Over on my Facebook page, I regularly write notes from the various gigs I do as a musician. These have included the open mic nights I host, performances with one of my two bands (Tsunami and I'm Gonna Crawl, both linked from ZepTribute.com), or whatever other musical adventures I find myself doing.
Tonight, I was going to enter the following notes about a short gig I did with Tsunami at a bar called the Muddy Waters Cafe. But since I already have a blog here, and Feb 10 has had an odd tradition of being a diary event day for me, I figured I'd post my notes here:
I tell the IGC band that I can't practice Tuesday night, because I have a gig with Tsunami. I tell the piano teacher who had to reschedule my first lesson that no, I can't do it on Tuesday night; I have a gig. Tuesday comes, and Tsunami cancels. “Too tired”, or something along those lines. Motherfucker! The is the second time this has happened.
Wednesday is another night where I canceled other plans in advance in order to play out with Tsunami. The bassist has been dying to play an open mic at this club in Methuen called Muddy Waters. But first it was time to reclaim our old practice space. As luck would have it, the IGC's band's practice space is going to be moving to, to a new rehearsal space with its own PA. That meant I could take the PA from IGC's practice space and put it in Tsunami's practice space. At least for now. So I stop by IGC's old space, pick up the PA, and go to the Tsunami space. I don't know why the band would think I could make it to that practice at 5:00pm on a week day. I do show up, and we start running through songs.
Earlier we had talked about doing Black Sabbath's “The Wizard”. This is one I've always wanted to do with a band. They insisted they didn't know it in full, but as long as they had the general parts, I talked them into running through it. That didn't last too long. Oh well, next time. We decided to go through the songs we had been doing at these shows: Crossroads, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Since I've Been Loving You, and Rock and Roll. The tired one had seemingly forgotten “Since I've Been Loving You”, and proposed that we replace it with one of the other dozens of songs we've done before. So we picked “The Ocean”.
I arrived at Muddy Waters around 7:45. They start at 8:00. The sign-up sheet was confusing. Rows were grouped in 20 minute time slots, but some of these entries had single names, not full bands. Surely, some of these folks were going to be playing TOGETHER, right? Because otherwise it said we wouldn't be on for another two hours. Hosting the open mic was Craig, a bespectacled guitarist with a white snow beard. His band was the house band that started things off, and also served as standby musicians for other players who needed a drummer, or a bassist, or a keyboardist, etc.
It's so weird how these sorts of gigs are mostly just audiences of musicians, all waiting their turn. We patiently sat through and supported each band as they did their 4-song limit. I have to say, I was overall impressed with what I heard. At some point I talked to the host, Craig. I complemented him on his playing and singing, and said his singing sounded a lot like Howling Wolf to me (which it did). He said, “You could tell me that all night long, and I'd be happy!” He then went on to tell me that Howling Wolf was one of his influences, and that he even got the chance to see him perform live in Cambridge. Wolf was on his last days it seemed, sitting in a folding chair. He'd pass out to the side after a few numbers, pop a nitro pill, and get back to playing. Repeat.
Santino had apparently lost his strap, but fortunately I keep a guitar strap in my gig case for such emergencies. It wasn't he first time he used it. I ordered a chicken Caesar wrap and a club soda. As always, I drink nothing but water, or in this case the next closest thing, when I'm going to be singing. At some point, a waitress slipped, announced to everybody that she was fine, but none the less, half a dozen 50+ guys suddenly had to play the white night. Ugh.
It was getting close to 10 anyway. So much for the idea that the timesheet might be exaggerated. Before it was our turn two guitarists came up. They explained they were from a band, whose name I completely forgot (ProTip, folks: mention your name more than once), but were playing without the rest of the band this night. I saw later on the set list they had signed themselves up as “Tony & Bill”. They started with a rendition of a Jimi Hendrix song. I think it was “Wind Cried Mary”; I forget. I do however remember Santino and I looking at each other and cringing when the guitar solo came up.
The duo wanted to move on to some originals, and asked if they could have some drums and bass. The drummer came up. Well, I was anxious to get on the stage, so I approached the house bassist, whose name was Scott. I asked him if I could play his bass. He looked at me skeptically. I said, “You can say no!” He asked me, “Well, can you actually play bass?” In other words, he wanted to know if I was really a bass player, or some schmuck who just wanted to come up on stage and try it because he thought it was a good idea. “Yes,” I assured him, “I've been playing bass for over 25 years.” He said, “OK, I trust you!” I strapped on the bass. This guy had the strap nice and high, the way I like it. I didn't even have to adjust anything. The duo informed me that they tune down a half step. “That's fine,” I said, “I'll just transpose”. They gave me the rough chord progressions of their songs. I managed to pull it off. We did some fast funky stuff. I played two songs with them as a bassist. Then it was time to put down the bass, and become the singer for Tsunami.
We were debating about how to start. We decided to just start with “Rock and Roll”, then go into the two blues numbers: “Crossroads” and “Jesus Left Chicago”. Those two called for my harmonica. Then we finished with “The Ocean”. We blew the roof off. With our fourth song finished, we packed up. I don't know why the highlight of the night for me is the shortest paragraph, but there you have it.
I stuck around to watch the others play. I figured that if they had the patience to wait their turn and see ME play, then the least I could do is watch them. At the very end of the night was the guy who had been waiting the longest. “Billy T” was his name according to the sign-up sheet. He looked like a stereotypical shop teacher, to be honest. But he took out his guitar and started playing with the band. His tone blew me away. His back was mostly to me, as I tried to see what sort of guitar he was playing. It was rectangular. Was it a Bo Diddley guitar? The body actually appeared to be a large cigar box, reinforced with metal corners, and what looked like built-in speakers. But this guy just wailed on it. And I could tell he wasn't just another one of these 12-bar playing baby boomers. I saw him signal to the band: fingers up to go to the IV, gestures to do a call-and-response with the other guitarist, etc. I talked to him afterwards, and he showed me how his guitar had been custom built by “D – Guitars” in Miami. He showed be the unique inscription on the back of the head stock. Well, that's another page I have to check out.