Ages ago I met Thor, the Canadian heavy metal demi-god. The dude is a phenomenal performer and one part of his philosophy of being a performer and a musician that I admire is his attitude when it came to the audience – if you play to a thousand people or a handful, you play your goddamn balls off for those people! Remembering that was very helpful for our trip to Fort Worth because one thing you will notice in the pictures that Shelly Finley (panoramics below) and Carol Heider (all the others pictures) took below is the lack of people in those photos. Well, it’s a long story but it’s just one of those things where weird things happen that are out of your control but I’ll get to that soon enough.
We were heading up to Fort Worth to play the second Rock-A-Tron 5000 Festival. The good folks at Up To Eleven Entertainment had asked us to play and we were more than happy to make the trip. The drive up though was a pretty hazardous drive through with slick roads, heavy rains, and high winds. If that wasn’t bad enough, Forth Worth got hit by two earthquakes! If that isn’t a sign from the gods, I don’t know what is. (I told Clinton we should have offered up a few hecatombs to the gods but Noooooo!) Yet, we all made it in one piece but since we could only load into the venue two hours in advance because of space and parking, we ended up just chillin’ at the hotel for the afternoon. Then we made a fatal mistake.
When looking for a restaurant, we found a Mediterranean place which sounded decent but what we didn’t know is that they had a buffet. Sure you could get an appetizer and an entree but for $3 more you could do the buffet and get a big variety of stuff. This may be good economics for the average hungry person but not one for a band getting ready to play a show. The result Clinton and Charlie stuffed their faces and had to wrestle through a 1 am performance with a full belly and a body that likely wanted to lie down and digest all that food. (Let that be a lesson to all touring bands – stay away from the buffet.) Yet, this turned out to be the least of our worries as you will read in a bit.
When we got to The Where House we were all pleasantly surprised. I mean it was kind of a dump sure but it was our kind of dump- just a really cool layout and a good all-around vibe. Southern Train Gypsy was playing the outdoor stage and while we sat there watching the gear, we banged our heads the sweet riffage. We all took turns watching the gear and checking out STG and the Queers. Both bands just killed with the crowd really going nutters over The Queers. Then Larry made a startling discovery a few minutes before the Queers’ set ended that pretty much guaranteed we were screwed.
“Hey, there’s no band setting up outside!”
“Nobody’s out there.”
Crap! Here is what we eventually figured out. This band from Austin we’ll call S.C. (we won’t mention their name here but you can look on the line-up of bands and figure it out) drove all the way to the festival and when they saw the outside stage, decided they didn’t want to play because they had a $5,000 drum kit or some such rock star nonsense. Well, they asked the promoter if they could play indoors and he said he couldn’t do that because we were scheduled to play indoors and that wouldn’t be fair to us. The funny thing about this is that it had been raining the night before and we (and everyone) knew the weather was going to be sketchy that day but if this band had asked for this accommodation just the day before, we’d have happily obliged. We’re not dicks! Helk, it would have saved us lugging up all the AV gear! But they didn’t do that, instead they just turned around and left. Pretty unprofessional douche shit if you ask me and that screwed us and I’ll explain why.
Now, first off we were closing the festival – not headlining, closing – so we already expected that once the Queers ended, we’d lose about half the crowd right there and during S.C.’s set we’d lose half of the rest of the folks who were just tired from a daylong festival. So we pretty much expected to play to a 1/4 full house. Not a huge crowd but a good one given the headliner was done early and it was a long day of music. And the way the festival was working that seemed to be a pretty reasonable expectation. The folks at Up To Eleven had the thing working like clockwork – stage A, stage B, stage A, stage B. Just Boom, Boom, Boom so it was running on-time! Really solid work and that momentum had been there all day. But what happens after The Queers’ set? Nothing. No outside band and no music inside either. Then to make things worse the houselights go up and The Queers’ gear stays on stage. What does that tell people? Night’s done! So, I am scrambling to set up the AV gear (which takes at least 30 minutes) as people start filing out and then Steve finally has the wherewithal to ask why the Queers’ gear is still on stage. “Oh we were told the last band wasn’t playing.” Yup, that’s right; a small bit of miscommunication led the indoor stage crew to think that we(!!) were the band that had canceled, so they brought up the houselights and left all this gear on the stage. That’s just one of those things that happen and it’s nobody fault (well, outside of the Austin band) so by the time we get up and going 45 minutes later, we’re pretty much playing for the organizers who are tired and beat from a long day.
So, what do you do as a musician and a performer? Fuck it! You play your ass off, lose 10 pounds of sweat, and play hard. We could take our toys and leave like the Austin band or we could do what we were invited to do – rock the fuck out. The folks at Up To Eleven, asked us to play and they were good folks who acted like total pros all around. We owed it to them to play our best even with the hand that was dealt us and that’s just the way the fucking rock and roll ball bounces. Sure we played to practically nobody but that’s the way shit goes sometimes – all you can do is worry about the music and let the chips fall where they may. You do that and you have nothing to be ashamed about.
Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World!