Sunday, February 27, 2011

What's Old Is New Again

Remember that gig I thought I had coming up in my last post? Never happened. It turns out that the bar we were supposed to be playing was having problems. Or at least that's what I was told. They weren't alone. Remember that new drummer I was talking about? He's out, too - showing up for practice 90 minutes late - twice - and not responding to our phone calls is generally grounds for a rapid dismissal. But as usual, there's more to it than that. And because of that, I'm going back behind my drums again.

Y'see, while ol' Phife wasn't the best drummer in the world, let alone the best person, he could sing fairly well. And with his departure, there was no one left in the band to sing backing vocals behind me. And then Roger strays from the CD of new songs I wanted the band to learn and starts noodling his way through a handful of Styx songs. I advised him that we could only tackle material like that with not one singer, but three - and I didn't see anyone else stepping up to the mic. And with the new drummer not panning out, I made the decision to go from being merely a singer to being a singing drummer again, and hire a new lead vocalist.

And on top of all this, our bassist was ailing as well. I won't go into details about - it ain't pretty folks, that's all I'll say - but he was unable to play. And while we were able to drum up a replacement for Tom, this guy wasn't going to be available full-time due to family. And he also had issues with the new drummer, so it behooved me even more to get back behind the kit. But Tom's health is improving, but how much so is still somewhat of a mystery to me. So for the moment, we have two bass players, with Tom playing on the weekends, and the backup coming in to rehearse during the week.

So we got together last night for my first rehearsal as drummer/vocalist, and it went remarkably well, though getting there was quite a challenge. With the recent snowstorm, the roads can be a bit...... dicey. And Roger's place isn't on a paved road. I picked up John (the backup bassist) at the Transit Center in downtown PA and headed up to Roger's place, only to find that not only was the road impassable, but Roger and Ron weren't even there - helping a friend move at the last minute, apparently. They showed up soon enough though, and we got on to business. None of them had ever really heard me play before, and well....... let's just say they were happily surprised. At one point Ron actually got down on all fours and bowed to me. I guess their drummers had been of rather inconsistent quality as of late.

It felt good to just rock out, I must say. This was more the style of drumming I had back when I first started gigging around PA 15 or so years ago, made all the more better by years of experience and understanding. But now I've wound up leading them into an even bigger pickle - who do they call to replace me when I'm out of town? I don't even want to know any more.

And a quick side note for you. My Carson City homegirl Jazmyn posted to her Facebook page about going to see the Stonz. I almost had a heart attack thinking 'did they fire me without even bothering to tell me?' before I remembered that they were playing at the Atlantis. So I'd assume that Alan Zukor is keeping my seat warm for me until the next good gig comes along. Whenever that will be. I'm starting to get a little worried.....

Breathe Joe, breathe. Just be patient.......

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Minden Your Business

I deeply apologize for not having posted for so long. I must do better. Now where was I?

When last I left you, I was looking at the possibility of losing my gig with Steppen Stonz due to a lack of work. My new band, Dirty Joe, had just played our first gig to a crowd of about thirty or so at a local artist's studio. So what's been happening lately? Well, a three-day run at the Nugget in Sparks was nice, but barely able to pay for the gas to get there and back. But it led to some good news - we'd gotten a four-night gig at the Carson Valley Inn in Minden, about 10 miles south of Carson City, over the Super Bowl weekend now just past. This was a chance to showcase Steppen Stonz to a new audience and a new management, so we needed to be on our best behavior for the gig.

It'd been a while since I'd been there last, and even longer since I'd last played there. I played there two or three times with Powerlight, the last time being in '03 or '04. I used to go there five nights a week as a part of my courier route, but that was just to duck in and out as quickly as possible. Since Joy and I had left Reno, Carson Valley Inn had been sold to the family that owns the Eldorado in Reno, but I guess they'd sold CVI (and the smaller Bodine's Casino in Carson City) to another guy, who we were briefly introduced to after we'd set up - he was busy fiddling with a lighting fixture. I saw that as a good sign - a guy who's hands-on with the businesses he owns is always a good thing, win or lose. Our agent had talked us up to the CVI pretty good, saying that we'd likely become their number-one band once they hired us. I'd like to think we delivered on his promise, but more on that later.

As usual, we started filtering into the CVI the night before the gig started, or the day before in my case. Due to the Inn itself being booked solid for the weekend, we were farmed out to rooms at CVI's nearby motor-lodge a few hundred yards away, with their RV resort and mini-mart in between. Upon checking in it was plainly obvious that the new regime was pouring a lot of money into refurbishing the place - the old cabaret above and behind a bar (similar to cabarets at the Atlantis, Peppermill, and Carson Station) was gone, replace with a stage just a few inches above a small dancefloor, with the bar now off to the stage-left. Rooms in the inn and motor-lodge were refurbished as well, and the smell of paint and carpet glue was strong enough to suggest that the refurbishing was done quite recently. I was glad Joy wasn't with me - those fumes would've put her in the hospital.

I'd pulled an all-nighter to get to Minden, leaving directly from a Dirty Joe practice that actually became a scouting trip for a new drummer in Sequim to drive straight through to Minden, so the extra-comfy bed was a godsend. After a nap, I wandered over to the Inn to see my homegirl Tina Fink play with her band's new gig, doing live-band karaoke. They've managed to work it into a pretty stable set of one-nighters during the week while still playing standard cabaret shows on the weekends. After they finished their show and cleared out, I set my kit up so that I wouldn't waste the Stonz' time the next morning when they'd set up. Our agent actually gave us a pep-talk after we set up, and assured us that we'd get good crowds that weekend because of the Super Bowl while telling us how he'd sung our praises to the CVI brass. So we were pretty optimistic heading into the first show on Thursday night.

That optimism didn't last for very long, though. We played to a pretty empty house that first night, with only a few regulars from Carson there to support us. We did our best to shrug it off and figured that the real fun would start the next night. For once our predictions came true, and the next three nights were played to full houses, all night long. Even including Sunday, after the game was over. And boy were those people enthusiastic. I don't think I've ever played to such a lively crowd in Nevada. All our friends from Carson, Dayton, and Lake Tahoe came to visit at least once. We were getting a good crowd to work with, and we hit it for all we were worth. In my honest opinion, I think that this may have been the best set of shows we've done since I joined the Stonz. No problems, no bugaboos, no brainfarts. Even with a cold wrecking my voice, I was putting out as good an effort as I could manage. Our agent was there for a little while each night, and I think even he was impressed. He even jumped onstage a few times to sing along with us.

And the staff at CVI were so good to us. When I checked in, I'd found that there was a slight miscalculation on somebody's part, and that we weren't scheduled to check in until the next night. They fixed that error quickly enough though, and Mike and Arthur checked in a few hours after I did. We were given access to the employee cafeteria for a meal a day (bonus!), and treated well by the staff in general. It even turned out that a few CVI employees had seen us play before, presumably up in Carson, and were quite happy to have us playing on their home turf.

And that positive vibe was a welcome change. Y'see, in the past CVI didn't have all that good of a reputation with the bands because some of their employees seemed a little, well........ obsessed with enforcing noise-limit rules on the bands. They'd wave around sound meters and threaten bands with firing for being even the slightest bit over the 85-decibel limit that federal regulations demanded, and do other things to embarass and humiliate bands. But all of that was gone now. But while we still had to keep things somewhat quiet (having my drums muffled and triggered certainly helped), there would be no hassles from anyone, as any issues would be solved quietly and quickly, lest a quick phone call to our agent would be placed to chew out the offending party.

But negativity was nowhere to be found. In so many words, things went great. We killed it. Knocked it out of the park. We received nothing but praise from all sides. I even got a $50 bonus, which certainly helped pay for gas getting home. We figure that it's only a matter of time before we're working there steadily, filling the void left by the Station's cancellation. Even a few Station employees showed up, telling us they were convinced the place would be going under any minute now, while other friends of ours claimed that the place had been sold to new owners, and that we'd be back onstage there within a few months. That would be nice, I'll admit. Playing two-week gigs in Carson and Minden would be awesome, and certainly help boost my bottom line. But I'll take what I can get for the time being.

And now that I'm back in Port Angeles, I have to put on my lead-singer hat and front Dirty Joe for its first serious gig this weekend. I'm looking forward to putting these guys through their paces, and seeing how Port Angeles accepts me as a singer instead of a drummer. With a new drummer in tow, we've got one rehearsal before Friday comes. So let's hope for the best, okay?

Happy thoughts, people!