Saturday, March 31, 2012

We're What He Was Talking About

Well, I can finally say this:

Dirty Joe is dead. As in doornail. As in 'stick a fork in it, it's done'. And the next evolutionary step is already looking good.

I gave John Eddy a call a few days ago, to see if we could get together, get a rehearsal in, and maybe scrounge up a gig. It took a few days for him to get back to me, but it turns out that he'd got one better than that - an old friend of ours was coming home, and looking for a drummer and bassist for his band.

His name is Eddie Perez, and he goes back quite a ways up here on the Peninsula. And oddly enough, it took him moving to Tacoma and signing on with Powerlight for for us to meet. He didn't last all that long with Powerlight, but then again who does? In hindsight, my decade and change with the group must make me some sort of freak. Eddie and I have remained friends, and recent phone conversations revealed that he'd even done a stint with Steppen Stonz. And it turns out that Eddie has a blues/rock band called Willis (you were wondering about the title of this post, weren't you?), and he and his fellow guitarist Tommy were in need of a rhythm section. John was covering the bass just fine, but they needed a drummer with a little more..... oomph.

Talking to Eddie yesterday didn't really end on a high point though, as he really wanted a drummer that could commit full-time, though he knew I'd never really be able to due to my own commitments. And as a by-the-way sort of thing, I did mention that Mike and Arthur could potentially be in need a guitarist in the future. Here we were, each of us trying to poach each other out of their B-gigs for our A-gigs! But we agreed to get together and jam if the space could be arranged.

It took a while for me to get Joy up and moving, then load my gear up, then get to this garage out in Agnew, then set up. You know the drill. Along with John, Eddie and Tommy, Ron showed up. He looked okay. Well, as okay as you can be for a man in his (terminal) condition. He didn't play as much he normally would have. He looked a little out of his depth at times, sand said as much. And to be quite honest, he was tired. I can tell that the chemotherapy is taking a toll on him, but he wants to keep playing. He doesn't want to go quietly, that's for damn sure.

We didn't really have as much time as we would've like to play, but we seemed to groove well together - they really liked my groove when we played Pink Floyd's "Money", and were even more impressed when I told them that I'd never played the song before. And "Money" isn't an easy song to play, starting off in 7/4, and moving through a swinging solo section in 6/8 before going back to 7/4. We rolled through a few other songs, with me mostly learning the way Eddie and Tommy did things and hacking my way through the proverbial jungle. We maybe played for only about two hours, but there was a definite vibe between the four of us, as the small group of friends and family noticed that we were pretty tight, even though this was the first time I'd played with Eddie in the better part of a decade, and the first time I'd even laid eyes on Tommy. And I think they were pleasantly surprised that I called a second rehearsal for tomorrow afternoon.

And I'd better get some sleep now, because I have a busy day tomorrow. First the rehearsal, then taking Joy down to the local skating rink to see my sister's roller-derby club Port Scandalous play for the first time since she assembled the club a few years ago.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Triggering A Reaction

I've kinda been at war with myself these last few weeks, not really sure how I wanted to talk about the last few weeks. Should I be nice, or should I be myself. I think enough time has passed that now I can be myself. And being myself means being pissed off.

Remember how I was going to buy another Xbox 360 through Craigslist? Well, I kinda wish I hadn't. Because the little shithead sold me a lemon that died after a grand total of two hours' use, and refused to take it back. I advised him that knowingly selling damaged goods is a misdemeanor under Nevada state law (NRS 205.380, to be precise), and the little prick threatened to sue me for slander. Well, the little fuckwad hasn't carried out his threat, so I have a few more cards to play on him. Like checking in with the local police about the possibility of having been sold stolen goods without my knowledge. But in the meantime I have a far worse thing for him - the Fred Phelps Award, to 'Martin L.', for his unmitigated gall (and my naivete) for knowingly selling damaged (and possibly stolen) goods. May the deity of your choice have mercy upon your soul, because your ass is mine, and I have no intention of being merciful.

And now that I was in a foul, angry, depressing mood, I made my way up to Carson City for a week at the Station. And things just didn't get any better. I came in to set-up to find that Mike and Arthur had finally given Cliff his walking papers. And they informed me that, how shall we say........ complaints had been made about Cliff, the kind that can't be ignored. We all agreed that while he was a fine man, he just wasn't doing his job very well, and that he needed to go. He made the same mistakes, over and over again, and never really learned his parts, despite his frequent practicing. In some ways, Cliff had been reminding me a lot of Gordy Lockard, Powerlight's guitarist at the time of my departure, albeit better-dressed and nowhere near as loco en la cabeza.

Cliff's replacement is a 26-year-old Hispanic kid named Miguel (sorry, can't quite remember the last name). He's already made a tremendous impact upon the band in just a few days. First off, he took all of Mike and Arthur's sequences and moved them onto his MacBook - no more fucking Mini-Discs! He's also offered to run the sequences through professional-level mixing software, to clean them up and balance them out. Oh, and he plays live. Damn near every song. Miguel is also a piano teacher, with a great natural ear for music, and was picking up songs practically through osmosis. In three days at the Station, he played more (and better) than Cliff did in four years with the band.

But that Friday night turned out to be a real downer. Already caught in the middle of good friends arguing with one another, Mikey hit me with a doubleshot of bad news - that our next gig on the schedule (the following weekend at CVI) had been 'postponed', and that our next gig at the Station would be two nights only, and following gigs there would remain two-nighters for the foreseeable future. But there was something of a silver lining. Mike and Arthur agreed to my request for a raise of $10 - 20/night, and allowed me the option to skip two-night gigs that were isolated on the schedule (meaning there isn't another gig on the weekend before or after). Which means that I won't be back in Nevada for another month or so. I was also promised that the CVI gig would be rescheduled as soon as it was possible for it to be. I sure hope it's soon.

So here I am now, back in Port Angeles. Despite losing $300 worth of work - not to mention tickets to see Fishbone on the 25th - I wasn't too broken up. As shitty as the run had been, the 'postponement' at CVI meant I could go home a week sooner, and be with Joy. Now I have several weeks off, and the opportunity to see if Ron and John are up to any good. Who knows, maybe I can work out a gig for the local band - it won't be called Dirty Joe any more, that's for damn sure - and make a little money so I can get back to Nevada in May......

I could use a break to the positive right about now.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Complaint, Relief, Revelation

Today is the last day of my four-day run at John Ascuaga's Nugget here in Sparks. And I've come to a bit of a revelation while I've been here. In simple terms, everything I do, everything I say - in the end, it's all bullshit.

I just haven't been in that good a mood since I got here. I can mask my feelings somewhat when I'm around the guys, when I'm around my friends, but I can't hide from myself. So I dive into myself, search for the source of my moodiness, and do what I can to excise the proverbial tumor before it metastasizes and becomes something much worse. And that exercise is usually good enough to bring me back around. And I know what it was that set me off. That said, I shouldn't really use a cancer analogy to describe my feelings when the source of my angst is the death of a friend of mine from cancer. Well, he wasn't a really close friend, he was more of a professional acquaintance. But he was a damn good drummer here in Reno, and among the first people I met when I first started. He was a real character, but then again he was a professional musician - that pretty much made him a character by extension. I knew that he'd been sick for some time, but I'd noticed that a lot of friends of mine were posting pictures of him on their Facebook pages when I checked my phone. I called Joy, and asked her to check Facebook when she was able to to figure out what was going on. She called me and confirmed that my friend had passed away while I was at a rest area just outside Susanville. Even though we weren't particularly close, I had to just sit in my car at the rest area and cry a little. While I know that there were a lot of people who'd lost much, much more than I did, the circuit dogs here in Reno are a closely-knit group, and drummers even more so. The loss to our community is hitting us hard. But we'll celebrate our lost brother and move on with him in our hearts for all time.

Rest in peace, Gary. I wish I'd gotten to know you better.

And now on to the more mundane elements of my life's work.

I think my right foot is cursed. In the last year or so, I've probably blown up five kick-drum triggers. Some through my own clumsiness - like when I ripped the trigger's cord out of the sensor itself while tearing down - while the last trigger literally exploded at my feet during our last Friday night at the Fandango. Joy and I decided that I need to move up to a sturdier trigger after that night, so I purchased a ddrum Red Shot trigger the next day. However, in my haste to purchase, I didn't really read the instructions all that well, and found that I needed a slightly longer lug screw to properly attach the trigger to the rim of my bass drum. I wound up having to secure to trigger to the rim with duct tape, but it worked. For all of ten hours. This most recent Friday night, here at the Nugget, I noticed that the trigger wasn't working just as we were taking the stage. With no time to effect repairs, I played the first set without a kick drum. Then I spent the following break switching out cords, hoping that it was a bad connection. No luck. I removed the trigger from the rim and examined it closely, and found that the trigger's ground wire had come undone - broken off cleanly from the point where it had been originally soldered into place. I was able to field-repair it somewhat, stripping away the wire's cover and shoving the bare wire back into place, and securing it with more duct tape before taping the trigger back into place. But the trigger was mortally wounded, and was only registering about half the hits it received.

Saturday saw me going back and forth between Guitar Center (where the trigger was returned and replaced at no expense and with no questions asked - thank you Joy, for badgering me into spending the extra five bucks for an extended-protection plan), and Bizarre Guitar, where their drum tech was able to find me the lug screw I needed to mount the trigger properly. And last night was the first night that my kick drum sounded right in weeks.

But I was still grumpy, and still grieving a bit. And in a plot twist right out of the Twilight Zone, the guy who had been posting status updates for Gary during the last few months for him was playing on the other side of the casino in the Trader Dick's lounge with his acoustic combo. We talked for a while, traded remembrances and war stories, and shared our grief at the loss of a friend and colleague.

Now if only I hadn't taken out my grumpiness on Joy later that night when she called. She didn't deserve for me to lash out at her. I think I owe her a bouquet of flowers or something because I was being a shithead unnecessarily. I should be happy that I have a wife who puts up with me being gone for so long, when I really should be at home to take care of her. I should be happy that I have a band that puts up with my weirdness. I should be happy that I have friends that like me for who I am, for family that accepts me for who I am. It could all be taken away from my at any minute, and one day it will be. I should be happy for what I have.

Thank you Gary, for helping me to appreciate what I have. Rest in peace, brother. We'll all miss you.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Local Anesthetic

I only have a few days in town between the last set of gigs and the next - ten days, to be exact - so when I'm at home for a short period of time like that, I really don't want to do much of anything, or go anywhere unless it's an absolute necessity. But a few hours ago, Joy and I went to go see an old friend of mine playing in his band here in town. I kinda wish I hadn't gone.

Y'see, the band just wasn't all that good, and I could lay damn near all of the fault at the feet of the drummer. He just wasn't that good, and on top of playing and singing, he was also constantly fiddling with the PA's mixer with his left hand while trying to keep the beat going with his right. The end result was a total lack of cohesion. My old friend is a damn good guitarist, but his guitar was nowhere near loud enough. And it took Joy and I telling him on a break to get their lead singer sounding halfway decent.

All this got me to thinking about Dirty Joe. Ron and John knew exactly when I was going to be back in town, but they've yet to make any sort of contact with me. I know, I'm the bandleader, I should be calling them. But I don't really want to call them. I've known full well that this band has been in a death spiral for months. Roger is gone - just gone. Nobody knows where he is. I guess I'll be reading his obituary soon enough. Ron is dealing with his chemotherapy, and I already know I'll be reading his obituary soon enough. John is just trying to stay above water while being a single father. And while the new (to me, old to them) singer they've presented sounded like he had an idea what to do, Joy wasn't impressed with him. But everything's moot when nobody is communicating. And that is partly my fault, I will admit that to you, dear reader. But I've gotten to the point where I just don't give a damn about playing in a local band.

I mean, I've had plenty of work so far this year. The first significant time off I'll have all year from Steppen Stonz isn't until April, when Cliff has to go in for surgery to install a cardiac defibrillator. And the gaps in our schedule that are further out are being closed down in a hurry. I don't really know if I have time to work a side project any more. And even if I did, after the experience I've had with Dirty Joe, I don't really know if I want to lead a band any more, regardless of its importance to me. After this, I think I would just be too demanding of the musicians I would hire. Too controlling. And since I, like most people, just hate having someone tell me what to do, so why would I inflict myself on someone else?

Oh well. At least I get to get back on the road again here in a few days, and can unburden myself of those kind of issues for a while.