out on the street, they’re linin’ up…outside the old colonial….

now playing: me, “sideline” (from the first volume of noises from the basement)

so – how ’bout that show on friday night?

i stood in the lobby for a half hour or so before showtime, greeting friends and talking to people, watching the place fill up…fern from the label came in with a stack of new CD’s for the merch table, and dean came by with a couple of friends…my buddy mitch deighan called on the cell phone to let me know that they were running late because of an accident on the expressway (they made it in just as we were finishing up the first song, i found out later)…chris soleil, my ex, was there with her son, jake…who now stands nearly as tall as she does, and was so sweet…i took him and led him up to the stage with me, and he put his arm around me and said to “have a good show tonight”…i wanted to take him up to the stage, but he was a little shy about it, and declined…diamond dave from charlie degenhart‘s band was there with his wife…i quipped during the show that the lobby before the show felt like either a family reunion or a funeral, and that was true..from that perspective, anyway.

jon came out with a gift bag and said, “you have to open this on video, so i can show it to george…” i waited for him to start the camera and gingerly opened the bag, pulled out the object and removed the paper from it…it was a framed copy of the tomstock poster they’d made for last summers’ party…which is now on the TV a few feet from me.

rich, one of the promoters, introduced us to the crowd at around 8:10…i had all the guys from the band with me in the corridor between the stage and the dressing room, and i told all of them, again, how proud i was to be to have them onstage with me. i heard my name over the PA and the guys all filed out in front of me and i walked up the steps to the stage…a few seconds passed from the time the applause died down until i strapped on my guitar and stepped into place and the applause started again.

“nobody’s gonna have to shovel any snow tonight…” i said to the crowd, and we started into the first song. everybody sounded good. confident. blake had a smile on his face…tony was completely into it, and was really enjoying himself. rob was solid as a rock behind us, and every time i looked over and saw quin at the B-3, it just made me smile. quin was the last piece of the puzzle i’d added to the band, and i wasn’t at all sure he’d want to do it, but we was excited about it, and came in and played like a pro. he was the glue that held all the pieces of the band together…having that sound underneath everything was just amazing.

the plan was to do three songs together, then i would do one by myself, then i’d introduce everyone and bring them back onto the stage individually, then i was going to call rusty from poco up to do a song with us on steel. i’d emailed him over a month ago to see if he was willing to do it, and he was up for it…i sent him an mp3 of the song we were going to do together and everything, and he even confirmed when i saw him the week before that he was happy to do it – so it was a go. it wasn’t assumed or just expected, it was a go.

so, when we finished the third song, i said to blake as he left the stage, “go find rusty.”

i played my solo song, and when i brought them all back up, i looked at blake and i knew already that he hadn’t been able to find him. i thought, ok…i’m sure he’s lurking around here somewhere…maybe i just have to go with the field of dreams ethic….if you announce him, he will come….

so i swallowed hard, went through the band introductions, and i said “there’s another person that i’d like to bring up for this next song…..

…is there a rusty young in the house?”

the crowd started applauding…a few seconds went by…no rusty.

i made a remark about tuning my guitar for a moment to stall, and got my ’67 gretsch rally in line with the tuner…still no rusty.


ok, well….”so i guess we’ll have to come back around to this…” and we went ahead and went into the song. i felt like an asshole for a few minutes, there…but once we got into the song and the band all fell back into place behind me, i got over it pretty quickly.

there was a woman working as a volunteer at the merchandise table who was reading a book called the four agreements before the show…and she was showing it to me – i flipped open the front cover and the four agreements were there on the inside flap.

agreement two is as follows:

Don’t take anything personallyNothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

no sooner than this had happened than those words that i’d just read minutes before came back to me…don’t take anything personally. surely, there was some reason that this had happened…rusty wouldn’t have told me he would come up and then blow me off – that’s not who he is. there’s a logical explanation for this, and i’ll know what it is in due time.

then as the song built up, and the band fell into their parts, i had all but forgotten it by the time the song was over. the guys hit the dynamics of that song perfectly, and it felt great just as it was. then, the next song was my favorite of the songs on the list for the night…”early morning riser” by pure prairie league. we kicked that song in the ass, and the crowd loved it. we finished up with a shaky version of brand new distance and called it a night…the crowd was wonderful to us….they really seemed to enjoy what they heard.

we walked off the stage, the lights came up and the music came over the PA…we walked back down the corridor towards the dressing room, and rusty was in the corridor.

he apologized for missing his cue – apparently, they were out back on their cellphones trying to find out what the situation was for their show the following night at the stone pony…there was a noreaster bearing down on us, and they wanted to make sure they were out before the airports were shutdown…so he was nowhere within earshot when i had called him to the stage.

“why don’t you come up with us for the encore?” he asked. “on the way home…you know it?”

“i’ve never played it before, but i can get through it ok, i think.”

i went out to the lobby for the intermission and stood there talking with complete strangers who came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed the band, and that we were a great addition to the bill….sold a lot of CD’s and t-shirts, and was still there talking to people when the band were being introduced.

these guys must really have enjoyed the show…the band is starting and they’re still out here talking to me…

so the band went on and they sounded amazing, as usual…someone came out into the lobby and said, “rusty was asking for you…” turned out, he had broken a mandolin string and asked if i’d change it for him – i had it done within the space of a song and had it back up to him. i tried to tune it, but i was too close to the stage to hear it very well, so i just got it in the ballpark and gave it back. i knew that he had a tuner on stage, so it wasn’t a must to have it dead on.

i got him set up, went out to the lobby and grabbed my laptop, and went outside to find the wireless “sweet spot” that jesse lundy, the promoter, had told me about. i logged into the VPN for work and went through some of the end-of-day stuff that i had to do before midnight…printed invoices, ran some reports, so on and so forth…while i was online, i looked up the lyrics to “on the way home” and went back inside. i went back to the dressing room to talk to jesse briefly, and walked back out to the lobby.

“they were looking for you”, i heard the minute i got out there. “again?”

so i waited until the song was almost over, and made my way down the aisle, and sure enough, rusty called me to the stage….i wasn’t sure what was going on, because i wasn’t expecting to go up until the encore.

“so last week, tom gave us a CD…” he said. as soon as he said that, i knew what was going on…he turned the floor over to me. “most of you who are fans of the band know that their original drummer, george grantham, suffered a stroke a year and a half ago. what i’m doing is an album of poco songs that we’re releasing through it’s about music to raise money for george’s medical fund.”

there was a round of applause, and we went into “child’s claim to fame” – the song i’d given them the rough mix of not even a week earlier. just as we started the intro riff, jack leans over my shoulder and says, “take the high part.”

oh, shit.

i hadn’t even put the harmony parts on the CD yet, and i wasn’t sure if i’d be able to hit it or not…but i seem to have pulled it off. rusty also gave me the whole second verse by myself.

i was expecting the encore, but i wasn’t expecting that.

later, i found out that jon and rusty had hatched this little plan without my knowledge…

so i played my song, exited stage left, and went back out to the lobby to resume cramming on the second verse of “on the way home”…then i heard the introductory strains of magnolia and went back in to hear the song. that one just kills me lately…i actually cried when they did it in lancaster, because i was sitting there listening to it and it hit me how close we came late last year to not hearing that song that way anymore…

so the song and the set came to an end, and they went offstage, and i walked down the aisle to the dressing room, and the band were in the corridor. rusty asked again if i wanted to come up, and said that i didn’t have to take a verse, just play along…i gladly agreed and we all went back onstage together. i grabbed my keith amos strat and turned on my amp as jack and george began the intro of the song. i essentially stayed out of the way and played a pretty basic rhythm for the first part of the song, and then did a few lead fills here and there closer to the end of the song. then, after it was over, rusty turned around and said, “i want to play another one.” paul turned to me and said, “if i needed someone in A.”

i turned around and put down the strat and grabbed my gretsch…after all, if you’re going to play a beatles song, you really should use the period instrument, right? paul turned around after i’d put it on and gave me a big smile…i basically played the chimey arpeggiated part through that song, which was over way too soon.

and with that, the show was over…there was another gaggle of folks out in the lobby to talk to, CDs to sign – and what i didn’t know was that while i was doing this, wendy had made her way to the stage and started breaking down my gear. rob came up to me in the lobby and said, “did you know your wife is tearing down your stuff?”

he looked like he’d seen a ghost…”she’s a keeper, man.”

after we’d gotten everything torn down, pictures taken, merchandise packed up, we all went next door to the bar for a beer with jon, mitch, danny and company…tony had left early, but blake, rob and quin were all still around…we left at 2 and jon followed us home…he was staying over and leaving the next morning, and i had to go in to work to shut off all the equipment in the server room before the scheduled power outage, now only a few hours away. it was my first alone time of the night…and it gave me some time to soak in what had just happened. i managed to put a band together on the musical equivalent of a moment’s notice to play my songs in a concert hall setting…i’d managed to put together an album and go from concept to having CD’s in my hands in less than two weeks…

…we pulled it off. and kicked some ass.

i came home to check my mail, and there was an email from curtis wright from pure prairie league in my inbox:

I wish I could be at your show. I know you’ll make the rest of us dogs proud. Remember, if you look like you’re kickin’ their ass, the audience will think they’re getting their asses kicked. Rave on, my brother!
Do us proud and say Hay to Rusty, Paul and the boys.


great advice for anyone in this business.

i like to think that me and the boys made the rest of the dogs proud.

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