Thirteen Basements

I went down to my basement the other day to look for an extension cord or something and I stopped dead in my tracks.  No, it wasn’t another mouse or a monster daddy long-leg, it was worse:  it was a band practice basement frozen in time.  My guitars in their cases, speakers strewn about hastily set down in the middle of the floor after the last post-gig load-in; printouts of chords and lyrics of songs to be worked on; mic stands placed haphazardly here and there; a zipped-up gig bag filled to the brim with carefully wound equipment cables; another bag with multiple microphones set into their foam resting places.  I also spied a massive and intricate spider web between the mixer and the drum set.  The day the music died was around March 13, 2020.  We all know why.

It got me thinking about my other basements of band practice pasts.  Upon reflection, most conjure memories of low ceilings, dank and dark, moldy and cave-like; some more spider-webby than others.  Some were finished and carpeted in completely livable lower levels with walkouts to fresh air, useful when needing a breather from the intensity of bandmate drama or creative juice overload.  Some band practice spaces weren’t basements at all.  They were apartment living rooms, upstairs bedrooms or rented studios, all transformed for the same purpose:  musical creation and comradery.

The tools of music have always been able to find their own rightful spaces next to weight-lifting equipment, exercise bikes, holiday storage bins, stockpiles of toilet paper and extra condiments and the aforementioned, extension cords.  The tools always had a higher purpose.  They had a reason for being there.  They were essential to a life well lived.

The fact that my current basement space has succumbed to paralysis and cobwebs due to global events beyond its control, is indeed, sad and scary.  They say you shouldn’t get sentimental about real estate, but this basement has served me well; better than the others.  It is bright and airy with majestic countryside views through copious windows, with plenty of lighting when things go late into the evening, complete with a spacious groupie sectional couch.  Plenty of room for even working on some background dancer numbers (no, but oh how fun that could have been!)  Oh what could have been indeed.

We continue to hold on to hope.  Happy Halloween.


To the Bitter End

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine October 2018

Some of us, as we grow older, tend to get a little bitter.  Things haven’t gone according to plan.  Life gets in the way, as it were.  Luck isn’t on our side.  The washing machine breaks along with the brakes in the car.  Our youngest child is addicted to video games and we can’t get him off his computer.  Our millennial children won’t move out of our basements.  Mice keep hanging around and leaving their droppings around the kitchen stove even though we have strategically placed the same dependable mouse traps where they roam and have, in the past, (humanely) succeeded in catching the rodents.  But just like that ingenious Tom and Jerry cartoon, they keep on skirting the devices, toying with us, and running around the kitchen like THEY are paying the rent or something!  And we still can’t master the art of folding a fitted sheet.  That sort of thing.  We become…. cantankerous.  Grumpy Old Men.  Mean Old Hags.

And that’s just normal people.  Don’t even get me started on musicians who get bitter tastes in their mouths because of all the stuff they have to put up with mainly because they never made it in the biz.

OK, I’ll start.

For starters, why does our tried, true and trusty gear get so freakin’ heavy?  We’re pretty sure it weighed the same when we bought it five years ago, but what has happened?  Has some magical bar dust accumulated in it weighing it down?  Have our speaker tripods mysteriously gotten higher?  Did somebody spill a liter of vodka into the speaker horn?  Have the bones in our hands simply whittled away making us incapable of lifting a darn thing?  Did we wash too many dishes perhaps?  Folded too much laundry?  And what’s with the nagging back pain in the middle of a gig?  We’re doing yoga and meditating and taking probiotics and wearing Solonpas and doing awkward stretches during sound check and stuff, so why do we just want to sit the frick down?  Have we vacuumed one too many times?  And what’s with all the yawning?  They say it’s contagious so if the guitar player yawns, then the bass player yawns and God forbid then the drummer yawns, and so therefore the tempos get slower, and so every song just drags on and drags on, and we’re all screwed.  We just want to go to bed!  Not with each other but just like, by ourselves, with our jammies from TJ Maxx, by like, 9 pm!  (that’s even before Jimmy Fallon gosh darn it, and he’s just so awesome cuz he sings and plays drinking games and stuff.)  And why oh why do we have to dress up like nasty nurses and Freddie Krueger and Michael Myers for gigs in October????  What the f has happened here?

Well I’ll tell ya.  There are two sides to every story so they say.  So here’s the flip side.

First of all, dressing up for Halloween is kind of fun, whether you have to do a gig as a band in costume or not.  You can be anything you want. For example, if you’ve always wanted to be a rock star, you can simply dress like one!  Want to be Lady Gaga pre-“A Star is Born” – do it!  Cher before she pre-retired?  Do it! School-girl Britney Spears?  Do it!  Ozzy Osborne eating a rat?  Do it?


Second, yeah the speakers and stuff keep getting heavier, but it’s kind of like lifting weights every night, which is better than spending your tip jar money on joining a gym and signing mafia-like contracts in order to lift said weights so you can gaze at single millennials who don’t know what they’re in for!  It’s a workout – for the soul!

Third, the tiredness at gigs could very well be our song choices.  Draggy songs lend themselves to draggy performances!  If you purposefully keep the pace up, by the end of the night, if the crowd is with ya, you’ll feel on top of the world with enough energy to watch Jimmy Fallon AND watch James Corden do karaoke with Paul McCartney and that’s all that matters!  (It doesn’t count if you watch it the next day on YouTube.)

Fourth, to combat back pain, lift with your knees!  Everybody knows that!

So finally, in this poor poor pitiful woe is us column, we are not going away.  We are here to the bitter end.  Stick with us, and we’ll stick with you.  Happy Halloween!