I can’t believe I have all this stuff.
There was a time when owning all of it was just a dream. Now I am standing in my patio at three in the morning, and here it all is, staged between the garage and the house, waiting to be carried inside: A sweet all-tube Fender guitar amplifier, two fancy-assed electric guitars, a rack full of electronics, a couple of duffel bags full of electronic gizmos, miscellaneous adapters, microphones and cables. I lusted after most of this stuff the way some men pursue women, and now it’s just heavy equipment that I have to carry in the middle of the night, and put it somewhere secure, if such a place exists.
I had packed it up and loaded it earlier in the afternoon, hauled it to the bar where I was playing, unloaded it there, unpacked and set it up. Later, we broke it all down, packed it up again, loaded the cars, the truck and the van and brought it back, each of us, to our various homes, and now I was half way through the job of dragging it out of the car and into the house. That’s four times in one day. And did I mention there’s a whole PA system, too, with six speaker cabinets and heavy power amplifiers? Well, there is.
The band sounded kind of good this night. We have bumbled our way into a few gigs, and the extra playing time has sharpened our performance. I find myself turning to look in surprise and delight at the other guys when something, a transition or an ending or a complicated harmony happens just the way we’d rehearsed it.
The people are kind. They say “You guys are great!” They whistle and clap. Of course, they came to have a good time, they are all high in various ways, and they will enjoy themselves, no matter what we do.
But it’s not really a great band. No matter how hard we try, how long we practice, there is a frontier of “greatness” out there beyond the horizon, and really, we are just playing around the neighborhood, staying close to home, keeping our day jobs, our paychecks and medical insurance. Greatness demands a bigger commitment.
I complain privately about the flaws and the failings, but what we are doing is, we’re having great big rock’n’roll fun. At least I am. For those few hours when we’re on stage I’m as happy as I ever get. I stopped playing for money decades ago and only recently took it up again. But my attitude now is “I don’t need the money. I just want it to be offered.” Playing rock’n’roll with this band, any band, for real live people who are dancing and partying — I’d do that for free.
Moving all this equipment — that’s what I get paid for.