A number of years back, Watershed was touring for the 5th of July album when we found ourselves opening for the Pat McGee Band in Nags Head, NC. As this was a beach gig, and not in say Wichita, Kansas, band morale was pretty high. Pat and his guys had finished their soundcheck and we were loading onto the stage about an hour before doors. I went up to one of Pat's road-crew members working stage right, my side of the stage, and introduced myself.
"Hey man, I'm Colin from Watershed, thanks so much for having us out. Should be a great night. I was wondering, would it be cool if we moved those bongos about 3 or 4 feet to the right of that microphone? That's where I usually sing, so if we could just slide the bongos over a little bit, we should be all set."
"Nobody touches the bongos, man," was the curt reply.
"We would be happy to move them and them move them right back after our show. We will be careful. It will only take five seconds. Literally five seconds."
"Sorry man, nobody moves the bongos. Band policy."
This was a disappointing policy. It would have made life so much easier if we could have found a way to move two lousy bongos 3 or 4 feet, but being the support act, you learn to take the good with the bad. It will make the stage look a little funky but it's not the end of the world.
"Well then, is it cool if I move the microphone three feet to the left and I will just sing there?"
"Nope. Once the bongos are mic'd, nobody moves the microphone. We already soundchecked the bongos, so no, you can't move the microphone either. Sorry man."
So now the club's sound guys have to bust out another channel and another microphone to put to the left of the bongos. However, at this point there isn't enough time to set up another monitor for me before doors. This is less than ideal.
"I don't suppose there is any chance we could turn the bongo monitor a little my direction so I could hear some vocals, is there?"
"Like I said, we already dialed in the bongos. so no."
So as I played the set jammed between Joe Oestreich on my left, and those bongos on my right I couldn't help but think, "I bet those bongos have a hell of a stage mix."
(At this point in the story, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit I despise bongos of all shapes and sizes. Even when they aren't in my way, I'm not a fan of bongos. You'll never hear me say things like, "Awesome! This band has bongos? That totally rocks." or " Woo-hoo!! Crank up them bongos!" I just don't say those things.)
I thought about kicking those bongos off the front of the stage numerous times during our set, but being a professional I knew that wasn't the answer. I also took satisfaction in knowing that what goes around, comes around, and that one day this score would be settled.
That day finally came on Saturday November 23rd, 2013. I was working a busy morning at Colin's Coffee when a tune cut through the noise of conversation and the espresso machine. It's pretty hard to hear what music is playing over all the commotion but something about this song really struck a nerve. Finally, I had to stop what drink I was making and say aloud to nobody, "God, this song sucks! Who is this?"
I walked over to the Pandora connection we use (it was set on a Ray Davies channel) and pressed the Now Playing button. You have to understand, typically, I only check on songs that sound good and give them the "thumbs up." This tells the friendly robot that if it chooses, I would enjoy hearing that song again in the future.
Why waste time pressing "thumbs down?" I mean, the song will be over soon enough and most times I can barely hear the song anyway. But on this particular Saturday, something about this song was so wussy, so sucky, I just had to know who it was even if customers had to wait an extra minute for their drink.
As I pressed the Now Playing button I mumbled, "Who is this asshole?"
Artist: Pat McGee. Song: (blah blah blah)
So Pat, we meet again. Excellent. I knew this day would come. Revenge is a dish best served cold and in cyberspace, my friend.
I can read your thoughts, "Colin, take a deep breathe and calm down. Think about what you are doing. A "thumbs down" on Pandora is like a C - in middle school math. It goes on your permanent record and follows you for life. If you press that button, Pat will never get into college, get a job, or even get laid, ever again. Why not be the bigger man and let it go? Just don't press anything. Hit skip if you must. That sends a message too."
No, it was too late for amends. The Pat McGee Band had their chance to move those bongos, and now it was time for the sharp knife of justice to cut a gaping wound into the band's future prospects of success.
My finger started towards the "thumbs down" symbol.
People screamed, babies cried, dogs barked and fish swam. Somebody yelled from the back of the shop, "Run for cover in the bathrooms, I think he's gonna do it."
Closer, closer, closer..
Ain't bongo karma a bitch.
Thumbs Down, Pat. Thumbs Down.
Colin Gawel writes for Pencilstorm and plays in the band Watershed. To learn more about Colin and Watershed, pick up a copy of the best selling memoir "Hitless Wonder - A Life in Minor League Rock n Roll".