When last we spoke, Research Assistant Mifune and I were packing up the truck in preparation for the annual family get together on the Oregon Coast. We spent Monday night at a friend’s house in Tacoma, so as to avoid morning rush hour traffic. Research Assistant Mifune thoughtfully deposited all of his fleas (dog park) into Dan’s carpet to give him something to remember us by.
The drive was pretty uneventful. We took the scenic route by following the Oregon coastline from Astoria to points south. Having left pretty early and knowing that the beach house wouldn’t be ready until at least 4 pm, I decided to acclimate Research Assistant Mifune to the beach. We stopped in Seaside and took a stroll down to the water …
Things were ok at first. Research Assistant Mifune had no problems navigating the sand, but when we came to the water, he became suspicious.
‘This is like that stuff I didn’t like when we went camping, isn’t it?’ he asked.
‘Not at all,’ I replied. ‘That was a river, a small one at that. This is an ocean, the largest one, I believe. On top of that, the river was fresh water, snow runoff. This ocean is salty and full of Large Monsters.’
‘Oh,’ he said as if that explained anything, ‘Then I guess it’s OK to follow you in … ‘
As soon as his paws touched the teeniest tiniest bit of water, he tried to bolt but I held tight.
‘OH, IT BURNS! IT BURNS’
‘Puppy, it’s water, it doesn’t burn. Remember the stuff you drink all day and the big plastic bowls you chew up all night?’ I assured him.
He eyed me warily. ‘Well, maybe that’s why I chew up the bowls, because it’s liquid fire and I’m trying to dissuade you from giving me daily doses, huh? And don’t call me ‘Puppy’, people are watching. My full and proper name is now Research Assistant Mifune Valentine Damnit Newman.’
I waited for him to finish before I dragged him further into the water. Daylights burning and I have to pee now. As each tiny wave lapped his feet, he would leap vertically and try to run ashore. Then I’d pull him out a little further. Repeat.
By the time we made it back to the car, he was begging for a surfboard and wetsuit. I promised him a pail and bucket and maybe a cheeseburger.
Next, we headed further south and stopped at Manhattan Beach. The beach was beautiful and deserted. I’m thinking, he has to go off leash sooner or later. Sooner is now, later could be disastrous.
The second, I mean the absolute moment, that the connection between the collar and Mifune’s neck was broken, he bolted. Have I ever mentioned just how fast this fucking dog is? It’s like watching a thorobred horse fly around a racetrack. Instead of running down the beach, he ran up a dune and sprinted away in tall grass.
Have you ever tried shouting against the wind with an ocean competing for attention?
10 minutes later, he came trotting back like nothing happened. I suppose to him, nothing did.
We hit the road again and arrived in Oceanside at about 3:30. I didn’t think the house was ready yet, so we drove to the beach parking lot.
Now, if you’ve never been to Oceanside, let me tell you what little I remember about it. It’s 9 miles west of Tillamook (home of cheese and little else). Oceanside is the epitome of a one street town. There’s a caf’ (lunch and dinner only), a coffee shop, a community center and a post office the size of my bathroom. There used to be a restaurant/bar, but it’s being renovated. There’s a hotel with maybe 10 rooms and some rental cottages.
We stayed at the same house as last year. A very nice 5 bedroom, 2 bath overlooking the ocean, but you have to walk through town to access the beach. Big beck, hot tub, TV and DVD player in every room.
This year’s cast included my younger brother, his daughter and their 2 year-old pug named Blueberry. My older brother and his wife, her daughter and her 5 year-old twins. The parental units and their 6 year-old golden retriever. The next day, my cousin and aunt from Portland came down for a night. The year before I was pretty much in a vodka tonic haze, which pissed my mother off to no end. This year, I had a beer in hand at all times, not wanting to get dehydrated.
As soon as we settled into the house and had a few beers, we hit the beach in earnest. This beach has 3 large rock formations just offshore, kind of like Cannon Beach. Mifune was interested in dragging them back to the house, but we were going the opposite direction. After about a half mile, I let Mifune off leash again and hoped for the best. Maybe the best was that he’d run away and I’d never see him again and I could get another plastic dog for the front yard. He ran off for about 30 seconds and then came back, ready to play in the waves.
That was the routine for the next 3 days for me. Eat, beach, read, eat, beach, read.
I had to leave Friday to get back to work. Everybody else stayed until the following
Maybe next year …
Back home, after a few Tractor shows, I jumped back into festival mode with the Bite of Seattle, a 3 day celebration of food, crowds and shitty music at the Seattle Center. Since the emphasis is on food and not necessarily on entertainment, the booking tends to be a little … desperate. I mean, the money is shit and who wants to wake up before sundown anyway? This is where I come in.
Day 1 is load in day. There were between 5 and 9 stages (I never got a clear answer on that). I was mixing front of house at the Mural Amphitheatre stage. I didn’t know my crew beforehand. The monitor guy looked like 2 people I know. He’s too short to be one of them and not 1/10th the asshole as the other! The 3rd man was the designated ‘Patch,’ making sure that the microphones were where they were supposed to be. I stress supposed to be.
Anybody can do sound. Well, just about anybody. I figure that if I can do it, being the stupidest and laziest person on the face of the planet, then the gig’s up for grabs. You don’t even have to like music. The idiot who did sound while I was at the Triple Door hated music, judging from the way he mixed and treated the artists.
This is why I drink.
Anyway, we unloaded the truck and began to set up quickly. There was no reason that we shouldn’t have finished by 3 pm at the very latest
Except that during the free-for-all that we call load in, people were cannibalizing gear from stage to stage. If you weren’t given what you needed at first, somebody else had it and could deal with it later. Apparently, that’s what happened to my drive snake and extension cables. I could only get one side of the mains to come on at a time, due partly to the fact that I didn’t have electricity to both sides of the stage at the same time until late in the afternoon. I troubleshot with the best of them for hours. My best guess was that the digital processor/x-over was messed up, even though it worked the previous afternoon. We went back to the shop and I got a cheap replacement and a beer.
By the time we returned to the grounds, we had less than 30 minutes to get EVERYTHING up and running before the union stagehands started into serious overtime.
My friend Mike was on the main stage and swung by to give me a hand. After explaining my troubles and what I’d done, he told me that he had spent the previous day making sure that I wouldn’t have any problems. He set up the system in the parking lot back at the shop and said that he even ran a special return snake for me …
‘What snake? The one running across the lawn?’ I asked.
‘ No no no,’ replies he, ‘This one!’
Mike spent the next 10 minutes discovering that the cannibals had, indeed, struck early and left me Snakeless in Seattle. We ended up running a couple of mic cables 150 feet from the stage to my console and all was well
Until Day 2
This is where we scramble across the grounds trying to recover what was stolen the day before, except that of course it was in use at that particular moment.
Did I mention that my car pretty much blew up on the way to the gig?
Oh yeah, that
Anyway, one of my cooling system hoses decided to shear itself in half between parking lots? I decided not to worry about it for the next 11 hours’
Back to my stage, I finally get a copy of the stage book, with all of the technical information I needed for each of the bands for the next 3 days. I have every cover and tribute band that I’ve ever heard of (and some which I hadn’t known existed). I had a Led Zeppelin tribute band followed by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The next night was Rush and then AC/DC!
So, my stage starts off with 2 covers bands (surprise!), 1 good and one not so good. Shape of things to come. They are followed by a couple of indie-type bands. Nothing to write home about, but not worth loading the 12 gauge for.
Now the fun begins. We have a 4-piece jam band setting up, but no drummer to be seen. All of the bands get 40 minutes starting at the top of the hour with a 20-minute turnaround. Well, we’re about 10 minutes into their set time and they start playing w/o the drummer. At one point, the bass player asks if there are any drummers in the house who want to sit in. Seconds later, a drummer is up and the band continues. It turns out to be their drummer, who says he was caught in traffic, but he had time to stop and get coffee.
He was fired on the spot after the gig.
Following them was a pretty good singer-songwriter from Austin who hired some jazzer buddies of mine to back him up. Another good local band and then the 70’s returned. The Zeppelin band had all of the guys in The Song Remains The Same era costumes. Now, I’m a big Led Zeppelin fan and I found them pretty entertaining, except for the lead singer who looked as much like Robert Plant as I do. They had their own sound guy who did not impress me at all and I would have him back the next night as well’
Lynyrd Skynyrd (sic) closed Day 1. They were ok, but the snare drum took a dump right before they played. We were able to replace it 5 seconds before the band started.
Saturday kicked off with a Caribbean steel drum band that thought they were supposed to show up at noon, not start then.
More folkyhornbandDoobieBrothersSantanajambands. An Afropop/Reggae band missing their keyboard player started late and ended very late. Keyboardist showed up halfway through the set.
I wonder if he got fired, too?
Hazy Flashback Insert.
In 1977, I saw Bruce Springsteen in L.A. Before the show started, there was the usual goings on, stuff flying through the air. This one Frisbee caught my eye. It left the main floor and was headed to the upper levels. Its trajectory put it for a crash intersection with this guy who was talking to someone, not paying any attention to the Frisbee. I’m watching this, waiting for the guy to get bonked on the head. At the last second, without looking away, he snakes his hand out and grabs the Frisbee and keeps on talking as if nothing happened!
I bring this up because, after the next band, which starts with a couple of Cheap Trick covers, shit starts flying. Beach balls the size of Volkswagens knocking little kids over. I was looking down at the console and glanced up to see a Frisbee cross the stage. Out of the corner of my right eye, I see one heading straight for me. Trying to keep my cool and not look at it, I wait until the last second and jab out with my left hand and catch it without looking up. A number of people saw it coming and were probably hoping for me to get my nose broken.
No such luck.
Without breaking stride, I tossed it on top of my effects rack and kept mixing.
Also, during this band’s set, I noticed a man and his children selling bottles of water for a buck walking through the lawn. Normally, I don’t pay attention to pirate merchants, but since this festival’s main sponsor was a water company selling their water for $2, I was expecting security to converge upon them with the swift hand of injustice.
Just something I saw and filed away.
The Rush tribute band had the same bassist as the Zeppelin band yesterday and the same mixer, but he was better tonight.
Right before the AC/DC band went on, we discovered that someone had stolen half of the cymbals from our drum kit onstage.
There is a PARTICULARLY NASTY CIRCLE OF HELL for those who steal musical instruments, even drums!
We were able to replace those, again with only seconds to spare.
Whisk them off and put up the Fire Dancers!
Oh, did I remember to mention that first thing Saturday morning I lost about half of the signal/power to my house right stack?
Absolutely no reason and/or explanation for it. I was able to make a quick fix that lasted the end of the weekend (I hope!)
Sunday (Happy Day) starts out with a swing band. Why do these nuts wear all black for an outdoor event under a very hot sky with no cover on the stage? Another Seattle anomaly.
A crappy jam band, a very good white soul group and finally another 60’s party band.
Now I leave so I can go to the Tractor.
One of my all-time favorite artists played that night. Stuart Davis. If you’ve never heard of him, check him out!
The only way to briefly describe him is a cross between Gandhi and Satan with an acoustic guitar!
Tuesday, I helped my friends load up a 40′ cargo container with their worldly goods in preparation for their impending move to Hawaii. I was invited to fly over, live in a tent and spend a year or so helping them build their new home …