When I arrived at the Theater yesterday, I saw a construction nightmare. The Theater was a hardhat zone. In ten hours it was supposed to host a big Rock Show...was that possible? It didn't seem so.
I found my New Boss and he gave me a mop. The stage- which is huge, probably the best, largest stage that I've ever been behind- was covered in plaster dust and needed swabbing. Great.
Well, it did need doing, so I did it.The bands arrived on schedule, we rolled them in, set them up and the show went on without any hitches that the audience could see. It was a pretty remarkable accomplishment, really. I feel good about being part of that.
The opening act, The Radiators, were great; funky Louisiana rock in the vein of Little Feat. Every member of the band was well over fifty years old and still rockin' hard...there's optimism in that. They also didn't have to carry anything or set anything up- they arrived, played and left, they weren't in the building very much longer than it took to play.
The headline act was a Grateful Dead clone band. Each member of the clone band portrays a member of the long-defunct Grateful Dead and what the clone band does is to take the set list from a specific long ago GD concert,Sept. 13 1982, for example, and replay the entire original show. Why anyone would want to see that eludes me, but there is a large following for this sort of thing.
I find it sad that people would rather watch clones than listen to something that they haven't heard. I mean, it's never been easier to find new music than it is today- thanks to the Interwebs, I've found countless new bands (some current, some not) and I don't really even try very hard.
Why go clone?
Immediately after every meandering song, the standing band members turned their backs to the cheering, adoring crowd and fiddled with their tuners. Every song. They never said "thanks" or bantered with the audience. I found them chilly and aloof but the crowd loved them.
One of the best parts of a real Dead show was the intermission, during which the band stopped playing.
During last night's cloned intermission, a middle-aged man in a suit stood at the center mic. He gave a short, sincere speech of appreciation- his young son had a terrible form of cancer and was able to get medical care due to the charity of persons present in the audience- he wanted to say thanks. I thought it was kinda sweet.
Backstage, a stoned clone guitarist was making 'sock-puppet' fingers and mouthing 'blah, blah, blah' ...
He was mocking the man with the cancer story.
It was the neck of a guitar over a malignant hippie's head.
"Dude", I explained as I wound a D-string around his neck in a form of improvised garrote,"you make your living pretending to be someone that you are not; therefore, it makes sense that in your life, you pretend to be something that you are not. Such as human.
Your lack of compassion compels me to strangle some empathy into you."
"Aaack", he replied.
"Furthermore", I continued, " I know who you are. You used to sell bootleg cassette tapes of Grateful Dead concerts, which is like a million times worse than dealing drugs. I mean, at least your dope dealer will sometimes sell you some really good shit. Now, do you feel the love yet?"
Loading in and out was interesting. The loading zone doesn't exist yet, we had to push cases across traffic, onto a sidewalk that was covered with steel work plates, down a ramp and through a crowd of bustling construction workers. It was brutal, back-breaking work. During the final load I felt something start to tear inside. I was suddenly aware of every one of the internal sutures I received in 2005 and I couldn't help but cry out in pain, which is a gross violation of roadie protocol.
"I'm OK," I said, but my boss gave me 'easy' jobs for the last hour or so. During a break he took some time to talk to me. He was a little concerned. It was great that he didn't have to explain gear to me, but knowledge isn't everything. He needed people who could lift heavy weights, 14 hours a day, six days a week. He really wanted me aboard, but first he needed to know if I was capable of doing that.
14 times six is , um, er...84. That would be 44 hours of overtime per week. For that I would try my best, I assured him. I can't lift the really, really heavy stuff but you can let me loose on the mics and monitors and stuff. I can do lots of things. 44 hours of OT is a helluva motivator.
Well, no. See, I am considered an independent contractor. At the end of the year, I would have to report my own wages and taxes and there is no such thing as overtime . Oh.
I have to be realistic. I can't do 84-hour weeks of hard labor. This morning I could barely move. I have bruises, blisters and everything hurts except my feelings.
Today the boss asked me how old I was.
He said he thought I was thirty. My youthful good looks and all...anyway, he politely said that 41 might be a bit old for what was expected of me. I saw this as an "out" and I took it.
Yeah, you are right, I said. I'm too old for this. Then I went outside into the cold rain and rinsed the stale beer out of two dozen plastic trash cans.
Boss asked if I could work until he found a replacement, a day or two? Apparently, his boss was pretty adamant about everyone lifting the heavy stuff, but he would try to cover for me- they needed hands though.
Sure, I can do an entire week if needed.
My replacement arrived this afternoon. I parted ways with my new job on good terms.
I don't feel bad though. I did my best and worked my ass off, but I have limits. 4 days a week, maybe...six is too much.
I've also been feeling differently about life in general. There was a time when getting paid beans to spend 6 nights a week at a rock show was my idea of fun; I thought my batteries were recharged but the accumulated years of rock-n-roll burnout haven't faded away after all.
The reality of a life spent moving heavy boxes in loud rooms with burly men who enjoy talking about their dicks is perhaps not the best reality for me.
Plus, I made a lot more money per hour as a secretary.
I have become a total square.