Monday, September 20, 2010


Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Review
After years of rock bands playing at Milwaukee's Summerfest, a minor incident has slightly marred this summer's festivities, and the event's pristine track record.

The Unknown Soldiers, a Doors cover band which was a last minute addition to the roster, in an all too good emulation of the sixties classic rock band, the lead singer exhorted the drunken crowd into a reenactment of the worst elements of a Doors concert. It's unclear if the audience reacted the way they did because they thought that's what was expected from them, or if they were genuinely moved by the band and the antics of lead singer Michael Desmond. Most of the crowd was seemingly oblivious to the danger, and no one was hurt. Otherwise, a good time was had by all.

By the time the bad reviews and fallout of the show came out, we were already back on our scheduled itinerary. Swifty forwarded the reviews to us. Despite the initial bad review of the Milwaukee paper, the 'riot', as they termed it, was nothing more than a few people near the front rushing the stage. The reviews from the outlying areas offered a bit more of a balanced look at the events and put them into perspective.

Afterwards the band became more distant. None of them said a word to me until they decided to confront me between sets of a show about a week after the Summerfest reviews came in. I was sitting in the backroom of the bar we were playing when all of a sudden all four of the boys came piling into the room.
“Are you trying to sabotage the shows?” Brian asked.
“What are you talking about?”
“Your little riot.” Johnny said, flinging the reviews at me. "We gotta talk about working some of our songs into the sets."
“I thought we did already?”
“No, you never bothered to answer us, you just mumbled something and walked off.”
"You're not ready and neither are your songs." I said, dismissively.
"What!" Brian said, genuinely incensed, "you can't even name one of our songs!"
"It doesn't matter, I can tell."
"What do you mean, you can tell?" Johnny asked. "You can't even tell us how to play your damn Doors songs and you have the nerve to tell us we aren't ready? We've been riding in that van for months now, practicing your Doors sets, then practicing our songs. Did you ever listen to the tape I gave you when we first met?"
"No." I admitted.
"And you managed to disappear with Caitlin Stewart when we played it for her."
“Did you tell her something to discourage her from calling us?”
“Did she contact you?” I asked.
“Obviously no!” Johnny said.
“Then she won’t.”
“How do you know that?” Mitchell asked.
“Because that’s how things work. If she was interested she would have called.”
"We just played in front of the biggest audience we're probably ever going to be in front of.” Johnny said, “what good does it do us to tour if people don't hear our songs?"
"You couldn't do your songs at Summerfest because we were booked as a cover band. And cover bands don't do originals. And you're right again," I said, "I can't name one of your songs, but I've listened to your rehearsals. You've never availed yourselves of my opinions and rebuffed my offers to help. I know a lot about this business and I can help you."
"Like you've helped us so far?" Johnny said, "all you've done so far is take advantage of us. You cut yourself a better deal with Swifty while it's us that's carrying the burden of performing. You treat us like roadies. You've never moved a piece of equipment that I'm aware of and your drinking is affecting the shows."
"All the reviews Swifty sent us are all about you and your 'antics'," Brian said. "How're we going to get more gigs if word is out about you?"
"I got you this far didn't I?"
"You've lucked our way this far. You only got us that first gig because you were friends with the bar owner."
“And this tour because he was friends with Swifty.” Brian said.
"All right." I said, straining to rein my temper in. "You wanna do one of your songs?" I asked rhetorically. "At the end of this set you can do a couple of your songs." I smiled, as I walked out the door and back to the stage. I was going to use everything I'd learned to make the audience do what I wanted. An exercise of power, if you will.

When we got on stage I stood off at the far end, doing my best Morrison scowl as the band plugged in their instruments. When they were in place, I walked in front of them and said.
"When the Music's Over." They started the song. I hung back listening as the music built, until it got to the part where I was supposed to come in, but I didn’t and they had to start over and they played it louder, but this time I wasn’t missing the cue because of nerves, it was on purpose I wanted the pressure to build until no one thought they could take it anymore, they hit the cue again and sustained the crescendo, I jumped at the microphone screaming "Yeahhhhhhhh!" And did the best show I knew how. I used every trick Morrison knew to whip crowds into a frenzy. I screamed, writhed, fell to the stage, jumped, until the audience didn't want to hear anything except another Doors song. I saw the band exchanging looks between them, asking themselves what the fuck I was doing, but they knew what I was doing and it was too late. Then I went into a Morrison rap.
"We have a special treat for you tonight!" The audience cheered, "right on! All right!" It was easy to manipulate them. At the very least their reaction was predictable.
"The band wants to do a couple of their songs!" I walked off the stage and Ghost Dance was received to a thundering silence. I watched the rest from the bar. Johnny and the band played loud, hard but it was empty, an empty gesture, the audience didn't move. A sea of blank faces staring back at them.
"Light My Fire, motherfuckers!" Somebody screamed.
'That'll show them who runs this band.' I thought.

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