Friday, December 14, 2012

Nurse the Hate: Get Your Own Tone

When we first started The Cowslingers our goals were on a step by step basis.  I always figured if I could play out once on stage, that would be awesome.  Then it became trying to play out of town.  The goal then shifted to putting out a record.  That seemed impossible.  If you are one of the 1000 people that own the “Bad Booze Rodeo/Burro Show” seven inch, you are holding what I considered to be the ultimate pinnacle of what I could possibly achieve in music.  To think that someone would pluck that record at a garage sale for 50 cents forty years from now, go home and hear me say “The Burro Show” was and is still a magical idea to me. 

After a couple of years we started playing with bands we knew only from owning their recordings.  One of the first bands that were considered a “national” act that we ever played with was The Forbidden Pigs at the old Bank Street Café.  This was akin to us playing with Black Flag as these guys had a label deal and seemed impossibly professional.  We owned their actual CDs for God’s sake!  In retrospect, the Forbidden Pigs were probably at our level now, a decent club draw with a limited international fan base.  We probably sell more records than they did even now in the “Digital Age” of free download, but we thought they were a Big Fucking Deal.  It's all about comparisons.  Since everyone we knew and hung around with listened to the same music, it was impossible to fathom that anyone wasn’t as excited as us to be playing with a real honest to God professional rock band.  “Yeah, we’re playing with the Forbidden Pigs on Friday.  What?  You don’t know who they are?  What do you mean?”  (The “Una Mas Cerveza” CD is really good by the way.  Try and track that down.  You’ll like it.) 

We played in front of the big (for us) crowd and didn’t totally embarrass ourselves.  I think if I heard playback from that show now I would cringe in horror and maybe weep openly at how awful it sounded.  We thought we rocked though.  The newspaper even gave us a backhanded compliment.  The best part was playing it cool with the guys in the Pigs and not being identified as poseurs, which we clearly were at that point.  Bobby was about 15 years old and totally in awe of these men and their cool gear.  In most cases these same men were in awe of Bobby’s obvious talent, but Bob didn’t really pick up on that, so that made them like him even more. 

It was a few months after that show that we got the opening slot we really wanted.  The Paladins were our favorite band.  All of us loved them, and we listened to cassettes of their first three records anytime we drove anywhere in Tony’s piece of shit Dodge Caravan.  Dave Gonzalez, the guitar player, is probably one of the most underrated players of the last generation.  He can destroy playing blues, rockabilly, country, and soul.  He’s one of those guys that plays shows with a crowd of dudes standing in front of him trying to figure out his licks and technique.  He’s a monster. 

Playing with the Paladins was our version of playing with Led Zeppelin.  We understood that our world was a little subgenre of music so the chances of us playing with the Rolling Stones was the same chance of you having sexual intercourse with Scarlet Johansson or Brad Pitt (depending on your taste and preferences of course).  This, to us, was the top of the mountain.  OK, maybe the Stray Cats were, but there was absolutely NO WAY we would ever meet those guys.  That was insane to even think that way.  Who gets to hang out with Brian Setzer?  Rock stars and people that are on MTV, that's who.

As the show approached, Bobby was getting more nervous.  This was his guitar idol.  He had listened to his records a million times.  He had copied his licks.  He had tried to play his solos.  He studied the albums, trying to figure out what equipment he was using to get close to his sound or “tone”.  This was a rare chance to get close to the Master himself.  In mere days, he would have special access to Gonzalez and be able to have a private audience with him if things worked out as he had hoped.  Secrets would be revealed and a true bond would be forged between these contemporaries in rock.  

We got to the club earlier than the Paladins and tried to hang out nonchalantly like other cool guys in bands seemed to do so easily.  The Paladins were running late, so we wound up going on before they even got to the club.  Towards the end of our no doubt awkward and kinda shitty set, I saw them hurrying in with their gear in the back of the room.  The set changeover was quick, and we got our stuff off as fast as possible.  Bobby tried to say hello to Gonzalez, but the Paladins were clearly in that distracted head space you get from running late and freaking out about making it on time.  They were focused on getting ready to play a professional gig.  We were focused on trying to be cool and getting free drinks.

The Paladins played and were awesome.  They always were.  The crowd, which seemed pretty low energy, responded in an almost primal fashion as the step up in musical ability and presentation was obvious.  We watched these guys do what they did 250+ nights a year and hoped one day to get in the same conversation.  After the show, the band talked to the crowd and sold merchandise, waiting until they had interacted with everyone before heading back to the band area.  Bobby, seeing Dave Gonzalez heading back by himself, maneuvered into position to at last have that conversation he must have run through his head a hundred times. 

“Hey Dave!  Dave!” said Bobby to get his attention.  Gonzalez looked up at Bobby, but kept moving.  “Hey, I really love your tone…”  Gonzalez, without breaking stride, turned completely to Bobby and spoke.   

“Get your own tone.” 

He walked into the dressing room, shut the door, and left Bobby standing there alone at the back of the club.  He was stunned.  It had all gone so terribly wrong. 

We have spent some time with the Paladins since then, and they are great guys.  Dave Gonzalez might be one of the most polite guys to ever play in a rock band, so the story is wildly out of character.  Frankly, we liked him even more after that moment.  It has never died with us.  It’s been twenty years.  I still relish the opportunity to tell Bob to “Get his own tone”.  You should too…



At December 21, 2012 at 12:50:00 AM EST , Blogger AZ said...



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home