ROCK AND ROLL FLASHLIGHT.
Musicians generally don’t like the unexpected when playing gigs. That’s because more often than not, surprises on a show aren’t good.
Double bookings. Broken strings. Clubs closed after driving all day to get to them. Bar room brawls. Gas leaks. (Those last two happened on the same night once.) Band member no-shows. Band members profoundly drunk on arrival. Broken drum heads. Arrests. Front man’s arm popping out of his shoulder socket while singing. (That last one happened twice.) The three girls you’re currently “seeing” all showing up on the same night. Hostile takeover of guitar amps by a local radio stations. Getting pulled over trying to get out of town after the gig. Getting pulled over after getting pulled over. Microphones to the teeth. And of course, just good old fashioned musical train wrecks.
I’ve been there for all of these and many more over the years.
But sometimes the unexpected can be good. Wait……. Incredible! Wait…. One of my favorite rock and roll moments EVER!
Dave Lieb is a multi-instrumentalist, fantastic singer, and purveyor of limitless positive energy. He’s also on the long list of great PEASANT bass players. In 1997/98 THE PEASANTS started playing gigs at The Plough And Stars on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge. Dave was the bass player on most of those shows.
“The Plough” is a tiny place. The bar takes up half the room. There are benches, old wooden tables and chairs and tons of pictures in frames crowding the walls. Those walls are red now (they used to be green) and the bands as of late set up in a different corner…. but other than that not much has changed there since 1998. Come to think of it… I bet not much has changed there since 1968.
Back in the 90's the band would set up at the far end of the room near the rear emergency exit, the bathrooms, and a steep staircase under a trap door that led down to the basement. Pete would put his amp on a bench against the wall. My drums would be in front of the basement staircase leaving just enough room for bar staff to go behind me to get downstairs if need be. And our poor bass player, whomever it happened to be, would put his amp against the other wall and have to dodge people heading to and from the bathrooms all night.
In other words, pretty much everyone in the place eventually ended up “on stage” before the night was through.
During that time there was a bartender who worked at every PEASANT gig.
He was a tall guy. Completely bald with a finely sculpted thin line goatee.
Mind you, on him this was not a candy ass boy band kind of facial hair situation. It was more like an “I had to stop in Dorchester to break a guy’s legs before my shift” kind of look. His expression was always somewhere between deadpan and “Don’t even think about talking to me”. When people ordered drinks he just nodded. No small talk.
I’m pretty chatty and usually talk to everyone but THE PEASANTS we’re a bit of an insurgency in that place to begin with so I uncharacteristically kept to myself and never attempted to strike up a conversation with the guy.
The night went as it usually did there. Started out with a healthy showing of PEASANT regulars mixed in with a room full of Plough regulars.
Folks are used to hearing singer songwriters, blues jammers, and other factions of the Cambridge/Somerville roots rock mafia at The Plough. We lose a few of them right off the bat when Pete starts pointing a Les Paul at them yelling, “We’re God’s gift to rock and roll, but hurry up….. we’re getting old!”
Now we’re playing to the willing participants!
Bill Close is visiting from California and sits in on bass for a few tunes.
The rest of the night it’s Dave Lieb. Jumping around. Singing like an angel. Skillfully lifting his bass like a gate for the bathroom comers and goers and down stroke picking perfectly on the “one”. PEASANT tunes have a slightly different feel with every bass player. Where Bill Close was Gene Simmons meets Dee Dee Ramone, Dave Lieb was Paul McCartney meets Michael Anthony.
It’s the end of the night. Pete thanks the crowd and we launch into our closer, “Girlfriend”.
Folks are drunk and rowdy and PEASANT fans are singing along.
Dave comes by to rock with me at the drums and Pete steps out into the crowd as we hit the outro.
He hops up onto a chair and plants one foot on a table as he approaches the peak of his outro shred-a-thon. At that very instant the room goes completely dark. I mean… can’t see anything… disorienting… pitch black.
Suddenly a long beam of bright light shoots toward the band from the back of the room setting Pete aglow and cutting a perfect silhouette of him up on the table with his guitar in the air in full shred as Dave and I drive the beat and the bar erupts into cheers .
As we do our arena ending the beam of light that was focused on Pete is now dancing all around the room. A big drum barrage…and BOOM!…. we hit the last note and all the lights come back on. “Last call!”
Our friend the bartender who until this moment seemed as fun as a paper cut is looking at Pete from the far end of the bar, waving a big flashlight and smiling like Buddy Revell at the end of “Three O’clock High”.
Perhaps he’d bumped into Dave and magically turned into “the fun guy”?
Maybe he was a sweetheart all along?
Either way he gets three cheers for unexpectedly overseeing our production and lighting.
PEASANTS “lighting rig” = A flashlight. Perfect. Thank You Bartender!!