The following notes describe in oddly meticulous detail and heartwarming naiveté the very first Drogues performance at original drummer John Romero’s 2001-2002 New Years Eve party in Piedmont, Calif.
All right. We got the first official “gig” out of the way. Not a bad start. It was good to get some experience playing for others before the big February show.1 Originally, I think John was thinking of doing some acoustic numbers for the party guests. I’m glad that idea fell by the wayside—it was hard enough to get their attention in full racket mode.
As usually seems to happen, one of our band members was flying in from parts unknown the day of the show.2 Tue Nam3 came back from San Diego and had to borrow a bass from one of his neighbors as his was in the shop. He wound up with a beautiful (but f’in heavy) Fender P-bass. That thing had great tone, though.
Earlier in the week I decided to change back to using the Epiphone as my main guitar.4 I also went back to those D’Addario Chrome flat wounds, although the lightest gauge. The orange sets were durable, but I think a little too high tension for the poor Epi. I remember having to crank the truss rod after a while when I used them in the past. This smaller gauge has the great tone and playability of the others, but, I’m afraid, not the durability.
We sound checked with Dylan’s What Was It You Wanted? and BAM! I popped a B string. I’m pretty sure I had to replace the high E at practice last Sunday, so this doesn’t bode well for this set. I’m going to try and get the Epiphone set up properly before Feb. I think the brass nut may be part of the problem with the thick strings.5
After that shaky start, we opened with a decent Foundering. The extra time we put in practicing the ending seemed to pay off and we all hit the marks. We followed up with Frozen Town. I had a little trouble on the first “surf” part and fluffed a few measures before I found the strings (they were right there on the fretboard where I left them). I didn’t bother trying to hit the Octoplus, which even further diminished the impact of that part.
Instead of charging ahead as planned, we broke for a few seconds as more people arrived and started up with a pretty good Winter’s Bed and What Was It You Wanted? After practicing all those verses over and over, I was able to fill them all, although I had to repeat the second half of one. We did hit a groove that got their attention.
Next up: Expatriate and what was going to be the final song, Split. I totally choked the intro, somehow forgetting to remove the capo. Good thing I was trying some volume swells that may have minimized the clash. Note to self: Be aware!
More people were filing in wondering if we were going to play longer since they missed the beginning. Unfortunately, we decided to play The Foundering again. It was a pretty messy display, a disappointment after nailing it the first time.6
It would have been a shame to leave it like that, so we discussed what else might be tight enough to follow up with. After a little prodding, Mark agreed to sing Dredged and we did a nice, solid rendition.
All in all, not a bad start to what should be an exciting year of music.7
Favorite quote of the night: “What’s a Drogues?8
Second favorite quote of the night: “Can you guys play some Green Day?9
1 We had made plans to rent out the Tuva Performance Space by the Ashby BART station in Berkeley with the idea of packing the crowd with friendlies, recording it, and having a decent demo to give to clubs. The best-laid plans of mice and bands … We ended up playing there twice if I recall. It was a fun, funky spot, now gone of course.
2 This actually refers to an incident with Squint, the band Mark and I had in college. I was working at the Eureka Times-Standard when the calendar editor called over across the news floor, “Hey, I see your band is playing this week.” It was news to everyone except the drummer who I believe, oddly enough, had gone to San Diego. He flew back just in time to make what still stands as the weirdest gig I have ever played: the in-coming freshman orientation at Humboldt State. Go ’Jacks!
3 Ton, or as I fondly refer to him: TNT. A true gentleman and a better bass player than I’ll ever be.
4 Ah, the Epiphone Sheraton II. I used to beat that poor thing like it owed me money, and it just took it. Damn well-constructed guitar. One of my prized possessions, even though I did almost set it on fire playing a backyard Fourth of July gig with lit sparklers jammed between the strings on the headstock. Come to think of it, I almost set myself on fire as well. What an idiot. This was before my on-going love affair with all things bass.
5 Yea, the problem was with the break angle on the brass nut and not with my ham-fisted playing. Good thing I got that fixed.
6 Note to self: If you get something right the first time, hit it and quit. The Law of Diminishing Returns is a bitch.
7 We played a few shows and recorded a demo with Karen Stackpole, so considering we were starting from scratch, I guess it was pretty exciting, i.e., boring, frustrating, pants-shitting terrifying, and exhilarating beyond any other experience. Ah, rock ’n’ roll.
8 This question dogged us until the very end. I think the hardest part of being in a band was coming up with a name that everyone could agree on. I recall floating The Savants, which would have reflected our style and abilities pretty well all through the various iterations, i.e., crazy good at what we do, pretty much crap at anything else.