Crazy Gig Stories by and for Working Musicians

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We All Start Somewhere..

Location: 
Central Valley, CA, USA
Type of Gig: 
first

It was my first gig with my first band. I was 15 years old, as well as the two others in my band, guitarist and bassist; I was the drummer.

I met the guitarist when he tripped and fell on me in gradeschool, a rather portly fellow. I met the bassist some years later when I was 15. I called him one day, having gotten his phone number from a friend (who told me he rides around on a painted van halen-splatter-style womans bike), to buy a fifteen chunk of pot. I used change from a tootsie roll piggy bank, went to the store with the whole bank taped up in my backpack and exchanged it for dollar bills. We met, not even knowing what each other looked like up until meeting. We smoked in the park and he asked me if I play music, to which I responded, no. He said that I looked like a drummer and asked me if I wanted to come back to his house and jam. I was very reluctant and refused on multiple occasions. After more smoking, I said that I WOULD in fact come back to his house to play drums, having never played before.

I didn't know much about him, but we walked to his house, just a few blocks away. We walked through the driveway and into the detached garage in the back. We walked in and the jamming space was small: A horde. It was then that I discovered he was a speed user, which made his funk bass even quicker. I sat behind the drums a bit overwhelmed and somehow learned to play right then and right there.

Fast forward about a month, and we have compiled about 15 or 16 originals, no covers. The bass playing is crazy and all over the place, it's complicated and it is noodly, and funk-style, and punk style, all the while shrouded in a forced 'poppiness', with flat crackly teen vocals over it. The guitar playing was more of an apathetic accentuation of the bass playing, due to the fact that the guitarist didn't really want to play, or even be there, most of the time.

We have an older homosexual, stoner, rear neighbor who always hears us play and thinks that we are really good, most of the time. This neighbor is a several-times-a-day customer of a large coffee chain conglomerate located just 30 feet from his house, just across the street. He said that he had talked to the shop and they both wanted us to do a set, on his driveway, in mid-day, on a weekday, with the outdoor patio section facing towards us. A kind enough sentiment. We accepted.

The day of the show comes around and I get to skip school entirely to play this show. I get to the bassists house and we begin the somewhat arduous process of carrying all of our gear around most of the block in a big U-shape, or C-shape, ETC. We run everything through extension cords from the inside of this mans house. We have a big carpet set up, and everything is fine, despite the massive unevenness of his driveway. We start playing the first song and I was hoping some people would come over and stand on the driveway or the front lawn and make it feel like a real show. But no one did. Throughout the entire show. The experience felt very separated, especially since people were just coming and going.
After the first song was over some people clapped and cheered, I remember seeing a woman smiling. After the second song, less people clapped and/or cheered. After the third, no one. Fourth: stares like, "Okay, you guys can stop now... I'm trying to have my coffee and surf the web on my laptop and/or study, and listen to my MP3 player. Okaaaaay, please stop..."

After the fifth or sixth song or so, two drunk local homeless men show up on bikes, the only ones to actually watch us from a distance of 10 feet or so the entire time. They are friends of the bassist, who mind you is only 15. They wait for the break in the songs and one of them says that HE wants to play drums. I chuckle and hand the sticks over, as he had told me before that he was a jazz drummer of about 30 years or so. The bassist shoots into a little walk-around, bluesy number. The guitar improvises. And the drums kick in. Absolutely amazing. His style, his touch, his snare hand (traditional grip), bass emphasis, ride work (that really jazzy, fast, flowy, odd timing ETC.) and hi hat click all amazing. His timing: impeccable.

He and his buddy were obviously already drunk at 1 PM, and in hindsight, I think someone at the coffee shop may have called the cops on them, possibly thinking they were harassing us. After this little jam was finished, he insisted on still playing drums, so they play one more short one, where he drums a little more rock-like, definitely played in some rock bands of the 70s. After the short number, he still wants to play. But the bassist said not to be an asshole and let me play. So he did. Anyway we play another short number, and finish that off. Just then my mom and dad pull up across the street and watch us begin the next. They do not get out of the car, they just sit there, staring sideways at their second born and his band play for two homeless drunks and an annoyed coffee shop. Midway through this song, the police pull up right in front of the house, but we don't stop playing. They start talking to the two homeless gentlemen, one officer moving the bikes aside. Before we know it, the two are being searched and it doesn't take long until a bag of meth is produced from the jazz drummers friends' pocket, and he probably has some tallboys in his backpack. They pull out the handcuffs and he starts yelling at the cops and at his friend and at the people on the coffee shop patio. We don't stop playing. He is forcibly put into submission for attempting to resist the cuffing; he is horizontal, face down on the pavement, with a knee in his back and a hand pushing his head into the concrete while being cuffed. We don't stop playing. He is brought to his feet and they push him into the car. The cops close the door and get in, turning on the siren, driving off. We don't stop playing. They turn the corner at the end of the block just as we stop playing. Everyone has a laugh, the band, my mom and dad, the patio, the neighbor, and even the other homeless guy, at the thought that we just played an arrest.

The other homeless guy rides off on his bike shortly thereafter, and we play a few more. And when we are done, people clap, probably out of courtesy and anticipation of us stopping. I walk over to my mom and dad, and talk with them for one minute, then they drive away. We carry all the gear back in the U-shape, or C-shape to the bassists house, laughing still at the scenario, knowing we will always remember this.

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