Monday, September 10, 2012

My Ten Most Memorable Moments As A Watershed Roadie: part one

Watershed has a couple of shows coming up this Saturday, September 15th: The Independents’ Day Festival at 6 pm and later that night at Ace Of Cups (2619 North High Street) around 11 pm, so I thought I’d run the next installment of my Watershed series this week. 

The first three Memorable Moments are detailed in blog posts Colin & The Stairwell, Watershed & Kamakaze's (January 2012) and The Strange Case of the Somnabulistic Stickman Streaker (April 2012).  The remaining seven moments, in no particular order.....

4)    April 10, 2005, somewhere north of Ann Arbor, Michigan  It was my first out-of-state road trip with the band, we were coming home from Marquette, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, it was just about dusk on a Sunday evening.  The van lost power on Route 23 South, we coasted off a 180-degree freeway exit cloverleaf and came to a stop without even having to put on the brakes IN A GAS STATION PARKING LOT!  Plus the gas station was no more than 100 hundred yards from a little motel.  They were the only two buildings in sight.  It was the most amazing vehicle breakdown I have ever been associated with.  Since it was Sunday, no way were we gonna find anybody to work on (or even look at) the van, but the gas station guys hooked us up with a tow to a local garage for Monday morning.

Michael “Biggie” McDermott wasn’t along on that road trip and as the towing guys were hooking up the van I said, “Don’t you think we should take the guitars with us to the hotel instead of leaving them in plain sight in the van?”  “That’s what we hired you for, Ricki C.,” laughed Colin, “you’re ALWAYS thinking.”  The five of us (me, Colin Gawel, Joe Oestreich, Dave Masica and Mark “Pooch” Borror) each grabbed a couple of guitars and headed off to the motel.  As we checked in, Colin’s first question of the desk clerk was, “Where’s the closest place to get a beer?”  “No bars around here,” the desk clerk answered, “but there’s a bowling alley up that road about a mile or so, they serve alcohol.”  He pointed into the now-inky darkness.  This was my first experience with the lengths Watershed will go to drink; we were going to walk a couple of miles, in a pitch black Michigan night, on a dark country road with no streetlights whatsoever, to a bowling alley, for beers.

Three hours later, after the midnight last call at the bowling alley, we were walking back to the motel.  I wouldn’t say the guys were drunk exactly, but nobody was feeling any pain.  Somehow the conversation swung to divorce and I explained the demise of my first marriage; that falling in love with the pretty 18-year old female lead singer of your band AFTER you’re already married is seldom a good idea.  Everybody got really quiet and turned to look at Pooch out of the corner of their eyes, and Pooch said to me, “Ricki C., you wanna save me a lot of time & trouble and tell me what the next two years of my life are gonna be like?”

It transpired that Pooch had gotten involved with the pretty female lead singer of the band he was in before he joined Watershed and things were fairly tense at home with the wife.  (see page 228 of Joe Oestreich’s Watershed memoir Hitless Wonder.)  Pooch’s story eventually turned out a lot better than mine; he’s still married and has a couple of great kids.  But I’ll never forget the look on his face on the side of that dark road in Michigan as he peered through his Buddy Holly glasses into a decidedly uncertain future.

5)    August 25-26, 2005, Charlotte, N.C.  In the midst of a raving, killer show at some bar in Charlotte the owner of The Capital Grille - another, different local bar/restaurant - had fallen in love with Watershed, as bar owners so often do.  He and his friends were drunk on their asses and the band could do no wrong.  At the end of the night he wrote us out a “$100 gift certificate” on the back of his business card and told us to come in for lunch the next day.  The six of us (see above, plus Biggie) showed up at The Capital Grille the next day after our noon checkout.  We were arrayed in our normal disheveled summer morning/early afternoon ensemble - sunglasses, shorts, rock & roll t-shirts, beat-up tennis shoes & sandals, very likely unshaven & unshowered - and the gorgeous dressed-to-the-nines young blonde girl at the hostess station just stared at us as we asked for owner-guy, our new best buddy from the night before.

Phone calls were placed, pointed words were exchanged, and as it turned out owner-guy was actually only manager-guy of The Capital Grille.  Also, he hadn’t managed to make it to work yet that day, as he was sleeping off last night’s Watershed-induced hangover.  (Amateur.)  He told the hostess to seat us and he’d be in later.  When we walked into the dining room of the restaurant it became brutally apparent why the hostess had been gaping, open-mouthed, at us.    

The entire place was jammed with guys in coats & ties.  It turned out The Capital Grille was a really ritzy, straight-laced businessman’s lunch joint and those of us in Watershed just DID NOT FIT IN.  It was the kinda place lobbyists go to press the flesh with the local politicos.  As we were seated at a table for six in the middle of the restaurant I swear everybody in the place turned to look at us.  At first it got really quiet, then this low buzz of conversation started and it hit me: The lawyers, businessmen and politicians having their power lunches at The Capital Grille THOUGHT WE WERE SOMEBODY FAMOUS, they just couldn’t figure out who.  Because if we weren’t somebody famous, no way were we gonna be allowed in this place dressed the way we were, looking the way we did.  It was the first time in my life I truly felt how it would feel to be famous.  I bet they thought we were The Foo Fighters.    

As we opened the leather-bound menus it became further brutally apparent that our makeshift “$100 gift certificate” wasn’t going to come anywhere close to lunch for any THREE of us, let alone six.   Lunch entrees were at least 20 bucks apiece, beers were seven or eight dollars.  I think we wound up getting two burgers, a couple of salads, five beers, a Coke for me, and we STILL had to kick in money of our own.  I didn’t feel famous, or like a Foo Fighter, for long.  I still have a napkin I stole from The Capital Grille to this day, as a keepsake.

6)    Summer 2006, somewhere on a beach in the South  Sometime right around midnight, Colin grabbed Joe’s hollow-body Gibson six-string and an acoustic guitar we’d brought along on the tour for in-studio radio station interview shows and announced that he and I were gonna go out on the beach and trade new tunes.  Colin was more than a little drunk, he’d always played in a band, didn’t really know the ins & outs of playing solo.  I was my normal sober self, I’d been doing solo acoustic shows since 1990, I was ultra-rehearsed, so I kicked Colin’s musical ass around the beach for awhile.  Colin stumbled through some new material, but didn’t get all the way through a single song for the first half-hour.  I was basically performing my act that I’d honed at Midgard Comics and on the road with Hamell On Trial.  It slowly dawned on Colin that I was not just babbling before I started songs, that I was actually running through fully worked-out intros.  I only gave the illusion that I was making them up on the spot.   

I go along to roadie and sell merch at Colin’s solo acoustic shows now and he has the singer/songwriter process down to a science.  I’d like to think I had a little something to do with that education, that summer night, on that dark beach.

© 2012 Ricki C.

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