Lexington, KY shows up outside the bus window before we know it. This will be our first show of the run without Les. For those of you have never been in a band, the drummer is the guy most of you can’t see, who gets the least amount of attention but is probably the hardest guy to replace. Seriously, next to bass players, drummers never get enough credit. (I kid, I kid) The drums are like the heartbeat of a good band. Replacing one is like doing open heart surgery. Very tricky. But in all fairness, Shane seems like he’s really been studying, we’ve heard him play before and know he’s got the skills so we all feel pretty good about this whole different drummer situation. Until we all get to sound check. We decide to start at the beginning of the show and rehearse our intro for “Interstate.” There’s about 30 seconds of a track we recorded that blends into the first song and is cued by a simple 4 count. We all come in together on the one and when it works, it sounds seamless. This time, its not working. For some reason, every time we start playing, after the first measure or two, Shane seems to be way off the beat. Awkward moment happens. Lots of “well maybe the click track is set at the wrong tempo” and “lets just try again.” After a couple more tries at other songs there is some sweat. We just cant seem to get it together. Everything sounds…off. Shane is starting to get pale. Actually, he looks really nervous and kind of freaked out. With his eyes wide open, he says “I swear guys, I’ve played to a click millions of times, I don’t know whats going on!” We are all starting to look at each other and wonder “Uh-oh. This might be an acoustic show. What the hell is up? We know he can play, but did he learn the songs wrong? Is there something wrong with the rest of us? Is Kentucky on some weird time zone where 4 doesn’t come after 3? Have aliens invaded our brains and laid eggs in them that are diffusing our sense of time? Where the hell is Les?” We aren’t quite to panic mode, but there is definitely some anxiety crawling up a few spines. Just before we all start going mad with trying to count backwards, forwards and sideways in time McCoy shouts out, “Wait! Hold on, I know whats going on.”
If you believe in the Easter bunny, Santa Claus, or the tooth fairy…
Stop reading now.
Yes, we do play to a click track. If you don’t know what that is, its like a metronome that we all have in our in-ear monitors so we can have a silent count off for songs and more importantly so we can play better when we are buzzed. Its keeps you in time and makes you a better player. Most headlining country acts use it because it keeps the show flowing quickly. This will get a little technical, but stay with me. We also all have wireless belt packs that pick up a signal from the monitor console and then send that signal to our ears. Sometimes if we have a lighting guy with us, he gets a belt pack and an ear mix so he can hear lighting cues. Except, because he is usually at the back of a larger room, there is about a half to a quarter second delay on his pack to account for the distance the sound has to travel and so he can synchronize his lighting effects with the music. Still with me? Ok, well we aren’t exactly rock stars in Kentucky, so we have no lighting guy today. Consequently, Shane has ended up with the lighting guy’s belt pack. So everything he is hearing is a half to a quarter second behind what everybody else is hearing. Not good for a drummer. You kind of need to all be on the same beat to rock.
Crew to the rescue again. McCoy grabs Shane’s belt pack, checks it out, goes back to the console, hits one button and BAM! we are back in business. Everybody laughs, everybody cries, everybody shouts out Hallelujah!, Brady does a few backflips, light shines down from heaven, angels sing….well it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but we are all on the same beat again. Which is the first step to rocking. Which we do that night, and Shane actually makes fewer mistakes than the rest of us, totally kills it. Always give credit to the crew, they make us sound good, look good and we’d be a helluva mess without them. Thanks fellas.
Next time, bring your dancin shoes, here comes the Nashville shuffle….
Peace, Love and Anarchy,