Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hot, Bothered, And Not All That Special

Well loyal readers, I just got back from my latest sojourn down to Nevada. Want to hear all about it? Want an explanation for such a weird title for the entry?


Last week was Hot August Nights down in Reno, a week-long celebration of classic-car culture and generally the busiest week in town for just about everyone, including the bands. Steppen Stonz was camped out at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks for the third year in a row (at least that's how many it's been for me), and ready to entertain. But like last year, we were not alone. This time around our early-shift support came from The Sterling Silver Band, a crew of nice older gentlemen from around Modesto, CA - sorry, no link for them, all I could find was a band by the same name down in Alabama. Mikey called me up a few days before Joy and I came down and asked me to call the other band's leader so I could contact their drummer about kit-sharing. For those who don't know, in a situation where two bands share a stage for a week, the late-shift drummer is the one who provides the kit both drummers use, since it would make no sense for the early-shift drummer to do so - he'd wind up having to sit around and wait for me to finish before he could tear down, and that's no fun at all. And while he was amenable to the idea at first, he decided to bring his gear along anyway, and wound up using it, setting his kit up to my left. This turned out to be no problem at all, since they preferred to use an off-set formation with the drums in the back-left corner in the first place. I did my best to help them get through their load-in and set-up Tuesday evening, and I think they did rather well.

Our five-night run went rather well. It could've been longer, like it had been before. Last year we played seven days, and ten the year before that, though that was probably more a fluke of scheduling than anything else. But with the economy in the toilet, who am I to complain? A gig's a gig, after all. Almost all of our regular friends showed up, and by Friday and Saturday, so many people were coming to see us, Nugget employees were actually setting up chairs on the casino floor beyond the cabaret to accommodate the overflow crowd. In so many words, we killed it. I would sincerely hope that this will lead to more and longer gigs there.

And Joy was with me this time around, and that made life a little more bearable. We took Michelle and the grandbabies swimming several times, drove up to Virginia City for a little while on our last day in Nevada, and generally drove each other crazy with all our little idiosyncrasies, the little things we do at home that don't seem to translate so well to a small hotel room. We were also able to visit Joy's Social Security/Disability attorneys in Reno, who seemed quite confident that Joy would finally get approved for SS/D, probably soon after her hearing with a judge next month in Seattle. While we were quite happy to hear that, Joy still was stressed out about the visit - so much so that she threw up while speaking to their medical-records representative. Hopefully, that will work itself out soon.

Now I'll bet you're still wondering to yourself, "what the hell was Joe talking about with that 'special' crack?" Well, Steppen Stonz just seem to be a magnet for the more..... interesting people. I don't really have a problem with dealing with the (let's be correct now) challenged people coming to shows. Most of the time, they're nice enough. Our friends Krissy and Josh were always coming to the Carson Station, and we still see them from time to time at other shows. But this week, I came across three new ones, and each one got weirder and weirder.

(AUTHOR'S NOTE: Names have not been changed to protect the innocent - I just don't know them.)

First off, there were Shuffle and Spinner. Shuffle, well that's all she did for the entire time - just stand directly in front of the stage and move from one foot to the other. Spinner, she was a different breed of cat altogether. I'd go so far as to say she wasn't 'challenged' at all - more like augmented. Y'see, she would just find a chair in the middle of the floor, sit down, and spin - for hours. All the time with a sweet, innocent smile. Then out of nowhere, she'd just stop spinning, get up and walk away without the slightest sign of dizziness. It was like she was born with an internal gyroscope or something! It was getting to the point that Mike and Arthur couldn't even bear to look this woman's direction, for fear of getting dizzy themselves from watching her spin around. But they never bothered anyone, so I can't really bag on them.

But then there's the guy I call, well I really don't want to tell you what I call him. It's not nice. This guy is higher-functioning, but I don't think he has a good handle on how to be polite. I posted on Facebook a few days ago that being 'special' is no excuse for being a prick, and this kid is unconscionably rude to us. Y'see, here's how he rolls: he sees us playing, and he runs to the stage. And I mean run. I've actually seen him push people out of his way to come talk to us. While we're in the middle of a song. And this is what he says:


I can impersonate this guy almost perfectly - and Arthur hates it.

He doesn't refer to us by our names at all, other than Arthur, though I know we've all introduced ourselves to him before. Mikey was genuinely surprised when kid actually said his name earlier this week. He wants to hear Kool & The Gang's "Ladies' Night", and he wants it right now, even if we'd just played it while he was already there. Problem is, he just doesn't seem to have an understanding of how to ask us nicely. If we're out talking to the crowd on a break, he'll just walk right up to any of us and interrupt whatever conversation we're having with "TELL AH-TA PAY LADY NIGHT!" and he won't leave us alone until we acknowledge him. Funny thing is, dude usually walks away midway through the song after he requests it, and we don't see him again for the rest of the night.

As you might have guessed by now, I tend to have rather mixed feelings about dealing with the challenged/disabled/whatever while I'm onstage. Usually they're not a problem at all. Our friends Krissy and Josh are usually quite good company. But here's a worst-case scenario for you. Let's say that you're playing a private gig, a gig for someone who's got a lot of money, and has offered you a good chunk of change to play for their backyard cookout. Now let's just say that during this gig, the mentally-challenged child of the person paying you to be entertain their guests decides to climb up onstage and demands to sing along with you. And since you have no desire to lose face with your employer, let alone your paycheck, you spend the entire gig having to deal with someone singing nonsense words and worse melodies along with your music, and singing loud enough that you have to turn the child's microphone almost completely off so they don't throw off the band.

And here's the worst part of it all: what I just described for you was absolutely true. It was for a doctor's summer cookout (I think it was a Fourth-of-July cookout, but I'm not totally sure) in Gig Harbor, Washington, about seven or eight years ago. I was playing in a three-piece called Backstreet Romance. While I'm still friends with the group's singer, her then-husband guitarist is a total piece of shit who remains on my permanent shitlist to this day for some very shitty things he said to me, trying to blame a disastrous New Year's Eve gig at the Tacoma Sportsman's Club on me. Maybe the dumbass should've listened to me and bought the sequence for No Doubt's 'Hella Good' from my friend the professional sequence-builder instead of using a karaoke disc, not rehearsing to it, and then flubbing the introduction and completely blowing the song to pieces. And on that summer day in Gig Harbor, we pretty much just had to take this girl's horrible screeching - for about three hours. I begged and pleaded with my bandmates to do something, find some reason to get the girl off the stage, but they told me that we'd probably wind up working for free if we did that. Ever since then, it's been my personal preference to keep anyone with any sort of difficulties like that at as far a distance from the stage as possible, and to not engage them at all when I'm offstage. I know that this probably makes me look like a dick, but you'd probably feel the same way if you went through what I did.

Truth be told, as long as you're not a total asshole to me, I just don't care. You're having a good time, be my guest. If you're nice to me, I'll be nice back. Most of the time, challenged people are far better-behaved than most of the drunks I deal with on a nightly basis. And like everyone else, it's only the total asshole who gets called out for boorish behavior.

Sorry about the rant. Maybe I'll have something more positive to say next time......

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