I thought I had done the strangest, most chaos inspiring gig in Palm Springs a few weeks ago. It’s taken me till now to recover and pick the lock on the woodshed. Apparently there was plenty of weird to come. I am sitting in Santa Cruz, CA after a show that, quite frankly, made our last show seem like a Carnegie Hall teamsters show.

Every year around this time I come out to Santa Cruz to play a concert with my friend Lorenzo (I am using a fake name to protect him. I hope you appreciate that, Dean). Lorenzo has been having his share of health issues the last few years. He has a heart that he carries around in a bag (this is not a way of saying that he is emotional… he literally carries it in a bag outside his body). Just when THAT seemed to be close to being normal to the rest of us he finally made good on his lifelong promise and smashed his car, breaking both legs. Lorenzo is  not only in the band for this show but he is the producer and the emcee! In the immortal words of Rizzo Ratso…”He can’t walk….”

The day before the show we were running down the list of all the acts he planned to have. This is a revue… they’ve been doing this for thirty years or so so obviously it runs like a well oiled machine. After thirty years I think ANY machine would have a few issues… a little rust, a mouse in the gears… an expired warranty. This year the show has some issues. Dean (damn)… Lorenzo may not have been as “on top of it” as in previous years due to his red bag and his legs that currently point in opposite directions. As we looked down the list of songs I kept asking…”who’s singing this one?” And his response, more often than I am comfortable with… was ” I don’t know. I just like the song.” It gets weirder.

Every show has a soundcheck a few hours before the actual show. The morning of the show the sound man for the club stopped by to unlock the door for us so we could unload our equipment. That was very, very nice of him. Then he jumped in his truck and headed to Texas. It seems the police were after him. He had been involved earlier that morning in a “domestic dispute”… was arrested, was released… then went home and got involved in “Domestic Dispute 2… Electric Boogaloo” and was on the lam. I have never typed the phrase “on the lam” before. I hope that is how it is spelled.

So our sound man is on his way to either prison or Austin (insert own joke here comparing and/or contrasting the two). We head for the phone to start calling names on the list of people who know how to turn on the mixing board. It is not inspiring to hear them going down the list saying” no… he’s a meth head… no, not him… he’s at a Klan Rally this week.” We finally reach number 72 and make the call.

Our sound was not great. It would take three blogs just to tell you how entertaining THAT was.

As the show progressed we discovered that half of the acts that were on the list were no longer on the list. Some didn’t show. Some showed and were deemed by Lorenzo to be too risky to allow on stage. One gentleman wandered the club in a leather vest and motorcycle cap like one of the Village People. I thought that was strange until someone explained that an act was INDEED going to perform YMCA but Lorenzo cancelled them at the last minute leaving the motorcycle man to wander the club all night in full Village People attire without a cowboy or Indian in sight. Nothing is sadder at one in the morning than seeing a middle aged man throw his arms up in a Y all by himself and sob.

Many who sang were old friends who had performed at shows throughout the years and it was very sweet to have them get up and reclaim their glory. They all did a great job and it was fun to play and be a part of them getting to relive a bit of their past for a night.

Lorenzo hired the Do Right Burlesque dancers to perform with and in front of several acts and they quite saved the day. No one notices how badly you are playing when a girl in a bra and platinum wig is gyrating on the floor in front of you. I may try that outfit at a future BSR show to take attention away from the fact that I never really learned “You’re Not the Boss Of Me.”

The final song was listed as “The Weight”… The great old Band song. “Who’s singing it?”
“I don’t know.” responds Lorenzo.
“Does everyone know how it goes?” I ask hopefully.
“Yes!” They reply and then each proceeds to play it in different keys using different chords and, I swear I heard it, different time signatures. “This will not do” said Sam I Am. (Sam I Am is the bartender at the club. He is very nice but so large and intimidating that no one has ever had the balls to make a joke about his name.) I worried for nothing. When we got to the end of the show Lorenzo left the stage (very slowly and limply) and we followed as quickly as we could, carefully stepping over a girl in a bra and platinum wig. No “Weight.”

Yes, shows like this make me appreciate how smoothly the Blue Sky Riders shows  run and how professional everyone is. But that’s not why I come out here every year to play this show. I come out here to remember what it was like when Lorenzo and I used to have to cram an entire band’s equipment into the back of a Ford Pinto. When the club owners went missing at the end of the night when it was time to collect our 75 bucks split five ways. When we left all the minor chords out of songs because “we hadn’t gotten to them yet.” I play this show so Lorenzo and I can be 17 again and we’re gonna be stars and make records and get girls and…..

Oh well. The show ends. My back hurts. Dean… oops… Lorenzo puts his organs back in their marked containers, seals and burps the lids… and we head home to the soft wail of police sirens heading west to Texas.