The Nitty Gritty

But more than all of those I am an entertainer. I carry around a ukulele with me for the same reason a gangster carries a gun; better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Stage or sidewalk, Your Pal Pete shows are just where they happen.
Currently, I'm working on a musical, RagnaPOP(or she's got the bomb), set to premiere at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. I'm also working on music, comedy, and musical comedy; for kids and/or adults.
The fruit of these projects will be available on this site, so check back regularly!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Why I Let Music Destroy My Life: The Lonnie Years

When I started playing music, it was on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware. In DC, if you go to see a show, depending on the venue, the band is going to play original music. On the Eastern Shore it was assumed that you played covers, where a band might let a few "originals" slip in, bring them closer to being a real band.

Thinking that you had to have three sets of your own songs to be a true original band(mainly because every original band I knew had that many songs) it felt like a milestone I would never reach with my current output of songs, which was about 2 or 3 a year.

Once I realized that most bands weren't required to have more than 45 minutes. I had put together a band with friends from bands around Salisbury: Dale played drums, I had played with him in my last band,Actionman. Joe played bass, he was the only other person to stay in the band until we broke up. Lonnie Bruner played guitar, he was the only one that I wasn't sure of musically, but I was sure of personally. I gave him a rough recording of some of my new songs and when we got together to practice them, I immediately realized that Lonnie was truly musically talented and added the simplest suggestion or arranging idea and it made everything sound better than it did in my head when I wrote the song.

We hit the ground running, playing an open mike show in Rehoboth Beach after less than a week. Our saving grace musically was our rhythm section, Dale and Joe provided an ultra steady backbeat to Lonnie and my increasingly noisy guitar shenanagans. I was playing guitar in a band for the first time, having just playing bass before, I was going to make up for the noise I wasn't able to make before.

Lonnie and I quickly adopted a policy to play as many shows possible shows with what we referred to as "The Cinderella Factor", from a article I had read about when Jon Bon Jovi discovered hair-metalists Cinderella. Jon signed them because he saw them in front of 20 people, but they played like they were playing for 20,000.

Don't get it twisted, we weren't fans of Cinderella and we certainly didn't think that Jon Bon Jovi was going to pluck us out of our ennui if we did our rock star raindances at our shows, we just knew that going fuckin-a bonkers as we played was funner than not doing it. Some of our most fun chaotic shows were in front our smallest crowds. Lonnie embodied the kind of foolishness and enthusiasm that I had always loved about playing rock and roll.

One guy took me aside and said,"Your guitar player looks a little silly jumping around when there wasn't that many people around." That was true, but I loved it and wouldn't have it any other way. The most interesting thing about that set he was talking about was Lonnie interacting with the four people who were completely into us and danced while everyone else lined the walls of the bar. Things got so out of hand that all our new fans were kicked out by the middle of the set.

This actually proved to bite us on our rock and roll asses on occasion. The night before we played one of our biggest shows at a college festival, we played a last minute show that concluded with Lonnie and I scrapping our guitars against our feedbacking amps. It's a ritual whose sheer joy can't be explained, it only be experienced first hand.

We cleaned up afterward and Lonnie noticed that rowdiness led him to lose one of his guitar's tuners. He took one off his banjo and just hope it held. The next day when we played, Lonnie's guitar cut out in the middle of the first song. When I looked at him in between singing, I saw him take his guitar off and slam it as hard as he could onto the festival's temporary stage. I understood his frustration, but it make it a bit difficult to get someone to lend us a guitar so we could play. Someone did take pity and we limped through the rest of our set.

A guy threatened to fine us one because Lonnie scraped his guitar along the entire dance floor guard rail in lieu of an actual guitar solo.

He got a couple of nicknames for his flexible, gangly acrobatics, "The Cricket", "the Rubber Man". When we'd play and I'd lose sight of him in my peripheral vision and knew it shortly before take-off and Lonnie would hurl himself onto whatever empty surface was in front of our stage and writhe around like a guitar playing, well cricket, actually.

Like all good things, it wasn't to last. Other interests led Lonnie to other things besides music, although we are obviously still friends.

The most vivid memory I have about my playing days with Lonnie was a show we had at Phantasmagoria in Wheaton, Maryland. During one of his solos, I took of my guitar and put it around Lonnie's neck right on top of his guitar. He started playing the solo on my guitar as I reached around him and played a one handed version of my part on his guitar until a drums and bass breakdown in the song gives us an opportunity to put our own guitar back on and indluge in a little feedback before playing the rest of the song.
It wasn't planned or talked about at all before. It was just a spontaneous part of our show that we never did it before and never did it again.
Us and the 2 dozen or so members of the audience already saw it, why do we need to do it again?

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