About six or seven years ago…no, it was even longer than that. Wow. I’m getting old. Okay, about eight or nine years ago, my band played the Troubadour in LA. For those of you who’ve never been, the Troubadour is a great club with an excellent bar/stage/live room and backstage. Playing there is awesome for a lot of reasons, those backstage couches have definitely hosted a blowjob or two for Slash and Axl, for example, but this particular time we were stoked because we’d sold it out. It was one of the first times, if not THE first time that we’d ever sold out a good sized club outside of Chicago. We were pretty excited, to put it mildly.
Well, back in those days I used to do this thing where I just sat at the bar and bullshitted with anyone who wanted to hang out. I would often end up drinking a lot of weird stuff, because my motto if someone wants to buy me a drink is ‘I’ll have whatever you’re drinking’. This would often result in me being pretty wasted, but as a general rule I don’t have too much trouble playing in that state (I know, I know…you were at the Falcon show where I fell into the drums or the NY acoustic show or something. I get it. I’m saying USUALLY things are fine).
Well, this was one of those evenings. I was sitting at the bar drinking all sorts of weird whiskey shots and mixed drinks when suddenly our tour manager approached and said, “hey man. It’s time.” I went backstage, grabbed my shit and got ready to go on stage. I was feeling loose, but not at all wasted and I was anticipating a very fun show.
I walked onto the stage and somehow my bass case had become locked, trapping my bass inside. I went to the merch table and grabbed a screwdriver, walked back to the stage, popped the lock and tuned up the guitar. We started playing just fine. The first song (I still remember this clearly) was Dancin Machine, which sounded great. The second song was On With The Show. I remember the first 8 hits of the bass drum that Neil uses to start out the song and then….
…suddenly I was standing backstage and Neil and Chris were yelling at me. Neil was saying something to the effect of “if that’s how seriously you’re gonna take this band, then I don’t wanna be in a band with you” and I said, genuinely panicked, “Dude! Where the fuck are we?” Neil stopped and looked at me with his head cocked the way a dog looks at you when it’s trying to figure out what it has to do to get the rest of your hotdog. He said “what?” I said “uh, we were just on stage. Now we’re here. What the fuck is going on? What the fuck happened?” At this point Neil and Chris both looked at me totally differently than they just had been. They explained to me that I’d been flailing like an asshole, playing the wrong songs, laying face down on the stage, generally making a dick of myself. There was a little bit of anger still in their voices, but the whole scene had changed.
“Dudes. Listen to me. Look at me. Do I look like I’m that fucked up? Do I sound fucked up right now?” They both admitted that no, I did not look or sound fucked up anymore. Whatever had happened was completely gone from my system.
We recounted the evening. Both dudes remembered my popping the lock of my bass case (something that requires a lot of fine motor skill that I wouldn’t be possessing about 3 minutes later) and playing the first two songs normally. So what happened?
Well, the best that we could come up with is that someone put something into one of the drinks I’d gotten at the bar. This marked the last time I ever did the whole thing where I just sit at the bar and accept drinks from strangers. Fat Mike told me once that he never takes a drink from someone unless he sees the bartender hand it to them for this very reason. It’s weird, and I don’t know why anyone would do that to someone, for several reasons. Here they are:
- It sucks. Giving people drugs that they don’t know they’re taking is a very, very, very fucked up thing to do. That shit makes people think they’re sick, or going crazy or in some cases, act like an asshole in front of a bunch of people.
- It’s a waste of drugs. Why are you giving away your drugs to someone who may not even want them?
- In the case of doing it to someone like me, it’s only gonna fuck up your experience. Generally, I know what I’m getting myself into and I know how to put on a show up to the expectations of my fans and how I need to feel to be able to pull it off, but when you start throwing mystery shit into the mix, how am I supposed to compensate appropriately? I can’t.
Now, I know that a lot of people will probably read this and say something to the effect of “Drugged, eh? That’s funny. You got too hammered and you’re blaming it on a mystery dose. Way to shirk any responsibility for your own actions, asshole.” To which I say, “yeah, I see where you’re coming from, but keep in mind that I’m acutely aware of how my body reacts to alcohol and I’m pretty in tune with being ‘just a little too drunk to play’ or ‘way too drunk to play’ and also ‘totally ready to play’ and I’m not denying that there have been incidents where I’ve been hammered and the whole thing has been kind of a shitshow, but this particular instance was a different thing. This was a totally different experience. I can’t reiterate enough that I was on stage and then Boom! Next second I was backstage in the middle of being yelled at. It was WEIRD AS SHIT. Even Chris and Neil, who are even less likely than you to give me the benefit of the doubt in a situation like this recognized that whatever happened that night at the Troubadour was something weird, something unlike anything before or since. It wasn’t just a case of too much booze. It was downright bizarre.
Well, those guys went out and got hammered that night and I slept. The next morning I felt good and the next evening in Orange County (at some vastly lamer club in a strip mall) we redeemed ourselves with a face melting set that resulted in us getting sponsored by Seymour Duncan. The reps had been at both shows and apparently loved the unpredictable nature of our band. Ha! What the fuck? The other result was that I was flooded with email about that show. I was terribly embarrassed, obviously, and I was expecting the worst. One girl wrote something about how I really need to pull it together. She said she still had fun at the show, but it seemed like I was kind of a mess. EVERY SINGLE OTHER EMAIL I got was about how it was the ‘awesomest/punkest/most fun/most insanely kick ass etc.’ show they’d ever been to. The next time we played the Troubadour, we sold it out in advance. I talked to my buddy Matt Skiba about the whole thing right after it happened and he said some words that have been true more times than I’d ever thought they would be. He said “Everything you do that you think is embarrassing and shitty, the kids will eat it up. Every time you go out there and do something that’s important to you, that’s really something that you think is special, the kids will be bored.”