23 July 2012

I'm With The Band

Years ago, I used to consider myself quite the proficient drummer. After one half-assed lesson from a friend's brother, I said "Fuck it, I'm gonna teach myself." I began pounding away on said brother's set, hammering the toms and smashing cymbals full-force. In the beginning, I had no sense of rhythm. I was relentless, though. I was going to learn no matter how frustrating it was for me (and those who had to hear the mind-numbing pounding for what seemed like hours on end).

Sooner rather than later, I got the hang of it. I began to play by ear. I'd craftily mimic punk songs that were part of my regular musical rotation. The beat and the rhythm of my favorite bands worked itself into my fiber. I began writing my own beats, my own material. Damn, I was good. I decided that I needed to get my own kit so I wasn't putting anybody out.

I bought my first drum kit for $75. It was a beat-up, hand-me-down kit without the cymbals. It wasn't much, but it was mine. I was determined to beat it into the ground. I was almost looking forward to busting a head from playing it so hard and fast. After joining an industrial metal band with some friends, I quickly realized how much the kit wasn't cutting it. I was trying to compete with a drum machine (without the skill or cymbals). It was constant frustration and eventually had to bow out gracefully from the band. Hell, I didn't even like industrial music that much.

The mother of my girlfriend at the time saw how determined I was to continue playing. She saw how happy it made me and wanted to help out any way she could. She fronted me the money for a $1300 Mapex drum kit. Top of the fucking line. I scraped and saved for months after to pay her back. When all was said and done, I had one of the best kits money could buy.

I tried forming bands with friends constantly. More often than not, it wound up as my friend Erida and I jamming together in a spare bedroom. We subconsciously ripped off our favorite songs, tried playing any genre under the sun and even played a friend's birthday party (to about ten people). Our songs were never good, but we sure tried our damnedest. Over the years of acquiring new friends and tastes in music, I tried different everything in my power to get something going. But, as life goes some times, scheduling conflicts, motivation and ambition came and went with the days, the weeks, the months.

Life had began changing quickly, and I needed a car. I turned my back on drumming, seeing the futility of a future playing music everywhere I turned. I wound up selling my set for about half of what it was worth, saved up the other half and bought Cavalier Eternal.

I tell you this story, readers, not as a sad, i-sold-out-my-ideals kind of story, but rather as a prelude to a newer (and hopefully better) story.

About a month ago, my friends' band Faster Housecat played their second PDX venue show ever. As I've already mentioned before, the band consists of one of my closest friends as well as some other very solid, very hardworking dudes. I am stoked to simply be in proximity of a band actively writing and recording music. It's a perk that I have the pleasure of calling them my good friends, not to mention the fact they're actually a great fucking band.

After knocking back several beers with the band at a cookout on eventful evening before the big show, I had a booze-fueled stroke of genius. I volunteered to be their merch guy. I hadn't picked up the drums since I sold my set, so my musical endeavors were kind of stagnant. I still wanted in on some action, though. Their upcoming show at The Know marked the first show of the band's career where they would actually have t-shirts, beer koozies, pins and stickers available for sale. I truly believe in the band and I wanted to support them any way I could. It was settled then and there. I became the official merch guy for Faster Housecat.

The night of the show, I loaded up the tote full of merch into the trunk of my car. The sheer simplicity of knowing I was going to be in transit with the band's merch in tow was exhilarating. I was in. Robin and I headed to the venue, parking a couple of blocks away. I proudly carried the tote and sign-board to the front of the venue and met Mike, Heather and the rest of the band outside. After a couple of cigarettes, the band had to begin loading in their gear. We unloaded the minimal equipment out of the back of Mike's vehicle and into the venue.

While standing outside with my first beer of the night, one of the door guys for the venue came outside in an attempt to figure out who was in what band. I told him I was the merch guy for Faster Housecat. "Rad," he replied, "I'm just trying to figure out who gets let in without having to pay." I was thrilled, readers. For the fanboy in me, this was the big-time. I grabbed the tote and sign-board and snagged a table in the back of the showspace. I proudly began setting up the table, making sure everything was laid out just right, the moneybox at my right hand.

To simply be manning the table while watching bands play was a new, exciting feeling for me. Although we hardly sold any merch (the band forget to actually tell the crowd that it was their merch for sale in the back), I was extremely happy to be part of the goings on. I felt like I actually had an impact on the band's well-being. They insisted on paying me for doing it (I wouldn't allow it). A couple of the band members gave me a drink ticket. Another friend of the band bought me a beer before buying a couple t-shirts. In summation of the show, I wound up drinking for free the whole night AND supporting one of my favorite bands. I also got to see PDX locals HUNGRY TIGER. They killed it, too. Shit, I'll take that as a payment.

After keeping the merch table open perhaps a bit too long, I closed it down and loaded the stuff into my car. It felt good to be back in the circle of friends without having to keep an eye on the merch and moneybox. We ordered another round and closed our tabs. Word was spreading quickly through the group that there was another show at the band's warehouse space. "You guys should come party with us there," Mike said. Neither Robin or I had to punch the clock early the next morning, so it didn't take much convincing.

Driving across town, we stopped at a convenience store for beer and snacks. We picked up a couple of six-packs and headed to the warehouse. For some reason or another, we weren't allowed to bring beer INTO the warehouse. So, we left one six-pack tucked underneath a carseat-couch outside the space and stashed the other one into Robin's purse. "Hell, I'll get you guys beer," Mike said. Upon entering the showspace, the door people stopped us for the five-dollar cover charge. "Uh, I'm with the guys that rent this space." They seemed surprised and proceeded to ask their names. I quickly responded and they let Robin and I in for free. We met Mike and Barney inside the show and within the blink of an eye and High Lifes in our hands.

The band playing was laughably bad, but they sure tried. It was an all-girl band made up of Joan Jett/Hot Topic models. They couldn't have been more than eighteen years old. Their music was derivative and boring, but they sure sparkled. We made fun of them while pounding beers. We kept ourselves busy by not only making jokes at their expense, but philosophically discussing the "artwork" that was hung on the walls for sale purposes. The artists actually expected to give double digits for the shit. It was embarrassing to even be looking at it.

The next band set up and played, and it gave us even more fodder for our asshole entertainment. They were bad. You could get a full read on the band based on their looks alone. Hell, they looked and sounded like they were stuck in the 90's. Not even the good part where Gin Blossoms and Third Eye Blind reside, but that scummy, crappy part where bands like Weezer call themselves gods.

The night began drawing to a close. The last of the beers were finished, the last of the conversations fading quietly into the industrial warehouse walls. With different amounts of alcohol circulating through all of our systems, 2am seemed like a good time as any to make the drive home and fall into a music-fueled, booze-driven stupor. We idled in the warehouse foyer, not wanting to call it a night but knowing that it eventually had to come to an end. Robin and I said our goodbyes and walked to my car, our footsteps and keys echoing off of the industrial park buildings.

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