A Drummer’s Horror Story

After a rather hectic Friday at the DRUM! office, I looked forward with mixed emotions to a gig that evening with my band in San Francisco. On one hand I would get the chance to do the thing I loved most, and could channel some of that nervous energy into playing drums for a few hours. On the other hand, I could easily envision dozing off in front of the TV for the night.

But I knew that I would get a second wind as soon as I got a pair of sticks in my hands, so I tried to make the most of the hour or so I had at home before I needed to drive into the city. I got a bite to eat. Watched the news. Relaxed. Checked the clock a couple times. And finally loaded my drums and left.

A bit more than an hour later I was rounding the corner of Jefferson, about to turn into the alley next to Lou’s Pier 47, a club housed in the heart of the Fisherman’s Wharf district of San Francisco where I’ve played literally hundreds of gigs over the past 15 years. There was a long stretch of time during the early days of DRUM! Magazine when I played there six to eight times a month with various bands just to pay the rent. It’s the closest thing to my home away from home.

As I negotiated the car through the regular crush of tourists, I thought it was strange that I didn’t hear any music coming from the upstairs bar. Lou’s features live music all day. It was around 7:55. The band before us should have been in the middle of their last song. Something was wrong with this picture. Very wrong.

Swinging my bass drum case over a shoulder, I headed up the back staircase and walked into a scene that would strike horror into the heart of any drummer. The club was already fairly full and the rest of my band was set up on stage … waiting. A sinking feeling spread through the pit of my stomach as the bandleader rushed over to me to ask if I had gotten his email.

And my answer was — well, yes and no. I saw the email arrive in my inbox, and read the headline. It appeared to be one of Kevin’s normal pre-show reminders, so I never bothered to open it up. After all, I hadn’t forgotten that we had a gig on Friday. So I never actually gave myself the chance to read that the club had changed the starting time for the last set during the winter months. We were supposed to start at 8:00, not 9:00. And it was 8:00.

This was one of those situations when it really pays not to panic. I enlisted a few regular fans in the audience to help me carry the rest of my kit up the stairs, and while Kevin and Don played the opening number on just guitar and bass, I assembled my set as quickly as possible, literally throwing drum cases off the side of the stage without much regard for where they landed. Miraculously, I began playing during the second verse of the second song, as beads of sweat slowly dripped down my nose.

Anybody who has ever read this column in the past must know that there is a moral to this story. It’s simple but important. Don’t ever take anything for granted. Not a single gig or a single relationship. I thought I knew exactly why Kevin sent his email. I was wrong. I thought I’d played at Lou’s so many times that nothing could surprise me about the place. I was doubly wrong.

There are days when I think I’ve been editing drumming magazines for so long that I can’t possibly make any mistakes. God knows, I’d better double-check my work right away.