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Balloons, Balloons, Balloons

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Balloons, Balloons, Balloons

I don't know what we were called at this point.  Puddle.  Milk without Love.  Lunch with Dick.  The Insensitive Lemmings.  But I do know there were only three of us, after our bassist, Emit, quit because of my alcoholism, and the fact that the band sorta sucked.  It wasn't the band's fault, really.  I put this one on my shoulders.

This would've been the spring of 1993 or somewhere around there.  I wasn't doing that many drugs, but I was still out of it, wide-eyed small town boy living in a big city world.  I was a mess.  I'd do speed when I could, or anything else I could, which was mostly weekends.  I drank a lot.  But I still had a job, a good job, making good money, and a nice place in Noe Valley.  I was falling apart...spiritually? conceptually?  compartmentally?  Hell, I was 23 and yearning.  That's all you need to know.

So the band sucked, but like I said, this wasn't Chris or Dan's fault.  They were just two degrees removed from almost hitting it big with their former lead singer, Adam Duritz, whose Counting Crows were about to take off.  Here's how far out of it I was, or rather how self-absorbed I was: Dan and Chris apparently talked about the Counting Crows and how they'd helped write those songs and the impact it would have on their own chances, and it wasn't until long after "Round Here" came out that I even made the connection.

Like the unholy melding (i.e., rock 'n' roll sin) of rock and rap, Puddle/Milk/Lunch/Lemmings tried to force two ill-fitting genres together, in this case, the melodic and catchy with 7/9 metal-tinged time signatures.  There are only a handful of acceptable time signatures in rock 'n' roll.  Really, 4/4, with the occasional sped-up waltz.  Odd timing signatures are the stuff of pimple-laden Rush denizens who look like Garth from Wayne's World.

Still, the bigger problem was that I couldn't sing.

Twenty years later, I've learned how to do it better, how to stay within my strengths, or rather how not to thrash and warble in my weakness.  Back then, singing to me was trying to get as high and grating and obnoxious as possible.  Which may've worked better if I was caterwauling over three fast chords at Gilman.  But I was, as I am now, a poet at heart, and one who loves pop music.

We were a study in incomparable contrasts.


The show was at Brave New World, and I'd be playing bass.  I was actually a decent bassist.  Not good, like Big Tom or Soupy, but I'd played bass with my band Something Like Paisley in CT.  SLP worked because no one played outside themselves, we knew... Ah, hell, the band worked because I wasn't taking drugs (uppers totally fuck with your ability to hear pitch) and drinking constantly.

I think it was a Wednesday.   Since I joined the band, our shows were going downhill, Bottom of the Hills on Friday had become Brave New Worlds on Wednesday.  No one was there.  I mean, I remember seeing like six or seven people at spread-out tables, including band member girlfriends, and there must've been a birthday party there earlier because there were a lot of balloons.  And I remember it was raining outside.  It was an ugly night.

I was drunk.  Really drunk.  A pint of Wild Turkey, whose 101 proof I'd find out is a lot stronger than Jim Beam's 80.  I don't how long after we'd started, how many songs in we were when it was obvious something was wrong.  Obvious to everyone but me, that is.  Apparently, I'd tuned my E a half step off (probably because I was seeing double), made worse by the fact that I was oblivious.  I don't think the other guys knew exactly what was happening; it was only when I'd thump away on the E.

It was brutal. The sound guy was laughing at us, Chris and Dan recoiling in shame--I mean, here they'd been almost making the big time, only to be relegated to a crappy Wednesday night with a shithead, asshole lead singer too drunk to realize he'd tuned his bass half a step off.

After the show, Chris quit, and I remember walking home in the rain, feeling sorry for myself.


Dan and I played together for years.  We got a little better, but he finally found a band perfect for him in the dreamy pop Hollyhocks (they play this Friday, 4/1, at the Hotel Utah, SF--[free plug, Dan!]).  I eventually sobered up, found and still have, the more Americana rockin' Wandering Jews (5/5, Red Devil Lounge), so it all worked out.  I guess.

Chris moved to that fucktard town of Austin.  I don't know if he's still playing music, stupid odd time sigs or not.  But apparently he still holds a grudge.  He won't accept my Facebook friend request.


At March 29, 2011 at 4:44 PM , Blogger Web said...

This led to the famous top 10 list of things not to do before or during a show!


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