Sunday, February 3, 2013

Friends With A Benefit II: This Time It's Personal

Yes, that's what I called this gig on Facebook. In all honesty, I'm amazed that it actually happened. Why, you ask? Well, let me explain. We have to go back in time a few weeks, to just before my last run with Steppen Stonz in Reno. I've been trying to get a tribute gig together for Ron DeFrang for several months now, since his diagnosis with terminal cancer. But it was always one roadblock after another, mostly around the unwillingness of folks to commit to a certain date, prepare for shows in a proper manner.... and of course, me being gone all the time.
But the show on Tuesday happened, warts and all. And we basically considered it practice for the show last night at the Coo Coo Nest here in Port Angeles. I wasn't feeling all that good after Tuesday night, so I took the days off between the two shows to get healthy, letting John and Eddie know that I'd be at the nest at six in the evening to set up. I made it there right when I said I would, but nobody else was there. I cooled my heels in the parking lot for nearly an hour, calling John for updates, and at about seven he finally called me back while trying to figure out how to jimmy the door to his truck, since he'd locked the keys in it, with most of the gear inside. I just told him to call me when they were on the road into town, and went home to get something to eat.
Thankfully, John got his truck opened up, and he let me know to make my way back to the Nest to set up. Eddie Perez decided to not play this show, and just ran sound instead through the ancient PA that he and John cobbled together. Our colleague Pete Mainzer was coming in tonight with his new ensemble, basically him fronting Ron and John with a different drummer and  rhythm guitarist. We'd asked him to bring his PA, and he flatly refused to do so unless he got paid. Wait just a goddamn minute here - this is a benefit show, everyone's donating their time and effort here. Nobody here is getting paid, and the money is going to help Ron, that's why it's a fucking benefit! And things got worse with Pete later on from there.
His band went on first. And in a word, they were awful. This new drummer, his name was Darryl. Nice enough guy, but I've got a suggestion for him - try another instrument. Dude could barely count to four, didn't know what he was playing, and in several cases just seemed to not have a clue what he was doing. And Pete was his normal self, drinking up a storm and acting like he was the star of the show, when in reality he blew more lines than a cokehead with allergies. Ron and John seemed clearly embarrassed by what was going on. Meanwhile, I was sitting quietly, tapping out text messages to Joy, singing all the parts that Pete and Darryl blew under my breath, waiting patiently for these guys to stop, so a real band could play. I later found out that Darryl had been drinking heavily as well prior to the show, which suddenly explains a lot.
I must digress for a moment. You've heard of 'straightedge', right? I invented it. You're welcome. Of course, back then we didn't have a name for it, we were just a bunch of snotty punk and metal kids that weren't cool enough to hang out with the in crowds, so we just did our own thing. The irony is that I've lived a lot better than most of those cool kids. I've been married to Joy for nearly twenty years now. I don't drink - never did. No smoking, no drugs, no nothing. No rehab, no divorce, no jail time, either. And even if I did any of those things, I'd damn sure not do any of them before or during a show. If I'm going to go out on stage and perform for a paying audience, I'd damn well better be at my best.
Finally - mercifully - their set came to an end, and I was able to get behind my kit again and run the show right. John and Ron and I knew our shit well enough, and their friend Andy Maupin helped out with rhythm guitar and some vocals, even taking a lead for our version of Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" and sharing vocals with me on "Comfortably Numb" - I sang Roger Waters' lines, while Andy took David Gilmour's.
And we just knew what we were doing. Old hands playing music we'd all played before with one band or another in our lives. And we rocked it out like fucking gods. We actually brought the crowd at the Nest from to bar and into the main room to enjoy the show, getting people dancing, moving, entertained in general. We played like our asses were on fire, and it showed. No noticeable gaffes, though there were lyrics I forgot here and there. And I'm sure that the guys would say that they made little mistakes here and there, but I didn't notice. But we were something that other guys weren't - professional. We hit the right notes at the right times. We didn't completely fuck up a song in the middle and come to a crashing halt. We entertained the crowd, we interacted with them. We brought up their energy with fast songs, cooled them down with slow songs. We just did it right. And after the show, everyone came to thank us for a job well done. We made some more money for Ron - not much, maybe $50 - $60 or so - but it was all for a good cause. Or maybe it was just so Ron could buy some more weed.
And remember when I said that things got worse with Pete? They did, but in an enjoyable way. During tear-down, Eddie told me that Pete seemed a little upset with my singing, told him over and over to turn me down. And Eddie was telling me this with a huge smile on his face, which basically told me that I'd sung Pete under the table from behind the kit. And he never said goodbye to me when he left - or to anyone else for that matter. I think that perhaps he learned that he'd been put in his place. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I guess. Pete came into our orbit telling me that he could get us regular work at the nearby tribal casino, but I'm pretty sure now that he was just talking out his ass. He's got a nice PA at his place in Sequim, but all the PA in the world can't make you sound better when you've been drinking, and it's clearly affecting your performance.
And our old buddy Coog, owner of the local indie record shop here in town, insisted that we play a show in the back room of his shop one of these days. We kinda owe him, after all - he's the one who actually confirmed the gig with the Nest a few days ago, because John and Eddie forgot to confirm the gig with them while I was in Nevada. So it looks like there may be a few more benefits for the poor old invalid before he shuffles off this mortal coil. I sure hope so - I really dig doing shows with Ron.