It was a dark and stormy night.
No, really, it was a dark and stormy night. As best I can figure, the constant black cloud over our house had moved two blocks east to cover the bar. Or it simply expanded to cover a three block area with torrential rain and thunder that shook the entire neighborhood.
You see, the thing about this particular cloud is that it spends all of its time over my house, just watching me and trying to figure out what particular kind of sun-blocking or precipitation it can precipitate upon the family at any one time, with the goal of making me as miserable as cumulously possible.
My wife said it wasn’t raining too hard and it would be a good time to load the gear into the car. She realized her mistake almost immediately, as the cloud overheard her and tripled its output, drenching both of us on one trip to the car. In case you always wanted to know why the rain seems to start at the worst possible moment, there is your answer.
It took four trips to get all the gear into the bar, at which point I was both sweaty and drenched from the rain, which had somehow managed to follow us from the house to the bar.
The bar looked different from the last time I was there, which might have been due to the HAPPY BIRTHDAY decorations and signs all over the place. There were streamers so large they were hypnotizing some of the guests.
The owner made me feel welcome by popping up and mentioning that he didn’t know the party was over at eight, so it would be a good idea to come back later. In other words, I don’t want you setting up and bothering the guests, so come back in two hours or so. Of course he didn’t know the party was supposed to go on until we were to start playing – he’s the owner. Bar owners never know what time events are happening at their own bars…. it’s in the manual.
I dutifully texted the rest of the band to let them know to retard by two hours or so. I even tactfully managed not to yell (in a text message) that no one bothered to tell me not to arrive two hours early.
Eventually we managed to assemble at my favorite pizza place to fuel up for the gig. As we pulled up to the bar, the cloud reappeared and proceeded to bestow its rainy goodness down upon us for the second time. I personally apologized to the band for my cloud. The keyboardist was most impressed with the sheer volume of the rainy assault and asked if it was like that all the time. As it turned out, we got four inches. Even more impressive were the shoes, bits of trash, and smaller houses floating down the street. There was some old dude loading animals into a boat but don’t ask me why.
The birthday people were most kind to us, offering cake. This sidelined the keyboard player for a good twenty minutes (well, there were only four slices).
The real fun was only beginning. A few minutes into setup someone remembered that someone forgot the keyboard stands. It was decided to dispatch the singer, as he was two days away from hernia sugery and was, in his own words, worthless. When questioned as to how this was different from normal, he amended his statement to `more worthless than usual.’
Have you ever had to wring out a tube amp to get the rain out? It was damn near comical to watch me gingerly plug things in. Everything cooperated until it came time to tune my guitars. My hat was so rain-soaked that every time I looked down at my tuner, a drop fell on something below me. I was kinda hoping none of the water would drip into the amp. Even though I had a spare, I didn’t need the pyrotechnics.
At about this time, manglement started agitating for the band to start. One would think that manglement would have known that a band needs more than twenty minutes to set up their instruments and a large p.a. system. Perhaps they forgot in the heat of the moment: I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt.
Eventually the singer returned. We were impatiently waiting for him onstage. He kinda wandered in and asked if I had tuned his guitar. Unfortunately for both of us, I never graduated Tuning Backwards Guitar School. That will serve him right for telling people from the stage that I take twice as long to play guitar because I’m left-handed.
Breaking news: the 110-year old Philadelphia Orchestra is in Chapter 11. How does an orchestra go Chapter 11?
Somehow, after the singer changed his shorts (don’t ask), we got started on our first set. And the place was full, much to our surprise and that of the cloud, which was parked just above the bar. They clapped. They danced. We sweated.
More news: a plane had to make an emergency landing in Louisiana. It hit a minivan full of toddlers. Fortunately no one was hurt. I really need to stop typing this stuff while watching the news.
We kept the door closed due to the rain, which had the effect of making the stage area like Orlando: 95 degrees with 95% humidity. I had horrible visions of being carted out of the bar on a stretcher. Fortunately we opened the back door, which helped to keep us cool. It was like playing to a tsunami.
Meanwhile, the cloud was getting jealous that it couldn’t make us further miserable (yet). Not to worry, at about that point, the p.a. system started having fits. Microphones that worked perfectly just a moment ago weren’t working. The problems kept jumping channels just to keep us flustered and confused trying to deal with them while playing and singing (we’re new – who can afford sound people?).
I suspect the cloud was somehow responsible for the p.a. problems. There’s just no way to prove it.
It was during a break that I acquired Perspective. It was one of those golden moments in life where something just clicks into place. When you’re in a band in your twenties, it’s all about booze, drugs, and chicks. In your thirties, it’s about booze and chicks. In your forties, it’s about finding an amplifier that weighs less than you do. Your drug of choice becomes Tylenol or ibuprofen. I almost fell over when I saw the buffet of over-the-counter pain relievers and the band members eating them like a bowl of M&M’s (with all the brown ones taken out).
Still, two of our number like the old peace pipe. I warned them against it because the local police were quite aggressive in their enforcement of laws (any laws). I had to admit, though, that it would be a hell of a story to miss half of the gig because half of the band got arrested. What we were making would not cover bail, even if we were inclined to try.
I have been a fan of Joe Cocker for longer than I can remember. I enjoy doing his songs live, sometimes complete with spastic movements just like old Joe himself. Unfortunately not everyone has seen Joe live, so certain audience members needed to be reassured that I wasn’t having a seizure onstage. Audiences must be getting younger – I’m sure as hell not getting older.
The only surreal moment for me was that nothing broke. Usually something exotic breaks, causing much grief in the middle of a set. Everything I brought behaved like it never did before.
The next two sets went surprisingly well. The audience was appreciative, alcohol was being sold, and someone from the bar set up a camera to record us. That certainly never happened before. We got everyone pretty excited but apparently they weren’t drunk enough to follow my spur of the moment suggestion that they all take off their clothes. Numerous smiles confirmed they were at least listening.
When we finished, I felt as though I needed to be wrung out. I must’ve gone through several gallons of water (I’m the only guitar player in this hemisphere that doesn’t drink), most of which had exited my pores as sweat.
We were grateful to notice that the rain had finally stopped, which would make loading out much easier on our poor old bodies (and hernias). By the time we packed up and headed for the door, the cloud noticed we were loading the cars and once again poured torrential rain down upon our antedeluvian bodies. It was but ten minutes from when we were grateful for the lack of rain.
The cloud knows.