So, you wanna' be a country star?
A typical day in the life of a country road warrior. Thursday morning you wake at 7:00 AM, have a quick cup of coffee before driving over to the bass player's house. The two of you go to the U-haul place to pick up the trailer. Then you drive by the drummer and guitar player's houses to pick them up for your trip. You've got a great little one night booking in Reno, Nevada. If the sound guy likes you, they'll have you back for a two week stint. This is sort of an audition. The guy from the Indie label in L. A. is supposed to come up and the show to see if you're the real deal or just another wanna' be.
The drummer is not feeling well. He played late the night before, partied a little more than he should have, but you manage to pour some coffee down his throat and you're off by 9:00 AM. Seven hours and forty six minutes later, you arrive in Reno. After getting lost a couple of times, you finally ask for directions and roll into the hotel where you'll be staying a few minutes later than you had planned. It's 5:35 PM. You're about thirty minutes behind schedule, but no big deal. You park the van, go into the hotel and get your rooms. The lines are long, but you manage to get to the check-in counter, only to find out that the band isn't actually staying on the premises of the hotel.
The band house
Instead of getting your own room, as the agent promised, you will all be sharing a house. You get directions and speed over to the band house, which is about 5 miles from the venue. The guitar player and bass player are both smokers so they will share a room together. The drums and keyboards will also share a room. The pad isn't too bad, but it's not the Ritz Carlton. No time for that now though, you've got to get to sound check.
You race back to the venue, find the load in dock at the back of the casino, and start lugging in your gear. You're now a full two hours late and the sound guy is really upset. You rush to put your gear in place, get a quick line check, and then you race back to the band house to get changed.
The guitarist jumps in the shower first. He says the water pressure is not to good, but at least it's wet. After he showers, the others follow. By the time the drummer is getting in the shower, the water pressure is nonexistent, and to make things worse, the water is cold as ice. That'll get rid of that hangover.
You make it back to the venue just in time, take the stage, and get ready to play. Just before taking the stage, the pit boss comes over and gives a stern reminder that the people are here to gamble, not to hear you. Keep the volume down.
You give it everything you've got that first set. You have to make a good impression. You push harder than you ever have and give it all you've got. At the end of your first set you're exhausted. That's set one.
Altitude makes cowards of us all.
The altitude has made you short of breath, and you blow your voice in the very first set. Lugging that equipment and being tired didn't help, but regardless, now you've got four more forty five minute sets. The breaks are fifteen minutes, so you grab a beer to ease your sore throat. It's really hot on stage, so you get one more, pour it in a cup (no drinks allowed on stage), and crawl back up on stage to do set number two. By this point, you've realized two things about altitude. It makes it hard to breath, i.e., sing, and it makes the drinks about twice as powerful. Those two beers are starting to give you a slight buzz, but you're on top of it. If you can just make it through the next four sets, you can get some sleep.
The Indie label guy shows up.
The label guy shows, so all is not lost. This could be the big break you've been looking for. This is the guy that's going to make you the next Garth. He gives the band a wave of acknowledgement as he is seated at a table near the back of the room. As it turns out, this guy is quite the lady's man. He meets a little cocktail waitress and strikes up a conversation with her. While you're pouring your heart out on stage, it appears all to clear that this label guy is more interested in the waitress than in the band. They're laughing, having a good time. At the end of your set number two, you go down to meet the guy. He tells you that he really didn't get to hear much of your last set, as this little waitress was talking his ear off. Right. He says he wants to talk with you and the band in more detail, but he hurridly excuses himself to go use the rest room. He assures you he'll be right back.
Before he returns, you're called back to the stage by a not so patient sound man. You run up to the stage, launch in to one of your show stoppers. Even though the altitude makes it seem like you are carrying an elephant on your back, you go for the long high note that let's everyone know that you are da' man. Just as you finish the song and really get the crowd screaming, you see the label guy walk back to his table. He missed the whole song. Not only that, he brought the little cocktail waitress back to the table with him. She must have just ended her shift. No problem, you've got other show stopping numbers. Unfortunately, it's the bass players turn to sing. He goes into his very own pseudo-jazz arrangement of "Hello Country Bumpkin". It's the worst thing your band does. It's horrible. At the end of the song, he holds out the words "Bum........Kin". Just then you see the label guy get up from the table, head straight for the elevator (with the waitress), and you get this sinking feeling. That was set number three.
How'd we do?
The crowd starts to thin out. It's getting late, or early, it's all relative. You plow through your fourth set, hoping that the label guy may just come back down to catch another set. He doesn't. That's set four.
Well, one more set. By this time you have decided to pass the vocals around to save your thrashed voice. Everyone is dog tired, and you just want this thing to end. You make a feeble attempt to sing through an easy song, but it's no use. Your vocal chords have turned to hamburger meat. Then the guitar player sings one. Then the bass player sings one. Now those beers you've been having at the end of each set are starting to really kick in. Altitude and free beer have made the three main singers in the band tired and hoarse. Your audience has trickled away. The only human beings left are the bartender and the cleaning lady, who is by now running her vaccum over the casino floor. Why not let the drummer sing a couple of tunes? What can it possibly hurt? So you tear into the only two songs the drummer knows. "The Next Time You Throw That Fryin' Pan, My Face Ain't Gonna Be There" and the ever popular "The Last Word In Lonesome Is ME". That was set five. You're done. Finished. Over.
They say it's lonely at the top. Well, it's pathetic at the bottom. You go do a little gambling to try and clear your head. You deposit twenty bucks worth of quarters into the machine. Then you drive on back to the band house. It's now 4:00 in the morning. You find a bed, take off your show clothes, and drop. Be sure to set the alarm. Tomorrow night you're playing in Modesto.