Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 1
Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 2
Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 3
Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 4
Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 5
Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 6

pawn shopSo there I was at Black Market Music selling my Gibson. Rent was due. I was frantic.

How did things get to this?

I had started a trio in 1995. We played on Market Street one day and ended up getting booked into the Fillmore Lounge (see part VI). We were asked back but the bass player and drummer said they didn’t want to do it. I couldn’t believe it. They also said they wanted to play loud rock, like Green Day. Intrigued, I went along with it. But we never really got any louder because the bass player had no money and was trying to play through a cheap guitar practice amp. The band didn’t last very long.

I was almost finished with school. For my senior project I put together a full band that included drums, bass, keyboard, violin, and me on vocals, guitar, and harmonica. It was my first time trying to arrange a band. The musicians were very experienced so things came together quickly. We did one show and it went over well.

By 1997 I was out of school and working office temp jobs. My new goal was to record a demo to get a record deal and gigs. I saved as much as I could and got a producer. We did four tunes. I ended up not liking it and became very depressed.

The temp work started drying up so I got a job in a bagel shop. Money was tight. I ended up selling my guitar for $400.

I had no idea what to do now. My music dreams were slipping away. I felt trapped.

airline pilotThen a friend suggested I see a career counselor.

I went to the local JVS and signed up. My counselor gave me a few personality and aptitude tests that match your personality type with different careers. I was a wreck waiting for the results. Had I been wasting my life???

When the results came my counselor handed me a piece of paper. At the top it said:

1 – Musician

2 – Airline Pilot

3 – Librarian

I was elated. This piece of paper proved it. I was a musician!

I decided to keep trying. The next trick was to figure out what kind of day job I could do that wasn’t going to make me want to kill myself.

“No problem,” she said. “We just need to start with your resume and getting you into a job you can handle while you figure out your next move.”

Things changed quickly. I got a job in an Antique Mall and started playing out again. I made a solo acoustic CD to sell at gigs. I bought a computer and made a website. I was now an “Independent Artist” (with a day job).

To be continued:

Adam Ant

Adam Ant

Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 1
Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 2
Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 3
Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 4
Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 5

For some reason he wanted to wear a dress.

We had been booked to play the Fillmore Lounge at the Fillmore opening for Adam Ant. (see part V)

We all met at the drummer’s apartment for a short rehearsal and to go over our set. When we were done the drummer announced he had a surprise. He went into the bathroom with his girlfriend and came out wearing a dress. A brown summer dress with white flowers. No make-up, just a dress. And he was going to wear it tonight.

brown dress white flowersInside I was freaking out. Why did he choose the biggest gig of my life to decide to wear a dress? I have no problem with anyone wearing a dress, but this was totally out of left field. The bass player was mystified too. But we went along with it. What else could we do? We loaded our equipment into the drummer’s girlfriend’s car and brought our stuff to the Fillmore. The crew at the side gate were very friendly. They stacked our equipment onto hand trucks and took it up the elevator into the theater. The royal treatment! I’d never gotten that before.

As we walked through the darkened hall we could feel history oozing from the walls. The stage hands led us with our equipment to the front lobby and then carried it upstairs to the lounge. I’d heard Bill Graham always kept a big bucket of apples in the front lobby. I grabbed one and went upstairs.

The Fillmore

The Fillmore

In our excitement we got there two hours early but didn’t know it. The lounge was set up with a catered dinner to feed the main stage bands and crew. No one noticed as we set up our instruments. It was too early for the sound guy to hook up the pa so we jammed around and got comfortable. The sound guy came in and we did a quick sound check. Then we tore into our set like it was the last show we’d ever do.

This was it! I suddenly felt like a fish that had lifted its head out of a pond and was looking into a whole new world. Time stood still. We played for about an hour until the band and crew left to get ready for the show. Adam Ant flashed us the peace sign. We were suddenly by ourselves in the empty room wondering what to do. I sat down and ate my apple.

Apples at the Fillmore.

Apples at the Fillmore

Pretty soon the guy who booked us showed up. “You’re early.”

“Sorry,” I said, “We didn’t know.”

“Why is he wearing a dress?”

“He wanted to.”

“Okay. Well, you’ll go on at 7 and play until the first act starts on the main stage. They’re on for 25 minutes and then you play until the main act starts. We’ll give you a signal when to stop.”

“Sounds good.”

The booking guy left and I exhaled. That was awkward.

village people

The Village People

I remembered my last band. It took a while to get a full band together so we created a cabaret variety act and performed in a few cafes. The surprise at the first show was the lead singer’s theater friend who lip synced a Cher song in full drag. He became part of our ensemble and eventually wanted to give the band a ‘presence’ by having us wear costumes. We ended up looking like an 80s rock version of the Village People. I left a few months later.

Adam Ant

Adam Ant

We started playing at 7. The lounge filled up and people seemed to like us. No one told us when to stop so we accidentally kept going during the opening act. A stage hand ran in waving his arms frantically. For the second set we ended on our own as the room emptied out. Then we all stayed and watched Adam Ant do his thing. The line ‘You don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?’ rolled around in my head for days.

We had to stay until the end of the show to get paid. I went into the office and sat near the door. After a very long wait I was called into the back room where the theater manager was counting the tickets and dividing up the money. He made some light chit chat. Did I like the show? After another long wait he finally handed me a few bills. I had booked the gig without even knowing how much we were getting paid! It turns out it was fifty bucks. It seemed like a lot for about a minute. Then he shook my hand and I was back in the lobby where my band mates were waiting. How do you divide fifty bucks three ways?

To Be Continued…

Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 1
Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 2
Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 3
Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 4

IbanezWhen I was a teenager I worked a few after school jobs. One job was helping a guy build his house. It was a lot of fun. What did I do with the money? I bought an electric guitar! I went with a friend to the House of Guitars in Rochester, New York and picked out a black Ibanez Les Paul copy and a Peavey amp. I loved it.

Before I moved to San Francisco I decided to sell it. It was hard but my teenage rock star dreams hadn’t come true and I needed the cash. I also sold the acoustic guitar my parents gave me. A few months later in San Francisco I bought an acoustic and started writing songs. It cost half my weeks pay but it was worth it. The world felt right again.

***

wall of guitarsSo there I was in Guitar Center at the end of 1993 staring up at a wall of guitars. I was going to be a Rock Star and needed something that didn’t break my budget. I knew I wanted a Gibson. I had narrowed it down to two Gibson Les Paul Studios, wine red or black, both with gold hardware. I opted for the black one in honor of my first electric. I also bought an amp.

How did I pay for it? Student loan money!

Gibson-Les-Paul-StudioI had returned to school exhausted and defeated from music. It didn’t last long. By the end of the first semester I had started a rock band and made up my mind I was going to be a Rock Star. Maybe it was seeing that all the new bands were my age or younger, or that local bands I knew were getting record deals. Either way my teenage Rock Star dreams came flooding back. I was going to be the next Jimmy Page.

I had never bought anything on credit in my life. I felt a sick euphoria as I handed over my cash: $1,300.  My gut was telling me “No! No! This is wrong! You’re signing your life away! How are you going to pay this back?! What are you going to live on?” and my head was saying, “This is great! You’re going to be a Rock Star any day now. You’ll pay back these loans no problem. You know you need this if you want to be in a band right? Now that’s a cool guitar!” (I eventually did pay back those loans. Read about it here.)

Jimmy Page

Jimmy Page

It turned out that playing in a rock band was very different from the singer/songwriter thing I had been doing for the past five years. It was loud! We had a singer (I wasn’t the front man, something new for me), two guitars, bass and drums. We rented a rehearsal space, played club gigs, and recorded a demo–not exactly in that order. It was total drama and chaos and I eventually missed singing my own songs and being the front man so I quit the band after a year.

By this time I had switched all my classes to performance and writing and independent studies. I was amazed that I could get school credit for songwriting, something I did anyway. I also took independent study from a poet who was flying back and forth to Nashville to work as a songwriter. He gave me constant updates and feedback and we ended up co-writing together. That was very cool. I felt connected to another world.

maxi mouseIt didn’t take long to get my Rock Star mojo back. In early 1995 I started a trio with a couple guys from the school. This was a little more manageable to me. With my latest infusion of student loan money I bought a battery powered maxi-mouse amp (to replace the one I brought to Europe that had been stolen the year before) and convinced them to play on the street so we could rehearse and make some cash.

One day on Market Street a guy came up to us and said he was booking bands for the Fillmore. He gave me his card. It said he was from Bill Graham Presents. My head exploded. This was really happening. Oh my God!

Fillmore Lounge

The Fillmore Lounge

When we went down to the Bill Graham office to see about getting the gig it took us awhile to realize that it was for the Fillmore Lounge, not The Fillmore. The Fillmore Lounge is the bar and restaurant inside The Fillmore. After an awkward pause we agreed to play there the following week for an Adam Ant concert. It wasn’t the main stage but it was still exciting. This was the biggest gig of my life!

To be continued…