Heading East Tour, Stop One: Sulphur Springs

The East Texas Garage Band went into high gear this weekend with the first of our three out of town shows in three weeks, or as my band leader named it, our “Heading East Tour.” First leg of the tour was in Sulphur Springs at the town square at a local farmers market event that goes on through the fall; and to be perfectly honest, it was a mixed show.

Me and the boys will playin’… all night… all niiiiiiiiiight…

First, the Bad:

Our drummer, Patrick, had a family commitment and couldn’t come, so it was replacement time. I hate replacement time, and it’s for no other reason than I’ve gotten lazy: I know what Patrick sings, I know where Patrick has his drum cues, I know when Patrick is going to add flourishes and I know when he’s going to just keep the beat. When the songs I’ve been performing no longer sound like the songs I’ve been performing, I have to pay more attention to what’s going on around me or I get thrown. And it’s not just me, though I have less of an excuse getting thrown since I’m not playing an instrument – the guitars get lost when they don’t hear what they’re accustomed to hearing. Makes it harder on everybody.

Sulphur Springs is east of Dallas, just as the entire band, so that’s good – still an hour plus drive just to get there. If the crew breaks a cable or a burns out a light, it’s a two hour round trip back to home base – the trailer has to be packed with everything but the kitchen sink and the load in has to be ridiculously early for that reason. Pauly, Bryan, Shannon, A.J. and Aaron were in the Sulphur Springs town square a little after noon for a 7 pm show and still almost didn’t get it done in time after three light fuses blew.

The flagpole in the downtown square war memorial shoots out bubbles. BUBBLES. How awesome is that?

For all of the growth the city has had in the last couple of decades, Sulphur Springs is still a small town with a small town feel. Small towns come with older residents who like their music slow and volume low – the East Texas Garage Band does not do slow or low. This was an outdoor gig; we showed up with our outdoor gear – we had little old ladies complaining about our volume during our sound check while the crew was just trying to get the mix right. We were maybe two songs in when the city manager showed up to turn us all the way down. I knew our amps went to 11,  I didn’t know they also went to –1. Stopped the noise complaints, but we didn’t sound our best – had we known the hearing aides in Sulphur Springs didn’t have a volume control, we’d have staged the show with only our practice rig.

(I am kind of tickled we had the actual city manager intervene. I’m thinking of making t-shirts: “The East Texas Garage Band – The City Manager Shut Us Down.”)

Now, the Good:

J.C. Mendoza doing one helluva job.

Our first-choice go-to replacement drummer is J.C. Mendoza, a young man with definite skills and an outstanding work ethic, and J.C. did a fantastic job Saturday night. I know the rhythm is in good hands when he’s got my back. We all could have used another couple of practices to nail the cues, no question about that, but all in all J.C. performed like the professional he now is. When he finds band mates as committed to the process as he already is, J.C. is going to go far.

This was really the first time the crew was able to use the entire lighting set-up, and as far as visuals go, we looked GOOD, especially after the sun went down and the full effect could be viewed. Pauly, Bryan and the rest of the crew worked their asses off to produce a quality product, and their efforts paid off in spades – some of the pictures my Lady Fair took of the event are too good to be believed. No one can miss that we are a professional band.

Everything looks better after dark.

We knew this was a family-friendly event, so we stuck with two family-friendly sets. Our mix of classic rock, southern rock, golden oldies and new standards went over great. At first, we just had the little kids up and moving, but after the sun went down, the older kids and their moms made their way to the grass for some rump-bumping and booty-shaking. Once the volume was no longer a concern, we received many compliments from the vendors, which resulted in more fans on our Facebook page and potentially another gig from the city next summer.

Weighing the pros and cons, this was a good show and a win for the band.

Next up: Longview.

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