Friday, October 3, 2014

Behind the Kit...Home at Last

The song was a classic: "The Wind Cries Mary." By Jimi, of course. I sat behind the kit, planning every stick-stroke, each kick-thump. Keep it lazy, Ace. Don't let the song run away. I tried to channel Mitch Mitchell, who played the original. And, somehow it worked.

This did not occur at one of my skatey-eight hundred nightclub gigs. Or in a concert. It seems like yesterday. In fact, it was Monday last. In Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Getting behind the tubs feels like sitting in one of your old cars—perhaps a Serlingesque conjuring of your past. "A drum set, up ahead." Even though they weren't my drums, the set-up was roughly the same. Snare, bass, hats, toms, cymbals. All in the right place. Waiting for me to begin—as my friend Christopher Buckley once put it—my silvery banging.

As I played, I tried not to wander into Wayback territory. A band getting fired for being "too musical." A Thanksgiving adoption by Portland (OR) hippies who fed us wonderfully. A date on a night off in Vancouver. Sleeping in sketchy motels, foreign floors. Wherever.

In my youth, nascent calluses burning my hands. My mom removing sticks I had taken to bed with me. My gram comforting me at ten as I cried after a lesson when Mr. Sturtze had laid into me like an adze in timber. Driving to Beantown to play for fifteen bucks a night. And a roast-beef club.

Somehow I wended my way through the song. A guy in the audience walked right up to me, telling me how much he enjoyed my playing.

Rediscovering the kit has been perhaps my biggest joy in my hegira to Pennsy. The Bull Run Tap House hosts Monday mashups, and under the auspices of my new "manager," Ed Washuta ("The Voice of the Coal Region"), I began to sit in.

The house band is Steve Mitchell on drums, Chalie Holmes on bass and Tim C. Breon on guitar. Not only have they allowed me to join them, but have been welcoming, warm and approving. I cannot omit that each is a Master Player, in consummate command of his instrument.

This screed is not intended to glorify my playing. Just that I am doing it again. It evokes myriad memories. Dusky clubs, a mattress of smoke ahover; arenas, stadiums and concert halls; recording sessions, sometimes tense or glorious; learning Beach Boys tunes in someone's basement; seeing Wolfman Jack (and the spot where he spray-painted his scalp), standing in front of me on The Midnight Special. [Here's the video  ; a slight glimpse of my mug at 2:12, but that's not important]. It's all at the tip of my hard drive.

And sitting in can bring it all back in a New York nanosecond.

My left pinkie is still crooked from decades of rimshots. The triplets in my ratamacues ain't as crisp as they used to me. C'mon, right foot, sneak that sixteenth before the "one" in there. Nonetheless, once we find the Groove, that wonderful pocket where great players thrive, it's splendid.

Yes, I have found new friends, developed new crushes (!), played new tunes. Sometimes, a cold Lager ensues.

But it's all about them tubs. My friends. Like getting a call from an age-old friend, and we wonder how our bond strayed. Like rummaging through a closet and finding an old shirt that is frayed and gauze-thin but still fits.

That's how it feels.


  1. Very Happy for you, Rudy. Almost as happy asI am for those folks who got to hear you play. What a treat to hear all that experience in Selinsgrove, PA.

  2. Okay, then. Now, THAT'S what I'm talking about. And, the drumming informs the writing. One of your best pieces.