Camp Chronicles (13): "Muck Bucket" Time

Editor’s Note: These chronicles started out as “letters” from Sierra Surf Music Camp.  But the story was bigger than a letter.  We hope that you are not exhausted yet.  The good news is that we are on the downhill side.



The Surf Miners were up.  We walked on to the stage.  Robert went to the amp stage right and plugged in.  I unzipped Brett’s double bass gig bag and pulled out the Olympic White Fender Jazz bass that he let me use.  No adjustment to the strap was necessary; the bass sat right under my paunch.  Bruce plugged into the amp on stage left.

We each made some noise with our instruments.  Matt Quilter adjusted the bass amp.  Bruce and Robert tuned.  As readers of this blog know, my approach to tuning is that that is something which might be done once a day.  I tuned Brett’s bass earlier in the day.  No reason to depart from my approach now.

Paul Johnson was on stage with us.  We looked around.  Where’s Tim?  We did not have drummer on stage with us.  I walked up to the mic and made some kind of drummer and forgetting to go to the bathroom joke.  How puerile was that?  Or was it the Motrin and wine talking?

Tim came running down the hill from the Lodge.  Had he forgotten his drum sticks?  Or that last trip to the bathroom?  We did not ask.  The time had come for us to play. 

Paul Johnson announced, “Here are the Surf Miners.  They’re mining the depths of surf music.”  Laughter.  “They wrote an original song.  But they’re going to start with ‘Surf Party.’  Here they are.  The Surf Miners!”

Tim yelled, “Surf Party!”  He was off to the races.  And I mean the races.  The tempo was way faster than anything we had practiced.  This was a test of the mantra.  Stay on the root.  Stay on the root.  Bruce tried to keep up, but Tim’s pace was too fast.  Bruce stopped.  Tim and I then stopped.  We -- the Surf Miners’ rhythm section -- really had been cooking.

Mulligan!  The Surf Miners started up again at a pace that worked for everybody.  We played through the whole song.  Applause.  Bruce then looked to me with the inquiring look of whether I would like to introduce our original song.  And I responded, “You’re on lead.  It’s all yours.” 

He announced “Muck Bucket,” and our song was debuting to the world.  As we played, Brett’s words of wisdom and my mantra for the performance played over and over in my mind.  Play the root.  Play the root.  Nothing fancy.  Play the root.  That guided me until the little walk down that Paul suggested at the end of our earlier practice.  I executed the walk down with aplomb.  We looked to Bruce and played the final F on cue; “Muck Bucket” was in the books.

I felt like we hit that one.  No muck ups.  We had played what would turn out to be the only original song written during camp for Sunday night.  Enthusiastic applause.  Somebody yelled from the audience, “What was the name of that?”  I leaned into the microphone, “Muck Bucket!”  May not have mastered guitar face but getting better at mic.

As I tucked Brett’s bass back into the gig bag, I thought, “Film at 11:00, and we’ll see if we did as well as this feels.”

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