We’ll Have To Be Crazy To Make This Happen
“We’ll have to be crazy to make this happen.”
That’s what I told my buddy Tony. We spent that summer working on music in his basement and backyard. Day and night, tinkering and toying with guitars, basses, and drum machines. Just the two of us.
I had known Tony for a couple years at that point. A year ago he had come to visit me, and I asked him, “Hey, do you play guitar?”
Tony: “Nah, man. But I have one.”
Me: “Really? You have one, but you don’t play it?”
Tony: “Yeah. I’ve always wanted to learn, but I just haven’t yet.”
Me: “Do you wanna be in a band? Make some songs?”
Tony: “Yeah! That’d be awesome. …Whose band?!”
Me: “The one you and I are starting right now!”
See, I knew Tony was crazy. Crazy-smart, crazy-driven and crazy-fun. The fact that he didn’t know how to play guitar was irrelevant. He had a guitar and was conveying a sincere desire to learn to play and make some songs. If you got that, and you’re crazy-smart, driven and fun, then magic is afoot.
That’s how it started. Over the next few months, we exchanged ideas and made plans to get together periodically. I shared lyrics, and he forwarded demos he had recorded. It was awesome to see how quick he had picked up the guitar. As I said, he’s crazy smart. Sets goals and knows how to make shit happen.
We went back and forth like that for several months and then we moved a little nearer to each other. As I mentioned, over the course of the summer we were able to spend a lot more time together and had a lot of fun playing around with all these musical ideas we were exploring.
As the summer ended, I said, “that’s it. Let’s do something.” We had been just playing around like kids, amateurs for months now. We were more than this. It was time we went to the next level. “Like what?” Tony asked.
“Like a show! A gig. Let’s go PLAY LIVE for someone!”
Tony is not one to just brush aside an idea like this. Remember, I told you he’s crazy. He pointed out that we had no finished songs. That he played guitar and couldn’t sing and I only sang and couldn’t play and sing even if I wanted to. Where would we get the other members? We have to get other members!
Around this time, we used to talk about the 80/20 rule a lot. As Wikipedia states, the 80/20 rule refers to the idea that “for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”
I told him we’d apply the 80/20 rule to this story we were writing. I pointed out that we’ll have to be 80% Crazy and 20% Rational. 20% of the whole thing will be figuring out what we would play, where we would play and who would play with us. Preferably a bass player AND a drummer. 80% was just believing we could do it.
Tony was on board. We were looking anywhere and everywhere for gigs, people and after all that trying to finish some songs. We knew we’d have to be playing some covers, but we had to get at least one of songs finished.
It wasn’t long before I found a potential gig through Craigslist. It was called the Holiday Stroll. It was a big festival that was going to kick off the Christmas season the weekend after Thanksgiving. I printed out the application and answered the questions.
Do you have a website? Ummm, no.
How many members are in your group? Ummm, 4.
How long of a set are you looking to perform? Ummm, an hour.
I went through the application like so and mailed it in. We had six weeks till showtime. Now we just have to find a couple of Crazies to rock n roll the Stroll with us. That proved to be the biggest challenge. Two interesting things happened. We found two kinds of people. Those that wanted to be serious and play with people that had playing in bands since they were 12. And those that just didn’t want anything to do with our crazy ways, booking a gig with no band and no songs.
These two kinds of people- we have a 12-letter word for them. BORRRIINNGGG.
BUT! We did find another crazy bastard to join our mission. Pete. Pete was in his 40s. Maybe 50s. Professional drummer. Had a studio in his house. Married. Nice guy. And apparently crazy. We made it really clear what the whole deal was. And God bless him, he was up for it. We started going through a TON of songs, finding ones that:
-we all knew
-we could get rehearsed and tight enough for a performance.
-Would be appropriate for the venue/crowd. Which included a Christmas song.
Then Pete asked, “What about a bassist?” I told him we weren’t having luck with that. That the closer the time got to the gig, the crazier the bassist would have to be. He said he knew some bass players he could call. Great!
I also mentioned that we might have to pull the White Stripes card. If we don’t find a bass player, we have to consider songs that we can arrange without bass.
We never did find a bass player. My friend Jim almost played bass, but that didn’t work out, geographically for him. But here’s what happened. We get there the night of this gig. I don’t know what I was thinking, but it was, in fact, a festival! Hundreds, maybe thousands of people here! All kids of different tents and vendors and food trucks. There were numerous musical acts. Some on stages outside and some in rooms inside. It was chilly, so we were glad that we were inside.
There were three middle-aged women running the venue where we were playing. Three hilarious women! We were there plenty early to chill and set-up. I noticed right away with all the hustle and bustle going on that this is the kind of thing where people are shuffling in and out all evening because there are 23,000 things going on all over town. They want to just hit ’em all. I told Tony and Pete we got put on a SHOW so that when people come in, they wanna stay!
We got there early enough to hang out before the show. We brought some markers and poster-sized paper to make a sign for the street-front window advertising our band. We whipped this sign up with some help from my brother who was there to spectate and film us. The sign was done, and we decided to walk outside a bit. Once we were in the street, I noticed a radio station van with a table set up. Were they doing a live broadcast?
Hey guys, let’s check this out!
I told them that our band was playing here tonight and that we had a sign. Maybe they would consider putting it on their van for some publicity? They said sure! We fixed that baby right to their van, which was decked out with all kind of rock stars on it. I put the poster directly above Mick Jagger.
We went back to do our gig. It was awesome. We had so much fun. We totally let loose. I remembered most of the lyrics. We just had a blast! When we were done, we started packing up. I joked with the three ladies that we usually have someone to do this for us. They were going nuts. They wanted our autographs. They were absolutely convinced that we were gonna be famous.
Sorry, ma’am. No autographs. We’re just some crazy guys having fun.
But wait, one of them said. I thought there were four of you?
Oh yeah, he’s missing. He didn’t make it tonight. We don’t know where he is. You know, rock and roll, right?
After we had packed up, Pete and my brother said they were hungry. We went looking for a place for them to get some food. It was getting late. I figured at that time of night the only things open would be greasy-spoons or choke-and-pukes. On the way, Tony told me something.
“Dude, a guy came up to me after we were down playing. He’s probably in his 40s. He loved us and wanted to know how long we’d been a band. I told him we weren’t really a band. We just met Pete a few weeks ago and have no one to play bass. His jaw dropped.” Tony continued, “he told me he’s been in a band for years. They got together and regularly jammed in his basement. They’ve never gotten out of his basement. He said seeing us inspired him to want to get out of the basement. He came up to ask me how long we had been a band and when I told him our story his whole expression changed. He thought it was so cool that we did that, but you could see he was thinking about a lot more.”
We talked about taking this initiative to JUST DO IT. Thank God we are 80% crazy we thought. To the 80% rational mind, we had no business in booking this gig. But we did it.
I’m a child of Jack Kerouac. As he said, “the ones for him are the Crazy ones.” I wanna be the crazy ones. I always want to catch where I’m “stagnating in the basement.” Let me get out there and take a chance. Book that gig. Write that book. Hike that mountain. Sing my song. Stack your wins and cut your losses.
Basements are where things get stored. And bored. And ignored.
Get outside. In the light. Day or night. Be bright. Be crazy.