So I play drums. I don’t play as much I used to, but if asked, I would still call myself a drummer. Recently I decided that playing drums again, playing in a band again, could be kind of fun. You know, summer is coming up and who wouldn’t want to make a few bucks on the side playing some reggae or something on a bar’s patio somewhere? That sounds pretty nice.
I don’t really know any musicians where I live. It’s okay. I haven’t been there for too long. I actually don’t know many people where I live, but hey, that’s for another time. But seeing as how I don’t know any musicians except for My Darling Wife, who plays a vast array of air instruments, I did what anyone in my position would do – I went on Craigslist. It’s been a while since I’ve seen what’s happening under the “musicians” tab and maybe, just maybe I’d see something along the lines of “looking for a drummer, we play every once in while, nothing serious, Jack Johnson vibe to our music and we play some reggae.”
I did not find what I was looking for.
I shouldn’t be surprised by this.
The “musicians” board on Craigslist is strange country. For the most part, the people posting are a collection of odd ducks. There’s a healthy amount of inflated sense of worth milling about, distorted views of themselves, lot of people “looking to get serious” and that “have some legit gigs already lined up.” People are looking for “serious musicians” who are “ready to rock” and have “pro-style gear.” My kit gets the job done, but I don’t really think I’m ready to rock anymore and I definitely don’t think I’m all that serious about music anymore. Somehow there are all these bands out there on the cusp of fame and all that’s missing is some random person they find via Craigslist. Weird that you don’t hear about that part in many music docs. They must leave it out.
On four separate occasions a few years back I responded to calls for drummers on Craigslist. The first two happened when I first moved to Philadelphia in the fall of 2006, the next one was maybe a year later and the last one, a year or so after that. To be honest, none of them worked out particularly well.
Let’s start with the first two.
It was probably on the same day that I responded to one post looking for a drummer to back an up and coming female singer/songwriter and another post looking to play heavy rock and roll with a dude named Raven. For the first gig, I went out to the Philly ‘burbs, met this dude named Scott and a gal named Sharon at a coffee shop, followed them to Scott’s house where we were joined by a bass player and a keyboard player. We all crammed into Scott’s attic. The songs Scott and Sharon had put together were fine, but the most enjoyable parts of the afternoon were spent jamming with the other dudes in between songs. I suppose that should have told me something, but it didn’t, and a day or so later Scott called me, told me I was hired. He emphasized one of his main rules: don’t be late. Noted.
At our first official rehearsal I was on time. So was Squirrel Mike, the keyboardist. Scott was late. This made me chuckle.
I wasn’t particularly fired up about the music, but it was something different and that was enough to convince me to keep making the trip out for rehearsals. One day I was sitting around and thought the dudes in the band should have a name, so it’d be like Sharon and the (insert name here.) I thought of a few, none them were great, but in my mind it was a start. I sent them to Sharon and went about my day. It was maybe a few hours later when I received an email from Scott, firing me. He didn’t cite the band name suggestions; instead saying I wasn’t the right fit, but I had, and to this day, have my suspicions that the band name thing was a deal-breaker. Oh well. Scott was kind of creepy and his house was a pain to get too. I kept in touch with Squirrel Mike for a bit, but that’s about it for that experiment.
Around the same time that I was making the trek out to Scott’s place, I was also going to this dingy rehearsal space on the Delaware River, playing some rock ‘n roll with this fella named Raven. I don’t think I ever learned his real name. Maybe his real name was Raven? Maybe it was Frank? Who knows? I went and auditioned and he liked how loud I could play. We jammed a couple times; I think we played songs but honestly all I remember is bashing on cymbals, which is always fun. The songs seemed dated though, and not in a good way. Raven also only wanted things loud. I tried playing a verse on a closed hi-hat once and he stopped mid-song, confused at what I was doing. Okay, so let’s get loud.
Raven had a roadie. It was this gnarly looking white dude who carried his amp and set up the microphone while Raven tuned his Les Paul-looking Epiphone. His guitar was purple. Somehow I remember that. When we played, this dude sat with his head lowered, but his head bobbing up and down with the music. Homeboy also liked it loud. It literally couldn’t have been anymore different and the complete opposite from what I was doing out in the suburbs.
Things got weird though when Raven brought in this guy to play bass one night, an eccentric fella with an equally eccentric style. I wasn’t feeling it and apparently it showed because a day or two later Raven called me, saying it was nice jamming with me, but he was moving on because he didn’t think I was into it. No man, I was fine with the music, I said. The “it” I wasn’t into was this bass player. Raven agreed he wasn’t right and you know, I don’t really remember how this whole thing ended. It just did.
Side note: “Maneater” by Hall & Oates just came on.
Okay, moving on.
The next two bands I played in could best be described affectionately as white-boy reggae bands. But not like 311 or Dirty Heads – more like, hey, just some run of the mill white dudes playing some chill reggae music. And damn it, both were located in the suburbs of Philly and I don’t know how well you may or may not know the great Philadelphia area, but if you live in the city like I did, getting out to burbs can be a real pain in the ass. Not to get to into foreshadowing here, but that would be major factor in how this story would end for both bands.
Band number 1 was fronted by a gigantic individual named TJ who had a unique voice, some interesting songs and a penchant for smoking an entire blunt by himself. I connected with TJ via a Craigslist post, went out to see a solo show of his, introduced myself and we went from there. He invited two of his buddies to play with us – Bernie and Matt, and we started rehearsing at their house, which I think was out around Ardmore. The music felt flat to me; un-inspired and kind of lazy. Bernie and Matt had their own thing going on and never really felt truly committed to the band and that’s saying a lot, since this band of ours really didn’t require much commitment, especially by them. We rehearsed at their house. All they had to do was come downstairs.
We played some shows and that was fun – playing live always is. I got to play at World Cafe and the Trocadero, two somewhat iconic Philly venues, but in the end, I just wasn’t into it. It didn’t seem worth the hassle. See? I told you the travel was part of it. I played one last show with them somewhere in University City before parting ways. Oh and Bernie’s brother was either a magician or a stand-up comedian. That has nothing to do with anything, but it just came to me and sure, why not include it?
I was 0-3 when it came to finding a band to play with. Not good odds; a shitty shooting percentage to say the least. It’s like they say though, in a slump, gotta keep shooting. So I responded to a post, looking for a drummer for another reggae band. (Expletive deleted) it was also out in the suburbs, the only different being it was west of the city, as opposed to east – a fun little change.
They held auditions at a rehearsal space and when I walked into the room I went straight for the kit that was there. The band was setting up, I made small talk as I started putting my cymbals on the stands. Not once did I notice the dude sitting on an old couch in the corner, a stick bag and a cymbal bag by his side. I actually didn’t notice him until it was made clear that a couple people would be auditioning, not just me. But hey, my ignorance and cluelessness was maybe taken for confidence. Cool.
The guy sitting on the side was a jazz head and seemed out of place playing along to reggae. He had a pony tail and in my head, he was wearing a black turtle neck. He probably wasn’t, but it kind of makes more sense if he is, so we’re keeping it. Now the next guy was a real effin’ lumberjack. He was wearing a polo shirt, jean shorts and boots. His forearms were high-grade lumber. He raised the cymbals up as high as they could go and you wouldn’t be alone if you thought he was using telephone poles for sticks. This dude didn’t play drums, he hammered drums. I’ve never heard someone just thunder along a run-of-the-mill 4/4 back beat to a reggae song before. It was really something to watch.
I was either the best person for the job or the least shitty person because I got the gig and for a few months, I went out to this rehearsal space on Sunday evenings and played Bob Marley songs and my personal favorite, “Baltimore” by the Tamlins, which has a real menacing piano line in it.
They had some originals that we played and the band had an interesting dynamic. The guitarist really thought he was something, the keyboardist was the drummer for this other band and was apparently a really good drummer, which was always fun to be reminded of, the bass player was a goof ball and probably my favorite member of the band and the singer was an interesting guy who had false teeth he had to take out when he sang, something that was a neat parlor trick at the handful of gigs we played.
Yet none of those gigs did something that I felt was at least mildly important – pay. Listen, I’ll play for free, but there comes a time when you have to transition from being fast and loose with that policy to being a little more strict about it. If the music is fun, the gig is maybe for a good cause or is a party then sure, I’ll play for free. But besides that, the idea of just playing to play doesn’t hold much water after awhile. The lack of money combined with the strange vibe of the band (we had started rehearsing in the keyboardist’s parents’ basement, which I just felt weird about) and the annoying commute eventually led me to the conclusion that it was probably best for everyone involved if we went our separate ways. I quit via text message and to this day, I still kind of regret that.
And now I’m back, scrolling through Craigslist, past the calls for a drummer for a emo/rock/EDM band and a drummer needed for a passionate Christian rock band and a drummer needed to complete a Red Hot Chili Peppers’ tribute band. I’m bypassing the potential touring opportunities and offers of free recording so we can get our demo done and start playing some more gigs. I’m going to read the post from the person “putting together group that mixes different styles of black music,” but only because that seems kind of offensive and I want to learn more.
I know I probably won’t find anything, but it’s not going to stop me from looking. If anything, it’s definitely entertaining and I can’t say my previous experiences responding to Craigslist posts have been a total busts. I came away with some interesting experiences, got to play in some cool venues and…and…uh…well that might be it. But still, not a total loss.
Now let’s see what this “Funk/Jazz/R&B/Alternative band” is all about.