Monday, February 26, 2007
Roughly 20 yrs ago a couple of friends and I did what countless other teenagers have done over the past 40 yrs or so. We decided to form a rock band. The core members at the outset were Daniel Devereaux, Prince Rahman, and myself.
We ended up playing our first gig at a church dance. Now, I can't remember if we started our rehearsals having already planned on playing the dance, or if the opportunity arose sometime after we began practicing. Anyway, we ended up playing at a church dance. Thinking back, I don't believe we had more than two or three rehearsals with all band members present. Besides the three of us already mentioned, we had Robert Stiles (played in the Central High Jazz Band) on bass, and Marty Munoz (high school choir member) on lead vocals. At that first rehearsal, when Prince plugged in his sticker-laden electric guitar and chopped out a grungy "E", I thought "This is gonna be freakin' awesome!" So, we cobbled together a few practices. My wardrobe for the show was pure 80's Phil Collins - black shirt, narrow tie, grey pants, white sneakers. I can't remember for sure, but I seem to recall Daniel wearing a piano keyboard tie, although that may have been for the second show. Somewhere there is a picture of me at the drums for that first gig. The performance was at the LDS Chapel on Old Christoval Road in San Angelo, Texas. We had the curtains drawn, and my sister Jennifer announced us. Oh, we were at that time calling ourselves Culture Shock.
The performance, considering how naive we'd been about how much rehearsing we needed, was a resounding success. We opened with "Separate Ways" by Journey, and then in no particular order we played "La Bamba", "Talk Dirty to Me" by Poison (quite the rebellious choice, if I do say so m'self) and, being the garage band we were, finished with "Louie, Louie." But the song which IMHO sounded best was "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake. I thought it turned out wonderfully. I often imagine what it would've been like with regular, consistent rehearsing.
We counted it a success, with lots of room to build on, of course. I believe we were all high on our potential.
Music aside, another notable discovery we made was this: girls love a rock band (to a high degree without regard to the level of preparedness). Obviously we were no pioneers in this discovery. Our reaction seemed to be: "Hey, it works!" I remember Daniel commenting after that gig that there were some church girls who'd never spoken to him before who were suddenly talking to him.
Despite the encouraging results of the first gig, I remember the momentum kind of fizzling over the next few weeks. Another gig opportunity arose - a Valentine's Day doo-dah again at the LDS chapel. We had some practices, but I remember (please correct me if I'm wrong Dan) it seeming for a time that Daniel wasn't going to be able to participate (he eventually did, taking on bass guitar duties). Our set list was comprised of a couple other songs from the La Bamba movie soundtrack, Surrender by Cheap Trick, Twist and Shout (the Beatles version had just undergone a resurgence due to it's being featured in the parade scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off) and a couple of Prince originals, one being a bluesy instrumental jam, and the other a ballad called "The Girl On My Mind." For this gig Prince took over lead vocals/guitar, Daniel on bass/piano, Andrew Hobbs (a fellow Bobcat) on rythm guitar, and myself on drums.
Alas, our sophomore outing was a bust. The audience was not into it. They were mostly unresponsive, and of those that did respond a couple of people were openly heckling us with surprising malice.
Reasons? One could mention several things. I'd been the one lobbying for the other songs from the LaBamba soundtrack. The audience weren't into them like they'd been with LaBamba itself at the previous gig. Greatly to blame for handicapping those songs and others were my drums. They were a big problem, I feel. I could never tune my snare properly, which caused it to be very unresponsive. Finesse or restraint were out of the picture. I had to hit the snare with extreme violence for it to carry. One or two tunes just got washed away by it, creating a loud, oppressive din. Prince's original songs were the highlight for me. Unfortunately we'd lost the crowd at that point.
One of the worst parts was that there was a girl I liked in attendance. She was from Abilene. I'd told her about the band and she sounded excited. There was nothing worse than knowing she was out there seeing us tank. Seeing us get heckled. She did her best afterwards to help me put a bold face on it.
Bummed as we were, it couldn't have been too long before we regrouped and got back to rehearsing. I remember for the next couple of months having what were, for us, some pretty regular and consistent rehearsals. We'd picked up another guitarist in David Webb, and a bass player in John Fisher. David Webb was quite the individual - seriously into Pink Floyd. Don't know what he's up to now, but he was planning on studying to be a mortician. Didn't get to know John too well - he was a pretty laid back, unassuming type with a cool Texas drawl.
We changed our name to TYO, and I will let you draw your own conclusion about what the letters stand for. If you ever see me in person, and you are actually that curious about it, I will gladly tell you.
Practices were held mostly in David Webb's garage. Our renewed focus was due to a pretty awesome gig opportunity which would take place that April: PROM AID 2!!
Prom Aid started the year before as...PROM AID 1 !! The name says it all - fund raiser for the prom, obviously inspired by Band-Aid, Live-Aid, etc. Those in high school who were in bands submitted their audition tapes in hopes of getting on the bill. There were five slots.
The songs we ended up choosing for our set list were "Sgt Pepper's LHCB," "Born To Be Wild," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," Prince's "Girl On My Mind", Cheap Trick's rendition of "Ain't That a Shame," and "Wild Thing" as our finale.
There were a couple of factors turning in our favor for this gig. The first was that for the show there would be a professional sound system, ie. a large PA sytem, mixing board, monitors, etc. They even miked my drums! At the church gigs, we'd just had our amps and the church building mikes which were connected to the speakers in the gymnasium roof. The other factor was that a fellow drummer, David Keel, had very kindly loaned me several cymbals (I only had one) including a big 20" ride, his high-hat, and best of all - his snare, which was tuned to a Stuart Copeland grade tautness. At our sound check (I believe on wednesday - the event was friday) I was totally geeked out at the sound of my miked drums thundering forth. I though I was John Bonham up there. We tore through 30 seconds or so of Ain't That A Shame, getting quite the response from those who were there.
We were given the third spot. I remember the names of all but the first band to perform, second was a Christian Rock band called Keneniah, then us, fourth was an outfit called ETC., then last were a group calling themselves Pryzm. One thing we noted about a couple of the groups was that they seemed bent on producing note- perfect renditions of the hits (we were all essentially coverbands. I think that we were the only band that did an original - that being Prince's ballad).
We, on the other hand selected good garage band songs which would still survive and thrive if we didn't do them just exactly like the record. Faithful we were, to the spirit of our songs, if not the letter. That approach ensured we wouldn't freak out if something went awry. I believe that we as a band had a gift for not letting on, mistake wise, for mistakes there were. I don't fault the other bands for trying to be exact - their covers for the most part sounded great - especially some of ETC's, who covered Cherokee by Europe, and The Flame, by Cheaptrick. It's just that with the goal of sounding exactly like the record, any variance or mistake would end up feeling like a failure.
Performace night - we all were dressed pretty casually. I wore a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, as did David and John. Prince went kind of Steven Tyler-y, Dan went punk, complete with combat boots. I'd decorated my plain white t with a symbol made up of our band letters.
Daniel started off our set with the solo from Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in D minor, which elicited crescendos of cheers and applause. I counted four with my drumsticks and we kicked off the first song, "Sgt Pepper." I was tapped for lead vocals on it, and my mike was not working. Just as well really, 'cause if Paul really was dead, he would've been rolling in his grave. That song ended and we'd rehearsed going strait into the next song without a pause. "Born to be Wild" got us right back in business - ours was a pretty juiced up version. By the end of that song any nerves on our part were gone. We were energized yet relaxed.
Back during rehearsals we had penciled in, for this moment in the show right after after 'Born', a little fun at the expense of Radio Station B93, the main sponsor of the event.
The background: A couple of months prior to the show, B93 had changed their format to Top 40, which was about as radical as radio got in San Angelo. Anyway, for two or three days while they were doing the conversion they played the song "They're Coming To Take Me Away" non-stop. Non...STOP.
So, once "Born to Be Wild" ended, Prince said, "We got a little special one here, dedicated to B93" And we went right into "They're Coming To Take Me Away" with Daniel giving it a punked up vocal rendition. The crowd loved the joke. They actually realized what we were up to from the drum and tambourine intro, and even sang along! Anyway, Daniel continued to the end of the second verse, I believe, then yelled "Just Kidding!" We then kicked off "Jumpin' Jack Flash." The song went fine, the audience got into it. If they only knew how hard we'd worked trying to figure out some of those lyrics. Prince's ballad was next. Great example of our playing style. It was a simple song, just two chords. But it was a perfect mood changer for the middle of our set. Daniel had a great piece of inspiration on keyboards - it remains one of my favorite moments. Right at the start of Prince's guitar solo, Daniel went one octave up on the chords he'd been playing, which together with the guitar solo gave the song a beautiful lift.
Prince gave a bluesy "You done me wrong" monologue as the intro to "Ain't That a Shame" with David Webb giving an answering guitar solo after each line. Wild Thing had it's moments, but taken as a whole I feel like we rocked hardest on that song.
It just had this driving, thumping intensity to it. I like to think of it as our 'Beatles in Hamburg' moment - although none of us were high on Preludin.
For our big finale we had a show-bizzy element - a special guest. Tim Brunson was quite the character. He was in the drama club (I saw him in their production of "Whose Life is it, Anyway?"). Turned out he could do a spot on impression of Bobcat Goldthwaite.
So, after Ain't That a Shame, Prince announced that as a special surprise he was bringing in from off the street a "real Wild Thing." So out comes Brunson in hippy garb and the crowd went bonkers. Impersonating Bobcat, he went into a comedy bit, including a nice plug for the Prom.
Prince kicked in with the opening chords and "Wild Thing" was on. A perfectly riotous finale. Brunson remained on stage, having been given Prince's spare guitar to use as a prop, and he did - mimicking playing it with his teeth. He even sang along a bit as Bobcat. Daniel Devereaux gave the performance that "extra little push over the cliff" when he took a fake guitar (which he'd made himself) and smashed it on the stage.
What a rush. We felt excited. After all, there'd been about seven or eight hundred people there. I even autographed one of my drumsticks for one of the Tex-Anns. I cannot remember her name.
We stayed on to watch the last two bands, the final performance being by Pryzm. These guys had talent, no doubt. They also had some pretty potent backing. They were dressed in sharp glam rock threads and represented that 80's hair-band trend quite well. The drummer was sitting behind a wall of Alex Van Halen-style electronic drums.
Only problem was that when they launched into 'Dreams' by VH, those high-tech drums did not function. Only the drummer's high hat could be heard. They were visibly rattled. I think they may've soldiered through that one, but I definitely remember one of the songs was just ended right in the middle because the drums had cut out again. The lead singer did a jig to try to cover the frustration.
After the show he was seen conversing with various folks who were clearly trying to help him shrug it off. We were still on cloud nine with how our set had gone. Looking over at Pryzm's singer one of us said, "I kind feel bad for him." Then the fellow's super cute girlfriend passed by. "But not that bad."
We got some very good feedback. A couple of the sound guys told us that our set had taken them back to the sixties. I assume in a good way. One of the faculty members in charge said we put on the best show - referring to the banter, the joke regarding B93, Tim Brunson, etc. The coolest thing, however, was reading the review of the show in the school newspaper. The writer began, before offering some really nice comments about our performance, with the line: "This band rocked the house."
About six weeks later I entered the MTC in Provo, Utah. Two months after that I was in Buenos Aires, Argentina serving an LDS Church mission. The guys lent me lots of encouragement in my endeavors, sending me letters and taped greetings. I always kept pictures from that gig taped on the wall by my bed in whatever house/apartment I was living in.
We had some great memories, and I still hope we will create new ones.
Here's to TYO, and may they ride the lightning once again.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Stanley came home today after serving a two year LDS Church mission in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and environs. He had the look of one who has worked hard and has been blessed to see the fruits of his labors. In other words, he looked happy - but also tired as heck from a long journey home.
Here are some photos from the airport.