Thursday, June 05, 2008

I Wanna Be Abhorred: Tim On Tour, Part Five

Day One Continued: The New World Brewery

After more than eight hours of driving, the last forty minutes spent circling the same half-mile stretch in Ybor City looking for the place we've all actually been to before, we finally arrive at rock show central, The New World Brewery. Zac got directions from Nessie leader Scott, so I do what rookie band-guy does: follow the frontman. (Though I actually printed Mapquest directions for the two clubs. I also own a TomTom but didn't bring it, which led to this from Zac the next day, AFTER AGAIN DRIVING AROUND BEHIND HIM LOST: "Hey man, why didn't you bring that TomTom?" Priceless.)

Apparently no harm done, as we're the only ones aggravated by our tardiness. We don't even need to unload our gear yet, as local legend Joe Popp (and his band The Hornrims) is setting up for his reunion show and playing first.

In fact, we are welcomed by our gracious hosts as the Nessie gents bring greetings. They are quite excited to see us (fellow bassist Joey refers to DFKF as Nessie's "brother band", and that's hard to dispute if you've heard them or us), and are pleasantly surprised that I made the trip and am actually playing with the band.

New World offers godhead pizza (which we've all been dreaming of since before we left), and an even greater beer selection (very potent brews in lovely bottles, a zillion drafts I've never heard of before... just stunning). Coincidentally, eating and drinking are all I can think of to combat my blossoming anxiety attack and to keep me occupied enough to not lock myself in the car until our show is cancelled. Between swallows, I try and mentally "play" the songs in my head; I really suck in my head. (By the way, seldom mentioned tourmate Shawn has made the trip from New Orleans with Zac just to record tonight's proceedings... I want to drink a gallon of beer right now just remembering that.)

In conversation with Jason as we unknowingly kept passing the bar, I brought up my nerves as we approached Zero Hour. He, apparently, has no idea how or why I could be uptight before the show, because he's never ever been nervous in this situation. And he's been playing in bands for probably 20 years. (Not helping, that one.) He manages to put me at ease a little, "Everything we do revolves around 4 notes: A, G, D, C. If you get stuck, just aim for one of those." Good and well-intentioned advice, but it was really sinking in that they've played these songs about 200 times more than I have. I had another beer and managed to at least remind myself that they accepted my offer to play not out of desperation, but because they felt I could pull it off.

The place is filling up (oh great, it's a pre-wedding party!) and Joe Popp and the Hornrims blow through their loose, playful set in what seems like record time. There's no real stage, just a flat wooden deck on top of the cobblestone brick patio for the bands, so audience contact is pretty easy and unpredictable. The same friendly lady who plopped down at our table earlier with her husband/boyfriend put on a nice little dance in and among the Hornrims as if at their direction. I began hoping she wouldn't pull a hamstring or tweak an ankle, so she could give an encore later and provide a little cover for whatever horrors I was about to unleash on poor Andrew, Jason and Zac.

A quick (thank god) mic and level check, and it's time to put up, then shut up. No setlist, which at first gave me bug-eyed pause, but probably the last thing I needed to be doing while playing song A was to be worrying about the changes in Song B. Hyperdrive first, just like practice. There's no way to confirm it because no video evidence exists, but I'm pretty sure that while playing the song fine, I looked like I'd just caught malaria. I began trying to approach the show like a job interview, make some eye contact and don't fidget but don't be stiff, either.

...audience contact is pretty easy and unpredictable... That part rears its head during the set after about the third song when I actually find myself in conversation with a new fan through the open doorway between our patio stage and the barroom proper. He likes the music, wants to know as much about us as I can tell him before it's time to, y'know, play, and points out that the vibrations from my (borrowed--thanks, Joey)bass head are making the can of beer atop it spin in a circle. I am now thoroughly loose and confident and not making any major mistakes.

Turns out, I was just saving up for the perfect occasion to shit in our collective cornflakes.

A pause in the action gives Jason a chance to introduce me and tell a much shorter and better version of How I Got to This Point. I didn't hear much of what he said, because I was too busy trying to hide behind Zac. He closes his monologue by introducing Turnin' Blue as the "trickiest song we have. Give him a hand and wish him luck." Which the folks do (and there's still an alarming number of them here), and away we go. I only flub a note or two, and continue to ride this wave of confidence. I guess the guys feel it too, prefacing Stuck it Out as "as good as we get. It's all downhill from here." The song actually starts with a staccato riff of F to A to G (see above). I preferred to show 'em how we do it up on Mars, firing off a nice G to B to A, and finding out for the first time that Zac actually does possess heat vision. He turns, glares, and quickly demonstrates the proper starting point. Grreeeeeeaat. The one song they want our best feet forward on, and I start it horribly. I recover reasonably well, and am not shaken too badly. If this is bad as it gets, then I'll surely be spoken well of later.

This wasn't as bad as it gets. See, we did a song called The 11th of Pants in practice. It uses what the kids call "Dropped-D" tuning, and requires the lowest string to be tuned to a non-standard D. I think I hear Jason tuning his E string and assume that Pants is coming (again, we have no setlist), and turn to get my bass up to speed. Turns out he was just fine tuning that E, and our planned Big Finish is actually on the agenda: original song Takin 'Er Easy will fade into a cover of the Stone Roses' I Wanna Be Adored, and the crowd will of course go apeshit and drown us in whiskey and foreplay for the rest of our visit. Only I'm not ready, frantically re-tuning and failing miserably. It just doesn't sound right for the entire goddamn song; it all sounds flat. I try and compensate by moving my positioning up one fret, but it's all tits-up by the time the song is over.

(Did I mention this was all being recorded?)

So, not the spectacle we'd planned when the first half of the big finish ends. Just me re-tuning awkwardly and Jason trying to make it funny and Zac trying not to roll his eyes so hard that they come loose and stifling a groan. On the bright side, with me fully in tune, we ace the cover and exit to wild applause. But I feel horrible at concentrating my screwups on the worst possible times. Not many things feel worse than the idea that you might have really let your friends down, but doing it after riding 8 hours to do it surely does.

I hit the bar like it's my last night on earth. But, I do get plenty of pats on the back, three "it wasn't bad" from Zac, Jason, and Andrew, and one "you guys were awesome" delivered to me personally (by who I suspect was a ladyfriend of Joey's and as such put up to it--there's that guy again, being terrific), and I'm a little surprised how easy I can let go of the small disasters.

The bad-ass soundman (whose name escapes me--is it Mark? Mike? Keith?) demands we go across the street to the liquor bar so he can buy us shots of Bulliet bourbon (incredible--I picked the wrong year to quit drinking brown liquor). Now I feel like I'm in a band, if only for the next 48 hours.

Cue up the afterglow.



At 9:02 AM , Blogger Allen said...

Dude, don't be too hard on yourself -- you acquitted yourself admirably for one friggin' practice. That's a pretty impressive achievement and speaks well of your overall musical ability. Those guys have played these songs in public hundreds of times -- you've practiced a few times. Don't sweat it. :)

And rock on!

At 9:25 AM , Blogger Tim said...

Thank you, good sir. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but the next night was a lot better.


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