Friday, February 19, 2010

"Get off the stage!!!"

September, 1984. I was with my Dad, my uncle, and a friend of theirs to go and see Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night at the Puyallup Fair Grandstand. I wasn't a fan or anything; I was just eight, and had no option but to go along with them. I don't remember much about the concert, except for two things. One was that a brawl broke out a few rows behind us towards the end of the Three Dog Night set, and a lot of guys were jumping in to break it up.

The other thing was the short comedy act that took place while Steppenwolf's gear was being broken down in order for Three Dog Night to play their show. The comedian's name was Ross Schafer, and he was one of the guys from one of the local Good Morning, Seattle -type of shows that were on in the early weekday mornings.

This guy comes out on stage in a pink sweater (of all things!) and proceeds ahead with his stand-up shtick. But I can't hear what he's trying to say, because the audience is booing, shouting, cussing at the guy, and throwing him the finger, followed by a chant to Get off the stage!. He cut out early to avoid any objects being thrown onto the stage in his direction.

I learned then and there that it was not a good idea to try to do comedy in front of a loud, rowdy, beer-drinking crowd who were there to hear "Born To Be Wild" and "Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog". Especially while wearing a pink sweater. Yikes!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I need a charge!

When I go out on long bus rides to get to and get back from somewhere, I make sure I have plenty of musical entertainment on me. No use sitting there listening to other people's boring converstaions or screaming kids for longer than I really need to.

In this day of digital thingamajigs to play music on, I still use a Walkman. I have had a half-dozen Discman-type players over the years, but they've all fallen apart somehow, or just plain died out on me...and I took care of them the best way I could, ya know? The headphone jack has gone faulty on me, or the player skips and stutters like no tomorrow (and this is one of those non-skip models!), the homemade CD's just won't play, or something holding the door closed has broken off, and now I have to put a big rubberband around it to hold it shut so it can play.

You know something? The Walkman has never failed me, always works, and as long as I have plenty of battery power, it'll do just fine. Especially the batteries. You can always tell when you're starting to run low, because the pitch of the tape speed starts to drop.

When you're listening to a Yes cassette on a Walkman, and all of a sudden, Jon Anderson's voice begins to sound remarkably like that of Isaac Hayes, it is time to put in some new batteries!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

And that was it!

March, 1998. Practices at Tom's became less frequent. First, we knew our songs pretty well, and were quick to learn new ones. Secondly, we had no gigs on the horizon (hardly anyone else was out scouting places to play). Lastly, Tom was now working with a side-project of his with our old buddy Dan on drums, and the bass player from the band godheadsilo. Not only were our get-togethers happening a lot less, The Pace itself seemed like an afterthought. There was even a trio rehearsal without Tom one evening, as he had other things to do.

We came up with the idea of hitting some of the local open-mike shows in and around town...getting up there, blazing through five fast songs, and leaving the stage a smoking wreck behind us. But the concept died out after an unsuccessful attempt at Cole's Oasis in Ruston, as the bands there were bogarting the stage, and we seemed to lose interest in the whole thing as it got later and later. And then, Tom's off on a vacation to Washington D.C. for a couple of weeks.

I was told that we'd be getting together once he got back, but my phone wasn't ringing for about a week after that. When it did, I was invited by Tom to this party at a house a couple of blocks down from Tom's place. When I got there, I found that not only had the other guys been playing without me all that while, they were the evening's entertainment. But they were doing something with the old Thomas organ, delay pedals and percussion, and it wasn't what we had been doing. And it sure wasn't interesting. I left the house before the party even started.

May, 1998. I was called to a rehearsal, as the Pace were invited to open another show at the Central on the 8th, in a few days. When I got there, the rehearsal room was in total disarray, and I was using Dan's drums; he lately had tuned his snare really loose, making the whole rehearsal sound in slow-motion. We plowed through some of our old favorites, but we were rusty. When the day came, I tried to call Tom to see what time we were going to pack up for the show, but no answer. I went over there, and the other three guys were playing the same bit they had played at the party, only now they had borrowed an Optigan organ from Guitar Maniacs. I was told that this was what they were going to do onstage that night, and that I was invited to sit in with them. Sit in! With a band I was already in! Or was I?

I helped lug the gear in and set it onstage. We brought Dan's drums, but Winter was insistent on not taking the snare with us, for some odd reason. We were on first, on a bill that included the RC-5, the Notorious Brodies, and the Goddamn Gentlemen. I placed my microcassette atop Winter's guitar amp to record the show. Winter announced that the show was for the ladies in the audience. And off we went.

They started off with Tom playing repetitive guitar lines fed through a phaser, Lincoln on the Thomas organ's bass pedals, and Winter on bongos. Midway through this long, droning piece, one of Tom's buddies shouted, "Play something that rocks!!! Let's rock and roll!!!", making Tom crack back, "This is anti-rock!". Having no snare made things difficult, but I made up for it using a pair of felt-head mallets I had bought the day before, playing lots of washes on the cymbals.

We moved into another piece that was reliant on Winter playing guitar through the delay-pedal, piling lines and notes atop one another, which was slightly more interesting, and got some applause. And then they moved into some sort of ballad written by Tom, now playing the Optigan, and Lincoln on the bongos. The applause at the end seemed almost feigned and sarcastic.

The show was over....and so were The Pace.

Quite a shame to have ended with such an embarrassing end, as we were so much better than that, and had so much more to offer. But, it had been quite an enjoyable ride while it was happening, and a hell of a great start for me.