Radio Underground Returns to Metronome

Radio Underground did Club Metronome again.  Bigger crowd (mostly thanks to the other bands).  You’d think I’d know after all these years, if you hit the stage without a sound-check the stage is gonna hit back.  “Don’t worry, I’ve got it dialed-in,” said the sound guy.  Um…?

We were the second of three bands and the first one up sounded pretty good (they got a sound-check).  The changeover was mostly getting Arty and my amps into place and mic’d up as all 3 bands were sharing the drum kit and bass amp.  A quick “One, two” into our vocal mics and we were off.  Way off, it turned out.  Now in the interest of keeping some bridges unburned I won’t go into detail, suffice it to say while I like Chris’ playing, I really need to hear what the rest of the band are doing, too.  The comments afterward were polite attempts at optimism.  It appeared to be that the times the band really gelled were the moments of reckless abandon (Interstellar Overdrive to be more specific).  I think that came out of being at the end of the set and just letting go (and using the Force).

The Hardest Gig I’ll Ever Play

It’s hard to talk about Pete without sounding like you’re making stuff up.  Actually, it’s still hard just talking about Pete.

My friend Pete was a great guy, a kind person, an exceptional listener and he was taken from this world on December 27th.  It was while he was in the act of helping someone in need, something he did often (actually more than anyone I know).  The next day his wife asked if I would play something at whatever memorial service was put together.  Deeply honored, vaguely terrified and frankly slightly relieved (that I was asked before summoning the courage to offer), I said “of course”.

Later that day while considering a couple options of what to play I had guitar in hand and music began to appear.  It wasn’t a case of a complete piece magically appearing out of the ether, but more a collaboration between my unconscious hands and my conscious mind.  Whatever or however, it formed startlingly quickly and it was pretty clear this is what I should play.

I was also charged with finding some music to play beforehand as people were entering the church.  After coming to the conclusion I’d be pushing myself just to play the one piece (after an emotionally exhausing week) I decided to bring along a CD of Michael Hedges’ Aerial Boundaries.  I even had it cued up in the CD player but then my plans changed.  Or fate changed them for me.

I was doing a quick sound-check, improvising and looping, building up a wash of sound when I looked up and realized people had been coming in and sitting down.  A quick check of time told me I had been playing, lost in the sound and the act of making music for close to 25 minutes.  Which left about ten minutes until the scheduled beginning of the service.  So I continued on.

The service was beautiful and a testament to Pete and impact he had on our community.  The church was packed to capacity and there was an overflow crowd of about 150 people who watched it via video feed in the church’s basement.  I saw more grown men cry that day than I could count.  I was surprised I was able to hold it together and play my piece but the act of making music took over and played the song for me.   Afterward, packing up alone in an empty church, I fell apart.

In a way, getting to play that day was a gift.  I know I will never have a gig as hard and emotionally draining as that one.  They’ll all be easy after this.  Stage fright?  Yeah right.