Things look very different from the stage, part 4.5…

Once again, I’m not sure who I write these for – nor what their purpose really is. But, seeing as I’m awake, I am going to write this and hope that it sends some sort of message.

Warning: This is likely to be quite long because, umm… Reasons! Yeah, reasons.

As I return to the stage, having spent remarkably little time on one for the past decade, I find myself being reminded of many things. As I’m pretty sure that my age dictates that I insist this be my last grand adventure with a regularly playing band, I sometimes find myself staring into the great abyss that is my past.

And I wonder… I wonder what could have been?

For those that don’t know, this is my second time where I’ve had a band that was mine. I’ve been in many bands, but as a band member. This time, I’m absolutely the leader – and this is not the first time I’ve been in this role.

In fact, my first time was in the mid-1970s and we failed miserably. As the band leader, it was my responsibility and I am accountable for that failing. You’ll actually have a pretty good understanding of the story if you’ve ever heard Neil Young’s ‘Needle and the Damage Done.’

It was then that I lost my recording contract, my band, and my heart. It was then that music had changed for me, forever. But, what if it hadn’t? What if I’d stuck it out? What if I’d formed a different band? What if I’d tried harder?

Meh… Instead, I drove back across the country and dropped off my former bandmates at various locations, returned to visit my parents, and signed up for the United States Marine Corps. That’d turn out to be a pretty good decision, but my views towards music were irrevocably altered.

What had once been a passion for creating new music would become a passion for faithful replication of music. What had been a pretty relaxed view would form into the semi-disciplined self you see today. What had been a grand adventure of discovery was now turned into rote.

I don’t regret that but I think that’s the period where I’d say, “I sold out.”

I no longer gave two shits about making new music, saying something new, and inviting people to understand me. I cared about playing music as a source of income – and playing for myself. I’d not seriously (and publicly) perform again for years, and then I’d only do it when I’d reached the point where I needed the money.

Which brings me to this! (See? I got this intro shit figured out!)

Things don’t always turn out like you expected!

When I last left you, I was bitching about the various issues and stresses we face as performers. The great thing about that stress is that those stresses seem to melt away when you hit your stride on the stage. Those complaints no longer matter and you thrive on the joy that is playing for an audience.

I don’t really want to tell you about the show – because I want to get to the things I think you’ll find most interesting. But, I’m afraid I must do so. Please, forgive my lack of brevity – but it’s essential (to me) that I talk about them. I’ll try to tie the events together, but my keyboard pounding skills are certainly lacking.

Pretty much like always, the people were too kind to us. Even the band that we played in front of was very kind. They were actually quite astonished and told us that our band was better than their own and that the venue had it backwards – they should have been opening for us. However, they do a bunch of originals and appeal to the mountain biking crowd more than we do – we were for the crowd that goes to bed earlier.

Or so one might think…

I was initially told that about 100 people had made the trek just to see us. This figure was later revised and ranged anywhere from 50 to 500 – which the latter figure is probably only suited for stroking my ego.

What I can say is that a whole lot of people simply left the hall after we stopped playing.

Hmm… Let’s paint a better picture than that?

Picture a ski resort with a giant complex called something like, “The Main Lodge.” Throw in a few bars, some restaurants, some lounges, some shops, lots of space, and things like that.

Now, the ski resort has no snow. But, they have condos, golf, mountain biking, hiking, and even let you ride the lifts up to get the view, bike down, or hike.

That’s the kind of mix we had going on in there and the three bands were, more or less, there to please different segments of the crowd. You had one band that covered mostly newer stuff, one that does mostly originals, and us – who kind of cover the middle but are generally considered a high-production cover band.

The hall has two smaller doors and one giant opening that is a doorway. Inside, the sign on the wall says the maximum standing capacity is 1,200 people. (There’s some debate about this, and several people have since told me that the sign says seated and the number is larger for standing. It’s not important and I didn’t argue.)

The stage, shaped like the letter E, is actually on a platform itself, so there’s three levels. The drum riser is actually up a few stairs in the center stage rear. Security was on the platform, along with lights, some of the house’s sound gear, and an out-of-place decoration or two.

The whole lodge probably holds a five digit sum of people, and people would come and go as they pleased. Admission had been paid at the gate or the show was free for those who were already in the complex because they had yearly memberships to the golf course, or were already going to be staying the evening there. Some folks did pay to get in specifically for the show, but I think those were the minority.

What’s important is the number of people who came to see just us. While they may have enjoyed the other bands, they came to see us specifically. Some had heard about us from their friends, some had heard the ads on the radio, some had seen us before. It seems a bit egotistical to call them groupies, but I’m certainly comfortable calling them fans.

By all accounts, we had more fans there for us than had any other band – including the folks headlining the place! Which is why I figured I had to tell you about the show.

While we were playing, there wasn’t much movement in and out of the hall. We filled it to capacity, and kept the people in there. Rather than risk losing their space to fuel themselves with more booze, they waited during intermission.

For those of you who aren’t musicians, those are very big things. Those are wonderful things. Those are signs that we’ll be able to put asses in seats. Those are signs that we’re filling a hole in their lives. Those are signs that we’re not just doing everything right – we’re doing it quickly.

It can take a year or two to get a following this size and this sort of fan base. I’m told our social media has something like 900 followers and this is just our fourth show.

Way back when, you may recall that I’d said there was a serious lack of a band to fit this niche? I also said we were going to rock the region and we were going to set some records, including volume levels for a regional band. We’re doing that. We’re following all the damned rules I’ve been spelling out, for the most part, and we’re seeing success.

In fact, we’re (maybe) invited back in the fall and then again in the winter. I’m not even sure I’ll be able to fit the fall show into our schedule. When I say we’re invited, I mean that I’ve been told they’ll be calling me on Monday to discuss our return for two dates. Unfortunately, both of those dates are set in stone and I’m not home but I think the fall date conflicts with another event that we’ve already got scheduled.

I can’t be sure if we’ve agreed to that event or not. If we haven’t, and this one will pay more, we will take this one! If we’ve already signed a contract for a different venue, we’ll fill those contracts.

As for here? I don’t like the acoustics. I don’t like the stage. I do like the crowd. I do like regular shows that provide a consistent source of income. Remember, my ultimate goal is to teach these five band members how to become performing musicians to the exclusion of all other sources of income.

So, the show was excellent! It was lovely. I’m reminded of Jackson Browne.

Tonight the people were so fine.
They waited there in line.
Then they got up on their feet,
And made the show.

But, that’s actually where it gets to the part I think you may be interested in! That’s just a comically large lede for what I actually think you’re probably interested in.

The short version is we partied like rock stars.

The venue was kind enough to give us use of a 10 bedroom suite, four golf carts, free food, free booze (had to be ordered before 01:00 – so I got a bunch), and two security guards. We didn’t have the security to ourselves, we had to share them with the band that played after us – and the band that had been first on all went home – or wherever they went. At the very least, they were no longer here.

Ah – update: I’ve just been informed that the band that went on before us has a gig this afternoon. Ha! Suckers! Fortunately, much of the gear was the house’s gear – we just (mostly) used their sound system. At least they didn’t have to do a complete load out last night and then manage to do setup and soundcheck bright and early this morning.

I scribbled on a couple dozen guitar picks and told security that those specific picks (a specific color with a specific color writing) were the passes to let people up to visit us in the condo.

I sent the band back out to the bar while I stayed here, prepped a little, and kept company with the two who are unable to legally be served in the bar and one person who doesn’t drink much. They were to hand out picks and invite a few people. They handed out the picks and invited quite a few people. Like, far more people than picks.

Eventually, we’d just open the suite doors and the doors to the balcony – and get the other band to do the same. They weren’t nearly the assholes that people had claimed, but that’s perhaps because we’re good! It might also be because of the ensuing mayhem and the small crowd we attracted!

It turns out that the vast majority of the many people who showed up (some of whom are still here but that’s a bit personal and we’ll not be delving into details) were actually our fans and had come to see us perform. Sweet!

Some memorable events…

We sent the drummer to get more merch from the truck. On his return, security banned him from driving the golf carts – at all. I still don’t know the details. (See? I told you he can’t drive!)

Later, like two dozen people went out and drove the golf carts. My understanding is, and I had no part in this, that they proceeded to borrow a few more carts. And, by ‘borrow,’ I mean steal.

Carts and golf – so I’m not entirely what parts of the story are exaggerated, but the golf carts were taken away, all of them. Sadly, the entire lot was banned from the golf carts.

The pool was closed. Or, at the very least, a party of people were told that the pool was closed. Again, I don’t know the details and I’d probably not tell you if I did know them.

Several trips were made to other condos to get more inebriating substances, because we’re pretty much drank all the booze that I’d ordered. Some of the activity was probably pretty illegal.

Security stopped checking for the aforementioned picks and was just letting anyone in. The doors were all open, so they could just walk into either of the suites. Notably, the doors remain open. I can see the door from where I’m sitting and people keep shuffling by and looking in.

We were never once asked to turn the music down or to be quiet. My guess is that they decided they’d let that slide, ’cause it kept us mostly in one area.

Our suite was determined to be the one where we’d hide illicit drug us and keep our clothing on. The one at the other end of the building operated under no such constraints. They had lost their golf carts because some unknown people had stolen them. All golf carts had been removed and all permissions were revoked.

It’s a long walk back to the car. I doubt they’ll let me us a golf cart – even though I’d absolutely nothing to do with the mayhem. (That’s my official story and I’ll never say anything to the contrary.)

No items or furniture are broken in our suite. There are way more people in it than should be. There were even more last night. A number of doors are closed and I’m not sure what’s going on, or went on, inside them.

Several people had to be asked to leave, and one forced to leave. I’m told security stopped them from returning. They’d had a bit too much and were being aggressive towards non-aggressive people and one had been a wee bit untoward with regards to one of the female members of the band. I’m not actually sure who was kicked out from the neighboring suite, but I’m sure some were.

There’s actually a whole stack of food that was delivered at 07:00 – and I’m not even sure who ordered it, who wanted it, or who is expected to pay for it. I’m pretty sure when they said they’d cover our food and booze, they didn’t quite mean this. All the booze I ordered and all that was in the room is now long gone.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

I wasn’t kidding when I said we partied like rock stars. I’m also not kidding when I say I’m too old for this shit. I’m pretty tired but I’m not going to be able to sleep. I’m waiting to sober up the rest of the way so that I can drive home. I’m pretty sure I’m also going to need to talk with the venue manager and I’m not sure if I’m going to get a bill for this. It was not part of the contract.

Most of all, the band displayed some heart last night. They truly felt like, and behaved like, the stars they are. Sure, they’re just little regional stars – but they’re stars. For all the complaints about stress, hassles, and work – this is what makes it worthwhile.

What’s is “this?” No, not the party – though that’s expected. The “this” is the chance to truly mingle with the fans and people who appreciate our music. I still don’t know any of their names, but I know that some of them drove for three hours to see us.

When it’s just your fourth gig as a band and you find out that people carpooled to drive three hours to see you, that’s pretty much the best day ever. It doesn’t get much better than that. You know that you’re filling a hole in their lives and that they’re truly appreciative of what you do, who you are, and how you do what you do.

Well, it’s 09:30 and I need to get the hell out of here. It’d appear that I’m taking three ladies home with me! Alas, it’s not nearly as good as it might sound. One’s too young, the other is a band member, and the third one is the missus. Technically, she’s driving herself home and will pick up the dog along the way. She looks exhausted and actually tried to sleep.

Finally, I want to say that I dedicate this one to a fella we call @crazy_eyes. He was able to take care of some very important things in my absence and, more amusingly, it’s his chance to nod and say, “That’s the kind of night I approve of.” Until next time…

Shut up and play us a song!

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