They Don't Write 'Em Like That Anymore

Hi. I'm doing a bit of an experiment, including a personal story piece instead of writing about why I like a band or TV show. It probably won't make you laugh. It may not even be interesting to anyone besides me. But, it's worth a shot. Below is the first installment (of one, so far) that describes my experiences while being in a cover band from 1994-1997. We didn't really change the world, but we had a good time. Who knows, it may evolve into more than the band. I hope it's mildly entertaining and, if you miss the sports, television and music articles, check back later. Let me know.

I can recreate the entire scene in my mind with surprisingly little effort.

"Okay, one more song, folks"

"Noooooooo!. Keep going!!"

I glance across to Jason, the lead guitar player and the normally uncontested leader of the band. He shrugged. I turn around and glance at Neil. He's staring down at his snare drum, picking at his sticks, Neil's normal pose for "you know what I'm thinking, so don't make me say it." Neil wants to close up shop and go to sleep. Even if we stopped playing at that moment, it would be over an hour before we could hit the sheets. We had a lot of equipment to pack up. I turn the other direction to look at Kris, the bass player. He's trying to smoothly talk to some girl standing near the makeshift stage we're playing on. He apparently doesn't know that she showed up another guy hours earlier. Having heard Kris' smooth routine before, the other guy has little to be worried about.

I turn again to Jason, close my eyes, and sigh. It was 2:20 a.m. on a cooling summer morning in August, 1997. We were playing on a flatbed semi trailer on a farm outside of St. James, Minnesota, a private party of sorts. When we played a bar in St. James a month earlier, the owner of the farm approached us and asked us to play this party. This was our next-to-last gig. Two weeks prior to this we had decided that it made sense to disband Best Intentions, the cover band that I had been a part of for the last three years. We had all spread out to different locations, and I had an extensive Senior Project to work on at St. Olaf which would take up most of my free time over the next few months.

There were other reasons that didnŒt need to be said. We were all tired. Tired of the same songs we'd played hundreds of times. Tired of driving too many miles to a bar with four people in it, two of which left when we started playing. Tired of lugging heavy amplifiers to and from our practice space. Tired of the clashes that were becoming too frequent among us. I often feel like I was the one who pulled the plug, saying that school would prevent me from continuing to gig. But, at that point, I think we were all looking for an excuse.

Like most things, it's easy to gloss over the bad parts when you reflect on something. Jason, my best friend then and still, is in a band now. I hear his stories and really want to be in a band again. My experiences in Best Intentions were, for the most part, a dream come true. When I was younger, I used to play "guitar" with a tennis racket and croon passionately along with Huey Lewis in my room. I openly sing without embarrassment when driving. I drag my acoustic out from time to time when the spirit moves me. So when Jason tells me about playing, or when I hear one of our "standards" on the radio, the notion of trying it again is tempting. But my priorities are different now. With my wife and just having bought a house, I wonder if I could devote the time and attention that I did during college.

After sharing a nod at Jason, I step towards the microphone.

"Okay, we've got time for one more. What do you want to hear?"

"La Grange!!!"

Figures. TheyŒve only heard it four times tonight. Plus, it was one of my least favorite songs. It began with me talking dumbly into the microphone, and ended with me playing the same the chords over and over and over and over. Jason bends down to adjust the levels on his pedals. Neil hits his snare a few times. Kris does a couple of notes on the bass and (naturally) turns the amp up a notch. I stare out at the crowd, probably thirty people. They return my stare, looking expectantly up at us, waiting for the opening riff. I strum a chord on my Fender Stratocaster. Give the people what they want, I say.

"Ready?" Jason is generally the last one to be set, so he checks with the rest of us when he's set. Sometimes several times.

"Ready," we answer in unison.

Jason started the song. I looked down and smiled. As I raised my head and put my mouth on the mic, one thought kept running through my head:

God, I'm gonna miss this.



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