I have fond memories of a weekend in 1996, though I kind of prefer to think of it as 1995 so that I'm a little younger when it happened, and to be honest it probably wasn't a weekend, it was probably a few random weekends over the span of a year and half or maybe even more, but for the sake of this nonsense, let's just say it was a weekend in 1995 and let's agree that it happened in a cool autumn setting of early October.
There were shows back then, I mean there are shows now and there have been the whole time, but nobody really gives a fuck anymore. Occasionally you run into a good, or dare I say great one, but for the most part you know what you're going to get, and it's really more about having a night out with some friends as opposed to congregating with a similarly fashioned pack of brats clustering themselves together and seeing no reason why the rest of their lives won't be spent like this.
But to be honest we always hated those people anyway. Anyone who was too up on the idea of a scene, impressed with the numbers of leather jackets and lit Marlboro's dangling out of pierced lips in front of Paramus Park was probably a social class elitist and likely just wasn't any good at sports or else they would have been flipping over cafeteria trays and demanding lunch money. The more people hanging around the more likely little sub-groups of a certain snobbery will pop up dictating who gets to sit at the cool kids table.
Of course I may just be looking back with bitter eyes because no one ever bothered to ask me to sit at said table and thus splintered off into a group of hateful little bastards.
But enough on the evolutionary theory of social groups eating their own, we're back in 1995 and there were shows and they used to feel like a big deal. Even if there was one every week or three crammed into a weekend, they all felt like a big deal and occasionally they were.
Now, to protect the identity of anyone who may not want to associate themselves with my spouting off at the mouth on a late night caffeine fixed tirade I'll take some precautions with bending people's names since I've already decided to cram a few events that I feel very certain did happen, into one little weekend during October 1995 even though I know that's not when they happened. If they even happened, which you know, I'm pretty sure that they did.
So Simon had a car. He was older than us but he was dating a girl we all knew from school, Kelly Foster. (Again not her real name cause God knows what she would think if she was bored at work one day and Googled herself only to find her name tangled up in this mess.) Kelly was the prototypical cool girl, she was so cool in fact that you kind of didn't even realize how pretty she was. She was kind of tomboyish and she hung around all the timeand she was dating Simon for as long as we knew her so maybe that's why it was easy not pay attention to her, because we were all impressed with her boyfriend who was both driving and in a band that actually got shows and had pretty decent equipment. So to a select few of us he might as well have been a rock star.
Simon told us we could open up for him at a showcase his band was having at Backstage Studios.
I should also probably mention since I'm having a little fun with the timeline here that I was in two bands at the time. Sometimes I wasn't but there was definitely a period of overlap. That was the curse of playing the bass. Everyone played guitar, and there were certainly a few drummers out there, but the only bass player I knew when I got to high school kept getting sent to Bergen Pines and eventually got tossed out of school. So there was a void, a vacuum if you will, and I figured that it would be better to suck at something almost nobody else did then suck at something every schmuck was doing.
So there was the metal band and the punk band or at least that's how I categorized it in my early-mid teen ignorance. The metal band included Kevin Riley on guitar and vocals and the great Eliot Krause on drums. Elliot actually was the utility drummer for a while and he and I were the rhythm section for both bands for a few weeks. We played covers; mostly Metallica and Pantera with some Alice in Chains and Nirvana sprinkled in probably to keep me happy. Kevin wrote songs but they were epics and he only brought one song to practice which was about 10 minutes long, so with that pace we stuck mostly to the covers.
And to be honest I didn't know what the fuck I was playing half the time. He had books and magazines with guitar tabs and would lend me them but most of the time I would just try to play what he was playing. I was probably a mile away from the drums and who knows if the notes were right but I thought I knew what I was doing so it all seemed to make sense. I mean we weren't' playing funk, the whole thing probably sounded like a loud glob of unmixed noise but most of your friends at that age don't really have a rigid grading scale. They're just impressed hearing something that sounds like a song they might know coming out something you're doing.
So anyway, Simon got us a show opening for his band in West Paterson at a rehearsal studio in West Paterson.
Elliot's mother drove us to the show because her car was big enough to fit all our stuff. When we got there the usual platoon of smokers were camped outside. We didn't know any of them and immediately nerves crept up our teen aged spines. "What if we really suck? Are these guys going to beat us up?" Kevin was already there with Simon and he was on the stage tuning his guitar.
"You guys are late"
We weren't but we played along.
"Oh sorry". We set up quickly. Simon's bass player was hanging around onstage convinced that there must be an automatic camaraderie between us he asked me a technical question.
"What kind of rig you got man?"
I know nothing about gear, at all. To this day I still know very little. This particular amp I got because it was big and loud and affordable for someone who might just be dabbling in music on his way to a long career in the US Congress.
"Um, a Peavy" I answered somewhat dim-wittedly. He looked at me and immediately sized up that this would not be the tech savvy sparring session he had craved so he just nodded and started scanning the rest of the stage.
"Hey man, you want your amps miked up? Guys? We miking the drums and the amps tonight?" this slick sounding son of a bitch in casual goth regalia jumped up onto the stage with a bunch of laminates dangling from around his neck (just in case anyone doubted his access to all areas) and a white knuckle grip on some cables he was just dying to run into or out of something.
"Sure," I answered but I immediately wasn't so sure "We're miking the drums right?"
Yeah. Sure. We're miking the drums right? Because I've done this a thousand times.
"Yeah," Elliot answered as if he actually had done this a thousand times.
"Cool you got it," he disappeared like a gnome doing invisible silent work.
I plugged in my $10 tuner that very clearly had BASS written on it lest I become confused, and fiddled with my rusting strings until the needle lined up on all them.
Then the most important piece of equipment was the last to add: The Setlist.
We all knew what we were playing, we only had five songs we could do because three of them were 7 minutes but every band has set lists taped down amongst a nest of wires and speakers and why should we be any different, this was after all a professional rehearsal studio.
I carefully wrote out all the songs with a big black marker and handed them out to the other two. While that was going on the room, which if I was any good I would have already described as long and narrow, started filling up. There were couches and a few old upholstered chairs randomly scattered and the lights were down except for a bright red glow that came off a few of the gel lights from the stage.
I felt like an asshole. We were standing there and we could hear everyone talking but could only see a few people and we had no idea if we should just start. We stared at each other for a moment waiting for someone to maybe introduce us, and then decided to just let Elliot count us off. Which he eventually did and BAM the drums were fucking miked. And wow. Miked drums were incredible. Loud. Loud. Loud.
Every hit sounded crisp and perfect. Elliot could have been playing a different song than us but it wouldn't have mattered because the drums sounded so cool to us that we would have taken the blame for not following him.
About half way through the first song the effect kind of wore off on me though and I started getting flushed with nerves. First I thought maybe I was too loud. I couldn't hear Kevin's guitar at all, and what if I was drowning him out, so I turned down a little. But who the hell could hear anything over the drums? Then I started thinking "fuck that I practiced these fucking songs I want to be heard even if I am fucking them up". So I turned up the volume on the bass. Once we got to the Nirvana song, which I think was Drain You, I felt pretty confident and even went over to the amp and turned up, when I swung around with a smirk I caught the face of Simon's bass player huddled in the corner making a face like he just noticed he had shit in his mouth and he made the universal sign for "turn down" while shaking his head "no". But it didn't look he was only saying "no" it looked like he was saying "Oh Lord please destroy whatever that horrible inhuman frequency is at the source".
There is nothing like a disgusted look telling you you're doing something wrong that you thought was right to instantly deflate a freshly ballooned ego. I turned way down and played the rest of the show in full shoe-gazer mode letting my self go deaf at Elliot cracking his China Boy cymbal a dozen or so times.
After we finished the last song a stereo kicked in and Simon's band seemed to jump onstage in unison to get their gear set up. We quickly unplugged and dragged our amps and drums off to the side, occasionally stopping for the ol': "hey you guys were good" slap on the back. At that point I knew it was probably bullshit but at that point in my life self delusion wasn't a problem I realized I had, so I kind of figured these were good honest folk and that we had in fact just rocked.