Friday, February 6, 2009

Real Life Music

(Taken from a Nathan James & Ben Hernandez website post from December 2007)

By Ben Hernandez
Nathan and I notice a lot of things when we're out playing shows. Working in the kind of environments that we do, we see just about every facet of human psychology. There is anger, humor, sadness, happiness, tragedy, pathetic-ness, and just plain bizarre behavior. We have the ability to sort of step back, remove ourselves and observe and many times enjoy the situation. There was a drunk guy that got angry with me and started cursing at me while we were playing a show in Long Beach years ago because he had reached across the stage and started beating on my washtub bass while we were in the middle of a song. I told him not to do that, that he knew better than to behave like that and his response was, "F*** you!" There have been many times that we've had to stop playing in the middle of a set to protect our instruments from being crushed by groups of "dudes" clearing the room to start fighting.

Once, while we were on a break, a woman wanted us to play "Born On The Bayou", I guess because all the unique ragtime, country blues, gospel, and jug band music that we were playing and that she probably never hears wasn't good enough. Nathan informed her, very cordially, that we didn't know that song and we don't play those kind of covers. Well, the woman insisted that we did know that song and we should play it for her. "It's a great song by a great rock band," Nathan replied. "But we just don't know it." That wasn't the answer she wanted to hear. "C'mon," she pleaded, "you know it, it goes like this: dum, dum, dum, dum, dee, dee..." At that point her eyes closed slightly as if she had been transported back to some Creedence show in her mind. Her hands and arms awkwardly fell into "air guitar" position and she started rockin'. Now during this time, as Nathan continued to inform her, still as politely as he could and almost talking to her like a child, that we didn't play that song; her husband kept pulling on her arm trying to get her to stop and return to their table. Finally she blurted again, "No, c'mon, it's a really easy song. I know you know it." Nathan glanced over at me then back at the woman (she was still going on and on). He held up his finger and said, "Shhhhh, ma'am, stop....I can't talk to you anymore," and walked past her. Luckily, I was still standing there to see the reaction on her face--as if no one had ever done that before during one of her drunken rants.

Last night we were playing in Orange County, and although this incident didn't happen inside the venue we were playing it was strange enough to put into this story.

I had just pulled up across the street from the club, in front of the post office. I was listening to an album that Troy Sandow (bassist and harmonica player) had loaned me: Aretha Franklin live at the Fillmore. In the space next to me, a guy ,who looked like he was in his early forties, was blaring some teenage pop-punk or something, out of his windows and into my soul filled car. It was like nails on a chalk board. It was one of those bands that would be featured on the T.V. show "The O.C." or some MTV "reality" show. A band whose lead singer's name is Tyler or Casey or Cody or Brett.

Anyway, I stepped out of my car, grabbed an armload of equipment and headed into the club. Nathan was there setting up and I remarked to him what a rude awakening it had been pulling up listening to the Queen and First Lady of Soul only to have her drowned out by the stuff that that guy was listening to.

We chuckled about it as we walked back outside to get more gear from our cars. Then, as I approaced my car, I noticed the man who was listening to the "Aretha hating" music was standing there between the two automobiles waiting for me. He was huge! At least 6' 4" built like an oak tree, with thinning, dyed blond hair and wearing these clear- lensed, sport glasses--you know, the kind that cyclists wear.

He stepped in front of me, I could hear "Cody's" whiney vocals come out of the guy's stereo. He said, "Do you think you could sing a song with words like that?" I chuckled uncomfortably, not knowing what the heck "Tyler" was singing about. All the while I was thinking that maybe he heard me trashin' his music and I pissed him off. "Yeah, that's right," he continued. "Their singing about this fake war in Iraq."

"Oh yeah?" I said, trying to play it cool. Still thinking he had heard me bad-mounthing his tunes.

"Yeah, they've got the balls to sing about it. About how we're stealin' oil from some another country and givin' it to China. They're with the people not the pussys. You're either with the people or the pussys. Do you have the balls to sing about that stuff like they do?" he said intensely, pointing his finger at me.

"Well," I replied, looking up at him. "I just do the best I can."

And with that he turned and grunted, not too satisfied with me, I guess; dropped his mail into the post office night box and jumped into his GIGANTIC, FULL-SIZE, GAS-GUZZLING TRUCK, and drove away.

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