Escape From WahWah
Playing gigs doesn't get any weirder than this
Listen to the Podcast, as read by Jef Knight
Back in 1986, when I was 25, I was the new guy on lead guitar in a regionally popular country rock band called Buzz Woodcock and Bitter Whiskey.
Buzz was 24, a year younger than me, but he looked like a 40 year old Waylon Jennings and sang like Charlie Pride, was a hard drinking mofo, been married twice, and was "that guy" that kicked the back window out of a cop car trying to escaped, handcuffed, before spending his third stretch in jail.
We were booked to play a, quote-unquote "resort" in the distant north of Ontario, Canada in a town called Wah-Wah.
When we arrived the owner, a dumpy, beer-soaked redneck with a hate on for musicians and city folk came thumping up to the stage and handed Buzz a sheet of paper. "Here's the songs you'll be playin' tonight." he gruffed. We all just stood there wondering what just happened.
"We don't know any of these songs..." Buzz told him.
"Well, you better get ta practicin' then..." demanded the club owner.
Now, I need to mention here that this wasn't the kind of resort that you'd think of staying at on vacation. It was a bar with ten rooms above it in a town of 250 about 20 minutes drive from the tree-line, as in, no more trees only snow.
So, we all went up to the one room they'd assigned us and began picking each others brains as to how these new songs might possibly go. We eventually figured out that these weren't even song titles merely phrases from the songs the owner imagined were the titles. We figured out a couple and we knew a couple more but that was it, we were cooked, so we thought.
This is the point in the story where the band breaks open the cooler, cracks some beers and sandwiches, and gets completely baked on a bag of weed the bass player had brought.
Nine O'clock comes around and we get up on the stage and commence to playing some good ol' country classics like Crystal Chandelier, but with beer bottle slide solos. The first set was uneventful.
On the break Buzz, as was his style, got right friendly with the waitress who, unbeknownst to him, was the owner's daughter. She was a nice lookin' gal, about 20 or so, and seemed quite pleasant.
Second set time arrives and now the band is fully tuned up, by which I mean had several more beers and some more weed and started the set with some ZZ Top, you know to...test the waters. Well if that wasn't the spark at the gas pump. Apparently the only thing worse than uncompliant musicians were city folk and rock music.
A skinny, very irritated fella that looked like oddly a drunk, dishevelled Billy Bob Thornton, rushed the stage. Brian, our bass player, out of nowhere, swung the body of his black, Fender P-Bass and caught this guy under the chin sending him flying backwards into table of disgruntled yokels. That's when the wheels came off the cart. The whole room erupted in a chaos the likes of which are usually assigned to movies and legend.
We grabbed our instruments and managed to escape out the door at the side of the stage. They seemed to be having their own kinda fun inside and didn't even miss us.
About a half hour later the owner came up to our room. We were all hiding out like fugitives. He told us that we were not going to get paid and handed Buzz one of those little yellow and white diner guest checks with some stuff scrawled on it. Seems he was looking to squeeze a few hundred bucks out of us for, "damages".
Buzz, a shrew business guy, told him to hang on until morning and we'd slide over the local bank and take care of the damages. Buzz was unusually charming when he wanted to be. the bar owner agreed and left quietly.
This is where the band breaks open the cooler, cracks a few more beers and sandwiches and smoke some more weed.
The room only had two beds and a cot. Buzz took a bed, Brian the bass player and Steve the drummer were spoonin' on the other bed and I got the cot. Lucky me, really, I could have been spoonin' with Buzz.
So, now it's about two in the morning and there comes a little knock at the door. Buzz grumps out, "I'll get it..." while the rest of us try to remain unphased and keep on sleeping. Well, if it isn't that cute, young waitress from the first set break. She and Buzz exchange some quite words, then the door quietly closes and Buzz proceeds to bang the sweet-jesiz livin' hell out of her while the rest of us pretend to try and sleep.
It was kind of awkward. And I say it was awkward not because we were the unwitting audience to a live-action performance art show that was taking place in front of us, albeit in the dark, but because this meat-solo went on for almost two hours. It was at that moment that I came to understand why Buzz had so many women in his life.
And they weren't being very discreet about it. All I could think was, "I hope that the bar owner whose daughter this is lives down the road, because if he lives here in the, "resort", I'm pretty sure he can hear all of this. And I was right.
Just as the young lady was fixin' to leave there came a knock at the door. It was a gruff, tired sounding older woman. The girl opened the door a crack, and here and her maw commenced to yellin' at each other in whispered tones. So much heat with so little sound. I intuited that this could not end well.
Brian and Steve are now standing in a shadowed corner and looking at me with that familiar, "Come on, Knight, you're the smart one of this bunch! What do we do next?" look in their eyes. I looked over at the window, second story, overlooking our van in the parking lot, and made a "go that-a-way?" gesture with my thumb. The both shook their heads "no" in terror.
I was about to shrug and point the thumb towards the door where the women were still hissing at each other when Buzz, ever the action hero, commanded in an "all hands on deck" voice, "Come on, Knight, we're gettin' the hell outta here!" whereupon we grabbed all our stuff and ran, literally ran to the van.
As we bolted down the hall and out the fire escape at the end, I could hear, and plainly see, that the man shouting the foulest of obscenities and chasing us down the hall was also carrying a shotgun. Fortunately, for our sorry asses, the van was right at the bottom of the rickety, metal fire escape stairs.
We piled into the van with the efficiency and precision of a military unit, and as Buzz proceeded to floor it outta there we could here the Blam! of shotgun fire and the "ting-ting" of buckshot pellets hitting our now speeding away van.
After a few minutes of white-knuckling it down the road we all exhauled and laughed the kind of cathartic laugh usually reserved for psych patients.
Then we cracked open that cooler, and this time skipped the sandwiches.
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Excellent work Jeff, you are a natural . I wish I could remember half of the things that happened during my life on the road. Maybe that's a good thing ! wink, wink.