Thanksgiving Night: Preparing To Live Out a Rock 'N Roll Fantasy

Dick Dale is the King of the Surf Guitar.  Most people have no idea what instrumental surf music is.  Using terms such as guitar-centric, reverb-drenched, alternate picking, staccato picked, or glissando-laden alone or in combination with each other usually generates shoulder shrugs.  To get people to understand almost immediately, you say, “Surf music is what Dick Dale plays -- like ‘Miserlou’”

Dick Dale and instrumental surf music are synonymous.  Nobody who knows me should be surprised that to open for Dick Dale was a fantasy of sorts.  Besides that certainly would look good on the Lava Pups’ resume.

Thanksgiving night 2012 -- November 22, 2012 -- was that historic event.  On the drive to the Press Club for a 6:30 load-in, I wondered how many people would come out on Thanksgiving night.  Target, Walmart, and Sears moved “Black Friday” up to 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving; to maintain the pretense of “Black Friday,” other stores were opening at midnight.  Deep down, however, I knew that given the choice between Dick Dale and “door buster specials,” surf music fans would pick Dick Dale.

Dusty Watson, Sam Bolle, and Dick Dale’s crew still were going through their soundcheck as we packed in our drums and equipment.  Stacks of speakers sat to the left and right of Dusty’s kit.  Each stack was waist high and miked.  Dusty’s kit was miked.  They played and gave the sound engineer instructions until they were satisfied.

Then we put our equipment on what was left of the stage.  Our guest drummer -- Rikki Styxx of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang -- worked with Dusty to set up the Lava Pups drums.  The stage kept becoming smaller.  Our amps looked like toys in front of the speaker cabinets.  The sound engineer miked Robert’s and Sue’s amps and our bass drum.  After placing my pedal board where I could get at it without tripping over it, very little stage was left for me. 

Our soundcheck was done by 7:15.  Sean then told us that the show would start at 9:00.  I responded that Dick Dale’s band was planning on playing at 9:20.  Sean said that he would check.  What were we going to do for an hour and 45 minutes?  Anticipation combined with beginning the day at 5:30 a.m., helping with Thanksgiving dinner for twelve at the Doghouse, running through the set once with Rikki and Sue, and packing and unpacking were taking their toll on my energy level.

Around 7:45, folks began to arrive in earnest.  To burn off any energy generated by anticipation, I wandered in and out of building and shuffled between friends and well-wishers.  During one of those sojourns, Sean said, “Dusty and Sam told me that you guys should go on at 8:30.”  Cool.  Anticipation time trimmed.

Sue observed, “This is going to be the biggest crowd that we ever played in front of.”

As the building filled, the music on the PA and the crowd noise escalated.  The music of The Jam played over the PA.  “David Watts.”  “In the City.”  “A-Bomb on Wardour Street.” 

We took the stage to “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight.”  Rikki was wedged between Dusty’s drums, speaker cabinets, and the Lava Pups kit.  Robert and Sue were in front of Sam's two cabinets and pinned behind a hand rail.  My spot on the stage felt precarious.  Step back too much and trip over Robert’s amp.  Step forward too much and fall down the step leading up to the stage.

As the song finished, I signaled the sound engineer.  The Jam was off.  The din coming from both rooms of the Press Club lowered.  Some of the crowd was leaning against the stage.  A small clearing existed at the bottom of the step up to the stage.  Beyond that, people were standing.  A few had staked out bar stools directly in front of the stage.

Sue was right.  This was the biggest crowd we had played in front of.  They were waiting for us.

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