"I Saw a Little Daylight There"

As Thursday night's practice concluded, we moved our gear near the Doghouse door.  Rush (the band) was right, “All this machinery making modern music.”  Amps.  Drums.  Hardware.  Guitars -- an extra just in case.  Bass.  Pedal board.  A bagful of cords and other paraphernalia.  Indeed, it was a bunch of machinery that had to go less than three miles across the Sacramento River to the “new” Shine.

A Friday night gig meant leaving work early -- at 5:15 -- to go home, change out of a coat and tie, hit a drive-thru in West Sacramento, pack all that machinery into cars, and unload at Shine.  The decision had been made that the Pups would play first.  Our goal was to have everything on stage and ready to go by 8:00, which was the nominal starting time.  It was “nominal” because an audience generally does not begin to arrive until the announced starting time.

Surprisingly and un-Pup-like, everything seemed to be going quite smoothly.  We were plugged in by 7:50 and semi-sound checked by 8:05 or so.  All knobs right.  All plugs right.  All pedals working including a new Tube Screamer Chinese cheapie clone to put some growl into Sue’s electric uke.  Wireless with a fresh battery and ready to go.

The audience started arriving at 7:30.  Folks ordered wine, beer, and food and found seats.  By 8:15, Lob, who wears the multiple hats of booker, door guy, and sound tech, felt the crowd justified lighting off.  “You guys ready to start?”  Sue, Glenn, and I looked around for Robert.  “He was here ten minutes ago.  Maybe he’s outside.”  After a few minutes, Lob reported, “He went home to get a jacket.”

Huh?  Home?  A jacket?  Well -- after all -- Lob had said that we would start at 8:30, and it was still daylight outside.  That gave the rest of us time to mingle with the audience and get in some pacing.  No show is complete without pacing propelled by nervous energy and anticipation.

Robert walked in at 8:30.  He was dressed elegantly in black.  Black blazer.  Black shirt.  Black jeans.  Black shoes.  I thought, “He looks quite sophisticated.”  I pulled on the Hawaiian tux -- so much for sophistication.  We took the stage.

Radio voice:  “For your listening pleasure . . . the Lava Pups.”  Cackling, mischievous voice:  “For your fun . . . the Lava Pups!”  I flubbed the first note of Surf Rider and stopped immediately.  Looked down at my fingers and the fret board.  Stared the left index finger into place and struck the low E string.  No flub.  No fuss.  No muss.  We were underway.

Forty-five minutes or so later, we hit the final chord of Jack-the-Ripper.  In between, we had fun.  Joked with the crowd.  Got them to sing along on a couple of songs.  Maybe his dress required that Robert maintain an air of sophistication.  Even though his playing was as spirited as always, he limited himself to more-reserved movements.  I, however, ventured away from my corner of the stage.  Maybe the Hawaiian tux inspired that.

We moved our gear out Shine’s new side door on to the sidewalk.  Once the stage was clear, the Funicellos set up.  Their set would display their musicianship.  Johnny Funicello playing both lead and rhythm guitar at once -- precise playing with chords interspersed for depth -- interpreted their originals, instrumental classics, and a couple of Los Straitjackets songs.  That was built on, and anchored by, a solid rhythm section of Tony and Donny Funicello.

Once outside, I pulled off the Hawaiian tux and dumped it in the Prius’s front seat.  We packed our equipment into our cars.  Lob looked out the side door and asked, “You got everything?”  After we affirmed that we had, he closed and locked the door.  The transition off the stage also had gone smoothly.  Shine apparently had been remodeled with bands in mind.

As we took advantage of mild evening to cool down and unwind, friends came out to talk with us.  “You guys were great tonight.”  “That was really fun!”  That made me think how far we had come.  Awhile back, we might have responded with, “I completely screwed up the bridge in Squad Car.”  Now, we say, “Thank you.  We hope that you enjoyed it.”  I also thought about how exhilarating playing in front of a crowd is.

Talking to the audience brought the realization that practice and playing were paying off.  We were getting better as a band with a better stage presence and our own personality.

A sure sign that practice was helping came when a friend said, “I saw a little daylight there between your feet and the stage on one of those jumps.”


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