Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Little Counting Crows or the Richie Sambora Tribute Couple. Part 3

(Part 1 and 2 are posted on 1/5 and 1/6)
Before the guitars and the gig bag were loaded in the back of the van, the driver said, “You guys in the band? I just drove some of the other guys to the gig. I used to play in the 60s.” Having experience in rock talk with strangers, I knew where this was leading or could lead. Instead of inviting conversation, I just said, “Yes, we’re in the band.” I was too busy thinking about the girth of the Counting Crows singer’s waistline (from here on out, we will call the singer Adam) to talk about Jimi Hendrix, which, if it was about the 60s, it would eventually come to.

A retired science teacher from New Jersey, the driver and his wife – also a teacher – moved to the Tucson area to pursue their passion – rock jewelry. They were in the right place. The southwest had lots of rocks and tons of holistic types talking about their healing power. I assume they were dealing in that kind of rock.

There was a brief lapse in conversation. We stared out the window, lost in the brownness of it all, a bit tired from an early flight. I was still thinking about Adam’s weight gain.

“I met my wife in Tucson in the 60s. We got married and eventually moved to New Jersey,” he continued. That explained why he was out here.” It was a lot different back then.” This phrase is common amongst anybody over 35 years old, but the boomers love to use it most. The implication being that it was a lot better back then. Every generation tends to romanticize their wonder years, regardless if they sucked or not. “We used to go out into the desert and smoke a little weed, pop a few cross-tops, mescaline, LSD…” He stopped before saying they shot up heroin. He now had our attention. “You know, you guys are musicians, you know what I’m talking about.” We looked at each other and shrugged. We were pretty used to the musician buddy-up, where strangers assume you’re a stereotype and take liberties in their assumptions. We were no angels, but responding with “yeah, we like to do drugs,“ could open an invitation to do drugs or him asking us if we could get drugs. We were a Karaoke a band, after all. Karaoke bands are not known for their drug habits or connections. Didn’t he know this?

We were met curbside by Bill, a representative of the production company that hired us. He would be our handler, showing us our dressing room, making sure we were prompt and accommodating our meager requests.

With expensive jeans, a Paul Smith button-up shirt, wool blazer and fashion boots, Bill was confident, good looking and sported a Billy goat haircut that screamed hair plugs. Being a man that’s losing his hair, I’m more apt than the average being at spotting hair plugs or hair loss. Hair loss is a club that’s always accepting applications. The more bald men the better.

Upon further inspection, Bill was au natural. No signs of plugs or a toupee, just a cut that naturally looked like Travolta’s hair.

Bill showed us our dressing room - a large empty conference room with one round table and a few chairs. There was a bucket of ice with sodas and water on a table in the corner. With an hour to kill before sound check, we settled in. Lev lay down on the floor and promptly went to sleep. Since opening his own restaurant, Lev took all downtime as an opportunity to sleep, regardless where he was at.

While Lev slept, Bill went over the details of the gig and established his connection to rock-n-roll.

Bill lived in New York. He paused before attaching “City” to the end of New York. We questioned the dalliance: “You live in New York City?” He was vague and then admitted that he used to live in NYC. Like everybody, he told us that he played guitar, used to be in bands (before getting married and having kids) and implied that he knew Clem Burke from Blondie. He obviously didn’t get the reaction he wanted, so he sweetened the story: “I still play. I need to rock every once in a while.” This guy had been watching way too many movies about bands because I had never heard anybody say with a straight face, “I need to rock every once in a while.” I was starting to like this guy.

Since he was from New York, we asked him about another live Karaoke band that was based in New York. There are not a lot of us and we like to keep tabs on each other. Jim knew a lot about the band, viewing them as competition, not just another band that lived 3000 miles from us.

Bill, once again, acted like he knew them, filling in his ignorance with bits and pieces that Jim fed him. Out of nowhere Bill said, “Yeah, they handle live Karaoke on the east coast and you guys handle the west. But I’ve got a show I want you to play in Miami. It will help you break into the east coast.”

Unaware that we handled all live Karaoke in the west, Jim questioned the delineation between east and west: “How far east does our territory expand?” Bill pondered the question, running through Midwest cities and geographical markers in his mind: “I would say Missouri. No, probably St. Louis.” This was too good to keep quiet. I chimed in, “So, the Mississippi, right?” “Yeah, that’s about right,” he confirmed.

This was all news to us. We were like the Lewis and Clark of live Karaoke, exploring and gigging west of the Mississippi. And with all territorial issues, if we crossed the Mississippi, there would be hell to pay with this east coast Karaoke band. This was very exciting news, if not complete bullshit.

The door to the conference room opened and 2 people walked in, one in an Elvis costume, the other with a headset and rectangular name tag. The latter looked at Lev sleeping on the floor and said to a subordinate that was trailing her, “Get him a cot.” As quickly as they entered, they both turned and exited. It was becoming obvious that some people had never seen the Counting Crows and thought we part of the band. We were enjoying the perk.

Bill introduced us to Elvis. He was singing I Can’t Help Falling in Love and inquired about the key. It wasn’t unusual for singers to seek us out before singing and ask us questions. This was Jim’s song, meaning he introduced it to the band and it was his responsibility to know it and lead the band. However, I knew that he always screwed it up. Jim looked to the ceiling, as he does when he’s thinking, trying to remember the chords.

Seeing that nobody was offering up the key to the song, Bill pulled out his cell phone and searched for the key. All of followed suit, searching guitar tab sites for I Can’t Help Falling in Love. Bill won the race:

“It’s in A,” he blurted, beaming from the win, “A major.” I whispered to Jim, “Idiot. It’s generally assumed that A means A major.” Being nicer than me, Jim didn’t respond.

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