Take The Hit

Even as a little kid, I knew I could sing. It wasn’t too far into my first year of school that I discovered I could write. After all these years, it never occurred to me to see if I could write a song.

It is both easier and harder than it looks… especially if years into your quest to become a Rock Star, you still can’t play guitar.

I wrote a song, read it, was just about to pat myself on the back for getting it to rhyme where it should when I re-read it and realized it was crap. So I re-wrote the song, pulling out every overly sentimental and overly dramatic turn of a phrase I could think of, read it again, and then patted myself on the back. I had a fully functioning Jim Steinman-inspired hair metal opus about love. I sent it off to my band leader – he was not as impressed. He liked story songs.

So I went back to the drawing board. I had an idea, not quite a story song, but something about taking what the world has to dish out. I pulled out all the stops when it came to all the rhymes, and without meaning to, I had written a Southern Rock song. I sent it to my band leader and… nothing. The band thought the words were clever, but we were too tied up with other projects to compose music for my lyrics.

So I sat on the song for a while. I wrote another song, a rip out my heart and show it to me love song. A couple of years went by, and my nephew was suddenly a guitar guru, playing with his dad’s bands and accompanying me at the anniversary gig. So I showed him the lyrics and he immediately got it: it was a “Simple Man” message set to a “Gimme Three Steps” beat. Within a couple of weeks, he had the guitar riff and chord progressions. Once I had a riff and chord progression, the melody wrote itself. He recorded his guitar tracks and added in a drum loop and sent the music to me – I loaded it up on my GarageBand and recorded the vocals, and BOOM we had ourselves a demo.

The hope was to have some of my musical buddies help me polish it up; sand off the rough edges, put their professional shine to my diamond in the rough… after eight months of asking and everybody being too busy with their own projects, I finally said “Screw it. It’s a solid demo. Put it online, see what happens.”

So I did. My nephew and I are officially songwriters ’cause we have a song.

I’ve got a musical to help produce and star in out in Terrell all Summer, so the hope is next Fall my schedule and my nephew’s schedule will align, allowing us to take our demo and create a full fledged Southern Rock song ready for digital sale. I’ve got nine other songs written at this point… hopefully, if the recording goes well, we can take on the rest, too. In the meantime… my nephew and I have a demo: Take The Hit, copyright 2016 Keith Craker. Music by Kevin Craker, lyrics by Keith Craker.

Hope you like it. I do.

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New Year, New You

snow

For Dallas, this is the winter apocalypse…

It’s the start of a new year, and this particular weekend, it is cold. Not “Yay, it’s Winter – better grab my festive scarf!” cold, but “OMG! Are you freaking KIDDING ME?” cold. North Texas doesn’t get too many hard freezes, and we rarely fall below 20ºF, but Saturday morning I checked the news and it was 15º where I live. And before you Yankees start yapping about how that’s nothing, where you live it is routinely in the minus digits, remember I live in a state that routinely hits triple digits during July and August; and not the dry heat you get in Arizona, but the humid heat you get in the Congo, that sweltering heat that means you’re drenched in sweat by the time you walk from your front door to your car. 107º in the summer and 15º in the winter is a bit much for a temperature swing.

(I knew a girl from Minnesota, we waited tables together at the local Tex-Mex restaurant – her first winter here and she was all “It doesn’t get cold like this where I’m from! This is that cold that seeps inside your clothes and into your BONES!” So yeah, our humidity creates hellish winters when those Blue Northers come barreling into town. So shut up.)

It is a new year, though. Grand things are on the horizon. Which means the possibility for drama has also increased.

double-neck guitar

Proof that my bandleader did not kill our drummer…

The band is doing its best to rehearse. The holidays and family obligation got in the way, but that always happens November and December. Our bassist has to spend some time away for work a couple of weeks in January, then I’ve got a personal project the last two weekends of February and the first weekend of March – we’re doing the best we can to get together when we can, but sometimes even the weather seems to be fighting us. When we have gotten together, we sound pretty darn good – not quite to where we were before everything blew up, but we are getting there. Hoping to be able to books shows in March, we should definitely be able to book in April.

I have some personal projects this year, the first of which is I’m reprising the role of the voice of the killer plant from outer space, Audrey II, in the Mesquite Community Theatre production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” Rehearsals started the first week of January. I am thrilled – I was hoping to get to do some work with the lovely folks at MCT, and being asked to play the part was a dream come true. The cast is wonderful, the director is fantastic, and the music director is amazing. It’s weird to be with a new group of theatre folks, but it is also exciting and invigorating.

ensemble

My new crew with the Mesquite Community Theatre – this is the ensemble.

As it stands right now, I am supposed to be in my friends’, The Vagabond Players, summer musical in August, as well. It’s a wonderful role and an opportunity to be out on stage, showing the local theatre scene what I am capable of. The dates are the same as an out of state venue for ETGB, however, so I am waiting and hoping the dates can be resolved – if the dates can’t be moved, I am stuck disappointing some good people and close friends. Which sucks – as much as I want to do more music work, pursuing more possibilities always came with the threat of conflicting dates. I used to tell myself I was just over-exaggerating the possibility, and yet here it is: my first “Can’t Be In Two Places At One Time” obstacle, and I haven’t even started auditioning for more stage work.

I am so hoping my friends can work this out. Both opportunities are too good to pass up.

I did a benefit for a teacher friend a couple of months ago – she’s taking her theatre kids to New York, needed some help raising money for the air fare, so I sang a couple of show tunes for her. I had a blast – I also made a new contact in the local music scene. Once I’m done with “Little Shop of Horrors,” I’m hoping I can catch up with him, hit an open mic night he frequents with a bunch of the local musical theatre scene, and make even more contacts.

benefit performers

A bunch of pros and semi-pros raising funds for theatre kids to travel to Broadway… Yeah…

I have been writing some lyrics the last few years; a few months ago, I managed to corner my guitar phenom nephew and had him write me some backing music to what I considered to be my best chance at a hit. He added in some rhythm tracks, and I am pleased to say my nephew did a good job – we now have a solid demo of a song we have written. It’s rough, it could use some tweaking by folks who know what they are doing, but it shows real potential: the makings of a hit song are all there.

Now that I have actual proof I can do my part, I’ve been showing lyrics off to friends, and so far, even the cheesy songs read pretty good to them. I’ve got the beginnings of one song started with my good buddy and band leader; I’ve got another sent off to my phenom nephew; I’ve got another sitting with a keyboardist friend; and I waiting to hear back from my other guitarist about maybe taking on a pop rock ditty I’ve got rumbling around in my head. With a fair bit off luck and some hard work, I might be able to get all my lyrics set to music in the next few weeks.

What to do after that is another obstacle.

I wrote last summer about how the band was pushing up against that invisible line that separates one professional tier from the next, and what that might entail. One option is to become a tribute band, which are big in these parts these days; another is to add more variety of songs to our sets, become a full-on party band, which are also big in these parts; and the last option (and my personal favorite) is to start writing and producing our own songs, start marketing ourselves as both a cover band and an originals band. But that’s IF the band wants to try and make the jump up to the next tier. That next tier comes with a new set of responsibilities: an increased workload both out front and behind the scenes, the possibility of needing to bring on a manager and side players, a harder push with the band’s marketing, and on and on and on. Playing the bike rallies, playing the dive bars isn’t all that lucrative, but it is FUN, and more than a good enough time to make all the hassles to book the gig worth the time and effort – that isn’t a guarantee when you’re looking to book festivals, outdoor stages, and bigger bar venues. It definitely means it’s now your full-time job, regardless of how well or not well you are getting paid.

the rhythm section

The Rhythm Section teaching us how it is done…

Every indication, every conversation I’ve had with my band leader says he’s happy where the band is, and he’s still cool with the amount of hassle he has to put up with to keep us there. He may change his mind about writing original songs at a later date, but if he does, it will be for the fun of writing original songs, NOT with a mind to move the band up to the next tier. Playing the rallies, playing a dive bar here and there is where he wants to be. Honestly, I don’t blame him – the band has proven time and again that is what we excel at.

I’m ready to grow as an artist, though. I’m ready to add “Songwriter” to my resumé. If I find myself with a dozen songs ready to be recorded and my band isn’t in a place to cut them… I’ll cut them myself. My band has first dibs – the demo I made with my nephew was produced with my band in mind; my band is full of amazing musicians – if I do record the songs myself, they’ll be the first people I ask to help me out in the studio; but one way or another, my plan for 2017 is to have at least an EP (preferably a full album) of original songs co-written by me and my music buddies ready by Christmas. What comes after that is a worry for next year.

The band is getting closer to hitting the rallies and bars again. I hopefully have two musicals scheduled. I have one new contact made, with the possibility of more down the road in eight weeks or so. I have people saying they are on board with helping me complete my songs. It’s the first week of January, and so far 2017 is already looking pretty darn good.

A Living Entity or Brushing Up Against the Invisible Line

Keith, Kelly, and Tim

Me showing off my brother, Kelly, for Tim’s obligatory selfie. Photo courtesy of Tim Lovick.

There’s the band as a marriage metaphor, which works when all or most of the original band members are still in place; and then there’s the band as a living entity metaphor. I tend to go with the living entity metaphor personally. In my marriage, I have an equal say in things, and while I tend to take a back seat in decisions concerning things like how to decorate the house, my lovely Lady Fair knows my tastes and tries to keep that in mind when picking out colors and designs. As Paul likes to say, “I don’t run my house, but I have veto power.” That’s not the case with the band. I can make suggestions, I can ask questions, I can push for certain decisions, but I don’t actually make those decisions, and I certainly do not have veto power. That’s Paul. The band is Paul’s band. Now, Paul is smart enough and wise enough to take everybody else’s strengths and preferences into account when making decisions, but at the same time, the final Yay or Nay is always his. So no, the band is not a marriage – it is a benevolent dictatorship, and we are all free to leave if we don’t like Paul’s stewardship of the band.

This band is a living entity, though. Paul is the brains, Super Dave is the heart beat, JC is the back bone, Tim is the imagination, and I am the voice. And like a living being, the band has ups and downs, peaks and valleys. There are times when the band is on all cylinders and just unstoppable… and then there are days when the band cannot get it’s act together to save it’s damn life. Sometimes, the peak and the valley are on the same damn week.

10th Anniversary Cancerian poster

One of our favorite gigs of the year…

The band has never had a period where it could just cruise, rest on its laurels and enjoy the view – the band has always been in some kind of transition. Before Paul brought me onboard, the band experimented with having two female back up singers. This did not work, mainly because the females in question used a little too much liquid courage to psych themselves out enough to perform in front of a crowd. Not long after they ladies were cut loose, I arrived… so technically, I was brought on to be the ladies’ replacement, singing the pretty back up.

It was unthinkable that we would need to replace Patrick, the drummer… and then suddenly, we did. Seven kids with a vicious recession on was too much stress on Patrick and the entire family, so the band had to go. JC was brought in, and even though he was half the age of the rest of the crew, he got along great… until we had to replace JC, who had decided to move to Los Angeles. Patrick came back, life got too vicious again and he left, and then JC moved back to Texas and he rejoined the crew.

Jon co-founded the band with Paul. Jon is brilliant. Jon is an amazing bassist, with a jazzy kind of interpretation of classic songs. Jon also had very definite ideas about the direction he wanted to go with the music the band was doing; when that didn’t happen, he decided he just wanted to show up and play… but soon, he didn’t want to do that, either. After not returning phone calls or emails for weeks, Paul brought in Super Dave so the band could start booking dates again. Jon found out he’d been replaced by social media, and we haven’t heard from him since. Not our finest hour, and whether he admits it or not, it still haunts Paul.

When Gary’s carpal tunnel took him out of the band and Tim came on board, the only original member of the band Paul created 12 years ago… was Paul. The brain was intact, but everything else in the body had be replaced with a transplant.

The band at Chaser's

The crew and Little Brother, taking care of business. Photo courtesy of the wonderful Michele Moore.

It sucks when you lose a band member, even if it happens with a minimum of fuss, as in Patrick and Gary’s cases. The upside is, though, with the infusion of new blood comes new song ideas. When JC settled in and became THE drummer, the band got a lot better. When Super Dave came in and brought a new wealth of songs, the band got a lot better. When I discovered the meaning behind the songs and found my voice, the band got a lot better. Now that Tim is on board with his tenor harmonies and lead guitar licks, the band has gotten better once again.

With all the transplants in the band, with all the improvements the band has made over the years, The East Texas Garage Band is poised to make a big leap.

There’s a line no one can see, but everyone who deals with any kind of creative, artistic pursuit knows it is there and it is real: it is the line that separates amateurs from professionals. A lot of times, the division is really easy to see: go to a comic convention and take a walk around the art show, you will see a definite difference in quality between the amateur work and the working professional’s art. Some times, the division is almost impossible to see: go online and read some of the fan fiction out there, some of it is as good – if not better – than some of the published novels on book shelves. When you are really lucky, you catch an amateur actor or dancer just before they hit the big time, and you get to say “I saw them when no one knew who they were.” Well, a band faces that same line. It takes a certain amount of time and energy to get to the top of the amateur level, to be the best an amateur can be… and then you stall there. Because the difference between the “extremely gifted amateur” and the “working professional” is incredibly small, yet almost impossible to bridge. A lot of the time, it’s the X factor that separates the two categories, that indefinable ingredient that you know when you see it or hear it. The real bitch is it’s a band – nearly all the members have to have that X factor or be so close to having that X factor before the band as a whole is ready to make that leap to The Show.

With my singing, with Tim’s leads, with Super Dave’s playing, with Paul’s leadership and showmanship, and with JC’s outside the box syncopation, as of just a few weeks ago, The East Texas Garage Band was knocking on that line, poised to make the jump. Which, in our case, being a cover band in DFW, meant potentially leaving the B-level of acts and joining the A-level tribute bands. Also meant doubling our fee, and being able to get that. We’d need to have a serious conversation about where the band wanted to go at that point: being an A-level act in DFW means either being a tribute band (which we don’t want to be), adding dance and party music to the repertoire (a possibility, just not a strong one), or create some original tunes and try to go pro (my preferred choice).

JC wrecked his truck.

me at Chasers

Trying to see where the hell the guitarists are going with this song… Photo again courtesy of the lovely Michele Moore.

Just days after our last gig, just over a week until our next gig, and JC lost control of his vehicle while heading home from a concert down in Deep Ellum, woke up in ICU with two broken arms, two broken wrists, some broken ribs, and a cracked bone in his playing foot. One wrist required surgery, his playing foot required surgery. He is laid up for weeks, possibly months, and until he heals up enough for physical therapy, JC has no idea what effect this will have on his ability to drum: could have no effect at all, which is the hope; could be done drumming for the rest of his life, which is a panicky worst case scenario, but is still a possibility.

I took JC flowers from the band a couple of days after they moved him from ICU into a private room. His foot was still swollen like a grapefruit then, the doctors hadn’t gone in after that bone they were worried about. It was the first time I had been to a hospital since Sherry had died almost two years ago, and I was not digging the sensation at all. As his singer, I’m pissed as hell that JC has done this to himself… but as his friend… damn it all… I am just so grateful he’s still alive. Had he been going just a little faster, had the wall he hit been just a little taller, and that might not have been the case. When I couldn’t force out any more words of encouragement, I got the hell out of there… I was wiping away tears by the time I got back out to my car.

I’ve just buried too many people lately. This cut it a little to close for comfort for me.

My brother, Kelly, drums for a local cover band and knows most of our songs; more importantly, he’s all about the playing and doesn’t have time for any drama, his real life is dramatic enough as it is. Paul quickly gave him a call, we scheduled an emergency Friday night rehearsal, and we went out to the middle of nowhere to play the private gig that had been on the calendar for months. We weren’t as tight as we’d been the couple of weeks before, but Kelly is a pro, Paul and Time are pros, and with Super Dave keeping everybody in the mix, we were still pretty dang good. Two weeks later, we showed up at Chasers and did it all over again with the same result.

We just don’t know what’s going to happen with JC, so Paul made the executive decision to go on hiatus for the foreseeable future, which means Chaser’s gig was probably our last of 2016. He and Tim have been getting together to mesh their guitar grooves; hopefully, I’ll get a call soon saying they guitarists are ready for a vocal rehearsal, work on some harmonies. As for what I’m going to do to get my performance fix, I haven’ decided yet. Upside to all the drama the last month? Lost ten pounds. Say what you want about the stress diet – it works.

It also means that invisible line we were just brushing up against has retreating out of reach again.

25 Years

DSVpatch As far as my musical life is concerned, everything has been turned on its ear. The band lost our secret weapon to health issues; my solo work guitarist joined a band; my new piano player and singing partner got called away to work on a Broadway album; so musically, I was a dead man walking during the holidays. Good news is the band has a new guitarist and vocalist, and our first official show with the new line-up is in two weeks, which just happens to be my annual Birthday Bash – I will have a Rock Star post about the bash soon after; and as soon as I’ve cleared the air with my two musicians, I’m hoping to have another post or two.

In the meantime…

I wrote this over on Facebook, decided I needed to go ahead and share this here. Because even though this blog is supposed to be about me becoming a Rock Star, this is part of who I am, and a big reason I am who I am.

It is the 25th Anniversary of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. When I joined the Army, it was three weeks after the invasion of Kuwait. I did not join because I wanted to get shipped off to the Persian Gulf – I joined because my work life was going nowhere, I was in love with a wonderful woman I could not support, and I was desperate to feel that sense of belonging and purpose I had back when I’d been a kid in Boy Scouts and JROTC. I wanted to belong to something greater than myself… but I also didn’t want anyone asking me why I didn’t have the stones to go off and do my patriotic duty. So even though there was a very good chance I’d find myself in the middle of a desert in six months time, I signed the paperwork, took my oath, and headed off to Basic Training a month later, September 25th, 1990.

I got my orders to go to Desert Storm on February 1st, 1991; I got married on the 3rd, and then graduated on the 8th. I took a quick trip back to Texas so that everyone I cared about would have one last memory of me laughing and smiling; and then I flew back to Augusta, Georgia, where I would spend the next week doing… well, nothing. Somewhere deep inside the Pentagon, it was still being debated exactly how many troops would be necessary for the Persian Gulf; while the Generals and Admirals made up their minds, I spent a week picking up garbage, mowing grass, and trying to stay out from underfoot. Even after I was shipped down the road to Fort Benning to be outfitted, there was still scuttlebutt our particular group of soldiers wouldn’t be called on, more than enough boots were already on the ground. So while we took possession of our still-wet from gun oil M16A1’s and fresh, never-before-used protective masks complete with atropine injectors, the ones of us with something or someone to lose kept hoping and praying we’d get left behind.

February 19th all that hoping and praying were for nothing. We all loaded up onto a double-decker jumbo jet, wedging all our gear in around us, and took off. First for New York City for fueling and supplies; then to Belguim for more fuel and fresh pilots; and then finally to King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. The trip took nearly twenty hours – even though we’d boarded around 6am, I stayed awake the entire flight. The last thing I wanted to do was rush this trip, so I did all I could to make the flight last as long as possible.

I’ve always had a high opinion of myself – I’m smart, talented, and semi-charming when I’m not trying too hard. I never thought I’d actually end up in a war zone – somehow, someway, the Universe would pull some strings at the last second, poke me in the ribs and exclaim “Psyche!” and put my butt somewhere else out of harm’s way. I was still holding on to that delusion five minutes before the jumbo jet landed – the pilot came over the loud speaker:

“This is your captain speaking. We’re coming up on King Fahd International Airport and are going to start our descent. Since we’re not sure what can of reception to expect, we’re going to corkscrew in so it’s harder to get a bead on us. If at any time I hear bullets bouncing off this aircraft, I will gun the engines and we will head back to Belgium. Attendants, prepare for final approach.”

Never before in my life had I ever prayed to be fired on – my prayers were not answered. Twenty minutes later, I was on the tarmac and carrying my gear towards an airplane hangar full of cots. And it hit me that I was not one of God’s favorites – I wasn’t going to get a last-second reprieve; I was going to war. Worse, I was no longer a person – I was just a thumbtack on a map signifying unit strength and placement. While I could say that I was truly a part of something bigger than myself for the first time in years, I’d done so by sacrificing my individuality. I was just a service number on someone’s clipboard somewhere, a faceless, nameless cog in the military machine. If I died, no one I cared about would know for months, maybe years.

(Maybe not at all. The Army had sent me overseas in such a rush, my records had become lost. I would be stateside six months before my records would catch up with me in Colorado.)

Since the 8th, every time I stepped onto a vehicle, some of the soldiers I knew and had trained with had been pealed away and sent somewhere else. Graduation had sent all the Reservists and Guardsman back to their homes, including my best friend and Best Man; the trip to Fort Benning had separated more of my old company; and after a night at the airport, the replacement detachment people divided up even more of my old squad. By the time I loaded up onto the old, rickety double-decker bus, I was by myself. No one I’d met in Basic Training was still with me. My support system was now the Army. I’d have to depend on the fact we were all in the same uniform to prompt my brothers and sisters to watch my back… just as they’d depend on their uniform to prompt me to watch theirs. Which is how my particular experiences differs from my contemporaries, my other friends around my age with military experience like my band leader – when they were sent into hairy situations, they were with the people they knew, soldiers they had trained with. They knew how each squad member would react in given situations, had some indication as to how their NCO’s and officers would lead them. I had none of that – all my friends, squad members, NCO’s and officers were gone. I was surrounded by hundreds of people wearing my uniform, and yet I was completely alone.

(Well… sort of wearing my uniform. While I had gotten a new rifle, bayonet, helmet, and protective mask, I had not been issued a Desert Camouflage Battle Dress Uniform – I was still wearing the Woodland Green BDU’s I gotten in AIT, the replacements for the set I’d been issued in Basic Training that no longer fit after I’d dropped forty pounds. The other soldiers that had been snatched up directly out of AIT were also in green BDU’s – the joke soon became if some sort of enemy aircraft came in for a strafing run, we should all huddle together and try to camouflage ourselves as an oasis.)

There is scared, and then there is scared… and then there is what I was experiencing. I was numb. It was as if someone had injected novocaine into my emotional core – I was thinking clearly, I knew exactly what was going on, I understood what was being explained to me and I followed orders to the letter… there was just no emotional response to any of it. I was scared past the point my system could process it, so it had stopped processing anything: no fear, no joy, no skepticism, no anger, no longing, no nothing. As far as emotions were concerned, I was a functioning corpse.

(While I was awake – asleep, I had nightmares of being chased by something horrible trying to kill me. One night it was Jason from the “Friday the 13th” series; the next night, it was the Alien aboard The Nostromo; zombies shambled after me one night; and one extra special night, it was the giant spider I’d first dreamed of when I was four years old, the jet-black horror the size of a VW Beetle that had haunted me ever since. Every night, I sat up, jolted awake by whatever it was pursuing me, trying to catch my breath and hoping I didn’t cry out in my sleep… only to realize I was in the Army, sleeping in the dirt with my field jacket as a pillow, in the middle of a war zone. And then I would wish I was still asleep – as terrible as the nightmare had been, it was less terrifying than the reality I was living.)

DesertStorm I was supposed to join an artillery unit that was laying down suppressing fire for the 101st, but my convoy got stuck waiting for a tank division to cross the one and only highway going our direction for four hours; by the time we reached the halfway station, it was after dark. Since it was pitch black and a wrong turn meant finding yourself inside the wrong end of Iraq, our bus driver refused to go any further – we’d carry on at first light. That night, February 22nd, the ground assault officially started; and by first light, the unit I was supposed to be joining was one hundred miles in country. The decision was made that I and the rest of the replacements would stay at the halfway station until our receiving units found a place to park.

(Replacements. The military estimated that there would be 30,000 casualties the first wave of the ground assault, so all of the units had the number of their personnel increased to 125% capacity. I and the rest of the soldiers I was holed up with were to replace those unit members injured or killed during the first wave, which is why a communications graduate was being sent to an artillery unit.)

I don’t pray often. Not because I don’t think it works, but because of the exact opposite – I do think prayer works, and if a prayer of mine is to be answered, I want to make sure it’s a situation completely out of my realm of control, as close to a miracle as possible. It’s rare when I pray, but I found myself gazing into the heavens that night. That far out in the middle of nowhere, there are no ambient city lights to interfere, so stars are visible all across the sky. In all my years of Scouting and volunteering with The Order of The Arrow, I had never seen some many stars. I had listened to everything my drill sergeants had been telling me since late September, I knew what was expected and what had been planned for, and I knew what my chances were expected to be. I wasn’t scared of dying – when you’re dead, you’re dead, nothing left to worry about – but I couldn’t shake something one of our drill sergeants had said weeks earlier:

“It’s not the bullet that has your name on it you have to worry about – it’s going to find you no matter what – it’s the one labeled ‘To Whom It May Concern” you gotta look out for. ‘Cause it don’t care who or what it hits.”

I didn’t want to lose my legs. I didn’t want to end up blind. I didn’t want to be maimed. I didn’t know how strong I could be, and I didn’t want to put my wife of less than a month through a lifetime of nursing me. So I prayed. I asked whoever or whatever it was that had me convinced there was a higher power at work to not let me be crippled; if going home whole was not to be, then please, just go ahead and kill me.

I then told the Universe I’d make it easy. I had every intention of going home. I had a new wife I’d never been on a honeymoon with, never lived with as a married couple with, and I’d be damned if I didn’t get the chance of experiencing the simple joys with her. I was going home, so whatever and whoever got in-between me and her had to go. I’d kill whoever I needed to, I’d destroy whatever I needed to, I’d become whatever monster I needed to be to make that goal. I wasn’t asking forgiveness – I was just stating fact. If I wasn’t to go home, then kill me now, because there would be no middle ground.

Four days later, the cease-fire was called. The middle ground wouldn’t be necessary – I’d be going home. And well sooner than expected: mine had been one of the last planes to land before the ground assault, so I was with stationed with a bunch of Independent Ready Reservists who’d been called up with just days left on their contracts. The IRR’s had careers and families back in the States, and their wives were hard at work, calling their Congresspeople to get their husbands sent back home ricky-tick. Their combined pestering worked, so instead of the six months I’d expected to spend in the Persian Gulf, I spent just under six weeks, long enough to earn a couple of medals and the right to wear a combat patch.

After that, life happened so fast, I didn’t have a lot of time to process what I’d been through… other than to notice my head suddenly sparkled. Where once I’d had a stray silver hair here or there, I now had hundreds of stark white strands all over. I moved my wife to Colorado Springs for two years of active duty; then to Arlington, TX for three years of Reserves while I want to art school at night, holding down a full-time job during the day. It wasn’t until after I got my orders moving my status to the IRR and I graduated that the war began to seep in. Not showering enough love and praise on my deserving wife was the first indication something wasn’t completely up to snuff; a lingering dissatisfaction with my day job and it’s lack of social significance another. But it was after the invasion of Iraq that everything came bursting out.

9-11 had been traumatic, but no more so for me than it was for any other American; the invasion of Afghanistan didn’t bother me, really – if anything, I was disappointed it had taken weeks to get to doing what I thought would be undertaken the week after the Twin Towers came down; but when the military went into Iraq, something inside me snapped. Iraq had been my war, and my war had been over for a decade. I had gotten accustomed to my participation being overlooked or even forgotten… and yet, here it was: boots in Iraq, fighting my war all over again, restarting what I had been led to believe had been finished. As I watched the news, as I saw the troops land inside my war zone, I began to sniffle. Slow tears began to slide down my cheeks. I wiped my eyes and went back to getting ready for my day job, making pretty pictures to sell couches to the Middle class… only the tears kept coming. Not a sobbing fit… just slowly tearing up, clearing my throat and wiping me eyes, over and over and over again, for the next three days.

For three days, the only time I wasn’t crying was when I was asleep. I stayed home from work. The counselor I’d started seeing after my marriage had started to crumble was sympathetic, but not much help. If I wanted the tears to stop, I’d need to confront all the stuff I’d buried a decade earlier.

There’s an unspoken truth to being a soldier: you’re only truly a soldier when you’ve done your job during a war. Whatever you’re particular job specialty, part of what you train for, part of what you prepare for, is doing that job in the field during a combat operation. And while the training and preparation is vitally important, it is still not the real thing; soldiers with combat patches – sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously – get afforded a higher level of respect than soldiers without. I had a combat patch; I had felt that respect while I served; but I also felt like a fraud – I’d only done half my job. I knew what it was like to stand up and be counted, I knew what it was like to be ready to lay down my life, and I knew what it was like to be in a war zone surrounded by not just enemies, but FEAR… but I didn’t know what it was to be under fire; I didn’t know what it was like to be counted on to protect my brothers and sisters; I didn’t know what it was like to take another life in defense of everything I hold dear; and I especially didn’t know if my courage would hold true in the face of hopeless odds.

During the war, I’d been prepared to do terrible things – now, years later, part of me was thankful I’d never had to do those terrible things; but just as large a part of me was wracked with guilt I hadn’t done those terrible things. Thankful I hadn’t had to do a terrible job, but left feeling like a fake because I hadn’t had to do a terrible job. And now that ground forces were back in Iraq, I was thankful I wasn’t there with them, yet feeling guilty that I wasn’t still serving my country; and worse, even more guilty for feeling thankful it wasn’t me overseas a second time.

For years, my wife and I would see and read reports of people who’d never finished their military contracts finding themselves called back into uniform years later. People a hundred pounds overweight, grandmothers in their 50’s, high-paid executives who had forgotten to resign their commissions, all being backdoor-drafted back into serving. And even though I knew my contract was over, I’d received my letter saying I’d been removed from IRR roll, I still went to the mailbox every day with dread, half-expecting to find the letter commanding me to go to my nearest recruitment center, half-hoping to find that same letter so the dread and the guilt would finally be over.

I was at home, in-between freelance assignments, when the troops officially left Iraq a few years ago. I cried as I watched the convoy cross over the border. Since that day, I haven’t had a nightmare about being reenlisted in the Army – while there were still troops in Iraq, I had that nightmare every six to eight weeks or so.

It is the 25th Anniversary of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. It’s the middle of an election season, so the anniversary of the ground assault has been overlooked and ignored by the media except for the military magazines and newspapers. It originally took about two years for me to go from being an American hero to a footnote. Back in 1993-94, the economy was starting to improve, unemployment was dropping, and the stock market was beginning a meteoric rise. The Persian Gulf had been the former President’s war, and he was gone, replaced by charismatic Southerner who had never served in uniform. No one was still itching to shake the hand of a veteran any more – they all had important things to do.

After the caskets started coming back week after week, month after month, after “Mission Accomplished” had been declared, suddenly the same folks who’d had important things to do ten years earlier were crying as they hugged me, thanking me for my service. by 2006, I was back to being an American hero again.

Another ten years have passed, and I’m back to being a footnote. The veterans of Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom are probably starting to experience that sensation, as well. No one is talking about the “advisors” that are still in Iraq and Afghanistan, no one is talking about the backlogs in the VA hospitals, and no one is talking about the suicide rate among the recently discharged veterans.

It is the 25th Anniversary of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Since mid-January, when I haven’t thought about my 50th birthday party bash in March, I’ve looked at the calendar and remembered where I was 25 years ago. This isn’t just my 25th Wedding Anniversary, and this isn’t just my 50th birthday… this is the 25th anniversary of my becoming a Desert Storm veteran, and like it or not, that is just as important as the other two events. I’d be lying if I said there were never times I wished that wasn’t the case… but it is what it is. And I am who I am.

Working? Playing? What’s the Difference?

Bad Reputation

Bad Reputation, a Joan Jett tribute band and one of my favorite shows to see…

As a graphic designer, especially in the early days after graduating art school, I spent a lot of time at my desk staring at my computer monitor. To the untrained eye, it would appear as if I was just gazing into space, goldbricking on the owner’s dime; those with any experience with computer programs and large files, however, could tell that what I was actually doing was keeping track of the progress bar, waiting for my software to complete its job. On more than one occasion, at more than one job site, I’d have to point to my monitor at the bar/pinwheel and address the shop owner over my shoulder, “See that? That’s my computer chugging away. So if that progress indicator is working, then so am I.” Such honesty wasn’t always appreciated, but I also never mastered the ability to look busy while I waited for my files to load, transfer, batch, save or archive – when I was stuck at my desk at the mercy of my software, I was stick at my desk at the mercy of my software. I did learn a truth early in my career: a lot of people I was going to be doing work for would not understand the ins and outs of my particular profession – a lot of the practices they associated with a desk job wouldn’t apply to my career field, and a lot of the practices that did apply to my career field wouldn’t look like I was working.

The same thing holds true for Operation: Rock Star. A lot of what I do looks like I playing or just plain wasting time. That is just not the case.

Singing is the most fun I’ve ever had with my clothes on, and I love it more than I love anything else, but don’t be fooled – singing is work, especially if you’re doing it right and you’re doing all you can to give the audience the show they deserve: you’re utilizing your diaphragm; you’re breathing in all sorts of weird ways to maintain support of the song phrasing; you’re dancing around on stage; you’re coming up with stage banter or adjusting to equipment snafus on the spot; heck, just the being upright for the three to four hours of a show is tiring. If all I did was show up five minutes before the show and leave five minutes after the show, I’d still be exhausted at the end of the night.

But I don’t show up five minutes before the show or leave five minutes after the show – I’m at the venue the same time as the rest of the band for load in, two to four hours before showtime, even if the band leader has enough roadie help that I don’t have to pick up a single piece of equipment; I don’t leave the venue until all the equipment is loaded up, an hour to ninety minutes after my last song, even if our contract stipulated we’d be paid by check. I’m there with the rest of the band for a few reasons; if someone needs to drive to a store to pick up a replacement part or supplies of some kind, I’m available to run errands while the roadies finish setting up the gig; I can schmooze the bartenders, waitresses, venue owner, and/or patrons before the band’s first downbeat while everyone else is tied up making sure the lights and sound work; and most importantly, I’m a member of the band, not a prima donna lead singer – if the band is expected to show up at 7pm for a 9pm showtime, then I’m there at 7pm for a 9pm showtime. Showing up and leaving with the rest of the members of the band means that a four-hour gig 9pm-to-1am gig translates into a seven-hour work shift, not including drive time. That’s a day at the office.

Rock Theory

Rock Theory, my brother’s crew and the best classic rock cover band in Dallas…

That’s just my band’s gigs – attending other bands’ gigs is work, as well. Yes, I’m there to listen to great music while enjoying a beer or two, but that’s the least of what I’m actually doing: I’m looking at their lights and checking out their sound system, comparing it to my band’s set-up looking for a faster, cheaper, better way to put on our show. I’m paying attention to the music in their sets, watching to see what songs the audiences are responding to best and if it’s a good song to add to my band’s wheelhouse. I’m checking out the venue, judging how many patrons are bar regulars versus hard-core band fans, how the bandstand is situated within the venue, how the owners and/or managers treat the musicians, and whether or not my band would be a good fit for the location. I’m listening to the vocals, analyzing the harmonies and the delivery of the melody. I’m studying the front person, listening to how they vamp between songs, watching how they move on stage and interact with the other band members during the songs. I’m networking with the band leaders between sets, because you never know where a gig referral or fill-in vocalist opportunity might come from. Even the open mic nights my partner, David, has been hosting are work shifts. Every opportunity to be onstage is a chance to practice my stage craft, hone my vocal chops, network with other vocalists and musicians, and hopefully make new fans – receiving a comped brew because I nailed the bartender’s favorite song is just a bonus.

I spend hours at my computer finding and printing out lyric sheets, watching and singing along with YouTube videos of songs I’m learning. I spend hours creating band events and uploading gig photos to the band’s Facebook page. I spend hours designing and producing gig flyers and promotional posters. I spend hours researching other band websites. I spend hours listening to other bands and artists perform their renditions of cover songs. I spend hours on t-shirt designs for our fans the band still can’t afford to manufacture. Even writing this blog is me working – not only am I using social media to network with fans, amateurs and aspiring professionals, but I’m forcing myself to analyze every aspect of this journey to document what I can and should be doing better to become a full-time vocalist. The only difference between Operation: Rock Star and my daytime job as a graphic/web designer is I enjoy Operation: Rock Star much, much more.

Gotta get back to work – found an acoustic version of The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down I want to show the rest of the band. In the meantime, check out some of my favorite area bands: Bad Reputation  Rock Theory  Vagrant  

And here’s that acoustic cover I’m in love with: from the AV Club Undercover series:

Dancing for the Desperate and the Broken-Hearted

I heard something over the weekend that broke my heart.

For a guy who took voice lessons and sings a little Italian to sound impressive, I’m not that big on opera. I like certain songs, mainly the biggies everybody’s heard – O Solo Mio, Nessum Dorma, etc. – but overall, not my cup of tea. Given the choice between going to a dive bar to listen to a little three-piece blues combo or heading to the Dallas Opera to sit through La Boheme, I’ll take the dive bar.

(Downtown to watch a rap crew or the Dallas Opera? Opera, every time. I am so very, very caucasian.)

For a dude not all that down on opera, I do love me some big, over-blown operatic rock tunes, though. Paradise by Dashboard Light, I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That), It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, Making Love Out of Nothing At All, and my all-time favorite, Total Eclipse of the Heart – total rock opera, baby, and I LOVE THEM. The melodic, almost music-box beginnings; the build up in thematic intensity; the choral back-up singers; the big crescendo – I mean, DAMN, what is not to love?

Jim Steinman

Looks like the guy who’d write “On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red rose?”

Those with a serious musical background will notice more than just a theme running through those songs I picked: they were all written by the great Jim Steinman. Steinman was the composer, lyricist and/or producer on the epic Bat Out of Hell and Bat Out of Hell II/Back into Hell albums with Meat Loaf, which would be enough to guarantee his inclusion into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, but he’s also worked with artists as diverse as Billy Squire, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manillow, The Sisters of Mercy, and The Everly Brothers in his storied four-decade long career. If the song has that epic rock opera feel to it, chances are it was written and/or produced by Steinman.

Two of my favorite songs by Steinman appeared in a movie nobody but I and about three other people saw when it came out in theaters, Streets of Fire. Streets of Fire, directed by Walter Hill, is touted as a “Rock and Roll Fable,” and it tries really hard to deliver on that regard: the sets and wardrobe are all straight out of the 1950’s, but the music is all 1980’s pop and bar rock. The story is ridiculous: the leader of the outlaw bikers from across the way, Raven (played deliciously by a young Willem Dafoe) decides to kidnap the home town girl does good, rocker Ellen Aim (a barely legal Diane Lane, looking ever so rock n roll) for his own nefarious delights; Ellen’s ex-boyfriend, bad boy Tom Cody (Michael Paré, hot off of Eddie and The Cruisers), gets called in to rescue her; and along the way meets up with a tomboy ex-soldier McCoy (Amy Madigan playing against type), manager with little-man syndrome Billy Fish (the perfectly cast Rick Moranis), and doo-wop quartet The Sorels (featuring the then-unknown Robert Townsend); Elizabeth Daily and Ed Begley, Jr. also show up in the film because it’s the 80’s and they were in everything else back then. The film ends with a showdown between Cody and Raven featuring pickaxes, and Cody leaving Ellen to pursue her music career Bogie-style, driving off into the night with new best friend, McCoy.

Streets of Fire movie poster

I miss the days when movie posters looked like this…

You don’t watch Streets of Fire for the movie – you watch Streets of Fire for the music. The soundtrack is awesome – incidental music composed and performed by Ry Cooder, and features songs written or performed by Cooder, Dan Hartman, Stevie Nicks, The Fixx, and Jim Steinman. The two Steinman songs are the two tunes Ellen’s band, The Attackers, perform at the start and the end of the film: Nowhere Fast and Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young. Both songs are performed by session musicians under the name of Fire Inc., with lead vocals handled by a blending of the voices of vocalists Laurie Sargent and Holly Sherwood. Nowhere Fast is a hard-driving rock anthem with a great beat, but Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young, with The Sorels joining The Attackers on stage to fill in all the choral parts, is pure unadulterated Wagnerian rock opera.

I found the song on YouTube and played it for my Lady Fair, who immediately added it to her list of tunes to add to her mp3 player. We were driving out to my parents’ house for a day of poker and smack talk, when the tune came on – my lovely wife was piping her mp3’s through the SUV’s stereo – and the Lady Fair commented that while she adored the chorus, she kinda hated the verses.

“Hate the verses?” I responded. “How can you hate the verses? The verses are great! The verses are cheesy and sugary and over-emotional and completely overblown – I LOVE the verses!”

“I’ve got a dream ’bout a boy in a castle
And he’s dancing like a cat on the stairs.
He’s got the fire of a prince in his eyes
And the thunder of a drum in his ears.”

“But it’s only a dream and tonight is for real
You’ll never know what it means
But you’ll know how it feels
It’s gonna be over (over)
Before you know it’s begun
(Before you know it’s begun).”

“It’s all we really got tonight
Stop your cryin’ hold on (tonight)
Before you know it it’s gone (tonight)
Tonight is what it means to be young.”

My wife kept looking at me like I was speaking Klingon. “Sweetie, the song is about being 19, 20, 21 yrs old; old enough to start making a mark in the world, but still young enough not to have given in to cynicism, to still believe you can conquer all as long as you keep your faith. It’s about feeling your blood flow and your heart race, too inexperienced to know why, but just mature enough to realize you have to act on that emotion now before you lose the momentum. And it’s about sharing that momentum with someone else, some other young maverick, if only for one night, in that one perfect moment. ‘You never know what it means, but you know how it feels – it’s gonna be over before you know it’s begun, Tonight is what it means to be young.’ DAMN. That’s EXACTLY how I felt at 21.”

I got serious, and pointed at the radio. “When I’m on stage with the band, and everything is gelling – the guitars are in synch, everybody is feeling the beat, the crowd has joined in and the entire band feeding off that energy, and I hit that one note strong and true, and it soars, and the crowd responds – THAT is what it feels like. THAT is why I’m trying so hard to make this band work: so I can keep feeling THAT.”

For a long moment, she didn’t say anything. Then my Lady Fair, the love of my life, my soul and inspiration, looked at me with tears in her eyes and admitted, “I’ve never felt that way in my life.”

And my heart broke.

I never met my father-in-law, he died of cancer my wife’s senior year. The sickness had been slow and ugly, and as much as it pained everyone involved, his passing had also been a relief since it meant the suffering was over – it also meant my wife’s childhood was over. I’ve spoken before about my Lady Fair’s ongoing struggle with Depression, but I haven’t mentioned her struggle with dyslexia and its lesser-known cousin, dyscalculia (just like her letters, my lovely bride gets her numbers out of order, making it almost impossible to do long-division or algebra). Back in the 70’s and early 80’s, back before everybody and their dog admitted they have learning disabilities, my wife’s pretty freakin’ obvious problems were just dismissed by her teachers and administrators. My mother-in-law, bless her heart, didn’t know how to respond, so she just went along with the school’s assessment – as a result, one of the smartest women I’ve ever met grew up thinking she was dumb; and not just dumb, but unteachable. My wife – who can take apart and reassemble the VCR, wired the living room for surround sound, and installed the battery and battery cables in my Mustang – was flat-out told she’d never be able to attend college. “You don’t have the capacity, dear, but don’t worry – not every little girl is meant to get a higher education. You’ll just need to find yourself a husband, be a good housewife.” Because she wasn’t part of the norm, my Kristi was ignored; worse, because she was a girl, my Kristi was written off.

And I knew all of this, knew about the blow she took from losing her dad, knew about the learning issues, knew most of her teachers never gave her the attention she needed or deserved, knew it all contributed to decimating her self-esteem – it just never occurred to me it all contributed to my beautiful Kristi growing up without inspiration, without passion.

I still think it’s counter-productive to give out awards to kids for just showing up on game day, but I also think it’s vitally important that kids feel supported in whatever they feel passionately about, that they be given all the help and tools they need to be successful. No one deserves to be ignored or written off, everyone deserves to feel the passion and inspiration I get to enjoy as a band member, writer and artist. I am very, very lucky, but right now I’d give anything to give any and all of that luck to Kristi.

Go hug your kids.

Dookie Occurs

Last Friday night was going according to plan as best it could – David had been feeling poorly most of the week, so I scuttled our last chance at a rehearsal so he could stay horizontal for a couple of days, heal up before our gig; but beyond that, everything was copacetic: got a last-second Facebook announcement out, had more than a few RSVPs from my email blast earlier in the week, the Lady Fair had gotten home late, but early enough to hit the road with time to spare, the PA was in the SUV, and my hair looked fabulous. My sweetie changed her cloths, I splashed on some cologne, we piled into the Saturn, and we sped off to Greenville – with the normal slowdowns over the lake heading to Rockwall, I was only going to be maybe ten minutes late – completely acceptable when you’re aiming for an hour early and you only need a half-hour at most to set up the gear. Just as I pulled up to the venue, I could see the patio was packed; I could also see the guitarist serenading the guests. My thought was, “We’ve got an opening act. Okie-dokie. Let’s hope he finishes quick.” I pulled into the crowded loading dock and was met by my visibly upset partner before I could kill the SUV’s engine. “We’re cancelled. Gig’s been double-booked.”

The patio was a wedding reception; inside had a jazz-ish duo on a keyboard and guitar. My partner and I were one musical act too many.

David & Keith @ Landon's Winery & Bistro

Not quite…

I got out of the car and grabbed my smart phone, quickly posting to my Facebook page the gig was kaput. I posted on the event page, then tried to contact my parents to warn them off – too late, they’d already been there 10 minutes, they’d been inside confusing the hostess about who they were there to see. With Mom’s help, called the other RSVPs of the scheduling conflict. Once all the announcements and phone calls were made, I invited David and our booker, Julie, back to the parent’s place for some wine and fellowship – they declined and headed off to their necks of the woods; my Lady Fair and I headed to Mom and Dad’s to ponder life’s mysteries and view my folks’ photos of their trip to Ireland.

Julie, bless her heart, spent the majority of Saturday morning beating herself up over the snafu; separately, David and I told her the same thing: don’t take it personally, it’s just business. Jules got the message and is now hard at work trying to pin down a new location for the David & Keith Show.

I’ve spent the last eighteen years as a graphic designer, web designer and production artist, three jobs that just thirty years ago would have all been lumped together as commercial artist. In the commercial art field, you’re expected to have all the creativity, talent, and skills of an artist while maintaining all the discipline, ambition, and teamwork found in a business professional – you literally have to keep one foot in one world ruled by half of your brain and the other foot in another world ruled by the other half of your brain; and it’s the inability to keep those conflicting demands balanced that scuttles most rookies. I can do the balancing act, I can keep all the plates spinning, but I don’t enjoy it – one of the biggest reasons why I’m trying to become a rock star.

The upside to the eighteen years of playing with crayons while wearing a tie and sports coat is I learned a while back not to take things personally. The suit from the suite on the 18th floor didn’t like the layout – that’s not the same as being told you did a lousy job or that you’re a crappy artist; it only means the suit from the suite on the 18th floor didn’t like the layout. Once you understand this, once you understand your job isn’t to create the most awesome layout ever, your job is to make the suit happy by making their sometimes bass-ackwards ideas the best the idea can possibly be, you find your job gets a hell of a lot easier. Not easy, mind you. But easier.

Same holds true for gigging, especially in a city full of locations but lacking in hard-core fans. Bars in Dallas, Fort Worth, and the surrounding metroplex are primarily owned by entrepreneurs – there’s a handful of big name franchises like the House of Blues and Gilley’s, there’s a resort or two like the Gaylord Texan, but by and large the places willing to book me and my crews are mom-and-pop joints. It takes two personality traits to open a bar: an insane belief in yourself and an utter disgust of the 9-to-5 grind. These traits make for some damn fun people to have at your party, but a booger-bear to deal with on a professional basis: always expecting you to make time for them, always expecting you to be gracious while they’re allowed to chip at your pride, always expecting some kind of compromise which entails them getting everything they want while you get to feel fortunate you got a deal at all. And God bless ’em, that’s part of their job as owner and operator of a venue: paying as little as possible for as much value as possible. Would be nice if some of them were a little less dick-ish about the process, but like I said, it takes some major stones to think you’ve got what it takes to succeed as a bar owner in this town – superiority complexes come with the territory.

And it’s not like musicians are that much better. The better the artist, the more they’re apt to think they walk on water while needing constant ego stroking – which manifest in them being just flat-out flaky. Forget about trying to get  a decision on something pertinent, signatures on a contract, or getting your phone calls and emails returned in a timely fashion – you’re lucky to hear from them within the week. AND THEY ARE NEVER SATISFIED: Lead guitarists are pissed they’re not getting as much of the spotlight as the lead singer; lead singers are pissed the lead guitarist never has to worry about sore throats or sinus infections; bass players are pissed they’re constantly overlooked by the audience and taken for granted by the band; and drummers just want all the gawd-dang drama to go away so they can get back to beating the skins and having a good time. If you’re lucky, you get to deal with professional musicians that are professional; if you’re unlucky, you get to deal with prima-freaking-donnas. And today’s professional can be tomorrow’s prima donna at any time.

When I made the decision to branch out musically, the first person I contacted after clearing my plans with Paul and getting on the same page as David was Julie – Julie was starting a promotion company, I knew I didn’t want to book gigs if I could avoid it, so I happily partnered up with her. I knew from the first day there would be problems from time to time: she’s an attractive women in a town filled with good ol’ boys dealing primarily with alpha males on one side of the business and touchy-feely creative types on the other – shit would happen, there’d be no way to avoid it. With luck, when the dookie did occur it would be the alpha makes and/or touchy-feely creative types to blame and not my dear Jules, but I was still prepared to not take it personally if Julie stumbled.

I don’t know what happened Friday. I didn’t take it personally. Moving on.

I’ve got David’s open mic night tomorrow, the band is playing a rare mid-week gig Wednesday, then I’m headed to see my brother’s band Friday for what is rumored to be their lead singer’s last gig – if I have any energy left over, one of my other favorite groups is playing the nearby biker bar Saturday night, would love to hear more from their completely amazing new female lead singer. With any luck and more than a bit of hard work, by the time next month’s Friday night David & Keith gig arrives, the snafu will have been sorted out or a new venue will have been located.