November 24, 2017
“I had a cactus named Henry. I loved that cactus.”
“Sam Sam? Is that Tomtom’s cousin?”
It never happens during soundcheck.
It never happens during rehearsal. It never happens during practice time or jam sessions or any other time when the stakes are low.
No, your bass pedal only explodes during shows, typically mid-song and, as was the case last night, when you’re one minute out from a breakdown section involving nothing but bass drum.
What to do?
Well, don’t panic, for starters. Most times you can just keep playing as if the bass drum was still there and no one will notice. At the end of the song, you can signal the band and try to figure something out. The problem for me last night was that the pedal collapsed during Sarah’s song Shine Bright, and we were heading straight for that breakdown section I mentioned. After the bridge in the song, everyone cuts out and I keep count on the bass drum while the band gets the crowd clapping. It’s always a great moment, except when your bass pedal explodes. I did the best thing I could: picked up a mallet and hit the drum with that instead.
You know how they say the show must go on? It must. If something goes sideways during a song, you have to find a way to keep playing, even if you have to alter your parts. It really can be an adventure up there sometimes. Fortunately, we knew there was a closet full of music gear at Sam Sam in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, where we played last night. There was a bass pedal in there, so we grabbed it and hooked it up. It didn’t feel the same as the ancient rental pedal I was using, but it worked in a pinch.
It was in some ways a rough night for us. My pedal broke. The sound system had feedback issues at times and a wonky cord was messing with Sarah’s vocals. She had some trouble with her voice too. Frankly, we’ve had just about enough of the Virus of the Van. We can’t seem to shake it. We’ve been sick now for almost a full month. This morning we’re still coughing and hacking and sniffling. Our voices are varying degrees of ravaged and we have two big shows coming up in the next couple of days.
Seriously, virus. Enough already.
Other than our technical issues, last night was fun. Sam Sam is a cool room with a nice stage. Many of our German friends were there yet again, including Schimmi and Karin and Lexi and Kerstin and Heike from Lippstadt and her friend Maria, who helped organize our show there. There were new characters too: Sarah’s friends Angela and Lot and Petra. We even had some London friends show up. Dave and Angus are in The Netherlands on vacation and made the trip to Apeldoorn for the show. They brought t-shirts advertising Sarah’s big New Year’s Eve gig at Fitzrays in London. What a nice surprise!
Our openers were also Sarah’s friends: Ray and Richard. Really great guys and awesome players. They did an acoustic duo set before we went on. We had them up at the end of our show to jam Proud Mary with us and it was a pile of fun.
And now we’re getting ready to load up for another drive to another town for another gig. The rhythm of the road. Playing 26 shows in 26 days or whatever we’re doing is a very demanding schedule. We love it, though. If we weren’t sick we’d be breezing through this. We know we’re working hard, but it doesn’t feel like work at all. That’s the dream life, isn’t it? Working hard at something that doesn’t feel like work and doing it well. It’s my dream life, anyway. That’s what I’m aiming for.
We’ve reached the point of the tour now where we’re beginning to say goodbye to some people. Every time our superfans turn up I ask if we’ll see them again. Until now the answer has been yes, but as we inch closer to farewell, the answer is beginning to change. It’s sad but inevitable I guess. I’ve met so many great people over the past few weeks. We’ll miss you when it’s over, but there’s every reason to think we’ll be back again and perhaps in the not-too-distant future.
But we’re focusing on the now, right? Now I can tell you that I think I’ve fixed the bass pedal, which means tonight’s show in Germany can go on.