Monday, August 20, 2012

Watershed, The View From The Side Of The Stage, pt. 2; Fifth Of July and Ricki C. Joins The Road Crew

This post is maybe six weeks or so late.  It was supposed to come right after Watershed, The View From The Side Of The Stage pt. 1, but stuff happens, ya know?  Anyway, re-read that post and then come back to this one.  Also, if you haven't already, go out and buy Hitless Wonder, Joe Oestreich's history of the band, and Brick & Mortar, Watershed's new CD.  You won't be sorry, I promise ya. 

Plus, special thanks to Michael "Biggie" McDermott - road manager extraordinaire and the hero of Hitless Wonder - for giving me the laptop I've been cranking out these blog posts on.  Without him, Growing Old With Rock & Roll would still be on hiatus.  Thanks Mike.


February 5th, 2005 - Watershed opened a new Columbus venue, The Basement, for their The Fifth Of July CD release party.  The place was packed and Watershed was fucking ON FIRE!  First and foremost they played THREE set-starters non-stop to open the show - "Obvious", from the new record, "Suckerpunch" and "Star Vehicle."  It seems a fairly obvious ploy now (on the latest Hitless Wonder/Brick & Mortar tour the band opened with seven songs non-stop before saying "good evening" to the audience) but Jesus was it a great way to open a show.

And after an opening that was truly and almost literally breathtaking they just kept getting better.  Watershed already had at least three solid releases behind them and with the infusion of killer new material from The Fifth Of July, all of a sudden they had a live repertoire with no weak spots whatsoever.  I buttonholed Colin after the show and blathered on like a 12-year old girl about how great the show was.  "You think so?" he said, genuinely perplexed, "Yeah, I guess we played okay."  And it wasn't false modesty, it was just the workaday, professional attitude Watershed takes towards its rock & roll that sets them apart from so many other Columbus (or anywhere else these days, for that matter) bands.  Watershed REHEARSES their songs, they PLAN their sets, they THINK about their audience and take into consideration WHAT CONSTITUTES A SHOW.  And then they DELIVER said show.  What a concept.

A coupla weeks later I was working my day job at Ace In The Hole Music when Colin stopped in.  I'd been serving as road manager for Hamell On Trial (see Hamell On Trial blog, January 2012) since 2001 and Colin asked if I'd be interested in selling merch at one of their shows that was coming up.  "Absolutely," I said, surprised at the offer, as Watershed was pretty much a closed shop as I saw it.  The band had been Colin, Joe and Biggie from the very beginning, with present drummer Dave Masica replacing Herb Schupp at the end of the 90's.  And Rob Braithwaite had been Biggie's right-hand man on the road crew for ages.  I felt honored even to be asked into such exclusive company.  (When I made some mention of this to Biggie months later on a southern tour he deflated my delusions of grandeur with, "Yeah, Colin has a list of people he figures he can get to do things for him.  You must have been next on the list.")

The show Colin was referring to was at a bar called Flanagan's in Dublin, Ohio, a ritzy Columbus suburb.  Flanagan's was more suited to singles' pickups and volleyball than to rock & roll, but occasionally dropped their cover band policy for real music.  The place was fairly packed with a novel mix of longtime Watershed fans along with a bunch of drunken young people who had never seen the band before. The Fifth Of July was still brand new, I had a good stock of the older CD's in place and I wound up doing $435 in merch that night.   

When Flanagan's cleared out after the show and I decided there was no more merch money to be made I wandered back to where Biggie was packing up gear.  "How'd we do on merch?" Biggie asked over his shoulder as he put Colin's guitar away.  "Four hundred and thirty five dollars," I replied, as I counted once more to make sure.  Biggie spun around, "Four hundred and thirty five?" he said, wide-eyed.  "Yeah, is that okay?" I nervously asked.  I had routinely done that much in merch on the road with Hamell, and some of those shows were in theater-sized venues opening for Ani DiFranco, but I still thought $435 was pretty good for a weeknight with Watershed in a Dublin sports bar.  "Uh, yeah, it's fine," Biggie demured, regaining his composure.  Months later, after I had solidified my position with the band, Biggie told me it was the biggest night of merch the band had done to that time.

My first out-of-town show with Watershed was Dayton, Ohio, which barely counts as it's less than 90 minutes from Columbus.  Then Colin called me up and asked if I wanted to do a weekend in Marquette, Michigan, with the band.  I said, "Sure," and later that night I went to my road atlas to look up Marquette.  I'd been going to shows in Michigan since the 70's (see Pissing With Johnny Thunders blog, August 2012), I knew Ann Arbor and Detroit like the back of my hand.  Plus I had played Saginaw, Lansing and a coupla other Michigan cities with Hamell.  I thought Marquette must be somewhere around those but when I checked the atlas it gave me a location that I thought couldn't possibly have been right.  Coordinates B-6 was NORTH of fucking Toronto, Canada, and on a line with Montreal.  When my lovely wife Debbie mapquested the trip it was 13 to 15 hours driving time from Columbus.  You can be in Tenafly, New Jersey, Debbie's hometown, right across the Hudson River from New York City in nine hours.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  It was mind-boggling.  How could someplace, anyplace in Michigan be further away from Columbus than the Atlantic Ocean?

We went to Marquette April 8th & 9th, 2005.  Lake Erie was still completely frozen over.  That's how cold it stays in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The van broke down somewhere just north of Ann Arbor on our return trip.  In fact, the first three times I left Ohio with Watershed the van broke down, stranding us in some cheap little motel within walking distance of wherever the van got towed.  The third time – June 2005 in Valdosta, Georgia – Colin looked at me and said, “You’re not coming out with us anymore, are you?”  "I don't know, Colin, I just don't know," I said, shaking my head as I surveyed the spreading puddle of brake fluid underneath the van. 

I'm still here with the band in 2012. 


Soon to come – Watershed, pt. 3; My Ten Most Memorable Moments As A Watershed Roadie


© 2012 Ricki C.

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