“Good evening, Windsor, and welcome to The Lounge. My name is Terry Wilson. Bobby Metronome is on drums, and we’re pleased to introduce Jason Pleasant on guitar. We’re going to play some songs for you tonight. You’re welcome to dance, in case you didn’t know. This is an old Black Sabbath number we like to do. It’s called 'Sweet Leaf.’”
I count in and we hit it, hammering into the riff slow and heavy. Behind me Bobby
is hitting the tubs fast and loose, battering the rhythm with perfect precision. To my left, Jason
is slashing at his strings with perfect confidence, swaying as he plays, grooving with the music he’s making. This is Jason’s song. It was what he played when he auditioned for us, and he practically begged us to add it to the set list. It shocked him when Bobby and I agreed, and even chose to play it for the opener.
The stage lights are almost directly in front of me, so it’s difficult to see much of the room except the area just below the stage. Even so, I can tell that there are some silhouettes of people nodding their head along with the familiar tune. Half of them probably recognize it as one of Beavis and Butthead’s signature chanting songs: “Dah-Dah…Dih-Dih-Duh.” We chose it as the opener because it’s nice and recognizable, and also because it’s the one song that Jason plays better than the others. Christ, it was probably the first song he learned to play on guitar. I figure, if he plays it well, it should give him confidence for the rest of the set, and maybe he’ll keep his act together. It’s a good theory, and it’s worked in about half the shows we’ve played.
I scream the “All right now!” into the mike, and hear some woo-hoos from the audience in response. It gives me a little buzz of stage-high, and I smile, happy that the audience is happy. I don’t know how many people are in the room. Between one-fifty and two hundred I suppose, and I’m happy to be up in front of them. Bobby played in front of festival crowds of up to twenty thousand when Tremors of Intent were at their biggest, long after I was finished in the band. True, The Lounge in Windsor doesn’t hold twenty thousand people, but I enjoy playing there anyway.
We bring “Sweet Leaf” to a crescendo, with Bobby doing massive rolls to build it up. We peak then fall off entirely, leaving only a breath of space before we pick up with “End Of Us,” an old Tremors number that is fast and catchy. People still remember it from its time on the radio, and after the big hook with the Sabbath number, it draws people in and let’s them know who we are and what kind of music we’re going to play for them.
The set goes well. We roll through our list, keeping the breaks between songs short, except when we need to tune up, when I make snappy banter with the crowd. Some people actually do get up and dance in front of the stage, especially during the last few songs. We hit the false ending, say thank you, goodnight, and get a lot of applause. Jason and I take off our guitars and Bobby gets out from behind his kit. We step to the side of the stage, making the pretence that we’re leaving, but clearly leaving everything still hooked up, so the crowd can see that if they cheer loudly enough we’ll come back on for an encore. We’re not hard core ego cases; we typically only wait about ten seconds to come back up if they do cheer. It’s so hokey and cheesy that I absolutely hate it, but on another level the cheesy showmanship appeals to me. If they didn’t cheer, we wouldn’t play another song, but they do, so after the time it takes for Bobby to drink a glass of water, we go back up.
Bobby leads the way, getting applause. People seem to know who he is, and they know he played with Tremors Of Intent for four albums and twelve years. Jason follows, his arms stuck up in the air like he’s the heavy-weight champion of the world. I get up and sling my bass back on. Bobby starts pounding out the rhythm of our encore song before Jason even has his guitar on. There’s always a long drum buildup. Jason and I take a second to get in tune, wait, I cue Jason to and we rip into it, chugging along with an open E note. We play Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” as our encore song. Like our opener, it’s easy, recognizable, and people really get into it.
I know it’s funny to play a show of original material and both open and close with covers, but it’s something I’ve done for a long time. I just find that people get drawn in when they hear something familiar. Sure, a lot of the Tremors songs are familiar, but they make up a smaller fraction of our set list, since Bobby and I agreed to only use the songs we played when I was actually in the band, way back in the beginning, before I quit (or got thrown out, depending on who you ask).
“Free World” is a pretty simple tune. It’s a fast, aggressive anthem that doesn’t skimp on either hope or social commentary. Personally, I think a few of the lyrics are some of the most affecting in rock. The bit about the kid who will never get to fall in love and never get to be cool is touching. Ah well. I guess I’m just an old softy.
The problem is, it is a simple tune, and Jason gets a little too confident when he’s playing it. I’ve mentioned a lot about Jason’s limitations, and I hate to keep ragging on the kid, but to be honest I had hoped he’d get better, faster. He’s gotten a little better, but he’s also taken too much of a rock’n’roll star attitude, and has focused too much on looking cool and acting like a star, and not enough on figuring out what his weaknesses are, and how he needs to correct them. I guess he’s just not ready for the road.
So Jason starts running over the riff, and we sound great. But when it comes times for the chorus, he sneaks up to me, so he can sing along with the refrain. The thing is, he can play along pretty well, but the kid can’t really sing and play at the same time. I’ve told him a few times not to try this, because he starts messing up his timing, but he keeps trying it anyway. We hit the chorus and I sing, “Keep on rockin’ in the free woooooooorld,” and I notice him there beside me, moving towards the mike. I don’t want to look like a total asshole, so I slide over a bit so he can sing as well, and we belt it out together. Jason’s got an okay voice and we sound good singing together, but as I fear, he misses the changes and falls out of time, has to pause, and picks it up again. A glutton for punishment, he tries to sing again, and falls out of time again.
I want to kick him hard in the balls, but I laugh and shoulder in to the mike to block him out. The crowd seems to get a kick out of the theatrics, turning our encore into a comedy of errors.
The next time the chorus comes around, he starts to move in again, and I jokingly kick to force him back away from the mike. The crowd gets it and eats it up, and we bring the song to a big close. “We’ll have to work on that one a bit for next time,” I say after we finish. “Thanks a lot everybody. Have a great night.”
The house d.j. starts playing before I’m even off the stage. Bobby looks at me and shakes his head. “You know I’m only touring with you until you can get someone permanent,” he says. “But you’ve got to get rid of that kid and find a new guitarist. He’s not figuring this shit out.”
“I’ll talk to him,” I say. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll straighten him out.”
“I’m not worried about it. You should be worried about it. I’m just here for laughs. If you want to get serious about this though, you’ve got to get rid of the amateur shit.”
I nod. He’s right. But we’ve only got a few more shows until we head back to Toronto so I can face my wife and our divorce. I had hoped these shows would solidify us as a band, convince Bobby to stay and make a go of this as a serious comeback, as well as get Jason ready to play some bigger, serious shows.
But there are still a few shows left. Maybe Jason can get it together. Maybe Bobby will change his mind. Right now, I don’t even want to think about it. It’s time for a beer. There will be time to figure this mess out later.
2006 © Nolan Whyte