Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Band plays. Audience runs away. Later, band gets famous.

When I was in high school in central New Jersey there was a band in the area called The Myddle Class who were a cut above the other bands that played at the local dance clubs.  Tighter, more professional, with better gear and hopes of making it in the business.  They covered a Lovin’ Spoonful tune, “Younger Girl” I think it was, that was getting airplay and moving up the charts on regional radio.  Regional radio was NY so things were looking good for the group.  In recognition of their new status as local celebrities a local high school booked them to a semi-concert gig rather than the organized dances and club dates they usually played.  They show was set up in the high school auditorium with a warm up band and no dancefloor.  My girfriend and I always had a good time dancing when we heard them in a club so we went to the gig.

The audience was almost all high school couples.  The hip thing for guys at the time was white chino pants and Indian madras shirts.  I remember looking around the audience before the gig started and thinking it looked like some kind of weird robot collection mass produced in a factory in Calcutta.  The lights dimmed and an announcer who had dreams of becoming the next Dick Clark announced the warmup band. ” . . . . from Greenwich Village!”  I didn’t catch the name, it was one of those spacey ones like Iron Butterfly, Ultimate Spinach or Strawberry Alarmclock that were just becoming popular but “from Greenwich Village” was enough because for this audience the Village equaled Cool.  I’m guessing the organizers hired the band unheard for this very reason.

The Dick Clark wannabe split and out shuffled four guys . . . guys? hard to tell about at least one of them . . . ragged, sloppy, blinking in the stage lights and looking completly wasted.  One played guitar, another drums, and two guys switched between bass and guitar in one case and bass and what I thought was an electric violin but later found out was an electric viola in the other.  They mumbled something, fumbled around with their gear, and started to play.   It was loud.  It was very, very loud.  Driving, clanging, violent guitars.  Thundering drums.  The lyrics were indecipherable for the most part but the snippets you could pick up sounded like they came from nightmare.  And the electric viola! Holy Shit!  The guy played screetching drones broken by frantic scrabbling like something insane and fucked up was trying to get out.  It made your teeth stand up and put the hairs on the back of your neck on edge.  It was intense and almost painful.  I was astonished.

After a few minutes of this my girfriend poked me in the ribs and said “Let’s go.”  “Let’s go?  Are you out of your mind?  I’ve never heard anything like this in my life.  It’s amazing!  And you want to go?”  I looked around.  The madras boys and their dates were hurrying up the aisles and out of the auditorium.  First a trickle, then a flood.  My girfriend stayed with me . . . for about five more minutes.  Then she said “I can’t take this anymore.  I’m leaving whether you’re coming or not.” 

Not.  After maybe fifteen minutes everyone in the audience had left except me.  I remember thinking “Oh. shit.  They’ll quit now.”  But they didn’t.  They may have been too wasted to know I was the only one there or too wasted to care if they they did know.  Whatever, they played out their whole set just for me.  I forgot about the Myddle Class, forgot about high school peer pressure, forgot about my girlfriend, forgot about everything, really, and just listened.  I had been into music for as long as I could remember but this opened up worlds of musical possibility I had never even imagined.  So, I listened.

When they were finished I didn’t know what to do.  The music hadn’t let go of me yet.  I stood, dumbfounded, and clapped.  They looked at me standing alone applauding in the empty auditorium.  The moment stretched – they looked, I clapped, nobody seemed to know what to do next.  After a bit the guitar player flicked his pick in my general direction.  “uhh . . . we’re the Velvet Underground.  Thanks for comin’, man”, and they split.

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01/26/2007 - Posted by | live gigs, music

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