A Funny Thing pt. 1

A funny thing happened at the “Beer Not Bullets” metal festival in Elmira

NY. Chaos Matrix, my 90’s thrash-metal 3 piece was booked to play a 40 minute

set. A late afternoon slot, which would put us in front of a lot of buzzed, half-

nude, massively tattooed and pierced mosh maniacs. Perfect. Rotating from

indoor to outdoor stages kept the live music constant and the mosh pit on the

move. Setting our gear up off stage for the changeover, the Drummer proved

some clichés true. “My cymbals are home”, he said like it was no big deal that we

were on in15 minutes and home was over 2 hours away. This is what the music

industry calls a Spat-mo or “Spinal Tap Moment”. Did our dear Drummer borrow

cymbals from any of the 80 drummers there who offered? Did wonder boy

improvise with trash-can lids and baking pans? Did this Army Vet walk two blocks

to the local music store to buy or rent some brass? Did this Einstein of the skins

invent a Star Trek teleporter and beam his sorry butt back home to get his

cymbals? Did this ‘artiste’ create a new style of no-cymbals metal drumming? Do

I ask too many stupid questions? So, before we could handcuff him to the risers

and ‘talk’ sense into him, the Dale Earnhardt Jr. of paradiddles jumped into his

girlfriends yellow VW bug and puttered off to get his precious brass. Leaving us

begging, bribing and bartering the promoter, the stage manager and the next 4

bands to switch sets with us. We hadn’t played a note and already owed money

for this gig.. along with giving away all our food and drink tickets and 6 cases of

beer and a pound of flesh (it was a metal gig after all). Two hours passed. We

had an indoor stage set. The band indoors before us finished and cleared the

stage while the outside band started. Time to get our gear set up. No Drummer.

We set his kit up. No Drummer. We tune and fidget and try to avoid the eyes of

everyone backstage. No Drummer. The outside stage goes quiet. The vortex of

bodies flows from summer sunshine into the dark, cool music hall. We stand

looking out at hundreds of potential fans looking at us anticipating a crushing 40

minutes of hyperspeed sonic assault. Instead it’s all breathing and mumbling and

shuffling. There is no house music. There is no Drummer. Minutes tick by as we

sit on our amps and try to look cool. Or invisible. At last, the rapid beeping of a

car horn. A cheap, circus clown car horn. The yellow VW is rolling up the

sidewalk in front of the club, right in the middle of everyone and everything. The

Drummer parks and walks in, shirtless with aviator shades and a case of cymbals

in each hand. Slowly he walks to the stage, slowly climbs the stairs and slowly

places a dozen cymbals on their stands. He asks to borrow my drum key. He

knows I keep a spare with me, because I know he doesn’t. Slowly he tunes his

drum heads. The room gets quiet-people are headed outside, cursing my band,

dissing my band, mocking my band. The Drummer asks if we get a soundcheck

and asks for water. He asks for a towel. He asks for the monitor to be moved. He

gets nothing but a scream from the stage manager. A two-word scream. I’ll let

you guess which two. So the Drummer shrugs, cracks his knuckles, counts in our

first song, “1,2..” and we blow the place up. The flow of bodies out the doors

turns around. They run to the stage, the mosh pit spins up, they roar along with

my barking vocals. All is forgotten if not forgiven. Our second song kicks in. The

crowd gets wilder. We look at each other with ‘we did it!’ faces. That’s when the

stage lights went out, our amps went silent, the PA went silent. The mosh pit

slams to a halt. The only sound was the Drummer flailing away at a beat no one

could hear anymore. Our time was up, the set was over. The would be fans

swore and booed and stormed out into the sunshine and puddles of keg beer.

Standing next to the circuit breaker box, the stage manger gave us one last

finger salute, and shouted out with a smile, “Show’s over boys, have a nice day!”

The drummer, slowly, began to take a dozen cymbals off their stands, asking

“How much we getting paid?” Spat-mo.

Herb


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