Sunday, July 01, 2007

Song of the Week 6/29/07

Cheap Trick - "Surrender"

Bunnie England and the New Originals, Derby Day 2007

(from left: Paul Crane, Troy Messina, Paul Gill)

If you read last years Top 20, then you know of my creative rebirth as a member of Bunnie England and the New Originals. Thursday night we did our usual bi-monthly gig at Magnetic Field. Yet this one was rather bittersweet, as it was the last time we would have Troy behind the drum kit. He took a job as a professor down in Louisiana, making physics interesting for college age kids. (Um, well, that's what he's going to try to do.) I had known about this change for about three months, yet I still don't think I was prepared for how I felt once the night got underway. I found myself paying attention to a lot of the little details in the music; how Paul and Paul would look at each other for guidance in a song from the under-rehearsed depths of our songlist; how Paul G. would turn and make eye contact with Troy when they were going to wrap a song up; how a really great singer made their jobs so much easier; and how the three of them could really lock in and be, at that one moment, the best band on the planet.

I've read stories (and even interviewed some artists) about playing a preannounced final gig with a band. And for all my experience it usually boils down into two camps--it's either the worst night ever or the music gets carried to new heights. Thursday night was one of those nights where almost everything went right. (Well, except for where I jumped ahead a couple of measures in "Tie Your Mother Down" and the horrible take on "Tainted Love" as done by the Field's esteemed owners.) Now it's not like we were doing anything original musically, but there are points when a cover band can really knock your socks off. And I'm proud to say I got to front one of those bands for one night. Heck, I got to front one of those bands for almost two years.

Now it isn't like the band isn't going to continue in the wake of Troy's departure--the guys have lined up another drummer who we plan to start rehearsing with at the end of the month. And Troy himself was a replacement for Dave, who was in the drum seat when I first came on board as a host in 2005. But I truly loved singing and cracking jokes in front of Troy the past two years. He'd laugh at some of the stupidest comments a guy could make while on stage. And knowing that there was at least someone who would be entertained by my ramblings made my part of the gig that much easier. Also Troy had the perfect laid back attitude for when conditions were not at their best (battling drunken Brooklyn law students; battling drunken bandmates; weirdo Upper East Siders who wanted us to do drug deal for them; a tiny room of tiles at the Long Island bar where every note bounced around seemingly forever). And he encouraged me to play tambourine--what was the guy thinking?

The last song the four of us did was also the first song the four of us ever did--"Surrender." I'd pretty much stopped doing that song over the past year as I wanted to come up with some different set closers (and other songs I could actually fake enough so people thought I was singing in a key that humans can hear). Yet I knew that we'd have to bring that one out of retirement. And to prepare, I listened to it last week. A lot. Over and over again I played it in my iPod, wanting to bring out a performance from myself that I would be able to watch down the road and not totally cringe from the minute I opened my mouth. And I think all my listening and practicing worked. (My neighbors must have been tired of hearing me scream "got my Kiss records out.") I never felt more at home singing "Surrender" than I did Thursday night. There was no blanking on words or when to come in. I was able to walk around on stage, put my hand on Paul C.'s shoulder, then move over to Paul G. and put my hand on his shoulder and then skip back to Troy's kit just like it was a tune we did on tour five nights a week. Heck, we even got the "We're all alright" part at the end right for once.

As much as I'm not one for using props when we do Live Band Karaoke (my own duo gigs are something else), I knew I had to add something to make this performance different from all the others. So just before we hit the last verse, I walked towards the trusty music stand and grabbed up the only Kiss-related item I owned on vinyl--the Kiss My Ass tribute. It's a pretty crappy collection of tunes but all I cared about was that the cover showed a family in Kiss makeup. As I started singing the line "When I woke up, Mom and Dad are rolling on the couch" I walked back towards Troy's drum kit and showed him the cover. I don't think I've ever seen a guy laugh that much while playing drums and keep the beat going. That last on stage laugh made the whole night worth it.

The moments after we were done and I had finished packing up are a blur. There were a couple of really attractive women who sang that were talking to me, but I have no idea what they said. The thought that this little time frame in my life was over was just a bit overwhelming for a few minutes. Then I had another beer and I felt a little better. Yeah, beer always makes things better.

Before I close things out, I want to send special shout out to (in as close to performing order as I can recall) all the folks who came down and sang Thursday night: Abigail, Aaron, Barbara, Joe, The Colonel, Delia, Kathryn, Marya, Rad, Karen, Melinda, Monica, Homer Fink, Spike, Khalid, Dave, William, Lee, Todd, Michelle, Devon & Anya, Cassie and Bryan, you each contributed to making it one incredible night. And once again I want to wish all the best to Troy down in the bayou. I look forward to our reunion gig five years from now, so everyone can accuse us of doing it for the money.

1 comment:

Paul C. said...

Glad I had a hand in birthin' your creativity.

I feel the same way you do about Troy leaving but he promised to get us some high paying gigs on a Mississippi riverboat casino. Reunion on the bayou!

And don't ever put your hand on my shoulder again.

Just kidding. Great post.

Paul C.