Emotions run high around a band. Even as adults. You might think the greasy kid stuff gets left behind after high school, but that hasn’t been the case in my experience. I wager every one of us who has played in a band over the years has some tale of woe connected to music.
When we started out, there were four of us. At first it was a Saturday afternoon thing. I had just started my apprenticeship as a carpenter, another of us worked for the city, a self-employed computer programmer, and a student rounded out the ensemble. It seemed then we all had charted our paths, and were looking for something to elevate us above the everyday tasks. So Saturday afternoons often turned into late Saturday nights, and often into Sunday mornings too.
The goal at first wasn’t to play at bars, we really just were having fun. Soon enough though, we had learned a couple sets of material and were starting to think about playing out. This was still before 1990 and in our local area a band playing rock and roll was not common at all. Remember, the radio was still the main place we heard music, and popular music of the day was referred to as the “new wave”.
How great would a band playing old rock and roll be? “Pink Floyd” compared to “The Thompson Twins”? Are you kidding? This was sure to be a home-run and it was our idea alone! We would play live the older music everyone wanted to hear! The realization that we were accomplished enough to start playing scuzzy bars, lit a fire beneath us. Soon we had rented ourselves a jam space downtown. We spent many evenings there soaking up the vibes-and fumes- of the other bands that also rented space there. It was a fantastic, freewheeling time, but there was a slow train coming.
How would we be able to play out with Pboy, our drummer? Pboy was our friend. It became clearer as time went by if we were to realize the glory of playing scuzzy bars, it wouldn’t be with Pboy. He just couldn’t keep up and something would have to be done. We all drew straws. I drew the short straw, and as agreed would be the one to start the conversation. Within minutes, Pboy had packed up his gear and moved out. It was an emotional time for all of us; we had just kicked our friend out of his band, dealt him out of the dream.
The shock of it all wore off pretty quickly in retrospect. Our new drummer did take our group to the next level. The high we felt from the music we could now make, more than made up for the low of betraying our friend. A dangerous precedent to set, to be sure. Everyone in a band feels this at some point and wonders if they might be the next one to get fired. This would happen to us more than a few times over the years, people coming and going, usually with an emotional overload of some kind.
After more than 20 years of playing scuzzy bars have things changed? For us the negative emotions have mostly leveled off. The glory wears off too at 2:30 am, loading gear during a snowstorm, sleeping away half of the next day, all for $57. We don’t play out at bars very often anymore. We (mostly) agree it is as much fun and way less work to just play for ourselves. The high now comes from socializing with each other, through the music. It seems an increasingly rare thing to have a group of like-minded people to play music with. I hope the good vibes prevail for a long time.