Tuesday
Mar152011

« High School Talent Show »

program from my high school talent show in 1991It was on this evening twenty years ago when I played for the first time in front of a public audience, and one that might have scared the living shit out of me a year before. At the James Madison High School Talent Show in 1991, I had been playing drums for exactly a year and a half. I had no prior band experience but for jams that never amounted to much and probably didn't even involve bass players. I was just shedding in my bedroom, usually with the music I had on hand—a motley collection of Def Leppard's polished hard rock with the folksy sounds of Fairport Convention, a bit of Aerosmith, and of course the mainstay, Jethro Tull. Rush also figured big into the mix. There were a few other things that were scattered but those are the big players that shaped me. I can't account for what tied it all together, but I played drums to as much of it as I could, not having any great understanding yet of what went into true musicianship, and of course, the more advanced stuff that Tull and Rush called for.

So I was simultaneously flattered and disappointed when one day in February 1991, I was asked by a guy (I think it was Jeremy Shepard who I previously had no dealings with but as classmates for so many years) if I wanted to play drums for the talent show. He was proposing we play Walk This Way as performed by Run DMC. I vaguely recalled that version but had pretty fresh understanding of the original Aerosmith version. And I had cowbells! (All the Neil Peart cloning was paying off!) I was ready to go with the offer; I wanted to play drums with someone. But there was a bit of a feeling that playing Walk This Way was beneath me. Oh, when you consider I was trying to master Rush's La Villa Strangiato, it makes sense, but really, the musicality involved in Walk This Way was a thing more suited to my less quixotic picture of myself.

The band was comprised of two guys that I had jammed with on one occasion nearly a year before in some clandestine Memorial Day jam at my house while my old man was on a road trip. There was no bass. They did not know Tull. I did not aspire "downward" to play AC/DC. End of deal. See you in school, guys... Well, maybe they were on to something. I've known them to be out gigging and recording for years later. I don't know what currency the names Shawn Zizzo and Tomas Enriquez carry now, but for years after school I was peripherally aware of their band work. Other band members for the talent show date included mostly a crew of seniors and one junior. I was kind of the odd man out, having never been in their social circle(s) but I was glad that, just months before the end of high school, this moment was upon me, a chance to take part in something fun and memorable. Otherwise, I was really removed from extracurricular activity until my senior year, and this was among the last times to do anything memorable.

An aside: My old man had preached many times on how great the time was and how it would never be the same. He kept harping on about it being "the best years" of his life, and therefore mine would be so too? I might point out that if one says the best years end at 18 years of age, then it is all one long downhill slide. I feel otherwise. I didn't hate high school nor did I throw myself into it. I was unmotivated to do anything outside of class except in my senior year. I feel that my time there was sometimes interesting, but my real life has been led outside of it. But this talent show story did give me a good positive boost and to feel a bit of welcome among peers, which I usually never court or even know what to do with.

We in the band made a group of seven—the four of us wielding instruments and three doing the rap routine and showboating up front. Steve Stratton, holding the bass, had never really played (at least on bass) so he was just copying the guitar part, but we rehearsed in the auditorium and got a now-lost recording of the drums and guitars and an off mic vocal. I can't find it now. I remember that one of the singers, Courtney Kincaid, fell and broke his arm sometime in the workup time before the show and that spoiled something of our plans.

We were supposed to have a couple shows to play. I think there was a tech rehearsal/school hours show that we could not get into because of time (we were at the end of the show).

For the show, I took just the kick and my proudly displayed Premier chrome snare and cymbals (and the cowbell, yes) and played it real straight. I wore a natty looking short sleeved white button down shirt that had nothing to do with our Run DMC theme but it was the best attempt I could make to rip off Neil Peart as he appeared in the Exit Stage Left video, which I saw not long before. I don't think I had the bowtie he wore. I didn't clam any parts or drop any sticks that I remember.

scan of the newspaper article I wrote and quoted myself in. It was about my one-off band!

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