she was not the kind of woman you hope to see rolling around like a stripper on the floor for you. She was beaten down badly by life and I would really be surprised if she’s alive today.

The fourth set…well, we didn’t even make it through the fourth set because that’s when the bar fight happened.  I’m a musician–I’ve seen a lot of bar fights in my time–and this one takes the cake. In fact, I would put it up against any person who has ever thought they saw a good bar fight.

Have you ever seen the movie “Roadhouse”?  Patrick Swayze walks into the Double Deuce and within minutes, the entire place is brawling.  That was this place, only it wasn’t a movie, it was real life!

The ENTIRE bar was fighting!  Just like in the movies. People were hitting other people with pool sticks, breaking beer bottles over people’s head, throwing one another over the bar. The best fighters to watch were not the guys, but the girls. You’ve never seen a real bar fight until you’ve seen EVERY girl in the bar fight one another!

My guitarist’s dad immediately made us start packing up our gear. So we’re breaking our stuff down and watching World War 3 happen right in front of us!  It was hypnotizing!  We had a lot of equipment to pack up and when you’re in a band, that takes a long time…..but the fighting went on longer than it took for us to pack up and get out of there. It was still going on long after we were ready to leave!!

I remember my guitarist said he saw guys fighting in the street and there was an officer of the law just standing there watching them. He wasn’t breaking it up!  He was watching them beat the snot out of each other. He told me the police officer (if you want to call him that) was wearing blue jeans with his handcuffs attached to his belt loop!  As the kids say these days–OMG!!!!!

Needless to say, we never set foot in that town or Satan’s Armpit ever again, but I will never forget that. So if there is ever anyone out there who would like to question the dues I’ve paid to be a musician, I would ask you to please reread this and kiss my ass!!!

My First Radio Interview

18 Mar

Playing in a band gave me the chance to do a lot of cool things most people will never get to do.  I’ve traveled all over this country playing shows, listened to huge crowds sing words I wrote back to me, signed tons of autographs, taken countless pictures with fans—I’ve even been flown to New York on a record label’s dime.  Then there’s the radio airplay.

There is nothing quite like driving down the road and hearing your song on the radio out of nowhere.  It’s surreal, it’s magical and then you realize there are also thousands of other people in their car or at work or at home listening to you as well. Amazing!  Then there’s the radio interviews.  Again, you’re in a radio station talking into a microphone about the music you play and there are countless people listening on the other end, learning something about you.  It’s no wonder rock stars have egos.

I’ve done a lot of radio interviews where I realized this was happening only afterward, but the first radio interview I was a part of didn’t feel like that at all.  In fact, it felt like people were turning off their radios.  Let me explain.

My band released its first CD and was asked to go on-air for an interview at a big time rock station in Kansas City.  We were to come in, talk about the new album, play a couple cuts from it, and take phone calls from the listeners.  Sounds awesome!  Everything went as it was supposed to, except the “calls from listeners” part.

The DJ played a song from the album, asked about the recording, the lyrics (typical stuff).  Then he turns it over to the callers.  “If you’d like to talk to the band, we have them in studio right now.  Give us a call at blah-blah-blah.”

Dead silence.  No phone calls.  So we keep the train moving.  He asks us more questions and plays another song, again telling callers to call in and talk to the band….nothing.  No one is calling.  Is anyone even listening?  Are we even on-air?  There must be a mistake.

Then finally a call comes in. 

“Hi, caller,” the DJ says, “We have The Sound and the Fury in studio. Do you have a question for the band?”

The call goes quiet and he finally says, “Uh…  I was wanting to make a request.  Do you think you could play some White Zombie?”

Great!  Yes, I’m sure the DJ can play some White Zombie, ass!  But how about you wait until our moment in the sun is over? How about you just patiently wait until our radio interview is done, then make your phone call?!  Or better yet, I’m sure you have a few White Zombie CDs just laying around your house!  Why don’t you go play their CDs in the basement of your mom’s house (who you probably still live with), instead of calling in a radio station that is clearly interviewing a band trying to get their name out there and killing the illusion that we are the next best thing since sliced bread?!!!!!

Eventually, we were put out of our misery.  I believe some of our friends called in (maybe even some family members) to say we rocked, the DJ thanked us for coming and our big debut was over.   So the next time you hear a band being interview on the radio for the first time, drop whatever you’re doing and call them!  Or at least, don’t call and request another band.

i wish that hadn’t happened

12 Mar

As a musician, when you play a melancholy song, you dream of looking out across a silent audience that is wrapped up in every word you sing.  I’ve played a lot of shows where I’m just background noise and people only pop their head up every once in a while to pay attention to what I’m doing.  But there are a few times when I’ve had the entire room’s attention.  This is a story of one of those times….and how the moment was ruined.

When I was in my band, we were like a well-orchestrated football team.  We would do solid shows night after night, but every once in a while, something would come up to disrupt the flow.  With experience and plenty of shows under your belt, you can overcome these obstacles.

In this particular story, one of the setbacks we faced was a broken string onstage.  If you play music in front of an audience long enough, someone is going to break a string on their guitar.  You never know when it’s going to happen, but eventually it will.  You always hope it happens at an appropriate time (like right as you strum you last chord of the night), but it never does.  So when it does happen, you better have a plan, because you’re standing on stage in front of a lot of people looking to be entertained and you don’t want to slow the show down.

So here’s where the story picks up.  When I was in my band, if someone (my bass player or guitarist) broke a string ,it was up to me to pick up the slack and keep performing while they restrung their instrument.  I always had, at least, three guitars on stage, so if I broke a string, I would move on to another guitar.  But my bass player and guitarist only had one guitar each.  If they broke a string, the show came to a halt while they fixed their instrument.  No problem, though.  I would play solo.  We would reroute our set list and I would play a song by myself until we were ready to go again.  I had songs I had written that didn’t necessarily work for a rock band, so this was my opportunity to showcase these songs.

We are in the middle of a show and my guitarist breaks a string.  He calls for an audible.  The rest of the band takes a quick break on stage and I resume the show by myself.  I don’t remember what song I played during that break, but I do remember the moment and the audience.  It was a packed house.  People were shoulder-to-shoulder–staring at the stage–waiting for the next song.

Remember earlier, I said it’s a rare thing to have a quite audience listening to every word you sing, but this particular night was one of those rare moments.  I played my song.  I played the F out of it.  I looked out over this crowd and saw they were in the moment with me.  They were feeling whatever I was singing about.  No one was talking, no one was moving–we were all in this moment together.  They probably don’t remember it, but I’ll never forget it.

And as I strummed my last chord, the crowd erupted in applause.  Goosebumps ran over my arms!  This is what I write music for—to connect with people like that.  It’s that exact feeling I chase every night I step on stage.

Then, a man standing in the front row leaned in toward the stage as the audience’s cheers quieted down and said “hey, man”.

He had a look on his face like I had touched his heart on a different level.  Here’s what I thought he was going to say to me:

“Thank you for that song.  You really spoke to me with that one.  I want you to know you are a song-writing god and if there’s any girl in this audience I can be your wingman to, I will gladly accept the duty”

Here’s what he said instead:

“Your fly is not zipped”

I was a deer in headlights.  In my mind, this moment is ruined by the countless people who saw my zipper unzipped and I’m also leaving a voicemail on God’s answering machine that goes like this:

“So let me get this straight, God.  You gave me this moment only to let it also be the most embarrassing moment of my life on stage?  Thank you.  You win”

I zipped my fly, the show went on and I have never recovered. 

My first professional gig could have been my last.

10 Mar

I joined a band my junior year in high school, because I was a class clown. My geometry teacher told me if I stopped disrupting the class every day, she would let me get up every Friday and do the comedy routine I kept trying out during her lessons. I know this might be hard to believe, but I’m an introverted person. I’m not a social butterfly, but put me on a stage where there’s an invisible barrier between me and a crowd and all those social anxieties disappear.

Since I wasn’t good at impressing girls one-on-one, I thought if I got up in front of the class and put on a show, I would have a fighting chance with them. So every week, I would be good, so I could unleash myself Friday at the end of class. I would do impressions of Elvis Presley singing the alphabet, Michael Jackson with the hiccups, etc. Needless to say, it didn’t have the effect I’d hoped it would have on the girls, but it did impress a drummer in a band.

His name was Keith Knapp and he’s a friend of mine on Facebook, so look him up and say hi. He asked me if I wanted to sing in this rock band he played in. I was flattered. My impersonations had landed me a singing gig, so of course, I accepted. There’s a lot more to the story of how I joined this band, but that’s for another day. Let’s just say for now, I kicked ass (that’s right, I’m bragging) and was in a band before I knew it.

Well, a band isn’t a band without a gig, so after months of practicing, writing songs and learning covers, we sought out our first gig. We barely had a name, we barely had hope, but we were in high school in a small town and failure is barely possible when you’re that young.

We finally landed a gig at a place called The Elmore Inn. Word spread quickly about the show and since it was a small town with no other forms of entertainment, a good portion of our school came out to see us play. It was my first real audience and definitely in the top five of my most memorable shows ever, purely on the special place it still holds in my heart. There would be bigger crowds, bigger stages, bigger everything, but that was where I lost my on-stage virginity, so it’s one of my favorites. There were cute girls there (yes!), there was the popular crowd, the loser crowd, the random people who just so happen to show up. Everyone was there…..and so were my parents.

Yes, that’s right! My parents came to my first gig. The one time I had a chance to live it up and have a crowd bow before me, my parents came to cheer me on and ruin my fun. How was I gonna sing to hot girls with the right amount of carnal passion with my mom and dad watching? I’ll tell you how–by breaking their hearts and acting like a maniac.

This was my show, after all. Not theirs. This was my moment. So that night, the band played about as well as 15/16 olds playing their first gig can (which to my recollection, was pretty good) and I felt like a god. I started mosh pits (remember those?), I stood on the speakers, I wrapped the mic chord around my neck very dramatically and….I cursed…a lot.

F this, F that! I cursed during the songs, I cursed in between songs, I think I even cursed in other languages. I didn’t care. My parents hadn’t raised me to talk like that, but this was my night and I was drunk with power. I’m telling you, for a high school band, this first show couldn’t have gone better and I was the ringleader. To this day, I remember believing we were so good, there was probably a record label executive in the audience of this hole-in-the-wall restaurant and we would surely get signed the next day.

But all good things come to an end. The show eventually finished, we packed up our gear and I went home to my regular life where my parents were waiting. I don’t remember the conversation we had, but here’s the jist of it
– You’re done being in a band
– You will never leave this house again
– You are never allowed to speak again

Obviously, it didn’t end there. My parents hated that I was in the band, but they saw it. I was happy. I use to play sports, but failed at them. I had an itch to be creative, but never could find my niche. But this…..this was a “I’ve-found-my-purpose-in-life” discovery that I hope my own children will find someday on their own. I was in love with music. I am still in love with music. I will always be in love with music. I wanted to be a musician. It may not be what every parent hope their kid to aspire to be, but nonetheless, I was aspiring and they let me go for it.

So the moral of the story is, your kids will be knuckleheads–your kids, my kids, future kids, space alien kids. But if they show signs of real passion for something creative, let them do it—even if they curse a lot in the process. Even if it looks like it’s a huge mistake in the long run. The point isn’t what they’re doing, but what kind of heart they are willing to put into it. I’ve put my heart and soul into music from the time I first joined that band and will until I’m no longer capable. I’ve failed at it, I’ve succeed at it, but more importantly, I found something that made me happy. Music makes me happy.

my job is playing music…

5 Mar

Every time I go to work, I pick up a guitar and sing into a microphone in front of people.  In your face!  I haven’t had a real job in years (thank God) and making a living doing what you love is exactly as good as it sounds.  I’ve been writing, singing, performing music since I was in high school.  I was in a popular Kansas City band that toured the nation, got radio airplay, almost got signed and lived like a rock star for a while (by that, I mean a rock star who was always broke, slept in a van and showered in stranger’s houses or in gas station bathrooms.  Okay, maybe not quite like a rock star).

Those days are far behind me, but I did figure out a way to keep playing music by myself, keep creating music and finally make some money at it.  I’m not the greatest musician in the world, but I’m also not the worst.

I’ve been chasing this little music career for half my life now and I want to start talking about it.  Surely I have some good stories to tell in there somewhere, right?  If you answered, yes, you would be correct!

So now I’m going to be a blogger too.  I want to give you a bird’s eye view of who I was, who I am and who I may or may not ever be as a musician.  This is the first step to me wasting even more time in front of my computer than I already do, so please keep checking in. My job is playing music and if you’re on board, your job will be to read about it!