You don't know what it's like to be the most hated man in Kiddie Music!
So today Smed
put something up in his blog about how he's always fantasized about being in a band (with me, among others, actually). So I thought I'd do something similar, except of course I'd be writing about being in an actual band (ha, ha). It turns out there are more ways than you'd think to wind up in a totally different band than you'd planned on.Of course he as MANY more readers than I do (not that that would take more than one), so the joke's on me. I think probably it has something to do with his extreme posting frequency, or maybe the substantially lower "acidity." And yes, I'm going back to in-line annotations today.
So anyway, yeah, I'm in a band*. Because said band consists 50% of guys who've been in real-deal touring bands but now have real jobs (no, I'm not one of them**), we're keeping it casual. Even though you'd never know it to look at our rehearsal space in my basement, with a PA system and amp setups that could be used unreinforced in a frigging stadium. Casual means something very different to a guy who used to be on a major label, I guess. Plus, it makes me and Girlygirl feel like authentic rockers, which we most assuredly do NOT feel like most of the time.*We call ourselves The Blames, and nobody else calls us that because really nobody's seen us.
**I have a real job, OK? I'm talking about the touring band thing. Sheesh.
We've been working up cover songs pretty exclusively, as that meshes nicely with our once-a-week-rehearsal-with-no-practicing-on-our-own-time schedule***. A little old-school rock, a little punk rock, a little classic rock, some art rock--you name it, if it's got rocks in, we're all over it. We're skipping the blues stuff, though it's my forte--I don't exactly know why, but the other men in the band--I'll call them Bill and Mike, which is what I call them anyway--don't seem to think we can pull it off. Whatever.***I have had to break this schedule repeatedly because as the nominal "lead" guitarist, I'm sometimes called on to play stuff I can't possibly learn with only one hour a week of practice. Hardly seems fair to me, since our bass player and drummer are ex-pros, but there you go. They also have kids, so if somebody's got to take one for the team... Of course I suck anyway, but the suction is greatly attenuated by extra practice.
Up until this summer, the band really has been once a week, punctuated by holiday- and vacation-induced outages. Then in July we were approached by a friend of Bill's to play at a show at her house. She does this monthly show called Rock 'n' Romp
, which is about putting on shows of local music for parents with young kids (AKA Shut-ins because their own bad judgment in choosing to have kids) who can't really get out for nighttime shows anymore. It's pretty cool, I have to say, though Girlygirl and I are not technically invited, childless and able to attend normal shows as we are.********And if normal shows happened a five minute walk from our house, and cost $4 with free beer, like Rock 'n' Romp does, we might actually go to them sometimes.
Debbie needed another act for the mid-August Romp, so we were in. Debbie even volunteered to make it easy for us, and provided some rockin' kids' songs we could learn, and she'd even sing them. Cool for us, and "Blame It On Debbie Lee"***** was born.*****See how clever we are, with the names? Man. I have to find some way to cut down on the footnotes, or start using numbers...hey wait! I could use numbers! Maybe next time.
The day of the show, we learned that we'd be "headlining" because the real star act of the day was leaving town to go on tour or something, and needed to get done early. Fine. What we also discovered that day was that the kids were totally ignoring the bands, who were not playing kid songs at all, just their regular set (6). Great. We learned a punk-rock version of Itsy-Bitsy Spider, a song about a science-experiment monkey who escaped the scientists to play hockey with the local kids (7), and a song about brushing your teeth ("That's Where the Plaque Is") to play for a bunch of 30-something hipsters. Perfect.(6)Hey! That's better! Something else I noticed about the other acts (both at our show and the next one, which we also got to go to because, hey--until this whole thing blows over, we're in a band with the promoter), is that you can tell the actual touring bands from the "we have real jobs and just do this on the weekends because we can't bear to see our hipness ebbing slowly away along with our slim, girlish figures or worse, our hair" because the latter all have amazing, brand-new gear. Top line amps--either vintage or boutique--and super sweet instruments, all in mint condition. The real rockers may have decent gear, though I've seen some amazing pieces of crap, but it's all beat to shit. It definitely pays to have a job, and to keep your gear in your rec room 99% of the time.
(7)I'm more than a little disturbed by this song. Girlygirl and Debbie both assert that the monkey is meant to be an astronaut monkey, but since I can't be arsed to listen to the words, I'm assuming he's avoiding cosmetics testing or some kind of scary vivisection or electrode implantation. Since, in the song (I listen to SOME of the words) the National Guard is called in to find the monkey, it may be some kind of weaponized biological agent testing. Not that it would be all that great to go into space anyway, since most of the animals that went up were left up there to starve/suffocate. I say that since the monkey's got a hockey stick he needs to bash some folks over the head and make a run for it.
But when we went on, Debbie had...stickers! Which of course brought all the greedy little rugrats right down front and center to get adhesive in their hair and eyes and stuff. And with the help of some encouraging parents (it helped, I think, that Debbie's and Bill's very young sons were TOTALLY into it), the kids went apeshit with all these little inflatable guitars, and everybody had a terrific time.
Next thing we know, we've been invited to play the Baltimore Rock 'n' Romp in September, and have been optioned to play a possible winter Romp at the Black Cat
club downtown (if Debbie can actually make it happen).
Not having any kids of my own, and generally finding that kids give me heartburn, it was really weird getting sucked into the kids' rock thing like that. One day we were troglodyting it up in my basement, and the next we're the hottest kiddie act in Silver Spring. Were we sacrificing our "cred?" Nope, never had any. Bill and Mike do, or used to, but not the band as a whole. Were we sacrificing our "art?" Again no--it's not like we're actually doing original songs or anything.
So we're doing this as a one- or two- or three-off. And hey--it's not like we were going to have a shot at playing the Black Cat any other way.