Bizarre Band Stories
A collection of true stories which could only happen to band people.
September, 2008 - The Slap-Happy Guitarist
I once did a double-header where 2 bands I gig with played the same venue - one in the afternoon, the other later that night. During the down time between the 2 shows, another band was scheduled to play. After that band had finished and had begun loading out, I was setting up and started chatting with their bassist - a really cool guy, and we talked about gear, bands, all the usual stuff. We talked during the entire time it took me to set up and soundcheck.
He and his band decided to hang out and catch a bit of our set and they camped out very close to my side of the stage. A few minutes before we went on, I was doing last minute adjustments on one of my Alembic basses and playing some warm-up, low-volume slapping when the guitarist approached me and asked if he could see my bass. Actually, I believe his exact words were, "Hey man, lemme see that thing a minute".
Now, he and I had not spoken at all during the entire change over from his band to mine so I was taken aback by the forwardness and urgeny of his request, nay, demand. No introductions, no handshake, just two arms extended, ready to take MY bass from me. Stunned, confused and bewildered, I stuttered something back to him along the lines of, "What...you want to....see my....what?". His urgency was now a dogmatic snap, "C'mon man, lemme see that thing!".
Most musicians know that this type of thing is a pretty huge faux-pas. It's just not done. It's one thing if it's a friend but even still, there's a way to ask to check out a friend's axe. When it comes to finer instruments, most people won't even ask, they'll wait to be offered an invitation to check it out. This cat was a total stranger and flagrantly violated the unwritten code of "Gear Scopage 101".
To make matters worse, the guy was not even discreet; his big, bellowing voice drew the attention of all within 40 feet of the stage. With all eyes upon our exchange, I decided it best to squelch my knee-jerk reaction to say something snarky like, "And you are...?", and I just handed him the bass. I did ask him to step on to the stage though so as to avoid the inevitable kerplunk should he have butter fingers.
So, as I reluctantly hand this clown my Alembic, he informs me that I'm about to get an education, of sorts.
Clown: "Yee-ah, I'm a show ya a coupla things"
Me: "Is that so?"
Clown: "Uh huh. Get ready to check this out!"
Me: "Knock yourself out, bro."
What followed was an ugly spasm of sloppy, slappy, bravado-infused, hey-look-at-me-isms, unsucessfully masquerading as funk. It was even worse than "Guitar Center Licks". Oh and it was LOUD. Apparently Larry Graham Cracker did manage to locate the bass's volume control. I ran to the amp and brought the volume down but it did not deter the would be funk-star. Seems I still had some learnin' yet to do and he had plenty left to say.
It's amazing how whenever one is in the midst of some sort of personal hell, time slows to a crawl. While it seemed like a full 2-3 minutes, in actuality, the total elapsed time before his internal humility filter kicked in (unlikely) or he finally ran out of gas (bingo!) was probably no more than 30 seconds. Spent, sweaty and clearly satisfied, he handed my abused instrument back to me and with a flourish, exhorted:
"Ha HA! Whudja thinka that?"
Words cannot describe my reaction, but this image comes pretty close.
And here's the cherry on top. As he walks off stage, he decends the stairs and repeats, this time to no one in particular, "Whudja thinka THAT!".
In the aftermath, my bandmates and I shared stunned looks and tried to come to grips with what we had witnessed. One after another, friends, patrons, bar employees, even the bar owner converged at the stage. They all asked the same question:
"WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED???"
A choreography of shrugging shoulders, shaking heads and hands opened in the universal sign of "no freaking idea" was all we could offer as our state of shock slowly transformed into giggles.
The spectacle cast a pall over the gig that night. In an act of mercy towards my bandmates, I attempted to abstain from any slap bass, but I did have one momentary lapse and was summarily greeted by my guitarist's hairy eyball in return, followed by laughter all around. It's been a while since the event and still I wonder - why do people do these things?
Anyone? Buehler? Buehler? Addelson? Buehler....?
January, 2005 (2nd installment) - Beware of Cheap Imitations
Several years ago I played in a Van Halen tribute band called Everybody Wants Some [reformed in 2008]. We named the band after a popular VH tune from the David Lee Roth era to let people know that the material we played would cover that era of the band only. The main reason people came to see the band was to see our singer, a guy named "Dennis Lee Roth" who was a spittin' image of Diamond Dave from the halcyon years of the VH's heyday. To add to the spectacle, we all dressed like our respective members. Dennis had several authentic Roth outfits and when he was on stage, really looked the part. As if that weren't enough, he also had Roth's voice, mannerisms and schtick down pat. All these things combined really made it fun for the audience as it was the next best thing most of them would ever see to early 80's Van Halen.
Whenever we played out of town where no one knew us, it was common for people to come up afterwards and ask us to sign their shirt. It became a big joke - "Do you want me to sign it as me or as Michael Anthony?". We'd always sign our real names and then put the initials of our alter egos in parentheses.
We played regularly at a great little place in Pasadena (coincidentally, VH got their start in Pasadena, CA) called Daytona's. Although it's currently a CVS, at one time this was the place that time forgot. Rock-n-roll, specifically the 80's brand thereof, never died here so it was a natural home for EWS. Dennis also lived in "The 'Dena" and many people also knew him as a local pizza delivery guy. Well, one fan in particular must not have been much of a pizza fan.....
After a particularly well received show at Daytona's, Dennis and I were standing off stage talking to a group of people. Through the crowd a young girl (who we later learned was under age) approached us and was telling us what a great time she had. She told us that Jump came out when she was three years old and it was her favorite song. She mentioned that her brother was a huge VH fan but couldn't make the show due to being hospitalized with something reasonably serious. She then told Dennis it would make her brother's world if he could sign a napkin for him. The conversation went something like this:
Dennis: "Sure, I'll sign it and I'll write something too. What's his name?"
Girl: "His name is Randy. He's going to love this! Thank you so much!"
Dennis: "Hey, it's all good. Just tell him to get better soon and we'll make sure he gets into the next show free."
Dennis begins scrawling a note on the napkin and hands it back to the girl. She reads the note and her smiling, beaming face turns into a look of bewilderment.
Girl: "Hey, why did you sign this Dennis?"
Dennis: "Well that's my name. They call me Dennis Lee Roth but my real name is Dennis Jones."
Girl: (long pause, furrowed brow) "What do you mean? I thought your name was Dave?"
Dennis: "Nope, it's Dennis."
Girl: "But it can't be...on the CDs it always says David Lee Roth."
Uh oh. Could it be? Were we so good that we were able to suspend reality and make this dear little girl think we were the real deal? Or did she just have a tiny, tiny little brain?
Dennis: "Hey, wait a minute...you know this is a tribute band right? I'm not David Lee Roth!"
Girl: "Stop messing with me! You are too!"
Dennis: "No, I'm really not. My name is Dennis Jones and I live at (gives address) right around the corner here".
Girl: "Hey, that's messed up! How do you know the streets around here? You're from California!"
At this point, Dennis looks at me and we're both speechless. This girl really believes she's been talking to DLR.
Dennis: "Look, remember in the show where I was introducing all the members and I introduced this guy (points to me) as Dave DeMarco AS Michael Anthony? That's because this is a tribute show. We're pretending to be Van Halen. We all live in Maryland. Didn't you see the sign out front that said Everybody Wants Some - a Tribute to Van Halen?"
Girl: "I just thought this was your solo band until Van Halen gets back together."
Dennis: "I'm sorry to break it to you, but I'm just Dennis".
Girl: (very sullen) "Okaaaayyyy. Well, can you just cross out the Dennis and sign it Dave anyway? He'll never know."
What a great sister, eh?
December, 2004 (2nd installment) - Drained in NYC
Since this is the last installment of the year, it seemed an apt time to turn the tables and give these audition stories a different spin. This time, I'm the guy auditioning! Did I nail it or blow it?
Read on and see...
Back in '00, I found out that one of my favorite bands, Drain STH had broken up and their guitarist, Flavia Canel was putting together a new band in NY. I arranged an audition (coincidentally, 4 years ago this very weekend!) and drove up to her manager's house in Brooklyn where they had a home studio. It was strange seeing the diminuitive Flavia standing at the door of this quaint home waving at me, festooned in her requisite rock finery. I had previously been told that there would be a drummer who was flying in from Indiana to audition with me. Upon walking in, I expected to be ushered into a room whereupon I would plug in, make a modicum of small talk and then have 15 minutes to play. This was, afterall how it had been done at my previous "NY famous person" auditions. Far from it.
Upon descending into the basement's dungeon/studio, I was informed by Flavia's manager, Neg that the drummer's flight had been postponed so it would be just Flavia and I. Neg had previously managed Type O Negative, hence the name. Being the dutiful auditionee, I made quick work of pulling out my Alembic Distillate and getting it ready to play along w/ Flavia as she cued up some tracks on her ProTools system. When I plopped down next to her at the console she said,
"Well I heard your CD so I know you can play. And Neg said you seem like what we're looking for. So let me play you some songs and see if you like them. Do you sing?"
"Cool. Here - (hands me a mic) listen to this song and see what harmony you'd sing here".
(I'm thinking....Whaaaaaaaaaat???). "Ok, sure...".
She plays a verse and chorus of a song and I come up with a pretty standard harmony part for the chorus. I am given a count off and instructed to sing my part. Nevermind that I have no idea what the words are and am having trouble deciphering her lyrics through her thick, Swedish accent. The red light went on and I mumbled something in my best Robert Plant gibberish. She seemed pleased and I was instructed to do the same thing over the next chorus. I had been in her house less than 10 minutes and I was SINGING on her demos. How odd. This went on for about an hour and after a while, we were writing lyrics together and we were trading singing lead. Move over Sonny and Cher, here comes Dave and Flavia!
Eventually I started to get more comfortable but every now and then, I'd look over and think "this girl's played two Ozzfests and I'm telling her to go for another take 'cause she's got a better one in her?". Bizarre. Eventually, she asked me to lay bass tracks to some unfinished bits and pieces of songs she had. After that, we took a tea break and I was informed that I was drinking from (Black Sabbath guitarist) Tony Iommi's mug. A moment later, a familiar-looking man pops his head in the door to ask Flavia a question about posters. He is introduced to me as Billy (Graziadei) from Biohazard. Not ten minutes before arriving at Flavia's, I was listening to Biohazard on WSOU. Again, bizarre. Billy also lived there at the house. The convergence of Drain STH, Biohazard and the Iommi artifact in a radius of three feet was an unholy trinity I could not have foreseen.
We then spent some time talking about each other's goals and what she had going on. Everything she said sounded good to me and everything I said sounded good to her. Eventually, I had to get going as I had a gig later that night in Manhattan with the band Everybody Wants Some. That and her four, count 'em, 4 cats were impeding my ability to breathe. I invited her and Neg to the gig and they were non-commital about coming. So I was getting ready to leave and she hadn't said anything either way about whether I was in the band or not, but everything she said was positive. She then asked me what I thought of some band names. Still, not wanting to assume anything and struggling for the appropriate words to attain some semblance of a confirmation, as I left I said,
"So we're doing this, huh?". Not the greatest way to pose the question...but oh well.
"Yes, we're doing this", she said emphatically, her tone of voice implying DUH. "You're in the band, if you want to be". I replied in the affirmative and she indicated that she might stop out to the gig. I left feeling pretty good about everything, flashing back on the surreal events that had just taken place. Much to my surprise, she and Neg did show up at the gig. As they stood by me, I finally felt like I was auditioning. After about an hour, I got a thumbs up and the universal sign for "Call me".
In retrospect, this was absolutely, bar none, the strangest (but coolest) audition I had ever been to.
December, 2004 - The Guitar Player's Aptitude Test
November, 2004 - Assault and Batterie
OK - back to the tales of woe (or is that whoa?) from crazy auditions. Again, we delve
into the murky past of Battery Apple. This time though, it's the drummer we're looking for, hence the batterie above. A fella named Ron answered our ad and right from the git-go, we knew we had a character on our hands. In the first minute of the initial phone conversation, before there would be any talk of music, band goals and the like he let me know that there was something he just had to get off his chest; part disclaimer, part confession, there was something he felt compelled to disclose...
"I don't know if you guys have any sort of an image you're going for but if you do, I'm probably not your guy."
Wow...what a dynamic sales pitch that was! Well he certainly had my attention. I assured him that we weren't really an image-conscious band. Afterall, our singer looked like the spawn of Cousin It and Chris Farley and the rest of us were no svelte beauties either.
"No, man. You don't understand. I'm kinda F'd up looking."
"Can you elaborate on that?"
"Well, put it like this. I'm 5'10" and weigh about 320. I'm multi-racial. People are always asking me what I am. I have bad skin and F'd up looking hair. Because of my skin, I can't really wear long pants but trust me, you don't want to see me in shorts."
I don't know about you, but I had an immediate image in my head of what this guy looked like. There was no way I was NOT going to have him out for an audition. Assuring him that his image or lack thereof, was a non-issue, I probed into his background. He claimed to have played in a few bands I had heard of in passing and from other things he said, I got the impression that he could play. I scheduled him to come out later that week.
News of our auditionee was met with mixed reaction by the guys. The guitarist was put off a bit by Ron's description but the singer seemed intrigued by the prospect of having someone else in the band who was more odd-looking than he was. I was completely sold on the idea that as long as he could play well, the weirder looking, the better.
A few days later Ron arrived. I can say with absolutely zero exaggeration that Ron's description of himself was spot on. In fact, he may have been a bit conservative in his self-assessment. An odder looking fellow I can't remember seeing. At one point he bent over, thus exposing part of his lower back. It looked like something you'd call in a professional to remove if you saw it on your bathroom floor. I had my kit set up for him and as he got situated back there, we quickly learned that he was very outgoing, had a great sense of humor and seemed easy to get along with. Now, all he had to do was play.
Coming in cold and having new songs thrown at you is always a tough way to audition, but Ron was amazing! We showed him the first song and he picked up on the groove and played along like a champ. His feel was great and he sounded like he had been playing in the band for years. He did equally as well with the next 2 songs we gave him. An hour later, having heard all we needed, we spent some time telling him about our goals and getting a feel for where his head was. He told us he was married but that his wife was supportive of his career and she was the primary bread-winner. While we weren't thrilled to hear that he didn't have his own source of income for band purposes, everything else sounded good so we sent him on his way with a tape of 5 songs to learn for his follow-up. 3 of the songs were the ones we had thrown at him so it was just a matter of fine-tuning those and learning 2 others. He confidently told us he'd be ready to go next week. We had no reason not to believe him.
After he left, we did our usual critique and agreed that he seemed like a good fit and that as long as he came in next week and had learned the songs, that we'd offer him the gig. So you're probably thinking - Ok, so the guy looked weird but the audition went well and you seemed to like him. What's so crazy about this? Unbeknownst to us at the time, this audition would drag on 2 more weeks.
When Ron showed up next week, he was very quick to mention that he didn't get a chance to learn "all" of the songs but that he was good on "most" of them. This ends up being Lie #1. He went into considerable length about a disagreement he had with his wife concerning his state of employment, said state being "non". Hmmm, sounds (understandably) like the wife wasn't so cool about his career choice afterall - Lie #2. Attempting to redirect his energy, we told him we'd run through the songs in the order on the tape. We started the first song (which was the first song at his audition) and he gave us the quizzical dog look, like he was hearing a song for the first time. I gave him a verbal on the drum part and he responded with a relevatory "Oh yeah!", indicating that he remembered the song. Take 2 comes and goes and he again misses his cue. Another verbal followed by another "oh yeah, right, right, right". He hits his cue on take 3 but sounds as if he's playing some other song. We stop and ask what he's doing.
"Well, this is one of the songs I didn't actually get to listen to."
<Didn't get to listen to? It's the first song on the tape! Uh oh.>
"But I'm good on the next one."
Trying to remain confident I tell him it's cool and to go ahead and start that one. More quizzical dog from Ron.
"You start this one.", I tell him.
"Oh, ok....maybe it's the NEXT one after that that I worked on."
<band groans in unison>
Ron, unknowingly has just confessed to only working on 1 song. This is not lost on our singer who chimes in,
"YOU ONLY WORKED ON ONE SONG?"
Ron replies, "Well, I LISTENED to them all, but I only got to work on one". He then gives us a rewind on the whole wife/job saga, followed by a promise that he'll be ready for next week. Not wanting to waste a practice, we went through the song he claimed to have worked on. At best he limped through it. When he went to the bathroom, we did a quick huddle and decided to try throwing some other new stuff at him since he seemed to do well with that last week. He ended up doing ok on the new stuff but nowhere near as well as he did the previous week. When we wrapped practice, he must have known we were disappointed because he bombarded us with apologies/excuses and swore he'd be ready next week. After he left, the three of us couldn't figure out what happened to the great drummer who came in the previous week. It was like Ron's playing had regressed 10 years. We agreed though that if he didn't have the first song down next week that we'd cut our losses and send him packing right then and there.
The following week, in comes Ron, a half-hour late, not really making eye contact with anyone and not saying much. Knowing the answer before I ask the question, I summonse up any shard of optimism I can and ask, "So.....how'd you make out with the songs?". Ron gives me the kind of look you'd get if you asked someone if they thought they were going to win the lottery that week. His look said it all. Guitars were taken off and there was a deafening silence. Finally, our guitarist asked him what was going on. His story was long and convoluted but basically revolved around another fight with the wife. This one happened while they were in the car. Apparently, it got pretty heated and they started beating each other while Ron was driving.
"Yeah, so we're hitting each other and she really starts hitting hard and it's hard for me to drive, you know?. So I slowed down a little bit and reached across her seat to open her door and then I pushed her out. But it wasn't that bad. We were pretty close to home so she didn't have that far to walk." He said this with a sickening nonchalance that made me want to push him out of a car going a lot faster.
The three of us just stood there, mouths agape as he continued his story. It all seemed too incredible to believe, but who would make up such a story? When he finished, he said "So I'm sorry this didn't work out. I don't know what happened". At that point we were more concerned about his wife but he assured us that save for a few scrapes and scratches she was fine. But she threw him out of the house which was why he was late. We told him we needed someone with a more stable life and he said he might give us a call once he got situated in his new place. Oh goodie!
We later heard that he ended up in some band but then that band split up. Ron, the humanitarian was never heard from again.
October, 2004 (2nd installment) - The Invention of "The Biscuit".
This month's installment will deviate from the audition stories. If you're in a 3-piece cover band, you may have tried to book your band at a venue only to have the agent say that the club only wants bands with 4 or more members. We discovered this phenomenon in the Charles Parker Band last year when certain venues which shall remain nameless, balked at booking the band since we were only a 3-piece. Never mind that the band plays 200 dates a year and has a 300+ song repetoire. For reasons I've never quite figured out, these clubs feel that a 4-piece band provides more value for their patrons' entertainment
dollar than a 3-piece band and are adamant about only having bands with a minimum of four pieces.
Charles and I used to laugh about this and one day realized that all this talk about 3-pieces and 4-pieces sounded like clubs were more interested in ordering take-out chicken than booking bands. The problem was that most of the rooms which insisted on 4-piece bands did not have a budget for a 4-piece which meant that bringing an extra person would eat precious gig income. Faced with the dilemma of taking a hit on the bread versus losing the gig altogether, we devised a scheme whereby we'd bring a ringer, someone who would just be another warm body faking it onstage and who could be paid a nominal fee just for being there. Since this person was not part of the band's sound and was really just there for filler, I came up with the ceremonious title for them of "biscuit". Now when clubs wanted a 4-piece band, what we were really giving them was a 3-piece and a biscuit!
The biscuits have run the gamut from guys who are just starting out and can play some but not quite well enough to warrant any substantial volume to seasoned players who are
looking for a little supplemental gig work but don't know the material. For the beginners, it's a good way to get a feel for different types of gigs and to quietly jam along. For the more established players, it fills in the calendar and helps bring home the bacon. It's a win/win!
October 2004 - Lord Gorgometh
This month's installment comes from the Audition chronicles. If you're in a band, you know how grueling the audition process can be. You do your best to weed out the wackos during the initial phone call and hope that whoever shows up can actually play. Plus, you're looking for someone who has half a brain and is a decent person. Being realistic - this is the music biz after all, you know you're not expecting an altar boy, but you're hoping your candidates fall somewhere between model citizen and axe-murderer. What you're about to read is the account of an applicant for the guitar position in BA who definitely leaned much closer to the latter.
I forget the name of this particular miscreant so let's call him Harold. He shows up and appears to have all the requisite, band guy accoutrements: ink, odd hair, all black attire with cryptic, unpronounceable metal band name emblazoned across front of said black t-shirt and various craniofacial metal protrusions. In one hand, his 7 string guitar. In the other, a six-pack of Weiderman's or some similar old fogey beer. It was for occasions such as this that I always wanted one of those game show buzzers mounted right on top of my amp. AAAIIIGGGNNT! The first thing you learn in Audition 101 is never show up w/ booze. What we didn't know was that he was concealing some more hooch in his blood stream. Yup, he was loaded. This is where it gets good...
Harold generously offered to share his alcohol with us but as tempting as that luke-warm Weiderman's was, we all declined to partake. He then cracked open a brew and began to set up while we probed into his past to see what we were getting into. He rattled off a few bands that he had been in (nope, never heard of 'em) and some other bands that he liked to listen to (ditto). He then asked what were into (duh, it was in the ad!) and when we mentioned a few bands like Kyuss and Deftones and he said he was a huge fan of both bands as well. Cool! Or so we thought. An inquiry as to what his favorite tracks were by either band revealed that he had "heard of" them but did not know any songs. Huge fan, eh? Hmpphh....
We then proceeded to play our demo for him so he could get a feel for what we were going to run through. Rather than listen, he felt compelled to play along with the tape, his amp cranked up way louder than the stereo was even capable of going. After a minute or so, our singer Tom was heading towards the stereo with a look of disgust on his face, presumably to stop the tape. Wanting to see exactly how self-absorbed Harold was, I motioned for Tom to let the tape play. Three minutes later the song stops, followed about 15 seconds later by Harold, who upon realizing he had been accompanying nothing, looked up and said "Hey!" as if he had just awoken and there we were. I then asked Harold if he had a feel for the song or if he wanted to listen to it this time. He said he was ready to go so Tom and I began showing him the chords to the intro. He was having some problems with one of the rhythms so we replayed the tape so he could hear it again. Right on cue, Harold then picks up where he left off with his stream of consciousness riffing. Hindsight being 20/20, in retrospect I would have stopped everything right there, thanked him for his time and sent him on his way with some Rice-a-Roni and Turtle Wax. But we hadn't quite had our fill of punishment for the day so we attempted to redirect his attention towards listening. I may have even snuck over and turned down his amp. Upon listening to the track, he had many revelations which had eluded him during the first go around. Feeling a little more comfortable with the track, we managed to get him through the intro but we returned to the tape several more times to get him through the rest of the song.
An hour later, feeling exhausted and knowing Harold was not our guy, we started to wrap things up, foregoing the usual part where we tell the applicant specifically what our game plan is. Little did we know, Harold had other plans in mind. We were about to enter the portion of the evening where we morph from audition to RECITAL! As we're putting our things away, Harold says "Hey, you guys wanna hear some of my originals?". In unison, three voices proclaim, "No, man...I....uh....I gotta get up early tomorrow so so...." Before we can finish our collective sentence, Harold has cracked open another brew and is walking up to the mic. "Here, this'll just take a minute". Clearing his throat like a master orator about to address an assembly, he announces "You guys'll like this one." As you can imagine, we couldn't wait. I'm not quite sure what happened next.
A violent torrent of anguished low B-string riffing ensued for about 10 seconds, over which Harold belched rumbling, death metal vocals so undecipherable he made Pantera's Phil Anselmo sound like Steve Allen. Then came the best part. He would stop every few seconds to offer a commentary on his lyrics:
"Um, this was about my mom getting fired from her job."
"We were all very sad. Especially my youngest sister. She had a pet hamster."
"And then my girlfriend sensed that bad times were ahead so she dumped me."
He continued this for about a minute, then the commentary stopped. He either became so enraptured in his own performance that he forgot to translate for us or he just assumed that we had become fluent in his secret esophogeal dialect and could now follow along on our own. When the exorcism....I mean song was over, the three of us could barely contain the laughter. I turned my back to Harold and began fiddling with my amp so he wouldn't see the tears running down my face. Our drummer, Mac tried the old "Hey that was really swell but...", however Harold had another ditty for us. For this peppy little toe-tapper, he detuned his low-B down to what must have been L and then launched into what sounded to these ears like part 2 of the previous song, complete with gutteral, nordic sounding vocals and more surprising translations to his lyrics. Tom went upstairs to get a drink while Mac began packing up his drums, leaving me to usher Lord Gorgometh back out into the underworld from which he came. Thanks, Mr. Happy...we'll be in touch.
A few days later, Harold called to follow up and see if we had made a decision. Here's what I told him:
"Uh, that means we're still auditioning and we'll call you if we're interested."
Actually I didn't think of doing that until after we hung up. Would have been great if I had!
Disclaimer: I have nothing against death metal. This guy just plain sucked!
September 2004 - A bet gone bad
Some of you may remember the band Battery Apple. Our former singer, Tom loved to bet on anything. I mean anything. If the odds were any less than 100% that something would happen one way or another, he'd bet on it. Being a bit of a gambler myself, I was easily sucked into his wagers but where I preferred the stakes to be cash, Tom preferred humiliation. So it was that while on a flight to L.A., Tom wanted to bet on something. Whatever it was eludes me now, but suffice it to say, I took the bet....and lost.
The stakes were pretty big. As usual, Tom came up with a crazy scenario that only he could have thought of. He never came up with simple, get-it-over-with-quickly acts. It was always a grandiose scheme that was more painful in duration than it was in the actual deed itself.
My penalty for losing the bet would involve me making an ass of myself in a place we regarded as sacred ground - the Vintage Guitar room at Guitar Center Hollywood. Here's how it went down:
I nonchalantly walked into the Vintage room, a climate-controlled museum of choice, vintage guitars, basses and amps and began perusing the inventory. I took my time, to make sure I was noticed by all the staff there. Tom was also there, pretending not to notice me, making sure I didn't welch on the bet. After 15 minutes or so of gawking and drooling, I fixated on a beautiful 1960's Fender Jazz bass, tagged upwards of $3000.00. A salesman, noticing my interest, asked if I needed assistance. Here's where the fun started.
I had to ask him if I could "try on" the bass. Not "can I plug that in" or "can I check that out" but can I "try that on". I could sense that this was a man who used to dealing with a certain upper echelon of clientele. His apprehension in getting the ladder and bringing down the bass was very evident despite his attempt to play it cool. He handed me the bass which I examined thoroughly before asking for a strap. He handed me a nice cushy leather strap; something befitting an instrument of this caliber. I attached the strap and gingerly put on the bass. Still standing, I spent a minute adjusting it to get it to hang comfortably. Having yet to pluck a string on this wonderful instrument, I turned to the salesman and with a deeply concerned voice asked:
"Does this bass make my ass look fat?"
I quickly looked to see Tom's reaction. His face had already turned purple from trying to hold back the laughter.
The salesman, clearly a gifted comedian who missed his calling, had one of those rare moments of clarity we all strive for, where the perfect come-back effortlessly flows off our tongue right when we need it. With an impeccable delivery of vaudevillian precision, he simply replied:
"No, your ass makes your ass look fat."
Those eight words will go down in history as possibly the greatest, slam dunk come-back of all time. What reply could I possibly lob back after that? For a moment, I reverted back to the playground and heard myself utterting the standard, sandbox retort - "Oh YEAH?" but wisely opted not to verbalize it.
I looked over again to see Tom's reaction and maybe get a thumbs up but he was nowhere in sight. I was up on a slighly higher level than he was and had a vantage point of being able to see almost the entire showroom, but there was no sign of Tom. Then I found him. A fit of hysterical laughter had felled my formidable singer and he was down for the count. I returned the bass to the salesman and made my way out of the Vintage room, feeling quite the jackass, but nonetheless stronger for having satisfied the terms of our bet.
An ironic footnote to the story:
Fast forward several months and Guitar Center was almost ready to open their Towson, MD store. Tom was in training to be a salesman there. Whenever a new store is opening, they send out staff from various other locations to assist in the opening of the new one. Tom called one day to say that during training, one of these staffers approached him and asked if he had recently been to the Hollywood store. Tom replied that indeed he had. The staffer then asked if he knew the guy who tried on a bass and wanted to know if it made his ass look fat. Tom told him he did and explained what was behind the stunt. He then called me told me who was in his store. If the staffer had hung around a few more days until the store's grand opening, I had planned to go in, find him and repeat my stunt but alas, he left the day before the opening.
So now you know the real reason why I don't own a vintage Fender Jazz bass...
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Have a bizarre band story of your own you'd like to add? Email me and if I dig it, I'll post it.