Friday, August 26, 2011

How the HELL do you deal with the "up's and down's"? Toomey

My question to John was "How the hell do you play for 8000 screaming people in arena or fair one night and then get excited about a few scattered people the next". He brought me something that I didn't think addressed how it really hit him inside. John's not a guy to bitch or to complain. He works his ass off, don't say a word and goes about his job. So I appreciate him coming back with this. The show he's referring to was regarding a show 2 nights ago in Pembine,Wisconsin

Ominous thunderclouds loom overhead.  The stage is an exorbitantly modest assembly of ply-wood, 2 by 4’s, and tin roofing spanning a breath-taking 25ft by 25ft of which only half is covered (the clouds just got a little darker overhead).  A few dozen people indifferently await our performance, or maybe it’s the opener they’re here to see.  I don’t think it makes a difference (I happen to know half received comped tickets to increase the head-count).  I guess we’ve seen less comfortable stages.  I mean, it’s a new market after all.  Who am I kidding?  My ego is tattered and torn right now.  When I think about how we just come from shows playing for no less than a few thousand, I mirthlessly chuckle and remember that the people today deserve the same great show. 
          I’m finally contributing this story because our merch guy / auxiliary band helper / friend, Scott Gunter, asked me for my perspective on handling a show emotionally and professionally that…how should I say it…falls short of expectations.  Let it be known that there is a great disparity among shows that we are exposed to on a weekly basis.  On the bright side, our hosts today in Wisconsin have provided our band with the most lavish accommodations that we’ve seen all year.  Let me get this straight: 6 luxury suites, golfing, a group-kayaking trip, two nice “bromantic” dinners at the resort’s steak restaurant all on the house?  Yes, I’ll have some of that please.  It’s been a lovely stay.  Wait.  What’s that?  We have to go sound check now?   ...Shit. 
The man is a drinking and driving fool! O.K., so it's kind of a posed shot.
          Before you say, “John, get your head out of your butt and show some gratitude,” relax, I already have.  You see:  I never forget why I’m here.  I came to do a job regardless of the circumstances.  Regardless of the meager turn-out.  Regardless that out of that turn-out, only one couple had heard of us (literally a man and woman), and the bass player of the opener is doubling as our monitor engineer, and doesn’t have enough inputs on the 2-car garage-worthy monitor board he brought to put all the drums in my mix, and looks at me like I’m crazy to make such demands, and gets the cable-routing he and his assistant hooked up confused more than once, and twice, and if I’d known the bass guitar and electric guitar were going to play a vanishing act half way through the show, I would’ve spent less time at sound check on those and more on hearing my own drums in the mix.  Where was I going with this?  Oh yeah:  A job.  No matter how challenging the production can be or any other problems we encounter, I came to play the drums.  Professionally, I remind myself that I’m getting paid to be here and the show must go on.  Emotionally, I tap into the love I have for my craft.  I haven’t spent more than half my life trying to perfect my performing ability to show up with a bad attitude and play poorly.  I’m always hoping the people I’m sharing the stage with feel this way as well.  It’s a team effort.  You have to realize if one person isn’t on the same page, my attempts to play at my full potential are made in vain.  You may think the exhaustive time and effort spent to pull off an hour-long show is pretty close to insanity.  And sometimes, you’re right.  But, I know that 60-minute moment spent behind my drums is right where I belong.  If I ever start dreading that experience, I’ll know it’s time to stop. 
          In the end, the show ended up being a huge success.  The crowd really enjoyed themselves, and once we checked our egos and resolved ourselves to the small sacrifices we had to make from a sound perspective, we had a great time too!  The way I see it, it’s a job from the moment you leave your house to the moment when you take the stage.  If it’s still a job to you during the show, you’re in the wrong band or the wrong field.  These days I’m more concerned whether tomorrow’s itinerary will progress smoothly or if it will be a bumpy ride to get to my 60-minute payoff.  When the time comes to deliver the show, I trust the guys I live with and play on the road to forget the hardships and play our asses off regardless of the crackling acoustic guitar jack, regardless of the blown guitar amp speaker, regardless of the faulty, "backlined" hi-hat clutch, regardless…  Oh well, I said I was always happy behind the drums, not that it was always easy.

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