Saturday, January 30, 2010

Meanwhile, Back at The Central Tavern

February 18, 1998:

A squeak of feedback greeted Winter as he stepped up to the mike and greeted the crowd: "Hi, everybody! We're The Pace!".

It was our first gig since our New Year's Eve show at the Central Tavern, and we had come quite a way since then. We had added some new songs, kept some favorites, and added a new original instrumental to close the show with. Winter kicked off with the opening riff to the first song, and we were off!

1) Come On Now
2) I Just Wanna Make Love To You

We were going to segue into the next song, like we did the last time. Oh no! My right drumstick broke in half not even a few bars into the song. I kept on the crash/ride cymbal until I could fish myself up another stick during the segue into the next song.

3) I'm Not Talking

Sounds good, we're playing great, but I'm not hearing the vocals at all through the PA. Neither could the other guys, so it wasn't just me.

4) The Nazz Are Blue

When we finished with this one, the only thing missing was the sound of crickets and tumbleweeds. Did the crowd not like that one? We'd better drop that one next time.

5) I'm Talking About You
6) Too Much Monkey Business
7) Daddy Rolling Stone

Still sounds good, maybe just a little too fast for the crowd. When we announced this song and the next one, Tom quipped, "The Kinks are on our side!"

8) I Need You
9) Time Is On My Side
10) I Don't Mind

"And now we're going to go surfing!", Winter announced, and we tore into a cut from the Beatles' Live At The BBC set, only rocked up a little harder.

11) I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You)
12) Circles
13) Fortune Teller
14) Rosalie

Still good, but "Fortune Teller" was too fast. More people were coming in, and they seemed to like what we were doing. One of Tom's friends in the audience was drunkenly howling for us to play The Who song "So Sad About Us", making Tom quip, "You're making me sad!".

15) Take This, Brother, May It Serve You Well

This was an instrumental that we had come up with a few weeks before. Winter started off with a staccato two-note riff, and I lurched it forward with military-like drum rolls. Tom and Lincoln joined in, and then I began with 4/4 on the snare, but with a Bolero-type rhythm on the hi-hat (borrowed again, only this time from the other band after us, the Deadbeats). After two passes, we launched into a heavy, jazzy triple-time signature, with lots of feedback and distortion. I slowed it way down on the drums, and then brought up all the way again, with more feedback and distortion. Bang! All over and done. "Elvis has left the building!", the soundman intoned over the PA system.

As we were packing up our gear to take off the stage, Tom's friend kept pleading for us to play "So Sad About Us", even offering to sing it for us, oblivious to the fact that we had finished our set. Someone else requested Santana's "Soul Sacrifice", which cracked Lincoln up. Listening to the tape I made of the show (on my Realistic microcasette recorder again) at home later on that evening, the vocals were almost inaudible on the tape as they were on stage. So it wasn't just me!

A week later, after we had finished a rehearsal, we went off to a party being thrown by a friend of Tom's, over on the north side of town. We all piled into Tom's van, now up and running, and went to this party. I didn't really know anyone at this get-together, but I tried to enjoy the vibe. Most of the crowd went down into the basement to listen to a band there play, which was good, but the drummer was way too busy on the hi-hat.

Later on, Lincoln visited the bathroom, and noticed there were no drinking glasses in there, but there were some of those darned tea-candles burning away on the counters and shelves. So, he bent down, turned his head in order to drink right from the faucet, and as he was slurping from it, he began to smell something burning! It was a small patch of hair on one side of his head, but thankfully caught it in time before any noticable damage was done.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happy New Year!!!

New Year's Eve, 1997. We were ready to play our first real show, at the Central Tavern at 6th and Proctor. This time, I managed to get myself a black suit jacket from the local thrift shop. Tom lent me an old pair of black sunglasses that had actual dark glass in the lenses (shades of That Thing You Do!). Lincoln was lent some money so he could get his SG Junior in time to play the show. The lugging of gear up the stairs and into Winter's and Lincoln's cars weren't so bad, as we had no organ to take with us this time.

We got there, and began a soundcheck. I'd never been on a music stage before, and it was exciting, setting up the drums under the orange and green lights. Winter, meanwhile, was writing down copies of the setlist on the big paper placemats that normally have plates of food set on them. Tom had managed to borrow the hi-hat from Bon Von Wheelie's drumset, as Girl Trouble were going to play after us, so I was relieved at not having to play that ratty homemade thing, or just my cymbal.

Tom and I brought his tape deck to plug into the mixing board to get a recording of the show, but we didn't have the right type of plug-in, so that wasn't an option. I'd remembered to bring my Realistic microcassette recorder with me, and so it was set atop the PA speaker next to the drums.

It was showtime! Winter said, "Hi, everybody! We're The Pace!". And off we went:

1) I Just Wanna Make Love To You
2) I'm Not Talking

Tom wanted to take the time to ask if the band has any New Year's resolutions, and I recognized this bit from the Yardbirds' BBC disc; Winter said he was going to continue the way he was going, Lincoln said he was going to play the guitar, and I said "Try[ing] not to smoke and drink so much!".

3) I Ain't Got You
4) Beautiful Delilah
5) I'm Talking About You
6) Heart Full Of Soul

So far, so good. The crowd was getting off on what we were playing to them. Tom quipped, "You can never have too much Chuck Berry!".

7) Let It Roll On
8) Too Much Monkey Business
9) Love Me Like I Love You
10) I Ain't Done Wrong
11) Evil Hearted You

Damn, we were on fire! Winter asked if anyone had anything to drink, and I gave him a swig from my bottle of Diet Pepsi. I changed the tape over just at Winter was introducing Lincoln and him singing the next song.

12) The Nazz Are Blue
13) Baby, Scratch My Back
14) Smokestack Lightning

We were on top of the world! "You guys are hot!", someone shouted to us. But we were nearing the end of the set, and Nick (the soundman) said over the PA, "One more song!", but Tom pleaded for two.

15) I'm A Man

We had planned to have Winter kick it off on the harmonica, Tom follow, Lincoln join in, and then me kick it into gear. But,we felt rushed, so I joined Winter after two harmonica riffs, and off we went.

16) The Train Kept A-Rollin'

I yanked off the sunglasses, and we proceeded to rip the place apart with this one. At the end, we went head-first into a cacophony of feedback, and me hammering hell out of the drums. Bang! All over and done!

Wow, what a show! After we broke everything down and stuck it way behind the stage (we could get it later), someone asked me for my autograph on the little flyers we had made on a Xerox. Very cool! We took the guitars to Winter's place, where he took a quick joint break, and then the rest of them were off to see the new year in. I went home to listen to the tape. It was a little drum-heavy for being next to the kit, but it all came out good, and the guys were happy with it when I played it for them at my place the next day.

Oh yeah, there was a $20 waiting for me at our next practice, my cut for the night. Not bad for a first paid gig!!!

There Are But Four Paces

A week after the Halloween show, we convened at Tom's place to play. When I came into the practice-room, I noticed that the red drumset was gone (Brandon had taken it home); there were a few loose drums flung into one corner of the practice-room. They were Winter's; some old, black Ludwig drums that had seen happier days.

As Winter and Tom were plugging in and tuning up, I forgot about the organ, sat in a chair and began to sort the loose drums out and seeing what we had; two snares, a floor tom, a kick-drum with no pedal, and a rack-tom attached to the kick. The better snare of the two was held up by two old music-stand bases, kind of a makeshift snare stand. There were also a few old cymbals leaning in the corner, two of them with massive holes on the outer edges.

Next thing I know, I'm sitting there with drumsticks in my hands, playing the snare with my left hand, and hitting the bass drum (lying on the floor, face down) with my right. I joined Tom and Winter in some songs they were trying out, and damned if it didn't sound good! And that situation is what we built on that November.

At the next practice, our friend Lincoln joined us as second guitarist, using one of Winter's spare guitars (which never kept in tune). We began to get serious about this lineup's sound, so we got our hands on a kick-drum pedal, and we found the remnant of a cymbal stand; the only usable cymbal was one of those marching band crash cymbals, but I began to use it like a crash-ride, alternating how hard I hit it for riding and crashing. We tarted up an old hi-hat stand with the other two cymbals; it sounded a little messy, but it passed for a hi-hat in practice. Better than using my tambourine for a hi-hat!

The Yardbirds' BBC Sessions collection had just come out, and I brought a tape of it for the other guys to check out. Next thing I know, Winter and Tom are learning a bunch of songs from it by day, and we're playing them later that evening. Being influenced by Bill Bruford and Bobby Caldwell, I began to play with a lot of drive and sharp timekeeping, and Winter was yearning to play them that much faster, so we did. No wonder we were called The Pace!

We also began recording some of the songs we knew into Tom's Yamaha 4-track recorder, mostly as demos to shop around to prospective venues in and around town. We recorded the instruments through the Peavey PA head, which had the reverb up a little too much, but the recordings sounded good for being homemade. I played all the drums, tambourine, and even the organ for "I'm Talking About You". For a short while, there was a harpsichord upstairs in one of the banquet rooms, and I recorded two harpsichord tracks for a potential cover of "For Your Love", but we never used it, and Winter never cared for that song, anyway.

Lincoln was soon to be getting his hands on a Gibson SG Junior, which was going to be much better than the beat-up Fender Strat that refused to stay in tune. I noticed my snare drum had a rip in the bottom head, so one evening, I showed up early with a small roll of tape to remedy that. I took the drum apart and put a piece of tape over that rip, but then I didn't want the top skin to rip on me, so I put a few strips of tape on the underside of the top head. When I got the drum back together and tightened the strainer as far as it would go, I ended up with a very sharp and loud snare sound. It sounded amazing! Then again, we all did together--hard, loud and fast. After practice was over, I would get home after midnight, and my ears would be still ringing.

At the beginning of December, Tom gave me a call one evening to tell me that we had a show happening for us on New Year's Eve (as an opening act) at the Central Tavern on 6th Avenue. We immediately compiled a setlist, and began to practice how many songs we would play within a 45-minute time frame, timing ourselves. We ended up with sixteen songs.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Halloween Show

The day came. Where we were going to play the show was at this two-story brick building on North 6th and K Streets. We lugged up a flight of stairs and then crammed into Winter's car all the guitars, drum parts and amps we were going to use. We dropped it off at the place, went back, and then lugged the organ and the rest of the drums up the stairs, into the car, and into the place. Inside of the place was open and vast, with an upstairs, where the PA speakers (and the Kustom amp that I was using for the organ) were.

The evening came. Dan arrived, and soon the other guys had decked themselves out in thrift-store suits (I hadn't found anything of the sort for myself). But, Dan had one more thing he was going to wear for the show: he pulled out a full-sized paper bag with little holes for his eyes, and put it on for a laugh. "The Unknown Drummer!", I exclaimed.

The lot of us walked four blocks down the street to the place where the show was going to happen. The people who lived there had put those little tea-candles on every available surface around the place, including the organ, and the Kustom head on top of it. I blew them out. The only way we could fit the organ in the space we were going to play was limited by the access to the nearest outlet. So, we had it turned around so that I had my back to the crowd. Not what I wanted, but that was our only option. Dan put the bag on his head.

I brought my Fostex 4-track recorder (due to lots of previous use back at home, track two was wearing out rather quickly) and one microphone with me to record the show with. I set the microphone atop Winter's amp.

Showtime! Where's the setlist? Nobody has it...son of a bitch!

"Guess we'll have to wing it!", Tom announced. And off we went. The songs we played were:

1) I'm Not Talking
2) I'm Talking About You
3) Handsome Devil
4) Too Much Monkey Business
5) Evil Hearted You
6) Heart Full Of Soul
7) Beautiful Delilah

Did I mention that the amp to the organ was upstairs? I couldn't hear it at all, though I had it up as loud as it would go. The PA being upstairs didn't help, either. Sounded like the vocals were in another house. But we somehow managed to get through the show, despite one guy in the crowd drunkenly howling "Free Bird!". We continued, getting to the songs we just knew would knock 'em dead:

8) Lost Woman
9) Who Do You Love

This was where it really picked up. During "Lost Woman", I looked over at Dan, and not only was the bag still on his head, he had it turned completely around; he was hammering away and not missing a note! The false ending worked out really well. The crowd ate that one up, and asked for more while Winter and Tom were trying to remember the next song we had planned to play. Someone shouted, "You guys know all the Yardbirds!".

During "Who Do You Love", I was banging the tambourine and maraca, which popped like a lightbulb on the rim of the tambourine. Beads flew everywhere. And then at the end of the song, I smashed out the skin of the tambourine on the chair I had been sitting in. What a crowd-pleaser! What a show!

After I got home, I played the tape. It was awful. The microphone had fallen off of Winter's amp and was dangling behind it for the whole show, and that was pretty much all you could hear for the duration of the recording.

Two days later, after being able to leave our gear there, we took it all back down the stairs to Tom's place, back in the practice room. During the second trip to bring the organ back home, Tom happily discovered a small bong of his that he had shoved into the back of the organ (through one of the holes in the backboard) for safekeeping.

And then there's Mods!

October, 1997. During the daytime, while church meetings and such were going on above us, Tom, Winter and I couldn't make a lot of noise, so we had to practice as quiet as possible. We were making up a list of songs we were going to play for this show, as it was going to be all cover tunes. We had picked out songs by the Yardbirds, and a handful of songs from the first Kinks album, though none of the familiar songs (and most definitely not "You Really Got Me").

We would listen to an album on Tom's old record player (one of those old ones I remember from elementary school) and pick out the songs we wanted to learn. We would then play along to the song with our instruments as we listened to it, and then played the song through on our own a few times. Thus, we learned certain songs in a very quick, easy and effective way.

Towards the end of the month, and after a half-dozen practices that way, Dan joined us for late-evening practices (after Tom made his rounds through all parts of the church, making sure no-one was there). Winter's girlfriend, Jazzmyn, and other friends hung out in the living room space, listening to what was happening in the practice-room. It was a long living room, with the kitchen on one end, and the practice room on the opposite end. The place was furnished with old couches and restaurant-booth seats.

Winter and Tom would pick out certain songs, we'd play them through two or three times, and then we'd move onto the next one. Dan wasn't too familiar with the type of stuff we were playing, but he would learn it, play it his own way, and it worked every time. I was coming to grips with the Thomas organ, and though it was similar to my Wurlitzer back at home, it had reverb and lower-keyboard bass notes that I could use with my left hand.

On some of the songs, I merely banged the tambourine, as there were no particular keyboard parts in "I'm A Man" or "Evil Hearted You". On one rendition of "Heart Full Of Soul", Winter forgot the words, so I filled in, and then he said I should sing that one when we played it. I couldn't turn my microphone up that loud, as the PA speaker was hanging right over myself and the organ, and it would border on feedback. At least I had one song to myself!

Tom and Winter had taken the Kinks' song "Long Tall Shorty" and gave it new words, and called it "Handsome Devil". The words they now sang were not too far from the original, but we all got a good laugh out of it, especially at Tom's other title for it: "Long Tall Satan".

We were playing loud, fast and hard on these songs. Sometimes, Tom or Winter would call out a title, we'd play it (and very well), and it would immediately find itself on the setlist, tacked on the wall amongst Xeroxed shots of The Who and The Yardbirds. Some of them included "The Train Kept A-Rollin'" and "Who Do You Love". I was recording these practices on one of those hand-held GE tape-recorders, and though the sound came out distorted when I played it back afterwards, the energy on them was amazing (ain't that how it always happens?).

After three practices with Dan, we were ready to play the show.

We'reThe Pace, baby, is that clear?

September, 1997. The phone rang one evening. It was Tom, a guy who had read one of the musicians-available flyers I had posted around town during the past couple of months. He said he worked at Guitar Maniacs downtown and also that he had a practice space with a lot of instruments to be played, and would I be interested in coming down for a jam the next evening? Sure. He told me it was in the basement at the Episcopal Christ Church, and to knock at one of the basement windows.

That's where I found myself the next evening, not far from my old stamping grounds, knocking on one of the basement windows. One of the guys came out to bring me in; his name was Winter and he was the guitarist in this gathering. The place they were at was the caretaker's quarters of the church, and that was apparently what Tom did during the daytime. We met, and then I was helping them lug a full-sized Thomas organ into a good-sized room, where the walls were covered in blue shag-carpet. Drumset, guitars, amps, PA. They had it all. And so we plugged in.

We began to play, mostly Yardbirds and Who tunes that they knew. Sounds like they had paid attention to the influences listed in my ad. Wow, I thought, These guys are on the same page as me. And not a bunch of 47-year old alkies, either! Their drummer, Josh, appeared at the last minute, and we played through the Yardbirds' "Evil Hearted You", which was interesting to hear.

They liked what I was doing, as they invited me to come back again for the next jam. I got to know these guys a little more over the next few jams that happened, as other guys came and in out of the picture. Seems Winter and Tom were figuring out who was the most workable and stable players. Josh was their drummer, but he didn't turn up much. Actually, the drumset belonged to one of the guys, named Brandon, but he would play Tom's bass while Tom and Winter were on guitars. The jams continued.

After about a month, Tom called me and said that we had an offer to play a Halloween show, and that he had a drummer who could sit in with us for a few practices leading up to the show. Great! It was going to be him, Winter, me and his old friend, Dan, from Olympia, with whom he'd played in an earlier project. I was in!

We would hang out before and after jamming, talking about what kind of music we were into, and about past band experiences. They told me about a show they had played in the summertime with their drummer, Josh. Seems they had played on the roof of the coffee place down on North Division and I Streets, Temple Of The Bean. I asked what they called themselves. "The Pace", Tom said. Very cool!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"We're rockin' out the door!"

Back in the early 1980's, cable TV was still a new thing that not a lot of people had, but we were one of the few. In fact, it was our only major luxury. We ended up watching more movies and comedy specials than network TV shows. This was when the box on top of the TV held only about 27 channels, and not all of them were filled up.

One of the local channels in Tacoma began to broadcast a half-hour music-video show called "The Rock Show", and they'd show the hard-rock and heavy-metal videos of the day (Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Quiet Riot, Rainbow, etc.) with an occasional nod to The Doors and Jimi Hendrix. The show was hosted by a guy named Henry J, a long-haired guy who wore jeans, and a black vest over white shirtsleeves. Just a cool, laid-back rocker guy, who always announced at the end of the show, "We're rockin' out the door!".

How local? The show beamed out of the local cable place that was only five blocks from the house, and the show went out live. My Dad met Henry J while paying the cable bill one day, and I remember him taking me to visit the studio where they shot the show. Sure looked a lot bigger than on the TV! It was around my seventh birthday, and I was given a mylar Pac-Man balloon that happened to be floating around there.

My Dad and his brother were aspiring cartoonists, and began drawing up posters for the show, featuring caricatures of Ted Nugent, Mick Jagger, Cheech & Chong, Journey, and even Henry J himself. Next thing we know, both of them were invited to make a couple of appearances on the show, showing their posters. Very cool!

All good things come to an end, and in October of 1983, we heard "The Rock Show" was going off the air, and we were all invited to be on the final show. I remember getting to introduce Henry J back to the show after a commercial-break, and noticing the microphone was way heavier than the one I played with at home. At the end of the show, the whole lot of us gathered in front of the camera to say goodbye, and I remembered to shout out the show's tagline: "We're rockin' out the door!"

There was a small effort to get the show back on the air some months later, and some T-shirts were made at a place over in Fife and autographed by Henry J at our house, but nothing happened.

Unfortunately, all of this happened six months before we got a VCR (again, we were the first ones on the block to have one), so this moment was lost to posterity. But, my best friend James Gardiner saw it when it went out live, so that was always good enough for me.

It was my first taste of show-biz, and I would never forget it.

UPDATE: October 1, 2011:

I was doing a little investigation and research into where I could perhaps find any tapes of the show. I contacted City Cable 12, who gave me the contact info for a guy who is currently the production manager for Comcast, but who was also in the production team for "The Rock Show" and other programming for Group W Cable back then. He told me that they operated on such a tight budget that they re-used videotapes over and over and over until they wore them out, and then tossed them. And so, there is officially nothing in the archives to be seen, and the moment is forever lost.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 this thing on?

Greetings and hallucinations!

This is my blog spot, my first one anywhere. Which is funny, considering I have this reputation for not being much of a talker, or for being "too quiet". All I can say to that is: too many people out there just don't know when to shut the hell up. They just open up their mouths and fall right in, don't they?

If you join this blog, you will find out some things about me you never knew (or couldn't be bothered to ask). I will tell some stories about my past/background, my musical endeavors/adventures, and other hyphenated topics you may find amusing. And there are going to be some pretty damn funny things I have up my sleeve, or things that are going to make you say, "I've been there myself!".

Anyway, thanks for coming, and tip your waitress!