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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

We Got Da Funk! (PG-13 for mild profanity)

I can't believe that I've waited this long to post this. I play in a band, Funk Shui, and lately we've been firing on all pistons. Consisting of five teachers and a farmer, the band practices constantly and gigs rarely. We played a scheduled gig in Brentwood Park as a part of Summer Nights, the annual summer run of music put on by the city. A stage on a flatbed trailer that included a folding lighting truss gave us a great vantage point over the lawn area that was surrounded by a grove of trees that separated the lawn area from the streets of little downtown Brentwood. We showed up after having a couple of beers that afternoon, soundchecked, and then hung out behind the rig waiting for our time to play. Just at seven o'clock, we rounded the corner and marched up the steps to an explosion of cheers and clapping. Looking across the lawn area, we saw that the park was JAMMED with people, including several dozen friends, neighbors, and close to one hundred students. We were told later that an estimated five hundred people turned out and more would have come but the police had to close the state Thruway and it appeared like it would rain. I said to myself, "it's all happening" quoting Almost Famous, the great Cameron Crowe film of a rock band I wouldn't mind sounding like. Each guitarist banged out several notes to balance sound, the drummer played a couple of fills, and we were ready to begin. With the drum cadence that starts the guitar riff to "Play That Funky Music" we were off. Bart, the lead singer, encouraged people to come up front of the stage and dance and what happened was something out of Lollapalooza - all of the kids and many adults bum-rushed the stage and made the most of a "mosh pit" that middle- and high school kids could create. We ripped through close to an hour of music, having fun, emulating our favorite rock bands, seeing people we knew, and smiling and pointing at friends and spouses when we could. We slowed things down to cover Otis Redding's "Dock Of the Bay" but one by one, each vocal mic and guitar amp began to hum at an extremely loud mid-ranged pitch. We stopped just before the bridge ("where's that confounded...") to see what the problem was. Chalking things up to Friday the 13th, we decided to put that song to rest, maybe to return later. Picking up with the next tune, we became the Ohio Players and really funked it up. "ROLLA COASTAAAAAAA of LOVE" "Say What?" "ROLLAAA COASTAAA, AA A AA OOOOH OOOOH OOOOH!!!" Making our way through a couple of verses, really tearing it up, we were ready to just nail the ending. "ROLla coastaaa of lo... ro... a c a s t ............" Turning, we all realized that Welling, the bass player, was frantically trying to get sound to emit from his amp. Nothing. Nada. Dead. Put a fork in it. Oh, God, please don't do this to us, I thought. We stopped the song, and told everyone that we were experiencing some technical difficulties and asked if everyone if they could please stand by. Soon, two minutes turned into five minutes and we told everyone that we would just take a break, so smoke 'em if ya got 'em type thing. Rushing behind the stage, Welling frantically ripped off the pickguard, fiddled with some wires and knobs and announced, "My pickup's burned out. My bass won't play."
OOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH FFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUdge!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! was my thought. None of us knew what to do. We stood there like deer in headlights, praying that we wouldn't have to end the gig. Suddenly, someone ran up to us and said that they had two basses at home and that they'd run and retrieve them. It must have taken them ten to fifteen minutes, and in the meantime, I was interviewed by the local paper, my friends were swamped by their students, I met one of my student's parents, friends told us how much fun they were having, and the entire time, I was developing my first ulcer. Finally, the basses arrived, we were able to get up on stage, tune, and play. I turned and yelled to Welling, "whoever gave you that bass, you'd better fellate that guy!" Thankfully no one heard, but we started off the second set with a spirited r & b cover and the night ended on a high note. Playing for another hour, we ripped through The Cars, Steppenwolf, and even closed with our best AC/DC cover. We thanked everyone, they cheered and applauded, threw flowers, asked for autographs, we were interviewed and photographed by the paper, and went to Pee Wee's for a beer, reveling in the greatest pubescent wet dream one ever had: we were rockers, and we kicked butt.

Monday morning, I donned my collared shirt and slacks, grabbed my papers and textbooks, and discussed the impact of the Townshend Acts in 1768, all the while thinking that some of these kids just two days before were giving me the Ronnie James Dio "devil horns" hand signs. Too cool.