Thursday, February 21, 2019

"A Night To Forget"

Around 10 years ago, I lived what seemed like a nightmare mixed with a terrible movie, blended with an out-of-body experience. Anyone who’s every played gigs in unconventional venues, with unexpected outcomes, should be able to relate somewhat. Special thanks to my friends and band mates for going WAY ABOVE AND BEYOND where any musician friend or family member should EVER have to tread! I am forever indebted to them for enduring your basic night in hell with me. Enjoy the account from 10 years ago, and yes, you can feel sorry for us.....still today.   

     I have to paint this picture for you, so please hang out here, for a bit. A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to participate in an all day celebration of the homecoming of around 600 U.S. troops! I was one of 12 artists who had agreed to donate their time in a concert event at a local VFW hall! (I should add here that I’ve NEVER been to a VFW hall). Each artist was to perform about a 45-minute music set! In the meantime, there were suppose to be various, “family-friendly” activities for the troops and their families to enjoy! The promoter (who was a super nice dude) had told me they were expecting over 1000 people in attendance. He told us our own private dressing room would be waiting, stocked with water, drinks, snacks, towels, and personal assistants to be at our beck and call…well, actually that last one was more MY imagination and wishful thinking, but I digress.
Hours of prep work went into choosing music material, learning songs, putting together a slammin’ band, and rehearsals! We were anticipating quite an event! Our families and a few friends were planning to go hang out with us at this private event, and enjoy this really cool occasion! I was mentally prepared for this event! I was physically amped up and ready to rock! I was performing THESE songs live for the first time! I had covered it in prayer, and asked that God really do something incredible through this opportunity that had come our way! Of course, Admittedly, I was hoping to see this opportunity give birth to other opportunities, as well! Now, you should know that my band consisted of 4 VERY GOOD FRIENDS! I consider them EVEN BETTER FRIENDS now, as you will understand why, later…haha! All things were in place, right down to all the back-line equipment that was suppose to be set up and ready for the band! This was gonna really be a cool event! We were pumped! We were ready…………..
As we drove up to the venue, the security showed us where all the rockstars were suppose to park—right behind the 5 massive Harley Davidson bikes with American, and I think, Confederate Flags hanging from the back of the bikes! We got out of our vehicles, and began to “survey” the setup and the venue. At this moment, we began to realize that either we were at the wrong VFW hall, OR we were about to perform in what could only be described as a scene from the movie Roadhouse mixed with a scene from the movie Deliverance, sprinkled with trappings from EVERY Honky Tonk from W. Virginia to Sacramento. You know the ones…..where the patrons enjoy smoking A LOT, and drinking A LOT! Oh yeah, AND they HATE ANYTHING THAT’S NOT COUNTRY music or an arrangement of the tune “Freebird”….AND, did I mention…I’M NOT A COUNTRY ARTIST, I'M A ROCK/AC ARTIST???….yeah, Fun Times ahead!
As the band and I get out and walk up to the venue, I realize….THIS COULD BE INTERESTING, AND I HOPE WE LIVE TO TELL ABOUT IT.
I find the promoter (who was a super nice dude), and ask him a few questions about where we needed to go? what we needed to do? where was our “plush” dressing room? WAS there even as much as a crawl space that might be non-smoking in the vicinity? which redneck I needed to fight first?, was the “woman” who just walked by INDEED a man?, and other pressing inquiries that begged for answers.
The promoter (who was a super nice dude) began to unveil the horror that awaited us. To shorten the story, I’ll give some details in bullet point items below… was what we found out…
1. The 1,000 or so troops and their families seemed to be nowhere around.
2. We received the news that a convoy of troops, supposedly coming to hear us, got lost and LITERALLY, wound up in a place called Bucksnort! THAT’S WHAT HE TOLD ME! He didn’t know when or even IF the troops would get there.
3. 15 minutes before our performance was to begin, we discovered that there was NO back line gear for the band—NO AMPS! Our guitarists and bassist only brought their guitars, and NO AMPS! The drum kit WAS shiny, but that’s where the “pretty” stopped!
4. We would be singing after a talented country artist who sang 2 songs entitled, “I Got A Thinkin Problem” (or was it Drinkin problem), and “Too Much Blood in My Alcohol Level”
5. The “dressing room” was the VFW Ladies Auxiliary room. Our refreshments consisted of 2 old, blue, worn out Coleman Coolers filled with some sort of bottled water. BUT, it was cold water! Thumbs up there!
6. The sound on stage would be “unique”. The guitars and bass would use the monitors as their amps. My vocal mix was peppered with a dizzying array of all things noisy, EXCEPT for the actual lead vocal. BUT, the monitors were nice and big. (Note to self…ALWAYS carry your in-ear monitors)
7. Of the 1,000 expected in attendance, only about 40-50 would be left to hear US and our “set”.
8. Most of THEM were still living off the euphoric “high” that the previous country artist left them in! So when we would take the stage, what a “buzz kill” we were sure to provide…..since we weren’t country and all.
9. I performed about 3 “ballad” type songs, including one called “Beautiful”! Let the irony sink in here! I do think that I saw one mammoth biker dude shed a tear on verse 2 of Beautiful, though! Nice moment there.
10. And finally, the last song of our set was an anthem like, very emotional tribute tune to honor our troops (who evidently were still in Bucksnort). I did this song complete with huge orchestration and strings—sounded like a freakin David Foster arrangement! I even spoke before the song to the “throngs” of 40-50 folks who were left smoking on Camels, and knockin back brewskis, and dedicated it to the troops (who were NOT there). I felt truly relevant right about then. Just before the second verse of this anthem, there was a dramatic pause. While waiting to begin the second verse lyric, there in the silence, a young lady quite inebriated, loudly made her one request of me as she yelled out……”SING SOME LYNNARD SKYNNARD!!!!” What a moment to honor our troops (who were not there).
This was indeed a great event for the band and me! At this point, let me mention how much I love those guys in the band for being willing to jump in the trenches with me last night….THEY ARE REALLY GOOD FRIENDS, and I owe them BIG TIME! Afterwards, the promoter (who was a super nice dude) apologized profusely to me over and over, to which I replied, no problem, we’re just honored to be a part of this event to honor the troops! (who were not there).
While explaining this story to my family afterwards, I told them that I honored my commitment to the promoter and my publisher, (who also apologized PROFUSELY) even though it was a challenge and the circumstances were difficult. I used this experience as a chance to teach a life lesson of sorts to my kids about honoring their word, integrity, and so forth! They received it, especially my 10 year old.
Later that night while tucking the kids in bed, we prayed together. My 10 year old took his turn to pray, and prayed this prayer,….”Jesus, even though my dad’s concert was sort of crazy, hopefully something he sung MAYBE touched one person and helped them. That would make it all worth it.”
At this point, I had to learn a life lesson as well! My frustration gave way to focus!
We never know what God can do through us, even in crazy, unexpected, extremely uncomfortable circumstances!!!! Our effort is to remain intimate with Him, stay prepared, use our gifts with excellence, live life with honor and integrity, stay humble, and…..always take time for promoters who are super nice dudes! Well, that last part might have been a lesson just for me! Thanks for listening! Peace!