Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I Love Distortion (a rock & roll novel in 12 chapters) - February

(My idea for I Love Distortion (a rock & roll novel in 12 chapters) is a serialized set of
fictional stories; one per month, for all of this coming year, finishing Christmas week 2013.
Chapter one appeared in the blog entry January 24, 2013.)

I Love Distortion - chapter two

Nicole and I met - rather prosaically - in the warehouse of a K-Mart store in Columbus, Ohio.  It was late January, 1978, Nicole was a new hire and she was being shown around the store by a girl named Callie who worked in the toy department.  I was the warehouse manager of that K-Mart store.  It was the day job that allowed me to play original rock & roll songs which nobody wanted to hear in West Side bars - as opposed to lounge bands who played cover tunes at the Ramada Inn and made great money - and still pay my bills.  My warehouse guys and I had adopted Callie as our pet project; to watch over and protect her and to keep her employed.  Callie was an incredibly sweet young girl with not one single clue how to do her job, and very little idea how to function in the real world in general.  If it hadn't been for my warehouse crew Callie would have been fired months earlier.  Callie later became pregnant after having sex with the boyfriend she'd dated since high-school and I'm convinced to this day she never understood the causal link between those two actions.  

I remember the exact first moment I laid eyes on Nicole.  She and Callie were walking down the steps that led from the upper loft of the warehouse and the mere sight of her made me catch my breath.  She was wearing a cornflower-blue skirt printed with tiny white flowers and petticoats underneath.  Later we would laughingly refer to this as her "Holly Hobbie skirt."  Still later - when she became the lead singer of the best band I ever had - we paired that skirt with a Cheap Trick t-shirt of mine into what we considered a class-A rock & roll stage outfit.  She may have been the loveliest girl I had ever seen in my life.  It was, quite literally, love at first sight.  If I had not already been married, love at first sight would not be as problematic as it later became.  Nicole was 18 years old.

I was a beaten man in those early weeks of 1978.  I was in my mid-twenties and had already been in rock & roll bands for almost ten years at that point, with literally no discernible success to show for it.  When my first rock & roll best friend, Dean Blackwell, and I had started out at 16 in 1968 we charted out our entire rock & roll futures and actually wrote it down in a document we called The Legacy.  By 25 - according to The Legacy - Dean and I were already supposed to have conquered the known rock & roll world from London, New York City, Los Angeles & all points in between and returned to Columbus to buy a small apartment building built around a courtyard where all of the band members could live, along with assorted wives and girlfriends.  The building would have a huge basement that we could use for rehearsals & recording but everybody would have their own living spaces.  It was our idea of a hippie commune, only nobody would have to share their personal space if they didn't want to. 

Instead, at 25 I had been working in warehouses for four years after wasting three years in college.  I had gotten married far too young at 21 and was now half of a failing marriage, only my wife didn't seem to realize it was failing, which was, to say the least, not a good situation.  Melanie and I had started dating when I was 18 and she was 17.  I met her the day she graduated from high school.  I made it abundantly clear at that young age that all that mattered to me was rock & roll; that there would never be any money, that there would never be a house & children, there would be only songwriting, gigs & touring, followed by eventual rock stardom and world domination.  That sounded good to Melanie, she was in.  Only now it was seven years later, all of her high school friends were buying houses and having children, their husbands were selling insurance or working for NCR, and the "there will never be any money" side of the equation wasn't looking so good.  Nor was the fact that the "rock stardom and world domination" just had never arrived.

The first time I ever spoke to Nicole the conversation concerned rock & roll.  A warehouse co-worker and I were reprising one of our perennial arguments; he loved Styx and I was trying to explain the benefits of the sacred gospel rama-lama of The Clash to him.  Nicole walked in and the guy said, "She'll settle this.  Nicole, who's better, Styx or The Clash?"  "Styx," she replied, with no hesitation whatsoever, turning up her nose at the mention of my punk-rock saviours.  "How could you possibly think that?" I asked, profoundly disappointed at this turn of events.  "Because The Clash are ugly and they haven't got any hair," she said, smiling a heart-stopping grin into my eyes, "I saw you play in a band one time, all of you had good hair."  She turned on her heels, leaving me open-mouthed, and made an impossibly charming exit.

Later that day I was sitting in the K-Mart cafeteria reading when Nicole came in for her break.  "Where'd you see me play?" I asked, "You can't possibly be old enough to get into a bar."    "I saw you last summer at the Hilltop Bean Dinner," she replied, "my family and I were on the same bill."  It turned out that Nicole sang with her mother, father & younger sister in a close-harmony family country music act.  It further transpired that her mom & dad had a separate honky-tonk country band that played regularly at the Little Nashville Club, a dive-bar near downtown Columbus that I - a veteran of hard-rock and punk bands - wouldn't have set foot in if you paid me.  The Little Nashville Club had chicken-wire strung around the stage, exactly like the bar later immortalized in The Blues Brothers movie.  Nicole related to me that her dad always said that's the way you knew whether the crowd liked you or not; if they liked you they drank the beer before they threw the bottle at the stage, if they didn't like you, they threw the bottle full.

"You played a song that day I've never heard on the radio and have never been able to find on a record." Nicole said.  "It had the lyrics, 'You always wanted to be bad but you never knew how to do it / So you always went to people who could lead you to it.'"  "I wrote that song," I said, a little stunned.  I don't think I had ever had my lyrics quoted back to me, especially by a girl I was struck so shy by that I was having trouble carrying on a coherent conversation.  "You wrote that song?" Nicole said, quietly, "I think that might be the story of my life."  "I wrote all the songs we played that day," I said, trying desperately to press any advantage I could.

"I've never met anybody who wrote their own songs before," Nicole said a little dreamily, looking way too deep into my eyes.  "I write poetry," she said, and I knew I was in desperate, desperate trouble.

The next day The Great Blizzard of 1978 hit Ohio and shut down the state.  Just over a week later, February 3rd, the first time my buddies and I could dig ourselves out of our West Side neighborhood we went to see Billy Ray's earliest and best band - Lovely & Sonic - for the first time at  Drake Union on the Ohio State University campus.  1978 was shaping up to be quite a year.

© 2013 Ricki C.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Del-Lords "I'm Gonna Be Around" (Bonus Video Friday)

The pride of the Bronx, New York - Scott Kempner, Eric Ambel, Manny Caiati & Frank Funaro - kickin' out the jams in faraway Sweden, making the world safe for American rock & roll.  Why is it that Europeans always seem to have so much more love & respect for our rockers than America does?  (re: Elliott Murphy,  The Flamin' Groovies, The Real Kids, to name just three.)

inspirational verse; "When the country is one big shopping mall / And some slimy foreign
cartel runs it all / And every song that you hear on the radio has the same sound /
I'm gonna be around" - Scott Kempner, 1988

ps. I saw The Del-Lords one time in 1985 or so at a venue very much like the one in this video - a 1300-capacity club in Columbus, Ohio, called The Newport Music Hall (previously the Columbus Agora, ahhh good times).  Towards the end of the set I said to the girl I was with, "Watch me make the lead singer crack up."  I got a Sharpie and a big piece of cardboard from the sound guy and wrote "D.F.F.D." on it.  (Scott Kempner was a founding member of N.Y.C's The Dictators, whose motto was "Dictators Forever, Forever Dictators.")  I pulled myself part-way up on the stage and tossed the cardboard right in front of Kempner's microphone stand.  He glanced down, started laughing and gave me a big thumbs up.  Del-Lords Forever, Forever Del-Lords. 

© 2013 Ricki C.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Quik-eeze - Ani Difranco and the Little Girls of California

Quik-eeze will be a new recurring feature in Growing Old With Rock & Roll;
short, fast, tight stories without the usual belaboring of points
normally conducted by your humble auteur, Ricki C.

My first experience on a big-time rock & roll tour was with Hamell On Trial when he opened ten shows for Ani Difranco and her band all up & down the California coast in April, 2000.  I learned a TON of stuff on that tour - how to conduct myself as a professional road manager (or, more to the point, how to fake and/or bluff my way through conducting myself as a professional road manager); how to travel quick & light and present shows in a lot of different venue configurations (theaters, college gyms, outdoor auditoriums); and, most of all, learning from Heidi - Ani's merchandise girl - how to display & sell merch and how to maximize sales, an education I'm thankful for to this day.  (As are Watershed, The Whiles, and a coupla other bands I've done merch for.) 

My road manager duties on that tour entailed selling merch before the shows, then popping backstage for Hamell's set to keep things up & running; tuning guitars, changing broken strings, setting knocked-over microphones back upright, etc., then clearing Ed's gear off the stage before Ani went on.  There were VERY short breaks between Ed's and Ani's sets, never more than 15 minutes, so I'd often wind up packing  amps, power cables, guitars and such right in the wings of the stage as Ani waited to go on.

A little audience practice peculiar to that tour started happening the first or second night.  Hamell & I toured with Ani numerous times over the next ten years, all over the country, and this never took place again - the little girls (by which I mean teenagers & early twenty-somethings) in the front row would lift their shirts and display their breasts to Ani before the show began.  I guess it was supposed to be flattering, a little gift or offering to Ani from her fans, but it was really throwing Difranco, who was striving to deliver a musical message of  self-respect and empowerment to her fans, and she really could have done without the nightly nudity.

Ani was standing next to me, waiting to be introduced the second or third night the rock & roll peepshow took place (we could see the little flasher girls of California getting ready down front).  I was just finishing packing up Hamell's guitar when Ani turned to me and said wearily, "You know, I didn't get into music to look at little girls' tits."  I looked at her for a long moment and replied, "See, that's where we're different, Ani, that's EXACTLY why I got into music."  Ani cracked up laughing, it was our best, most human, most unguarded exchange of the whole tour.  "Okay," she said, when she caught her breath, "you meet me here every night for the rest of the tour and at least one of us will get something out of this process."  So I did.  It was fun, a nice little Fringe Benefit of the road manager gig. 

© 2013 Ricki C.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Dr. Feelgood "You Shouldn't Call The Doctor" (if you can't afford the bills) - Bonus Video Friday

Sometime in 2012 I got away from the idea of Bonus Video Friday: A treat-for-the-readers'-weekend posting of obscure or not-so-obscure YouTube videos I particularly liked and thought the rockers amongst you out there might like to or might NEED to see.  Today we're relaunching Bonus Video Friday with Dr. Feelgood, one of England's preeminent pub-rock bands.

Pub-rock was the immediate forerunner of punk-rock in mid-1970's England.  Scruffy, scrappy little bands with beat-to-crap guitars & amps and cobbled-together drum kits; no special-effects, no pyro, no make-up, psyching themselves up against the Dinosaur Rock Acts of the British Isles - your over-the-hill hippie bands, your prog-rockers, your arena-rock glam acts; your Jethro Tull's, your Emerson, Lake & Palmer's, your Queen's.

Dr. Feelgood was powered by the buzzsaw guitar-playing & songwriting of Wilko Johnson and the gargling-with-razorblades vocals of Lee Brilleaux, underpinned with the tighter-than-tight rhythm section of John B. Sparks and The Big Figure on bass & drums, respectively.  I saw Dr. Feelgood live in 1976 opening for - of all people - The Tubes of "White Punks On Dope" fame (or infame) at Vet's Memorial in Columbus.  (The 1970's were primetime for terribly mismatched double-bills - Aerosmith with The Mahavishnu Orchestra, The New Riders of the Purple Sage with Mott The Hoople, The Patti Smith Group with Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, etc.)

Our seats that night were right behind the soundboard (plopped down halfway back in Vet's, on sheets of plywood set right on top of eight or ten of the seats in two or three rows).  Running sound for the Feelgood's that tour was Nick Lowe - post-Brinsley Schwarz and pre-Stiff Records.  I leaned over the seats, tapped Lowe on the shoulder and asked, "Are you Nick Lowe?"  "Yeah, mate, who're you?" he replied, an unlit joint sticking out of the side of his mouth.  "I'm Ric.  I have your Brinsley Schwarz records.  They're great."  Lowe brightened immediately and shook my outstretched hand, mumbling, "How wouldja possibly know about that band in this town?" around the joint.  He couldn't have been cooler.  I couldn't have been prouder.

I've been reading lately that Wilko Johnson (who apparently had an acting part in that HBO show Game Of Thrones, I don't get HBO) is dying of pancreatic cancer.  He has six months to a year to live, has refused chemotherapy and other treatments, preferring to leave this planet on his own terms and is currently on a farewell tour of England while he still feels good enough to go out playing.  That's a rocker.  Raise a glass, ladies & gentlemen, raise a glass.....

Dr. Feelgood, in full flight, 1975

Johnson and Sparks did that walking up & back stage-move - sometimes in unison, sometimes not -
for the entire duration of their 40 minute opening set with The Tubes.  It confused the fuck out
of the completely qualluded-out Columbus audience.  (Ask your parents.  Or your grandparents.)

prime extra-musical moment; Brilleaux humping the bass drum at the 2:33 mark. classic

inspirational verse; "If this doesn't cure you, it'll kill / But I know it's gonna give you a thrill /
And now I've come across, you can't complain about the cost /
You shouldn't call the doctor if you can't afford the bills." - Wilko Johnson, 1975 

© 2013 Ricki C.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Current Events - The 2013 Grammy Awards

I began this Current Events tradition last year with the 2012 Grammy Awards (blog post February 2012), I don't see the tradition lasting another year (I am NOT watching three consecutive Grammy Awards show, blog or no blog) so - in the immortal words of Janis Joplin - "Get it while you can."

Participants this year are my lovely wife Debbie and my good friends Rob Husted and Kyle Garabadian.  Rob and Kyle and I usually watch NFL football together on Sunday nights, but since the season ended last week with the Super Bowl we thought we'd broaden our horizons with The Grammys.  (Plus rock & roll sometimes gets more discussion during the games than football does.)  

My good friend Joe Peppercorn of The Whiles and Watershed wrote to me last week regarding the Grammys, "The only thing lamer than The Grammys themselves is complaining about The Grammys."  I totally agree.  So here we go, complaining about The Grammys.....

8:01 pm - Taylor Swift opens the show with an Alice In Wonderland-themed rendition of "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."  She's sporting Chrissie Hynde bangs and high-heeled white go-go boots, so she can pretty much do no wrong on the Ricki C. planet.  Rob wonders when Tom Petty will arrive on-set for an interpolation of "Don't Come Around Here No More."  (sidenote; Rob was very nearly sent home from Sunday night football a coupla weeks ago when he dared to bad-mouth Taylor Swift during one of her innumerable Target commercials, swiftly learning - pun intended - you don't fool with Ricki C. and his crushes.)

8:10 pm - Ed Sheeran and Elton John perform together.  Kyle points out that Sheeran's toupee is better than Elton's.  Everyone agrees.  Further, I'm enormously heartened that they don't have sex at the end of the duet.  A home and family have settled Elton down nicely.

8:22 pm - The lead singer of fun. is rocking a leather (or was it vinyl?) shirt and pedal-pushers.  (I'm wondering how old a reader of my Growing Old With Rock & Roll blog has to be to understand that fashion reference.)  Plus with terrible luck it rained during their set and the Staples Center roof apparently leaks.  (The rain is no match for the truly Bibilical deluge that nearly drowned Watershed's Comfest set in 1998.  Now THAT was rain on the rock & roll.)  I must note at this point that fun. employs more auxiliary musicians (four) than band members (three), but I guess that's the state of modern rock & roll.  In 2013 this is also true of The Who and The Rolling Stones.  We also decide by committee that fun.'s lead singer looks like a cross between the young John Cougar Mellencamp and Mark Wahlberg in his Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch days.

8:32 pm - Country music star Miranda Lambert demontrates the rural query "How is sausage made?" while portraying how a size 12 woman is crammed into a size 6 dress.  (Thanks to Debbie for the women's sizes reference points.)  (I LIKE Miranda Lambert and this is the kindest thing I can think of to say.  Miranda, ask Blake Shelton to buy you a mirror.)  (I also picture Miranda getting dressed at home and saying, "Blake, honey, does this dress make me look fat?"  And Blake replying, "No, sweetie, you look great like always."  Now THAT'S true love.)  (For the same reason - we LIKE Adele for her good-natured-girl-who-lives-down-the-block English bonhomie - we refrain from mentioning that it appears her Grammy dress was fashioned from her grammy's - pun intended, supplid by Debbie - old living room drapes.)

8:52 pm - fun. beats Mumford & Sons for some award I don't catch the category of.  YAY!

8:54 pm - Mumford & Sons once again essays "I Will Wait" for the beaten-down masses of American rock fans.  Debbie asks if they have any other songs as this is the only one she has EVER seen them play in four or five previous television appearances.  The bass player is sporting a hat that even Chris Bolognese of The Whiles would not wear onstage.  Once again I am left wondering why lead singer guy Marcus Mumford is able to sell millions of records AND sleep with Carey Mulligan, then remember that there is no justice in 21st century rock & roll.  

9:05 pm - Justin Timberlake - apparently mixing up his decades and channeling Cab Calloway rather than his usual Michael Jackson - attempts to out-falsetto Barry Gibb and winds up sounding like a Auto-Tuned 10 year old girl.  Also, problematically, he's wearing spats.  I repeat, Justin Timberlake is wearing spats on national television at The Grammy Awards.  At this point I can't help thinking the zenith of Timberlake's career was his portrayal of  Napster founder Sean Parker in Social Network.

9:11 pm - Nas presents an award and Kyle informs me that Nas does indeed still have a music career.  (Kyle is my conduit for any and all news about modern music - for which I hold very, very tenuous interest, other than Jack White.)  Kyle and I met while working together at the now-defunct Camelot Music record store chain in 1998, and it always amazes me when rappers who we sold hundreds - if not thousands - of CD's of are still around in 2013.

9:21 pm - The Black Keys win Best Rock Performance.  I hate to speak ill of or belittle my Ohio brethren, but if Meg White had not decided to stay home and rest on her (certainly well-deserved) royalties and The White Stripes could still make records and tour, The Black Keys would not exist in the upper echelons of rock & roll.  (This is an illustration of the Lester Bangs Law of Rock & Roll Substitution: If The Rolling Stones had toured more consistently in the 1970's, Aerosmith would not have existed; if Yes had stayed on the road, Styx, Kansas, Journey and any other number of bands of their ilk would not have existed; if Kurt Cobain had not blown out his brains, Limp Bizkit, Nickleback, Blink 182, would not have existed, etc. etc.)

9:23 pm - Jesus Christ, Maroon 5 again?  Will somebody just float these guys out on the Japanese Current so we never have to see Adam Levine's face on television even one more time?

9:36 pm - During Rihanna's segment I'm out in the kitchen making popcorn for our little party but I am later assured that she's not sporting any black eyes during her performance.  I find this profoundly reassuring and am glad The Staple Center is big enough that Chris Brown can enter without violating any restraining orders.

9:59 pm - The Zac Brown Band wins not only a Grammy, but also the coveted "Best Charlie Daniels Band Lookalike" statuette.

10:06 pm - Bruno Mars and his band are joined onstage by Sting.  We all agree that Sting appears not to age at all, ever.  (Tantricism?)  Debbie likes Sting's suit but comments that he's gotta lose the boots.

10:18 pm - I'm convinced that Mumford & Sons-wannabes - The Lumineers - used to have a full drum kit before they first saw the Mumford boys and pared it down to just a bass drum, single cymbal & tambourine.  I'm also convinced they were signed to a record deal when desperate, crazed record company execs began shouting, "FIND US ANOTHER MUMFORD & SONS, FIND US ANOTHER MUMFORD & SONS!!!"

10:21 pm - Jack White - or, as he's known in my household, The Best Thing To Happen To Rock & Roll In The 21st Century - performs "Love Interruption" with his all-girl band and "Freedom At 21" with his all-guy band, neatly encapsulating his effortless command of both the quiet and the LOUD aspects of the rock & roll idiom.  Is Jack White the Pete Townshend of the 21st century?  He just might be.  Do I fervently wish, hope and pray that Jack doesn't wind up selling all of his songs to some future CBS NCIS-style crime-procedural franchise?  Oh Lord, yes I do.  (Plus Jack is rocking an outfit from The Gram Parsons Nudie Suit Outlet Store.)

10:34 pm - Country singer Hunter Hayes - winner of this year's "Justin-Bieber-Who-Gave-This-Fetus-A-Record Deal?" award - introduces Carrie Underwood, who is sporting a ball gown straight off of Say Yes To The Dress.  In addition somebody brings Blue Oyster Cult's old laser crew out of retirement to project images on Underwood's gown.  Impressive, but the gown seems to be bolted to the floor and Underwood cannot walk off.  She may still be onstage at The Staple Center as we speak.

10:39 am - Prince is just one bad-ass motherfucker, motherfuckers, and he's got a hood and a walking stick to prove it.

10:57 pm - The Mumford & Sons guys sing a verse of "The Weight" during the Levon Helm Memorial performance and I finally crystallize what bothers me so much about them: Mumford & Sons are just the latest example of the syndrome wherein the American public would much rather hear indigenous American musical idioms performed by English people.  Examples - Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly are returned to America in the guise of Englishmen The Beatles; bluesmen Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Albert King are resold to us by The Rolling Stones and by Eric Clapton in Cream (Clapton later appropriates Delaney & Bonnie and J.J. Cale to fuel his laid-back post-Cream career); black funk & disco acts like The Ohio Players, Kool & The Gang and The Bar-Kays got Anglicized by The Bee Gees, who sold millions more records than their American counterparts.  (Part of this syndrome is, of course, inherent American racism; we'd always much rather buy our records from cute white boys than older black men or else Sam Phillips wouldn't have gone on his quest to find "a white man who could sing the blues" and invent Elvis Presley.  But I believe it's more our Founding Fathers' incipient English DNA rearing its ugly head, otherwise why are Americans so obsessed with the British Royal Family's weddings?)

So now the hard-charging acoustic indie-folk rock pioneered by American boys Hamell On Trial and The Avett Brothers gets sold back to us by Mumford & Sons, with their college-girl-writing-in-her-digital-diary lyrics and their I-bear-the-weight-of-the-world-on-me-broad shoulders overly pretentious, totally humorless demeanor.  I know I seem obsessed with Mumford & Sons and I know I make too much of their success and yes, probably some little part of me is jealous, but jeez, these guys are just to MEDIOCRE to be this HUGE.  (Or is that mediocrity the very reason their huge-ness?)

11:12 pm - Frank Ocean neglects to remove his headband after an earlier-in-the-day game of pickup basketball at The Staple Center - home of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers - against a team led by Chris Brown which, inevitably, erupted in a game-ending brawl.  During the Grammys telecast an alert cameraman catches Brown in the crowd, stuffing a sock with batteries to form a homemade blackjack and Brown is escorted off the premises by security.  (Why is it that Chris Brown always seems to start tussles only with women or gay men?)

11:17 pm - Mumford & Sons wins Album Of The Year.  Duh.

postscript; The Grammy's telecast came in right on the money, ending right at 11:30 (or maybe even a coupla minutes early as L.L. Cool J, Chuck D. of Public Enemy and Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine seemed to be filling time with their Beastie Boys Adam Yauch closing tribute number).  The Oscars telecast has GOT to take a page from The Grammys book and start giving some of those, shall we say, minor awards - Best Sound Editing in an Animated Film Featuring the Voice of Seth Rogen, Best French Symbolist Movie Containing a Red Balloon, Best CGI Effect or Makeup Artist Making Sylvester Stallone and/or Arnold Schwarzenegger Look Less Than 80 Years Old In an Action Movie, etc. - off-the-air, prior to the telecast.  Right now The Oscars are scheduled to begin at 8 pm, Sunday, February 24th, and end sometime in March, right around the vernal equinox.

© 2013 Ricki C.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

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

It's been brought to my attention by avid Watershed fans who are also devotees of Growing Old With Rock & Roll that I never completed the My Ten Most Memorable Moments As A Watershed Roadie series, so here we go.  The first eight Memorable Moments are detailed in blog posts Colin & The Stairwell, Watershed & Kamakaze's (January 2012), The Strange Case of the Somnabulistic Stickman Streaker (April 2012) and My Ten Most Memorable Moments As A Watershed Roadie: parts 1 & 2 (September, 2012).  

9) August 18, 2005, Columbus, Ohio   The band was playing a benefit gig at a local bar called Byrne's Pub.  I think it was for a scholarship fund named for one of their old friends or schoolmates who had died in a car accident or something.  (Yeah, I realize I should have paid more attention to details like that but in 2005 I was touring with Hamell On Trial AND Watershed, plus working a day-job between road trips, in addition to playing my own gigs and striving manfully to keep my second marriage together more successfully than my first, given the debilitating effects of the rock & roll.  Sometimes I just told Biggie to let me know what time to show up for the load-in and didn't ask very many questions about the whys and wherefores.)

Byrne's Pub is an Irish bar and since the band was playing the benefit for free, management had adopted an open bar policy for the boys that night - never a good idea with Watershed.  The band had already played two pretty solid sets and when a 20-minute break after the second set stretched into an hour I think everybody thought they were done for the night.  Colin and Joe had pretty much stuck to their normal beer intake all evening but after the second set Byrne's bartenders had started pouring very generous shots of Irish whiskey for Pooch and Dave.  After about an hour of solid (free) drinking by the band, Biggie and I started started packing up the gear and the bar owner yelled, "Hey, hey, hey, the band's supposed to play THREE sets!"  We all just kinda looked at each other - Colin and Joe were tipsy but manageable, Pooch and Dave were just fucking TRASHED, there was just no two ways about it. 

Colin tried to defer, to point out that the audience had somewhat thinned out but truthfully there were still a fair amount of fans there, ready & waiting for some more Watershed.  The band shakily reassembled but I couldn't see how Pooch and Dave were gonna make it.  They were both slurring drunk and Dave couldn't even walk straight, I had to help him up onto the drum riser.  Dave - to his eternal credit - just kinda put his head down and powered through the set but Pooch was a lost cause.  At one point, not more than three  songs into the set, he got up on the bass drum, tried to balance on one foot and promptly fell off, crashing down with an almighty clatter of his Les Paul Junior.  I started out onto the stage to help him up and Colin, who was soloing at the front, barked at me, "Take that guitar away from him and get him off the stage NOW!"  I opened my mouth to say something but the normally affable-to-a-fault-even-under-the-worst-circumstances Colin was livid and I didn't even bother trying to mount a spirited or non-spirited defense of Pooch.

Pooch got unsteadily to his feet, teetering, trying to find his way back into the song and I stepped up to him and said, "Gimme the guitar, Pooch, you've gotta go off."  "No, no, no, I'm okay," he tried to say, his eyes watery & unfocused behind his Buddy Holly glasses, "I'll do better."  "No, off, now," I said and pulled the guitar over his head.  He really couldn't put up a fight or muster much of an argument or appeal, finally just shrugged and slunk off the stage.  I looked over to Guitar World where Biggie should have been to hand Pooch's guitar to him, but Biggie was nowhere to be found.  My lovely wife Debbie was standing there, however, wide-eyed at Pooch getting sent off.  I yelled, "Take this," reaching over the amps to hand her the Les Paul.  Debbie had some experience handling guitars - I was constantly leaving my acoustics lying around the house - but I failed to warn her that the Les Paul weighed about 20 pounds more than my Alvarez.  In my haste to get Pooch off the stage I had also forgotten to unplug it or turn it down, so when it went right through Debbie's hands and crashed to the floor there was another unholy din, prompting Colin to glare back over his shoulder at me, staring daggers.

I yanked the cord out as Debbie stammered out an apology (all my fault, I told her, all my fault) and squeezed between the sidewashed amps to get off that misbegotten stage.  I can't remember how many more songs Watershed played as a trio that night, but I don't think I've ever been gladder to see a show end. 

10) July 9, 2005, Orlando, Florida  Watershed was the middle act of a three-band bill in Orlando - home of Disney World and possibly the whitest-bread city I have ever set foot in.  It's like the entire city is an artificial extension of the make-believe fairy tale ambiance of the amusement park.  Top of the bill was a cute, young, unnaturally perky blonde girl who had just been 86'd off of American Idol and was - if the daily newspaper and the local entertainment weekly were to be believed - the toast of Orlando.  Watershed didn't get a soundcheck (that was reserved for headliner-girl and came back to enormously bite her in the ass) but the evening got off to a promising start when - while conducting a line-check of the instruments after the first band finished their set - Biggie (playing drums) and myself (playing guitar & singing) made a song up on the spot about Watershed and how good they are and got a ringing round of applause from the audience. 

Colin totally psyched himself up against American Idol girl in particular and the Orlando experience in general and Watershed delivered one of those sets that DEFINES what rock & roll is all about.  They generally kicked ass, took names, maimed, dismembered and demolished the audience.  Those were the days when Watershed sets ended with drummer Dave Masica climbing over his kit to leap backwards off the bass drum for one final cymbal smash.  Colin sent Dave back not once, but twice from his perch on the bass drum before Dave's set-ending leap as the band extended the "Black Concert T-Shirt" finale to purvey more rock & roll demolition.

The Orlando crowd was pretty wrung out by the time headliner-girl's band took the stage and started into the first tune to set up Perky Blonde Girl's big entrance.  As a roadie, the total equipment meltdown that befell that band's opener and completely derailed the lead singer's moment in the sun simultaneously frightened and amused me; frightened me because it could have happened to us and amused me because it DIDN'T happen to us.  Things started out okay as the bass player & drummer kicked off the tune but at the first guitar chords - just as the lead singer strode onto the stage tossing her mane of blonde curls - one guitar blasted monstrous, truly deafening feedback through the club and the other guitar didn't function period.

Lead singer girl just stood there stranded, unable to begin the song for fully two or three minutes as the audience stood wincing with their hands over their ears and the sound guys tried desperately to stop the noise.  Finally she just gave up and retreated to the side of the stage while the gear gaff got sorted out.  The band had now stopped playing entirely and everybody was just standing around bewildered & fidgety as stage techs ran around unplugging & replugging things, trying to fix the PA.  The girl was close to tears, standing on the side of the stage.  I genuinely felt bad for her as I wandered over to where Joe was standing, sipping a beer, surveying the carnage.  "I don't think that was the beginning they were looking for," I casually mentioned, triggering an actual spit-take from Joe.  I think beer actually came out his nose.

Two songs later, after the set finally got relaunched, lead singer girl - while serenading the crowd down front - fell off the stage and SCREAMED into the microphone as she tumbled to the sticky dance floor.  I am certain that band had played better sets.   

Later in the night Joe ran afoul of Florida's rather restrictive underage drinking laws while buying drinks for "friends" of the band and Pooch threw up IN THE BAR.  It was only the second night of the tour, I was feeling pretty good.

© 2013 Ricki C.