We’re not a band with a pay guarantee. That is to say, we’ll usually play for whatever is listed on the original show offer without much negotiation. This usually includes beers, cheap wells, a few people on the guest list and a percentage of the door. Bigger shows will often give us a room backstage and maybe a little food to boot, but after years and years of gigging we’ve learned how to identify “The Greatest Shows You Will Ever Play In Your Life” from all the other bullshit. I’m here to teach you this secret.
The best show offers, in the world, contain the words “and we will build you a stage.”
At first this may seem suspect. A few of you might have pooh-poohed this suggestion under the pretence that rural parties are not for a self respecting band and that’s a valid stance. In fact, it was our stance on the first offer of this nature. We play bars. That’s what we do. We’re not a cover band (yet) and we don’t want to get bit by mosquitoes while your nanny and papa walk off holding their ears. We would have turned down this first offer if it wasn’t followed by the even more rare show offer “Also would it be cool if we burnt a two story house down after you played?”
Hence our first hand-built plywood stage show.
Which is where we learned an important lesson: Bars are businesses. They are supposed to kick people out when they are too drunk. They aren’t allowed to let people pop pills and smoke dope. You have to (in most bars) keep your clothes on, and you certainly aren’t allowed to burn down two story houses.
So when we recently got an offer for some money, some beer / food, a place to stay and a plywood stage in East Texas, we took it. This weekend found out just outside of Leagueville, TX, population thirty two(not including us). We rolled in around 6pm and set up on a stage decorated with jalapeno shaped Christmas lights and silver Halloween skulls. They fed us smoked feral pigs and barbq’d deer meat with a million sides including something called Ass Fire Bread, which thankfully neither tasted of, nor induced Ass Fire.
About halfway through three long sets we discovered that covers were way more appreciated than our originals so with enough free beer to give us courage we faked our way through every Hank, Willie and Waylon song we knew. Cheating chords by tiki torch and adding solos into every gap. Calling audibles on endings and making up lyrics as we went. The crowd loved us and bought CDs and t-shirts and kept us well stock in beers, whiskey and whatnot for the night.
After we were done, the stage filled with pickers and jammers playing anything from Kris Kristofferson’s Bobby McGee to Glen Danzig’s Mother. We loaded our equipment to keep it out of the dew and started a campfire out by the trailer they lent us. People filtered in and out. At one point I was learning about Romanian visa lotteries from a pretty girl from Romania, at another we found ourselves singing “Where’s The Dress?” (one of the best country songs about Culture Club ever) with Moe Bandy’s second cousin.
People drank and danced and laughed and fought all night long under a million stars and a few dozen tall evergreens. We made friends with a tamed wild pig name Oliver and took a white knuckle ride piled into the back of some off road golf cart called a Mule. We plowed through low hanging vines and dipped threw creek beds. Somewhere we lost the tail gate and most of the roof, but no man was left behind.
Not one of us got any kind of definable sleep. We watched the sun come up in camping chairs, hung over and happy. Still laughing and yelling as the coffee pot filled and emptied. The drive home took its toll on an old tire and an electric guitar player. One got replaced and the other is probably still hung over.
Hopefully they don’t pull down the stage down just yet. We might have another set in us.
If you need some proof I wasn’t shitting you about burning down a two story house at a different show, check out this link. The handsome bastard with the mandolin at the end of the video is me.