Blogging in E minor
Usually just a bunch of silly crap.

The Lemon Sucker’s Bogus Ticket Scam, Part II: You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up!

1987

The big day had arrived! We packed up our gear and prepared for battle!   

            My band, Burstweazel, had entered a regional Battle of the Bands competition and made it to the Sweet 16 Finale at the Cheeseborough Performing Arts Center, a major area concert venue. My bandmates, Paul, Scott, Giglimo and I were ready to show the world what we were all about!   

            We were informed during a briefing two weeks earlier that the Stage Hands Union charged $250 per vehicle, regardless of size, to unload equipment at the dock. This would be beyond the means of the rag-tag assortment of basement bands and amateur acts who were to participate.   

            So the organizers came up with this solution: They would rent a giant trailer and load up everybody’s gear, in reverse order of appearance, at a remote location. Somebody would drive it to the Cheeseborough Center to be unloaded by the union, only paying one $250 fee for one vehicle in the process.  

            This was a totally brilliant idea, albeit a total pain in the ass. Everybody was assigned a time to load at an industrial park. Tardiness of the part of a few, of course, could throw the whole thing off.   

            Because we were the third from last to perform (a slot we had earned because we received the third-best preliminary score), we needed to get there early. We waited as Gethsemane, a heavy metal act, loaded up their giant castle props. Waiting became the theme for the day.   

not making this up

           In contrast, we had packed lightly, at least that was the original intent. Scott was going to limit himself to a rudimentary, jazz-style drum set – a snare, a tom ton, a floor tom, two cymbals and a high hat – to avoid prolonged set-up time. However, he realized he would need double bass drums for the last song. As a joke, he decided to bring along a third kick drum for show. This was the origin of his trademark triple-bass/single-tom setup.  

            After spending much of the intervening hours waiting around our studio, we finally drove to the auditorium at the appointed time, only to wait some more.  

            We were assigned a small dressing room within the beehive of small dressing rooms arranged in an upward spiral within the bowels of the venue. It was a threadbare, cement structure, barring a few chairs, a table and a mirror. I imagined this is where the large casts of musicals had prepared for shows over the many decades of the center’s existence.    

            Our girlfriends helped us put on our makeup, tease our hair and accessorize for the big show. We were adorned in spandex, leather, bandanas, earrings, bracelets, headbands and brightly colored garments, just like the plethora of other 80’s glam rockers world-wide. Then we waited some more. . . .

            Suddenly, music started several stories below. The show had begun!   

            I decided to take a walk and explore the festivities. As I stepped out of the dressing room, one of the other bands was running around in the halls like a bunch of nuts. I was kissed squarely in the mouth by a man with a moustache for no apparent reason. This traumatized me. I felt so . . . violated! But I got over it and made my way around the auditorium, greeting our followers as they arrived, and watched several bands.  

            The stage was divided in half to create two smaller stages, each with its own PA system and lights. As one band played, the previous broke down and the next would set up on the adjacent stage.   

            The atmosphere within the crowd was extremely casual for an event at this venue. Typically, as each band played, its follows would gather up by the stage as the remainder of the audience hung out near the back of the floor. The majority of the spacious venue, other than the floor and surrounding sections, was empty. There were certainly a great number of moms and dads and little brothers and sisters compared to the usual concert-going crowd. And it seemed very few people actually stayed for all 16 bands.   

            As our turn drew near, we were responsible for moving our gear from the dock to the backstage standby area. We would be performing on the house left side. As the band preceding us played, I warmed up backstage sans amplification.   

            Finally, after a day full of preparing and waiting and preparing and waiting, Burstweazel was introduced. We came out pumped – rocking, jumping, posing and headbanging – for the full 12 minutes we were allotted. The majority of our following happened to be stacked in the house left corner of the floor, my side, so I came over to this side of the stage frequently, hanging my bass over their outstretched hands to receptive cheers. It was cool.   

            Then it was over. We made an impact, though our performance was far from flawless. Our tempo was too fast, our dynamics were full-bore and our playing was sloppy. Our 15 minutes of fame was a few minutes short and we never really warmed up.   

            But it was fun. The half stage and the emptiness of the venue fell short of what I had always envisioned playing at the Cheeseborough Performing Arts Center would be like. It hardly had the thousands-of-screaming-fans-concert-hall feel. Nevertheless, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This was the intent of the organizers: to give local musicians a taste of the Big Hall that they might not otherwise ever get.   

            And just as soon as we had finished our set, Gethsemane’s overzealous road crew whisked our gear away. I went to turn off my amp, only to find it gone! I hastily vacated the stage area for fear of being run over by Marshall stacks, castle turrets and a drawbridge. I was relieved to find my missing amp backstage, all by its lonesome, unharmed.  

            As we took our gear down the freight elevator to the dock, word got out that we didn’t need to hassle with retrieving it at the industrial park, as originally planned. The stage hands simply loaded our equipment onto the truck, only to hand it back to us through a side door about ¾ the way toward the front. It was of no concern to them whether it stayed on the truck, just as long as they got paid to do their job.   

            While the four of us ran two blocks down the street lugging amps, drums and equipment cases, we were spotted by Geoff Clark, the Lemon Sucker — the guy with big dreams and little sense who got us all wrapped up in a ticket fraud scandal a few weeks earlier. He was hanging out on the sidewalk wearing the same checkered, spandex riding pants and eyeliner, approaching bands and acting the big shot.   

            “Hey, Burstweazel dudes! Good job!” he called.   

            “I heard you were in jail,” I replied.   

            Geoff claimed that the charges against him were bogus and he had gotten out on bail. He explained how he had decided to invest his energies into being a promoter rather than a musician, and he was there scouting talent.   

            “Good luck with THAT!” I replied, abruptly ending the conversation to help Giglimo haul a speaker cab down the street.   

            After we dropped our equipment off at our studio, we joined Gethsemane’s victory celebration at their place. It was finally time to kick back, have a few drinks and relax.   

            The following Monday, Scott brought in the latest issue of Rock Spotlight, the local musicians’ newspaper. It had a huge story about the Battle of the Bands at Cheeseborough. We were pleased that it contained a brief mention of Burstweazel as well as a picture of Paul and Giglimo. Of course, the bulk of the article was devoted to the victorious Gethsemane and Calzone, the runner-up.   

            The article ended with a quote by Calzone’s young, naïve singer: “It was a great experience. We’re already being approached by agents. A guy who is promoting a concert with a national act offered us a spot in the lineup!”   

            Classic. You just can’t make this stuff up, folks!

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One Response to “The Lemon Sucker’s Bogus Ticket Scam, Part II: You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up!”

  1. Great story! I remember seeing Burstweazel(I pronounce Burstweazel in my best German accent) at the cheeseborough performing arts center. I think me and charu cockrobin was there! Keep em’ coming!


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