Tell me, why am I doing this again?
I am 37 years old, happily married with two children, with a regular day job I love. And I play bass guitar in a cover band.
And I understand completely why people (friends, relatives, people) ask themselves ‘why’? Why does he regularly leave the house in the evening to play in a band, in small clubs, with little pay, sometimes for only a dozen people. Why does he not mind coming home early in the morning, getting maybe three hours of sleep, only after leaving smoke-filled clothes he wore outside on the garden chairs because the flat would reak of smoke in the morning. Why?
Sometimes I ask myself the same question but the answer is easy.
I just love to be on stage playing music for people. I mentally close my eyes and try to become one with the song until the last note is played. When I look at the setlist during a song I feel like I let the song down, like I have not given it my full heart. The hole band tries to perform that way, cover songs or not. And I think the audience feels, sees and appreciates this. Plus, this mindset makes for great moments.
Almost 2am. Four songs to go and we are in the rock’n’roll section of the set. Maybe twenty people left in the bar, including two couples long in their sixties standing at the back counter. They already tried leaving once, but one of the ladies didn’t want to so everybody stayed. We launch into Venus by Shocking Blue and she shreeks, shells herself out of her jacket remarkable quick for a woman her age and moves into the dance area, having a go at the beat, dancing by herself. We follow with Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane and the rest of the gang follows her. Here we are, 2am, basically playing for these four oldtimers having the time of their lives.
1am, another night, a rock dance club. We play three sets, alternating with the DJ. The first set was ok, the club still filling when we started. The DJ has taken over and pumped the crowd. The final bars of his last song ring, smoke from the smoke machine still in the air. We start our second set with the Cranberries’ Zombie. The soft guitar intro soaks up the last of the smoke and when the band enters the hole dance floor erupts and mobs up and down, not losing a step from the DJ’s last song. Everybody is moving. WE did that. Going into the verse things calm down but the adrenalin rush easily takes us through the rest of the set.
A barn. A wedding-eve party. We are there because bride and groom asked us to play. Said they were looking forward to us playing at their special event for weeks. No pressure at all…
Maybe it’s the dampness in the barn, maybe it’s because we didn’t have a real soundcheck but things start out rough. The guitar effects don’t act like they should and the PA is constantly clipping, dropping the vocals. We play through it, try to analyze and make adjustments between songs. It takes 4-5 songs but then we settle, giving the pair what they asked for: a fun band playing fun music for them. The final song of the first set is their song, Tage wie dieser by the German band Die Toten Hosen. Our drummer makes a little speech while the guitar already plays the intro. The pair is asked to come on stage to sing along and we are ready for take-off.
I’ve waited weeks for this day
and I’m dancing on the asphalt with joy
as if it were a rhythm, as if it were a song
that keeps luring me through the streets
on my way to you, to pick you up,
as we had agreed:
at the same time, the same place as last time.
Through the elbowing of the bustling crowd
we’re paving the old familiar way
along the streets to the terraces on the Rhine,
over the bridges, right up to the music
where everything is loud, where everyone is there
to let loose
where the others are waiting to start with us
and get down.
On days like these, you wish it would never end.
On days like these,
we still have all the time in the world.
I wish it would never end.
(Translation from lyrictranslate.com)
Usually not everybody likes this song, especially after it received heavy rotation in Germany during the EURO 2012. This time it’s different. I don’t start playing until the second verse, so I listen to the lyrics which fit the occasion perfectly and scan the crowd which sings along. I feel myself tearing up and am glad to finally join the full band. The song builds and we enter the chorus. The crowd joins in big time, we can clearly hear them, it’s almost like a chant. At the end of the song we do the chorus again, a capella. We let bride and groom take over, rinse and repeat and end on a high note.
I park the car after a 90-minute-drive home. When I slip into bed next to my wife my watch shows 4:25am. In about three hours the little ones will wake us up and I know I’ll manage on coffee until 2pm when I’ll be dead tired and it’ll get hard.
But it’s ok.
Life is good.
I know exactly why am doing this.