Thursday, July 4, 2002: Boar's Nest
Everyone said I was crazy.
"You can't play shows three nights in a row. That's insane."
And of course, they were right-I'm certifiably loony. But you know what? We pulled it off, and I'm proud to say that we did it with style. And grace. And LOTS of alcohol.
The craziness really started on the previous Thursday, when we all learned about the shocking death of Who bassist John Entwistle on the eve of the Who's tour. I was flying out to LA the next day to attend their Monday show at the Hollywood Bowl, and I just couldn't believe the news. I still flew out to LA to see my family, and to my surprise the band announced that the tour would continue. So on Monday night, I saw the first-ever Who concert without John Entwistle. I could write a novel about that night-in fact, I almost did. You can read that elsewhere on this site. Let's just say it was special.
While I was in LA, I got a phone call from Jon asking if I could learn a few Who tunes so that we could play them at our upcoming shows. I thought it was a great idea, but it also scared the shit out of me. After all, I'm the first to admit that I am not blessed with natural singing ability. It takes a lot of practice for me to simply not suck, and here I was agreeing to play songs live with absolutely no rehearsal-a scary task indeed. But as the Who are probably my all-time favorite band, I wanted to give it a shot.
I got back into Dallas late Wednesday night, and the next thing I knew it was Thursday night and time for gig #1 of our 4h of July weekend fiesta. Since the Fourth was on a Thursday, we all thought Greenville Avenue would be packed with Thursday night partygoers who didn't have to work the next day. Oops. I guess the whole city got drunk at the lake and passed out, because the street was a tomb that night. Thankfully, many of our friends turned out, or else we would have been playing to the bartender and the door guy. It was a low-key, relaxed show for the most part-until Simon joined us for the Who tunes. I haven't played on stage with Simon since a Carpenters (honest) tribute show back in 1994, so I knew it was going to be fun for both of us. And of course, Simon used to play with Eric and Mike and Jon way back in high school. We knew something crazy would happen, but little did I know that we would pretty much tear down the Boar's Nest stage with versions of "Baba O'Riley" and "The Real Me." Simon nailed Entwistle's impossibly complicated bass parts, Jon ripped his thumb to shreds doing Townshend's windmill motion, and all seemed right in the world for about 10 minutes. Keith Richards once said that on any given night, any band can be the best rock and roll band in the world. For those two songs, it may have been us. We were unrehearsed, sloppy, loud, and it fucking rocked. Too bad there were only 20 people there to see it.
After playing a full two sets at the Boar's Nest, our Friday Dada show promised to be a bit easier. No Neil Diamond tonight, boys and girls-it was time for SABBATH DADA SABBATH. That's right, an entire evening paying homage to the masters of metal. The band had one quick practice before I left for LA to learn the songs, and we settled on 2 tunes from the vastly underrated Sabbath tenure of Mr. Ronnie James Dio. Simon was again scheduled to play bass, as of course his love of Ozzy and all things heavy made him a natural choice.
When I arrived at Dada that night, I was surprised to find out that we'd be playing outside. And it was hot. In fact, I think I sweat more during that one three-song set than I did during the entire previous year. But once again, it was all good. We opened with "Heaven and Hell," the seven-minute masterpiece that remains one of the greatest hard rock tunes of all time. And yeah, I sang it like Neil Diamond. It just felt right. Up next was "Mob Rules," a song that Jon had earlier equated with "bad Sammy Hagar." Since I may be the only person in America who owns "Three Lock Box" on CD, I was personally offended by the statement and did everything I could to wail the tune in my best neo-metal voice. And I think I pulled it off rather demonically, thank you. After the success of the Sabbath tunes, it was time for "The Real Me" again. We didn't have Jay on keys this time (we missed ya buddy), but the Sabbath crowd roared in approval as Simon again took center stage. I stayed at the back, trying to avoid Simon's thrashing bass and Jon's frantic windmills. Damn it is fun to play Who songs-could another tribute band be in our immediate future? To quote Bill Murray in Ghostbusters: "I'd say that's a definite yes." By the way, those of you who left early Friday night missed Paranoid, a local Sabbath tribute band who absolutely rocked. Their singer WAS Ozzy, right down to the perfect tattoo replications. They made our decision to play Dio-era songs look like pure genius, as no one was competing with that act on that night. Joe Bob gives em 4 stars and says Check em out if you get the chance.
After the craziness of the prior two nights, one might have expected our Saturday show at the Barley House to be somewhat mellow. Everyone was exhausted-me, the band, our friends-but yet, here were were again. And you know what? We played what may have been the best show of our lives. Don't ask me how we did it, because I can't tell you. I'm sure it was a combination of things that made it a great show; we were well-rehearsed (for a change), the crowd was big and LOUD, and I think we all wanted to prove that we could do it three nights in a row and not give into the "my God, am I really in my mid-30s?" mentality.
As our first set progressed, the crowd became rowdier and rowdier. They were yelling requests (one guy even asked for a Pixies song), and the girls were dancing. I heard we missed quite a floor show, because of course the stage lights keep you from seeing everything that is going on down there. From what I was told, some rather intoxicated young ladies were practically falling out of their very tight tops. Rock and roll. After closing the first set with "Sweet Caroline" and watching practically the entire bar sing along, I had to admit that I experienced one of those incredibly rare moments where you realize that you have done something good and that life has a purpose after all. And if that purpose is for me to sing "Sweet Caroline" to the drunken SMU crowd, then I'm OK with that. After all, they like me-they really like me!
Any high I had from that special moment was immediately short-circuited when John "someday there will be a website or so he says but if he's not doing it then why am I writing this" Dietrich proceeded to bitch me out for not playing enough "dance-y" songs in the first set. I tried to explain that I was the singer for Diamondbag, not an Erasure tribute band. But I suppose that I see John's point-after all, the girls' tops were hanging on by mere threads, and "Cherry Cherry" might have pushed them over the edge.
As usual, we started the second set with Jon and Jay singing a couple tunes. Jon turned out great versions of "Jamabalya" and "Superstitious," and Jay got everyone dancing with "La Bamba." Then the crowd was screaming for "America," and they got it. After a few more tunes (including a boob-less "Cherry Cherry" and a rock-hard "Rock Me Gently"), we once again welcomed Simon to the stage and blew through "Baba" and "The Real Me" again. Wow-you could light a small city with the energy those songs ignite in us. Of course, after that the only question was: how do we top that? Well, we drink a lot of shots (some of which were provided by gracious audience members-thank you so much!) and play whatever people ask for. Which means, of course, that you get "Heartlight," "Song Sung Blue, "Porcupine Pie" (yikes) and even a Willie appearance on "You Don't Bring Me Flowers." We ended the night with encores of "Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon" and "Sweet Caroline" (do people ever get tired of that song?), and then played my favorite tune ("If You Know What I Mean") in what turned out to be a very nice set closer. But alas, the crowd wanted more, so Jon gave em "Great Balls of Fire." No, not the AC/DC song, you sickos. But now that I think about it, that might be pretty funny.
All in all, it was a wonderful lost weekend. Special thanks are due to the band for giving up their entire weekend to play, and to our wonderful friends for coming out to support us. It takes a special kind of sickness to listen to a Neil Diamond cover band on three consecutive nights, and you guys rock harder than The Who at Woodstock. Thank you. Also a special thank you to Tesch for helping out with the sound, and to the girls for keeping us lubricated throughout the gigs. And for those of you who came to see us for the first time in a long time, I hope you come back soon. I told you we don't suck.
John Entwistle, R.I.P.
"Long Live Rock"
Sabbath Dada Sabbath Tribute Night