I get a text from Andy telling me I am on the guest list. I AM ON THE GUEST LIST. A little thrill goes through me as the bouncer checks his short list and lets me through, stamping my wrist without collecting the cover fee, ignoring my undermybreath declaration that “I am a band mother” as if that wasn’t obvious. As if I could be mistaken for a band girlfriend or something, I don’t know. The bar is small and dark. Eighties-rock music is pumping into the venue room, now mostly just populated with members of the three bands playing and a very few of their closest friends. The first band doesn’t start until 9:00, almost another hour from now. It’s a Wednesday night in the middle of summer in the University district so the crowd will be light. But still THE CROWD will be light. I think of performances past with earlier versions of bands comprised of other combinations of kids where the only folks in the crowd were the dedicated parents of the band and maybe one or three bar regulars who looked to be likely to be there at their seat at the bar every night of the week regardless of what band or not. And as the hat was passed through the crowd these same parents (us) who funded instruments, lessons and the clothes on their backs slipped a fiver or two into the hat so we can smile impressively when they excitedly tell us later that they actually made a little money. Money which they have already earmarked as savings to buy the next better version of their instrument of lust.
Though some of Devilwood have spent the night at my place during a previous recording weekend, and I’ve met the parents of Hilary, the smoky voiced lead singer, at college graduation earlier this year, this is the first time I’ve seen them all play together. I was living overseas when this band formed, and in New York during their recent Seattle debut performance, and, frankly, too lazy to drive the four hour round trip to catch their latest shows in “the Burg.” But here, before the show tonight, they greet me with hugs, introduce me to their friends who are arriving, acquaint me with the players in the other two bands who are also featured on the bill tonight. Sweetly they connect us with the other parents who are here to see what their years of schlepping kids to lessons and practices has reaped. We’ve come a long way since the days of their sheer mortification of being seen in the room with their parents. This is fun. These are our kids and they are no longer embarrassed about that. And, finally, we are on a real freaken’ guest list.
I have staked out a good table with a nice view of the stage. I realize after things have started that this isn’t as big a coup as it used to be back in my bar hopping days. Because now all those who came to hear the bands and enjoy their friends playing won‘t be sitting down once the bands start. They will be standing, bobbing and shimmying to the music. I am a band mom. I have earned the right to a good seat (and I have to reserve my energy. Will be only standing and bobbing and shimmying – with respectable reserve of course – to my son’s band. I only have so much to give at my age for a show that doesn’t start until nine PM, you know. But I will bob and tap in time to the other bands from my seat. Those kids, ahem, players, need us too.)
About ten minutes before the scheduled start time fans of the bands begin to trickle in. My son introduces me to some gorgeous young men and women, newly graduated working class with interesting tattoos. They are enthusiastic and sweet and intelligent and interesting looking. I can’t help but remember the days when I used to worry about the friends my child was gravitating to and, now, being relieved in how things are turning out. I like his friends and fans.
So the fans are arriving but the sound technician, who was supposed to be here about two hours before show time still hasn’t arrived. Nobody seems to know where he is. I make a few inquiries of the bands and suggest they get a little more assertive with the establishment but resist the urge to take this on as my project J. They are all grown up now and need to figure this out. Apparently the sound tech can’t be found. A backup has been contacted and is on his way. The last band has to drive back across the mountain tonight and at this point they won’t even take the stage until at least 11:30. It’s a “school night” and even though I’m not currently working I don’t fancy listening to very loud music (no matter how good a band is) until after midnight tonight. I love that the kids in the bands and the crowds are concerned about carrying on too late as they have jobs and classes to get to. What a difference maturity makes.
Finally a sound technician shows up and things set up quickly. The first band, Blackburn, is up. The three guys that make the band have a nice sound. But nothing I can dance to. Sitting at the table, with the ‘rents, I am transported to my college years. Bar venues were a regular occurrence. OK, maybe too regular. I was young, like those kids I am looking at and find it hard to believe so much time has passed. They seem to be much better behaved than I remember myself being.
A large screen TV glows from the side wall. The Mariners game has wrapped up (it’s now that late) and a poker tournament is now on. I can’t believe people spend time watching poker on TV. That’s right up there with watching golf on TV in my book. I notice that at the poker table is a kid, about my son’s age, skinny with a white hooded sweatshirt, with hood up looking at his cards. The TV cuts from this kid to another heavier set kid about the same age, wearing really stupid (like star-shaped) sunglasses. It strikes me that I am so glad I am a mom sitting at a bar waiting for her kid to play music than watching him piss away money at a poker table. But, I realize that these kids at the poker table have mom’s too and they are probably as impressed with their own kid’s skill as I am with my own….(back to the parent’s table at The Rat and Raven).
The first band has finished and Devilwood sets up. We parent’s agree that we will not be able to sit this one out and we move from the table to the floor. I plant myself right up with the movers and shakers at the front. I know I will not let go completely. My kid has not shown embarrassment with my being there up ‘til now and I will not push my luck. However, I manage to move enough to break my sandal (a fact about which my son later will express impression with). I am biased, I know, but judging from the crowd, Devilwood is good. Their set includes some very original and catchy tunes (you can find their one quality recording on Reverbnation, Sticks and Stones, if you want to check it out, or friend Devilwood on Facebook and find some other clips from concerts). They throw in a few covers: Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”; The Mamas and the Papas “California Dreaming” and a nice rendition of the Appalachian classic “In the Pines.” Their sound is broad and fresh and they are really clicking with each other. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Andy perform and he has gone beyond anything I’d ever imagined. He’s shredding the bass. Tapping, bowing and plucking the hell out of it. Joey on the drums is smashing perfectly and working so hard he’s taken his shirt off. Bill does a beautiful lead guitar and backs Hilary’s lead with smooth vocals. Nick, a hold-out with an acoustic guitar is not holding back and adds clean backup vocals too. And Hilary, who is always so nervous before a show, leaps in with strength and character and the best smoky voice you can imagine. She befriends the crowd like a pro and everyone in the place is happy. Especially the parents! This is so much fun and definitely worth the years it took to get here. Hilary tells the crowd that as she was singing “The Ace of Spades” she saw on the big screen Poker Tournament a real honest to goodness ace of spades in someone’s hand. All is synchronicity tonight.
After breakdown, Scruffalow sets up, Devilwood gets kudos from the fans on the floor and they graciously accept all the high-fives and hugs. The show was impressive as was their humble thanks to their fans.
I tried really hard to stay through Scruffalow. They were such nice guys to me before the show. They are better known than Devilwood and it’s thanks to their promotion that Devilwood is starting to get paid bookings. Due to the late start on a “school night” the crowd is pretty thin for Scruffalow. Their sound is more heavy metal and the vocals are more of a primal screaming nature. Hard to sing along to. And it’s got to be disheartening to play to a thin crowd late on a school night. But God Bless ‘em for their passion and their love of making music. And for being nice to the parents in the room.
I feel kind of like something came full circle that night. I was there in the present, there in my past and thinking of a future where you all will know Devilwood from maybe something like being featured on Letterman. Of course I’ll be on the guest list for that one too. So much fun and worth all it took to get here.
-One Proud Mother