A Last Minute Gig

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At 5:00PM on a Wednesday last month, I got a call from my very good friend, Brian.

He’s a drummer, we’ve played together a lot, and can read each other very well.

But I wasn’t expecting him to ask if I could play a show that night.

In three and a half hours.

With someone I’ve never played with, and songs I don’t really know.

Of course, I said yes.


The pandemic put the kibosh on all my gigging.

I played 61 shows in 2019 and only 9 in 2020. All 9 were in the first three months of the year. Then there was 1 gig in 2021 and none in 2022. Until Wednesday, December 14.

Brian and I met shortly after we each moved to Nashville in 2007. He’s almost 30 years younger than I am but he’s a drummer and I’m a bass player.

That makes us brothers. We’ve played in several bands together, from alternative rock to country, as well as pick-up gigs here and there.

A couple years ago, he met and married Laney Jones, who’s basically the female version of him.

Silly, happy, positive, friendly. They’re so similar that it’s now like I’ve known her for just as long.

She’s a singer, guitarist, keyboardist, and songwriter. We’ve jammed a couple times in their basement studio, but never on her songs. It was just jamming.

Brian’s call came as a shock.

Sure, it’s only a few songs on a Wednesday night, but I’d want to do a good job. He said they’d be at our place at 6:00pm to teach me the songs.

My wife and I scarfed down some dinner and I set up a practice amp near the dining room table. I got some paper and a Sharpie so I could jot some notes.

Brian and Laney showed up. We had half an hour.

She had an acoustic guitar, and he mimicked drums by slapping his thighs and stomping the floor. The first song was easy enough. It was two chords the whole way through, so it was just a question of getting the dynamics right. I know Brian’s drumming well enough that I knew I could rely on him to guide me through it.

Some of the other songs were trickier. We threw one out immediately because I just wasn’t getting it. That was a small blow to my ego, but messing it up in front of an audience would be so much worse.

My cheat sheet.

At 6:30, we packed up and went to the club, Brian and Laney in their car, me and the lovely Ms. Virgindog in ours. On the way, I said that I’d have to concentrate on relaxing and underplaying.

I said this to her. But I was really telling myself. 

It turns out that the reason their regular bass player couldn’t make it is because he’s underage.

I don’t have that problem. Not by a long shot.

And sure enough, we were carded as soon as we walked in.

The other band was setting up. They were playing second, so they sound-checked first. That gave Brian time to introduce me to a guy named Joe who would be playing lead guitar with us. Cool, someone else to fill out the sound.

Brian also told me that they decided that Laney and Joe would do the first three songs without bass and drums. Then Brian would join them for a song on bass, if he could borrow my bass. Sure, of course. For the last three songs, he’d switch to drums and I’d join them.

Three songs instead of seven?

Count me in.

Especially since two of them had two chords each and the third one had four.

I can manage that.

We sound-checked and the levels sounded great on stage. It was 7:40pm, twenty minutes before the doors opened. Brian offered to buy us a drink, and we didn’t say no.

So we sat in the bar and talked about all the things friends talk about. Travel, health, other friends, music. And then it was time.

Oddly, I wasn’t nervous. I don’t usually get nervous but the key word there is “usually.” There was nothing usual about this. I knew just two of the three people I’d be playing with, I played only part of each song at my dining room table, it had been over a year since I’ve been on a stage, and I really didn’t want to let my friends down. Those are some good reasons to be nervous.

Maybe I had internalized that I needed to relax.

Laney’s great at engaging an audience.

She comes across as completely herself, authentic, a little goofy, and happy to play music for people.

She introduced herself and Joe, and they played the first three songs.

They sounded great. He was an interesting player, adding color and texture rather than guitar wankery. Underplaying. It was a good reminder for me.

Brian jumped up to play bass on the fourth song. He did a great job but didn’t take his eyes off his hands. He’s a drummer, not a bass player, so moving his left hand up and down the neck took a little concentration. His timing, though, was perfect.

Then Laney called me up, to a smattering of applause, and up I went.

Brian handed me my bass and went behind the drums. And Laney started the song.

I waited for Brian.

I’m not sure what happened exactly.

But there was a point where Laney paused and Brian clicked his sticks four times at a slower tempo than what Laney had just been playing.

Maybe she got excited, which makes sense in a situation like this.

But the drummer is always right.

We got into a nice, chilled out, groove, alternating between the chords. I knew I shouldn’t overplay but I occasionally threw in a third and/or a fifth between vocal lines. I leaned heavily on Brian for the dynamics. He’s excellent at changing volumes appropriately for the song, and does it without speeding up or slowing down. That’s harder than it sounds. Anyway, I did what he did.

The outro was loud and full power. It felt great, and the crowd, all twenty of them, applauded enthusiastically. Laney thanked them and introduced me again, saying that I was filling in and hadn’t practiced with them. That got some applause, too. I curtsied.

We’ve always said that you look nice in pleats.

The second song was slower and less intense. It called for underplaying. Good, there’s nothing complicated about it. Just hit the root notes on time and everything will be fine.

The last song had four chords, and the last two were F major and F minor. For most of the song, I played F for both chords. But during the guitar solo, I tried playing an Ab under the F minor.

Ab is the third of the F minor chord, so I knew it wouldn’t sound bad, but I didn’t know how it would fit with what everyone else was doing.

It sounded great, adding just enough tension to make the next chord extra satisfying.

While it’s always tempting to repeat successes like this, it can also wear out its welcome. I did it a couple more times but only when I thought it would work. 

This is the kind of thing only musicians notice, and I may have been the only person in the room who knew. Certainly no one said anything afterwards, but it gave me a small sense of satisfaction. With a single and unrehearsed note, I added some color and motion to the song. Maybe I haven’t lost my chops after all.

I have no gigs lined up in 2023.

But I’m not as wary of taking them now. 

Photos Courtesy of Laney Jones

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Bill Bois

Bill Bois - bassist, pie fan, aging gentleman punk, keeper of the TNOCS spreadsheet:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/138BvuV84ZH7ugcwR1HVtH6HmOHiZIDAGMIegPPAXc-I/edit#gid=0

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Phylum of Alexandria
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February 17, 2023 7:16 am

He’s in love with rock n roll, woah,
Cleanup guy for last-minute shows,
Playing bass with Laney Jones woah
He ain’t got a boring job, no!

mt58
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mt58
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February 17, 2023 9:06 am

Woah.

It’s a hit:

Bill hot 100.png
Phylum of Alexandria
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February 17, 2023 9:44 am
Reply to  mt58

No, no more hits! Stay away!

….Sorry about that. Just some post Zazen trauma.

Carry on.

mt58
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mt58
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February 17, 2023 9:50 am
Last edited 1 year ago by mt58
minor major 7th
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February 17, 2023 11:47 am

Thank you for sharing, Bill.

While I’m only an amateur, I also miss gigging. I can only imagine how difficult it has been for a professional.

From my experience, I always enjoyed this type of gig. It was a “baptism by fire” that either bolstered my confidence or exposed gaps in my playing. Examples:

a singer/songwriter friend who played solo (acoustic guitar) asked me to join a gig. His instructions: play your electric, but do a “pedal steel thing” and do it “sparsely.” You can imagine I did not have high hopes for how this would sound, but the confidence of youth told me to just go for it. For each song, all I did was a few slides here or there based on the first chord The result: the crowd liked it and my friend had me play on a few tracks that he recorded.One of my first jam sessions in a jazz setting was an unmitigated disaster. I heard about the jam session that day and attended with full confidence (and the Real Book under my arm):From the guy at the door: ditch the Real Book. Not a good look here.From the bass player: stop playing the root notes! those are mine.From the piano player: stop playing the extensions! those are mine.From one of the horns: man, doesn’t every guitar player know to just stick with the 3rd and the 7th? Keep it simple.From one of the patrons: stop wasting your time with YouTube lessons on the altered dominant scale and go back and actually listen to the freakin’ tunes.All of it was harsh, but I can say that all of that advice served me well.

Last edited 1 year ago by minor major 7th
JJ Live At Leeds
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February 17, 2023 12:16 pm

Good work Bill.

My work this afternoon has been accompanied by Laney Jones. I don’t think I’ve heard her before but having listened to her first and latest albums she sounds very familiar. If she ever comes over this way she’s got one ticket sale from me.

Quite a break you caught, the bass player being too young for the venue. Not sure if that happens over here though as legal drinking age is 18 it’s not going to be as much of an issue.

Phylum of Alexandria
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February 17, 2023 12:37 pm

This reminds me of that time I was asked to play Sergio Mendes’ “Never Gonna Let You Go” for a gig with no time to learn it. What a romp!

I bet you never guessed that I was really Rick Beato:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnRxTW8GxT8

Phylum of Alexandria
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February 17, 2023 4:11 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

“You bet, man! Yes, deep fried cheesesteaks are the all-American meal. I like music.”

[This dialogue brought to you by ChatPOA]

lovethisconcept
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February 17, 2023 5:24 pm

Please, please, please let people know when you do have something lined up for 2023. Some of us have been waiting a long time to see a show.

mt58
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mt58
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February 17, 2023 6:44 pm

ROADTRIP!!

Pauly Steyreen
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February 17, 2023 7:52 pm

Dog, you ever play with Jim Diamond when he was part of the Music City blues scene (like 20+ years ago)?

My cousin was his housesitter, so when he was on tour, I was jamming on whatever equipment he left behind at home.

Dude’s house was haunted btw. Like the only time in my life I felt a “presence” in that way… And his dogs did NOT get along with each other. Weird scene!

Last edited 1 year ago by Pauly Steyreen
Pauly Steyreen
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February 18, 2023 1:59 am
Reply to  Virgindog

He was a cantankerous dude. He’s Canadian so he used to contemptuously joke, “You’re all Southerners to me.”

Last edited 1 year ago by Pauly Steyreen
Phylum of Alexandria
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February 18, 2023 10:52 am
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

craster.jpeg
cappiethedog
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cappiethedog
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February 17, 2023 10:57 pm

Somebody needs to update Laney Jones’ Wikipedia page. Her discography stops at 2016.

cappiethedog
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cappiethedog
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February 17, 2023 11:14 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Hey, look at that. The CD format is available for two of her albums. Does Laney Jones paint? I’m looking at the art work for Beyond the Blue and Golden Road.

This is my genre.

dutchg8r
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dutchg8r
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February 18, 2023 9:51 am

Ooh, I loved this insight on the behind the scenes of doing gigs. No doubt it felt exhilarating to be back on a stage again, hopefully you get some more lined up this year that you can share with us, VDog!

cstolliver
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cstolliver
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February 18, 2023 11:54 am

Great job, buddy, not just in the writing, but most importantly, in the doing.

DanceFever
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February 19, 2023 10:51 pm

Well done, my friend. I know your being un egotistical
but talent will out and you found a way to let the real you
shine. Good on you!

washingtonknight
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Active Member
February 20, 2023 12:34 am

Hey Virgindog – that’s so cool you were able to sit in for a few songs.
I don’t know if my little combo will ever be ready for prime time – but hope springs eternal. Good on you, Virgindog!

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