I write a serial novel of sorts, Rock Gods, on my site www.scribblers.us, where I purport to reveal “Adventures in Our Little Music Scene.” But those are fictional episodes, largely based on Greek mythology.
The brief tales below are essentially real. Just a little New Year's reminiscence.
I chronicled the New Haven music scene most vigorously in the early and mid-1990s, so these are largely from that era.
I’ve left the bands' names out of the stories because:
A. They seem more universal that way.
B. This is how I remember them, and I may be wrong.
1. A band was playing Toad’s Place sometime in the 1980s, when Southern rock was still a dastardly force all club scenes had to contend with. As would happen at every show anywhere in those days, someone in the crowd called out for “Freebird!” In response, the band’s frontman held up a motorized toy bird, sent it soaring above the crowd, and yelled “You’re free! You’re free!”
2. A local pop duo, a married couple who’d just had their first child, found they had to change their band name because, as often happens to regional bands, it turned out that some slightly more popular band in another part of the country had already laid claim to it. So the couple went out of their way to pick as obscure and distinct a name as possible, and used it happily for a few months. Until they found that it was already in use by a band in Canada—led by a married couple who’d just had their first child.
3. A band set out on an underfinanced tour and made it several states away, in the Midwest, and the members were quickly out of money and literally starving. Until, in a colossal coincidence, they ran into another New Haven band which was out on its own, better managed tour. The bands could not have been more dissimilar in their styles, tastes and attitudes. The more prepared, well-fed musicians graciously bought the starving artists pizza.
4. In one of the first years of what became the Grand Band Slam local-band popularity contest—when it was still done on paper ballots—one band painstakingly entered ballots from what seemed like every student at a small college, replete with their dorm room numbers. The college wasn’t even in Connecticut. If the ballots had been accepted, the band would have won by a factor of several thousand votes. (In other experience, the bands which cheated in those contests rarely needed to; they had more actual fans than they realized.)
5. Danger! Falling objects. Amps have toppled on guitarists’ heads. Bassists have walked right off the edge of the stage. Singers have thrown microphones in the air and been clocked by them. Crowd surfers have leapt off the stage only to find no one willing to catch them, and plummeted. But the greatest downfall of any band might be when the rock ensemble enlisted for a college production of an obscure rock musical were rocking away behind the actors on an elevated platform amid a stage-wide assemblage of scaffolding. The poles holding the scaffolding loosened, the platform teetered, and the band and equipment fell en masse onto the stage. The show went back on the very next night.