Sunday, October 3, 2010

Road Crew

So my Hamer bass seems fine, even though I can't adjust the intonation screw very far after screwing it up the other morning.  Not a happy ending yet, but I can play the thing. 

Speaking of music, I was thinking about my old friend "Matt" this morning (not real name).  We met in music class at Coral Gables HS around 1980.  The teacher pointed at us in turn around the room, and we stated our name and if we played whatever musical instrument.  I said, "Roger, I play bass guitar."  I noted Matt looking sideways over at me, regarding me briefly.  It got to his turn, he said, "My name's Matt, and I play guitar."  I likewise noted him...  Matt was a big kid, had near shoulder-length hair and wore one of those blouse-like, big-sleeved Indian shirts.  He had a diamond-stud earring.  He was a rocker, from the blues-based school of the Big Electric Jam.  We got together later and talked about playing, Matt had a band started with some other kids not in school, and his friend who played "excellent guitar" had just arrived from Missouri.  I was pretty psyched, being at the bass only about a year by now.  Everything was still new and unknown, and here I was meeting a new crew of folk who just wanted to play.  That's just what I wanted to run into.

I met Matt's friends, we became "Papa's Will"- named after an early Ted Nugent song.  Matt had the "Band Box", wherein lived all the cables, some pedals, general stuff that served as the utility/first-aid kit for all the techie needs of a rock band.  Tuner, string-winder, etc.  It was an institution, that Band Box, and Gawd help you if your hand wandered into its recesses... you were quickly-but-good-naturedly, and perhaps sharply on a particularly intense day, chided for the intrusion.  You just... didn't do that.  It was Matt's own territory, and because we all dug Matt and because he was danged good at that kind of thing we went with it.

Matt could fit 2 guitar amps, a bass amp, the Band Box, 2 guitar cases and a bass case, a cooler of beer, a duffle bag of hardware and several other considerable, bulky items into a '69 Volkswagon Beetle.  He loved it, was good at it.  Matt ended up years later doing road-tech work through Mesa-Boogie.  He was  Bill Wyman's bass-tech for the duration of the Rolling Stones' "Steel Wheels" tour- a year and a half or thereabouts.  He's got several evenings' worth of entertaining stories about being backstage in the presence of Keith Richards, failing at getting Carlos Santana's signature sound tweaked-in during a performance (Carlos gave him a brotherly, forgiving bear-hug immediately after the high-intensity stress episode, right on stage), his dad meeting him back-stage before a Rolling Stones show.  When he came back from touring we all sat around a table listening to his war stories, enthralled, over a few beers.  It was great fun to have been only a degree away from all these people we grew up listening to.  It was great for Matt to have been able to share it with us.

Now my high-school years were pretty ungainly, and I wasn't very good with people much of the time.  The fact I had friends at all, well I sometimes think it was just because I could play 17 notes in a row on 4 strings.  Matt found himself at odds with this trouble of mine at times, and honestly I have to say here that I did more to compromise my friendships with most of my associates than I actually ever saw the results of.  I had patient friends who were more complete as people, more mature than I.

Anyway after Matt returned for a visit from the rigors of the high-profile road, we pulled the band together and had a little reunion gig at a local club.  We were going to video-record it for posterity.  Matt was now a seasoned veteran of the "Road Crew" (Motorhead reference), and had always had a way of 'taking charge' of things; but now I found myself running around and doing a little sweat-dance to get my act together for him, who had sort of rounded up the organization of gear and logistics.  Now this was nothing new to us, but I, in my limited way of thinking, began to feel like an 'employee'.  This was a mistake and came largely from a baseless, semi-imperious attitude of mine that I had yet to see as a problem.  I wanted to relax, and to not be made to rush and push... but Matt was just trying to get this mess out of the way so we could all have a good time, you see.  I really don't think he was lording himself over us, though Iwas aware that I wasn't the only one who had noticed themselves "doing the hustle".  I was the only one who said anything to him though!   Naturally...  Anyhow I'm leaving out a lot of earlier history, but we'll suffice to say that I once again made myself an obstacle to my friend's just trying to get on with it, in his own, perhaps "robustly" assertive way.  We got on with it anyway, but not without incurring some feelings, which were going to retain some air in the remainder of the evening.  That was too bad, and that was the last time I saw Matt.  Really, I should have just given it to him, let him take and run the show... it was making him happy and giving him a place he liked in the order of things.  See, Matt wasn't the star of our band back when we started- he was at best an adequate, albeit enthusiastic guitar player.  He was, in fact, at a point early-on, retired from the band... yeah...

I have learned since then that it's okay to give a little for someone else' good time.  Especially when you get to be there too and take part.  It's taken a long time to get this far!  Hope I get to see Matt again someday.  And the band.  Miss my old friends, I do.

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