Farewell to Legends (part 2 of 3)
Thursday 11/29/01 – 2:17 pm – Im driving north on I-15. Me, this little tape recorder Im talking into, a few days worth of clean clothes, a couple of guitars and a big old Ampeg ReverbRocket amplifier. Makes me feel like a musician. And I guess for the next few days, thats what I am.
Im on my way up to Vegas from my favorite sleepy little beach town in San Diego for a reunion with my old band, 5 OClock Shadow. Were gonna get together after about four years of not playing for a "Farewell to Legends Lounge" show. Seems like the right thing to do. We were the first band to play there and as soon as I heard the news that Legends was closing its doors, I had a notion that it would be cool to play there one more time.
The other guys felt the same. And so did Rudy, the clubs owner. Rudys an old buddy and nobodys done more for the jam scene in Vegas. So after a flurry of emails and a few phone calls with my old bandmates, Scotty the Slice Tillotson (lead guitar) and Gary Chodikov (bass), and then getting the thumbs up from Rudy, we made plans to get together for a show on Saturday, December 1st, 2001.
Just thinking about the reunion has been exciting. There is no rush quite like playing music with your friends, even if its just in somebodys living room. But when you put the music onstage, under the lights and in front of a crowd, youve got some serious mojo workin. So on one hand, this whole concept has been a buzz generator from the moment we agreed to do it.
But on the other hand, the fact that we havent played together in such a long time, and that its been impossible to rehearse because of my location in SoCal, has made this thing a little weird. And thats fine. Weve always embraced the strange and unusual.
Anyway, Scotty and Gary have been getting together with a drummer named Jeff Dugan to work out the tunes. Pretty sure theyve practiced five or six times already. And our saxman, Larry Pro, as well as a keyboard player named Dave Bixel, have also stopped by for a session or two. So the idea is for the band to be rockin when I roll into town tonight. Were gonna practice tonight and tomorrow, before all hell breaks loose on Saturday.
Friday 11/20/01 – 10:08 am – Im sitting at an IHOP, patiently waiting for a full stack of old fashioned buttermilk goodness. And yes, the bottomless pot of coffee is already flowing. Damn, its great to be alive… had a ton-o-fun last night!
For starters it was just great to see the guys, crank up the volume and make some noise. Scottys got a nice house on Sunrise Mountain with a big pool in the back yard overlooked by a large wrap around balcony that also has a killer view of the Las Vegas Strip. Plus, the house has a finished basement thats perfect for band practice.
And man, did we ever need the practice! Especially me. I was pretty sloppy. Lots of words and chords I havent played in a long, long time. Sure, I worked on the tunes as much as I could over the past few weeks, and on the drive up I listened to some old 5OS tapes, singing along and playing guitar in my mind. But there are several songs I dont have a recording of, so last night was really a swift kick in the ass.
Although we started out playing originals, the band had evolved into doing a lot of cover tunes by the time we called it quits, primarily Grateful Dead stuff and related material. But for this show everyone agreed in advance that the reunion would be an all original performance, with maybe one or two covers thrown in for good measure.
Ill admit it, even though I wrote most of the material, some of the stuff was pretty blurry. Last night definitely cleared some of the cobwebs. Fortunately, Scotty had printed out all the lyrics in advance and refreshed my memory on the chords I had forgotten. At least now I know what I
dont know, and feel pretty good about getting up to speed for show time on Saturday.
We did have some real sweet moments though. In fact, there was one jam on a tune called "Trippin Over Shadows" that really caught fire. Theres a section in the song where we do sort of modal jam in A. In other words, no chord changes, just jammin. In the past, I had always stuck to strumming A chords during this part, mixing up positions on the neck to bounce up and down the octaves, as well as changing up the strum itself to play with the rhythm.
But for some reason I got the idea to pick individual notes and I quickly fell into a simple riff that not only reflected the melody, it also enabled me to still play around with the rhythm. For me, this was a big deal. Ive always been way too busy a strummer, with little or no riff popping ability whatsoever. Yeah, as a rhythm guitarist, Ive always
understood the concept of playing notes within a chord, Ive just never been able to do it particularly well. Until last night that is… it was awesome!
Let me put it to ya this way: for a few minutes I could do nothing but smile wide as my fingers moved with a mind of their own. Can you say "sheer bliss?" There was no thinking going on, just a whole lot of feeling. Mostly feeling at one with the music and in tune with my band mates.
But as the jam wore on I felt something else – my picking hand was warm and sort of throbbing. Looking down, I saw that my left hand, the one I strum with, was bleeding! Drops of blood had splattered onto the guitar, as well as my shirt. And although I wasnt happy about the mess, I was thrilled to have lost myself so completely into the music…
Saturday 2:14 pm – Ive been going through the songs in my mind since I woke up this morning. We had a really good rehearsal last night. Picked up the slack on most of the tunes and identified the few that still really need work. So thats what Im doing. Just singing and playing the songs over and over in my mind as I prepare for the show tonight.
Right now Im sitting in Scottys car, waiting in the parking lot outside Best Buy, while he picks up a birthday gift for his girlfriend Tenille. Me and Scotty wrote a bunch of songs together and its very cool to spend some quality time with him. Cant say I miss Vegas too much, but there are some good people here.
Last night after practice we hit a 24 hour buffet at one of the local casinos. Tenille joined us, and so did Gary the bass player. We were all tired and hungry but we had a great time just hanging out. Scotty had some stuff to do this morning, so Im riding along as he goes about his business. Weve got a few more places to go before we head back to the house for a pre-show bbq.
I know our performance tonight wont be perfect, they never are, but I think everything is going to work out just fine. The main thing is to have fun and were already doing that.
NEXT MONTH: 5 OClock Shadow plays Legends tie-dyed stage one last time to bid the venerable venue farewell.
Lee Abraham is a freelance writer currently on assignment in Ocean Beach, CA. Check out his Adventures In Music Journalism website at www.mrlee.com or contact him directly at email@example.com