Monday, March 01, 2010
AND HOW EXACTLY DOES THE BAND PLAY ON?
By Everett Betzinger
The stage is dimly lit, and fog is lifting throughout the floorboards. Two clear neon blue turntables are connected to marshal tube amps. My friend Stilts already has vinyls spinning. A Korg mini synthesizer sits off to the side of the stage. I hear a base drum kick in -- one two three four, one two three four and one. The lead synthesizer comes into a four-beat riff just slightly on and off from the base drum rhythm. What a rhythm; in a few more bars I will come in with a lead guitar riff, it will add even more color to a futuristic line.
The band is myself on guitar, Stilts working turntables and back beats, Lord Spango on drums. Fink is on base and Adam on synthesizer/keys. The music we play attracts a mixture of dread-locked renegade hippies, students and ravers.
Stilts has big dreams of going solo as a DJ in New York City. What a moron; with his drug problems the only place I see him going is six feet under. I stand onstage, resting my weight on my heels as I’m getting into the song. I hear Stilts trying to play over the rest of the band. Resisting what I know to be true, I glance over my shoulder towards him and see a bottle of Johnny Walker Black on the floor confirming my suspicions. All I can feel is anger, blood rising into my face and adrenaline shooting through my body like a geyser.
In the crowd tonight is a big-time promoter who could give us the break we need. Why the hell is Stilts doing this? Before the show started we told him to keep his shit in line. It seems the emptier the bottle, though, the bigger his ego gets. What the hell is going through his twisted mind? Does he think showing off and upstaging everyone will help his solo career? I have had to put him in check on several private occasions, almost smashing my guitar over his head. Never have I done anything to publicly humiliate Stilts, but tonight he is testing my self-control, big time.
The crowd gets wilder as Spango drives a hard up-tempo beat. Moshe pits start to form within the crowd; heads are banging. The anger I am feeling towards Stilts moves into my hands; up and down my pick slides over the strings. I’m fed up with Stilts, but now the music and energy from the crowd is carrying me away. I love this intensity; I compress my effects pedal. Stilts looks up from underneath his hat. I can see his glazed eyes peering at me through the fog.
My hand slides down the neck creating a pulsating vibration of sound; it blares throughout the packed venue. Stilts will not stop overplaying me. Suddenly, I snap. I can’t take it any longer. My hand reaches for the input cable. Taking three steps in his direction, I send the fender Stratocaster traveling through the air and it explodes into the turntable and narrowly escapes Stilts’ head.
I turn away, and moments later, I feel myself crashing to the floor. Someone must have tackled me. Disoriented, I look up. Stilts has his hat pulled lower. As I lie bruised and battered on the concrete floor, I realize something funny. Despite the chaos, the band is still playing. I begin laughing to myself at the resilience of our band. It really makes me proud. We are one hell of a band!
Everett Betzinger, a long-time rock musician who grew up in Troy, New York, is now a junior at the University at Albany, SUNY. This is his first published writing.