A little while back, I posted City Tuba in a Country Band. I wrote about adjusting to country music from classical music, and I anticipated my first gig. I thought it would be a good idea to follow up.
I’ve played three gigs with the band, now. I’ve learned about twenty songs on various instruments including tuba, keyboards, trombone, tambourine, and vocals. I say “learned”, but my keyboard numbers (not pieces…classical term) are not memorized. I’ve never memorized a keyboard piece in my life. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to memorize a few chord progressions. So I keep a handful of cheat sheets handy on stage. I’d really like to get away from this so that I can really throw myself into the music.
The band is booked for four gigs in February. I feel that we are gaining momentum. We are said to have a “brand” now. We have a entirely unique sound. The leader writes songs about Oklahoma, drinking, huffing, grief, good times, and hobos. It’s a blend of outlaw country, psychedelic rock, folk, blues, and blue grass. Adding tuba and trombone to the mix is a contributing factor to having our own sound.
I say “our”, because I finally feel that I’m truly a part of the band; not an outsider helping out on a few songs. We practice once or twice a week. We share drinks, share bawdy toasts, swap jokes, and sometimes smokes. We dream together about the future of the band. We share ideas for shaping the songs into something even more special. We set up, load up, break down, and store equipment as a team.
When it’s time to play, the joking around subsides and the focus begins. There is often limited time to get in and out. There’s a rhythm and a ritual to it. The tretris game of loading into the back of the bass player’s truck. The unpacking of each piece of equipment. The planning it takes to set up on a stage we’ve never played on, sometimes in cramped spaces. The plugging in and setting levels. Some places have a sound guy, and sometimes we are our own sound guy. Our front man makes very little show of starting. “We’re $69 Guitar”. He looks at each of us quickly to make sure we’re already, then he starts.
The band never sounds better than when we’re in front of a crowd.
I’m learning here. I’m learning to play honkytonk piano and bass with a tuba. I’m learning how to play fill with a trombone. All of those hours of listening to Chicago as a kid is paying off (Pankow is a great model for rock trombone).
I don’t know exactly what the future of this band is. The bass player is having a baby. I’m hoping to be in a musical this Spring. But, I’ll enjoy it while I’ve got it!