Sunday, January 9, 2011

Closings, Openings, And Sides, or "Where Has Joe Been For The Last Six Weeks?"

Well, as usual, it's been kinda weird. Is anything ever normal with me?

Let's start off with the beginning, of course. I started off December in Sparks, playing at John Ascuaga's Nugget. For a nice surprise, we were given rooms in the Nugget's West Tower instead of the neighboring Courtyard hotel. My ninth-floor room had a panoramic view of Reno, Sparks and the Sierras. I also found out that I could get free wi-fi at the Starbucks in the hotel, but the original blog post I'd written in my hotel room wouldn't copy-and-paste from MS Word onto this blog, and I didn't have enough battery life on the laptop to just transcribe it, so it's still languishing on the laptop's hard drive, likely never to be seen by the public - all two of you. It was a good enough gig, though the particular acoustics of the room were bothering Mikey to the point that I offered to muffle and trigger my drums in order to help lower the noise level onstage. He said that'd help. So I'll be muffled and triggering when I play there again next week.

After playing The Nugget for the weekend, I had a week to kill before settling for another two weeks at the Carson Station, so I drove up to Carson and stayed with my friends Jazmyn (Jazzy) and Sara. Jazzy's mother Michelle was also staying there, and her little brother joined the party in time for the holidays as well. It was a bit cramped, with four adults (later five) and two small children sharing a two-bedroom apartment, but I handled it well. I couch-surfed, and slept on Michelle's air-mattress when Jazzy and her boys went to California to pick up her brother - Michelle took her daughter's room for herself. I had no real problem with that. I cooked for them, made my famous pot-roast for the whole crew, and my tater-tot casserole for Michelle and Sara while Jazzy was away (Sara called it 'the perfect stoner food'), endured the lack of internet access and even the lack of TV. I bought a hard drive for my Xbox 360, read my books, and bided my time, and did my best to be of as little inconvenience to everyone as I could.

And the Station was a welcome relief, with comfortable beds (though I found it quite odd that I didn't sleep all that well while I was there, compared to the week before and it's air-mattress and lumpy couch), cable-TV and free internet access. The first week of the gig went well enough, learning new material to slot into our show, and playing to happy - no, grateful - audiences.

Then everything pretty much went to hell.

The night before we started our second week, Mikey stopped rehearsal to tell us all something - that this week would be our last. Why? Because The Station was cancelling all live entertainment after the New Year.

Oh, shit.

No official reason was given as to why, and in the absence of such, rumors abounded. There was talk to the positive side, that new owners would be coming in and sprucing up the place before bringing live music back. The more cynical side of my nature listened more carefully to rumors saying that it was only a matter of time that cost-cutting measures would be of no more help, and The Station would close its doors for good shortly. No matter what, we did our best to put on a brave face, and accept the decision as gracefully and humbly as possible. Our fans were not as inclined to follow in our footsteps, however. During an exceptionally busy New Year's Eve, I was pulled aside by a fan of ours (who shall remain nameless) who told us that they'd established a petition with over a hundred names on it, all agreeing to boycott The Station until live entertainment was re-established.

Author's Note: While the name of this blog is "Musicians Boycott!", I hereby declare that in no way whatsoever did I or any of my bandmates have anything to do with this petition. To be completely honest, I never even saw the thing, so I still question whether such a petition ever actually existed.....

Though if it did, it was almost immediately effective. The next night we were informed by The Station that what they'd actually been planning was just a temporary closure, that things would be redone, the stage itself possibly remodeled in the interval, and live music would return in a few months' time when business picked up again. I could live with that decision, even if it meant taking a few months off. Now if only another gig would turn up.....

That took all of about three days. After coming home on Monday night, the following Wednesday, Joy and I were just curling up for a night of My Big Fat Greek Wedding on DVD when I got a phone call from a guy I'd been hearing from on-and-off for several months. He'd been looking for a drummer and vocalist when I saw his ad at the Albertson's supermarket just down the street from my mother's house in April, and I've been playing phone tag with him pretty much ever since. Well, this phone call at 11:30 at night was about an audition - right there and then, and as just a frontman this time. I figured "why the hell not?" and got us both out of bed to go take this audition on. An hour-and-a-half later, I was the new lead singer of a band called.......

.....wait for it.....

Dirty Joe.

According to Roger and Ron, the band's two guitarists, the name was taken from the movie Joe Dirt, and they'd been playing under this name for some time now. To be honest, I have seen the name before in the Thursday entertainment section of the local paper, but that's quite a coincidence there. But after that audition and one practice, there I was, fronting a band that was supremely grateful to have me - even going so far as to actually listen to my suggestions in rehearsal, try them, and like them! - for a well-known local monthly party at a warehouse on the western edge of downtown Port Angeles.

It was quite a difference, compared to playing with Steppen Stonz, or Powerlight, or even with Rick and Dana Cowen's band Kick. Live music, no sequences, no bullshit. Just a singer, two guitarists (though Roger also plays keyboards), a bassist and a drummer. The drummer, an old friend of mine named Rob Phifer, handles backing vocals as well, though that's going to change soon - we need more than that. It's not that I want stacked three- or four-part harmonies at all times, but I know from experience that drumming and singing at the same time takes a lot out of a body, so Rob could use some help from the other guys in the band. The music itself - hard-rock standards from the 60's, 70's and 80's - is easy enough in itself for me to learn. Hell, I've played nearly all of those songs at one time or another in my career, and sang several of them as well. The catch is that I've only sang them from the drummer's chair. I'd never fronted a band before.


Was I nervous? Fuck yeah! But I've seen enough bar bands to know all the moves frontmen make. In simpler terms, I acted like a fucking maniac onstage, and sang my ass off for the length of the show. Afterwards, I was congratulated for my performance by my new bandmates and generally showered with praise. Mission fucking accomplished. So what do I make of this? Where does this go from here? Where do I go from here? Which band do you think I'm going to choose?

Why make me choose? Right now, this new band is something I can't take terribly seriously. I just can't. It's too fun right now. The work will come later, that's for sure. But they're bascially giving me the keys to the car in this band, and asking me for suggestions as to what material I want to bring into the group. I hope they're ready to learn 311's version of The Cure's Love Song, or Down's Ghosts Along The Mississippi, for starters. I'll come up with a list of songs in the next few days, and burn a CD for them to listen to while I'm gone next week.

And that's because I ain't leaving Steppen Stonz. Things are difficult for them right now, and they don't need things to be made worse by me bailing on them. They took the chance on me, after all. I think that they'll only be out of work for a little while, and then they'll be back with a vengeance. So why would I leave them when I'm convinced that while things suck now, they'll get better and better soon?

So I'll do both bands for the time being. I have my concerns about Dirty Joe, and those will only be answered with time. Mike and Arthur have weathered far worse times than this, so I know that they'll still be around. I think Mike and Arthur would be tickled to know that I'm a lead singer now myself. They'd probably laugh at my act, but not out of spite - I hope. But even if they did, I don't think I'd care that much. I have a saying, after all:

"I don't care if you're laughing with me or at me, so long as I've made you laugh."