KFJC Battle of the Surf Bands - Pup Style

EDITOR'S NOTE: The photos in this post are coutesy of Leslie Bialik.

You read earlier that the KFJC Battle of the Surf Bands made for a perfect afternoon.  With the back line in place, wired, and sound-checked for radio purposes in advance, the entire production ran like a well-oiled machine.  The show started right on schedule at 1:00 with Ferenc Dobronyi and his band, Frankie and the Pool Boys.  While they played, members of North of Malibu gathered their instruments.  At 1:12 or so, Frankie finished, and the transition was on.  At 1:15, North of Malibu commenced its set.  It finished within the allotted 12 minutes.  Once the precedent was set, every band followed course -- 14 more times.  Aloha Screwdriver finished at 4:57, leaving three minutes for Ferenc and Mary McDonald -- the KFJC dj in charge -- to thank the crowd, the bands, the Surf Spot, and each other.

Of course, as you might expect, the Pups were not a well-oiled machine.  If we were, we no longer would be pups.  We would have graduated to dogs, canines, mutts, or hounds.

My day began at 5:30 after a night of fitful semi-sleep that resulted from a cup of coffee at 8:00, visions of disaster, and raging rants by the Nagging Little Voice.  “Why did you have a cup of coffee at 8:00?  Between the caffeine and getting up to pee, you won’t sleep at all!”  Every time the Nagging Little Voice rested, Ray Davies’ words from “All of my Friends Were There” came to mind.  Then, when I got up pass some coffee, the Nagging Little Voice started again, “See, I told you so.”

By 10:30 or so, Sue, Glenn, guitars, bass, pedal boards, merch crate, and I were on the road to Pacifica.  Robert texted earlier that he and Lisa were going to enjoy the coast and planned to leave around 10:30.  He inquired about the name of the venue.  “Surf Spot on the PCH in Pacifica.  Next to the bowling alley.”

Every time traffic slowed down, the thought that flashed was, “What if the traffic is like this from here on out?”  Fortunately, it never was.  After taking the wrong exit in Pacifica, getting directions from a mail carrier, and making another wrong turn, we arrived with time to spare.

Despite a couple of wrong turns, this was going very smoothly.  Maybe too smoothly considering the potentially ominous text to Sue’s cell from Robert as we merged on to Highway 1.  “When do we go on?”  We debated, “Do we tell him 2:00 or 1:45?”  We voted for the truth.

After Frankie and the Pool Boys played, Ferenc put on his producer’s hat and came over to see how we were doing.  “Fine, except we don’t have a bass player yet.”  As North of Malibu finished its set, still no Robert.  We were two bands -- 30 minutes -- from our assigned slot.  In the middle of the Buzzy Frets’ set, I started contingency planning.

But rather than “what if” the thing too much, I dialed Robert on the cell.  “Where are you?”  “We’re just coming into Pacifica.  Where’s the venue?  How’s the parking?”  I looked out at the lot, and it was nearly full.  At least, they were only five minutes away unless they took the circuitous route that we had.

As the Buzzy Frets finished and EL84 took the stage, Robert walked in.  Whew!  Simultaneously, Ferenc walked up.  “Are you going to be ready?”  “Yes, our bass player has arrived.”

I slung my guitar over my shoulder, adjusted by Hawaiian tux jacket, and grabbed my pedal board.  EL84 was wrapping up.  Our three minutes to get on stage and set up began.  After plugging my fluorescent yellow cord and other cords into the pedal board, I looked back at Ferenc, who then turned up the volume of the amp.  I hit the strings.  Nothing!  What?  Then I looked at my guitar.  Flustered or just plain inexperienced, I had not plugged anything into it.  Duh!

Ferenc moved to the mic, engaged in a little banter with the crowd and Robert, and asked me if we were ready.  “We’re ready.”  Ferenc announced, “And now the Lava Pups.  I hope they play as loud as Bill’s jacket!”

“Thank you.  This is off of our CD.”  We launched “Link Man.”  Any jitters were gone as, in short order, I realized that I only could hear me and the drums.  What Sue and Robert were doing was an audio mystery.  “Squad Car.”  Robert motioned to me to turn up the volume.  I certainly was not going to do that on the fly.  So I hit the boost pedal.  Between “Squad Car” and “Lava Tube,” Robert asked me to turn up the volume.  As I headed back to the amp, somebody from the production crew said, “Don’t touch that.  The sound’s fine.”  Okay, we were going to do this by working off of Glenn’s drums and watching each other’s hands -- a totally new experience.

We finished the Link Wray Medley.  Our 12 minutes were done.  A number of people said that we sounded great and congratulated us.  Robert and Sue repeated over and over, “We couldn’t hear anybody else.”  But the folks kept saying that we sounded good and were right on time and in sync as a band.

Even our fans in D.C. -- Becky, my daughter, and friends -- who watched the streaming video, texted that we sounded great.

Practice had paid off.  We knew the songs and each other well enough that we could play under new, unexpected conditions.  That meant we were one step closer to being a band.  But I needed a beer.  The time had come to relax and enjoy the rest of what would be a perfect afternoon. 

Why do things easily when you can do them Pup style?

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