Thursday, April 20, 2006

Rock and Roll Lifestyle: Todd’s Bar & Grill

Though it was a nightmare from the beginning, our show at Todd’s Bar & Grill last weekend ended up being pretty rocktastic.

All of the shows at Todd’s are booked through a promoter named Zach. About a month ago I got an email from him saying that he was working on the April calendar and that he would schedule us in for the 15th.

My friend and former Twelfth of Never and Left foot Forward band mate, Rhett McCaughey, was planning on visiting Traci and I in April and I wanted him to play a show with us while he was here. I figured that the show at Todd’s was as good a show as any.

So the band went on rocking through March and April and I realized that I hadn’t heard anything back from Zach about the show. I emailed him to see what bands we would be playing with, the start time, the cover charge, etc, but I didn’t hear anything back from him. I left him a message on his cell phone, and then a second message. Nothing.

Doin’ Time

I finally got the following email response about a week before the scheduled show, and just a few days before Rhett was to arrive:

“Zach is in jail. Give Nick at Todd's a call.”

Zach’s in jail? Great. First our show in January gets cancelled because the man shut down the LoFi Café, and now our show at Todd’s would be cancelled because the promoter was in jail. (I don’t think this was Zach’s first time in jail. When he was booking shows at the Ritz I remember getting his voicemail and it said, “Hey, this is Zach. I’m not going to be around for a few months.” That struck me as strange at the time, but it seems to make more sense now.)

I kept trying to get a hold of Nick, but to no avail. Rhett was coming either way, so I needed to find somewhere for us to play. I checked the schedule at the Avalon, Kilby Court, Captain’s Quarters, even the Circuit, which we hate. Nothing was open. We were so desperate that I booked an opening slot for a metal band at Club Boom Va in Ogden. I was sure all of our friends would want to spend their Friday night hanging out with us in dirty old Ogden.

Pay to Play

Well, our time on the Club Boom Va bill lasted about six hours. That’s when the club emailed me back and said that they were excited for us to play; we just needed to buy 20 tickets at $6 a piece up front and then resell them. What? Sounded pretty much like “pay to play” to me. Oh no, they ensured me:

“its not pay to play. u just have to buy tickets to sell... you just need to sell them. then you get 40$ out of the deal.”

Hmmm. So we just needed to buy $120 (i.e. pay) in tickets and then we’d get to open (i.e. play) for a crappy metal band and then they’d give us $40 in return. That’s totally not pay to play. Oh, and we’d have to pay for the gas to drive three cars to Ogden. What was I thinking when I turned down the offer?

So now we were right back to no show again. I was getting really worried we weren’t going to be able to find anything. I had no choice but to ask my boss, Joy, if we could open for his band at a wine bar in Park City, playing for a bunch of 40-year-old women with leathery skin and bleached-blond hair.

That’s when we heard back from Todd’s Bar & Grill. Phew. Now all we had to worry about was playing all of our material with a guest band member on bass and Aaron switching to the guitar for the first time. No problem. Oh, and one other thing – we were the only band that Zach had booked for the night, so the bar wanted us to find a two or three other bands to play with us.

I didn’t think that finding bands who wanted to play a Saturday night show would be hard, but I was wrong. Four different bands said, “Yeah, we’d love to play, just let me check with so-and-so and I’ll get back to you.” Only one band even got back to me to say that they weren’t going to play. I never heard back at all from any of the others.

Saturday night came around and we were still the only band on the bill. Being the only band is no bigs if you have a ton of fans who love watching you late at night at dive bars. Well, between us three band members, we’ve got like 12 friends and we’d already stretched their affection over the past three weekends of shows. Four straight weekends is a lot to ask of anyone.

But I was confident that Todd’s Bar & Grill was a happening enough place that there would already be a bunch of people hanging out there, just waiting to be rocked. There were actually a half a dozen people milling about when we showed up at 9:30. Everyone seemed to be glued to the Ultimate Fighting match on the TVs in the bar.

I’m Coming Up, So You Better Get this Party Started

We started setting up our equipment in the empty room adjacent to the bar, confident that we would get the party going on the dance floor once we started playing. By about 10:30 we decided all of our friends had arrived – my sister and her husband, Danny’s wife and three friends and Rhett’s German roommate, Claus – so we might as well get started.

I had an interesting vantage point from where I was standing on the stage; I could see the above-stated friends to my right, and everyone in the bar straight ahead of me. With each song we played, the bar attendance slowly diminished. About halfway through our a set a lesbian couple walked in, looked at us for about 45 seconds and walked back out. And by the time we finished, the bar was completely empty, just our seven friends sitting there.

“Wow,” Danny said from behind the drum set, “I’ve never cleared out an entire bar before. Cool.” Now, that’s punk rock.

We played a pretty good show, but after we finished I was content to just pack up our stuff and hit the road. As I was moving some equipment, the sound girl came up to me and said that we had made $20. How is that possible? Apparently, we got all of the cover charge money. All of friends got in for free, which means that four people paid to see us play. Hey, $20 bucks is $20 bucks, especially when we never get paid at any of the shows that people actually come to.

So despite the difficulties, it was a good show. It’s always nice to rock and it was cool to have Rhett there playing with us. We’ll use the $20 bucks to get some punk rock pins made.

Now we’re going to take a bit of time off from shows; four shows in a row is a lot for us. We really need to sit down and finish the album we’ve been working on. Since we’re doing it all in my basement, the trick is finding time to work on it and deciding when it’s good enough to luck the world hear it…

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