A Bass Prayer|
(Soapbox Column #12)
Bass Player Magazine
Published December, 2001
I'm writing this column from the road, as I'm currently touring with my main gig, Mike Keneally and Beer For Dolphins. Touring is a kind way to put it; it evokes images of a merry band of medieval jug bangers and ale swillers, happily playing everything in 6/8 for the benefit of the local dancers and the one step they can do without falling down.
Alas, bringing a successful show to your town is not quite that simple, especially in the format informally known as Low Budget Touring. A gear truck and two cars do not a merry band of medieval jug bangers make. This is especially hard on The Touring Bassist, a known breed of control freak who desires a steady, reliable groove both onstage and in life. Unfortunately, with an entourage of eleven and the harsh world confronting him in new and exciting ways at every gig, The Bassist is too often rendered helpless, and flies headlong into apoplectic fits of anguish every ten minutes or so.
To avoid this embarrassing condition, I have developed a little prayer I say as we approach every new city on our journey. It serves to calm my nerves, get some issues off my chest, and serve notice to the non-denominational Gods of Music that I, too, can have faith in something other than my ability to make the wake-up call on three hours' sleep.
Let us pray.
O Gods of Heavenly Music - and God of Bass in particular - I beseech you to grant me the strength to play a good show tonight. Your power is broad and massive, much like the promoters in the Northeast, and your wisdom awes me no matter how bad the monitor mix is.
I beg your mercy and kindness in all things groove-oriented, and a little extra bump in finger-energy to play those fast licks at least 80% as well as I did on the record (in ten takes).
Please use all your power to help prevent any gear failures, especially as I start the first bass solo of the night. Faulty AC cords are the work of the devil. Please cast out this demon! (I know that you work in strange and mysterious ways, and I realize the lesson of finding the positives in every situation - this case being that people actually started paying attention to the bass solo once the power cut out. I humbly suggest that there are better ways to educate me.)
Please guide my feet as I switch sounds on my pedalboard. You have given me the gift of abnormally large feet, for which I thank you greatly. I just need a little help so that I don't accidentally turn on the overdrive during a clean guitar solo. The guitarist mentioned you by name when that happened, though I'm not sure I should be telling you that.
Please infuse our techs with your divine wisdom, especially when changing strings. I can reach a much more spiritual place when playing a bass tuned B-E-A-D-G, as opposed to a randomly chosen sequence of letters.
Please provide us with a front-of-house soundman and monitor engineer who slept last night, or at least sometime this week. Also, when I'm finished soundchecking, it would be really great if he could say, "I'm not sure that's loud enough. Can you turn up your stage volume?"
Please impart your omniscience upon whoever prepares our pre-show meal tonight, be it a pizza tosser, a Subway Sandwich Artist, the bartender, or the front-of-house soundman (especially if he didn't sleep last night). The other night, some teriyaki noodles I ate didn't react well with frequencies below 100 Hz. It was a tough gig. I'm really asking for your help on this one.
Please do something about our keyboard player's left hand, especially when it dips an octave below middle C and lower. Those are my frequencies. Can't you smite him, or cast some plague on his fingers, like gangrene, or something? Oh, wait, I didn't mean that - really, I didn't. You know in all your wisdom that I would never think like that. Don't hurt him, just have the soundman kill his left hand in the monitors. And the mains.
Please grant me the strength to give our new drummer the right cues, even when I don't know where '1' is. (I should probably ask you to help me with that too, but you, in your infinite omnipotence, already knew that.) Please also infuse him with The Groove of Life, and make our perception of the pulse one and the same. I know if he were here, he would ask you for lots of bass in his monitor every night, so I'll just ask for him.
Our entire entourage has asked me to pass along a request - please keep the cockroaches and other insects out of our admittedly inexpensive lodgings. If this is part of a worldwide plague I could understand if there wasn't much you could do, but if not, a little bug reprieve would be nice.
Please also grant your kindness to Mr. Keneally, and his equipment as well. You see, when it fails him he has a tendency to yell "bass solo" into the microphone, and that's when I really need your divine guidance. Especially if the tune is in a flat key.
Most of all, I ask you to remind me just before I go onstage that I really do know these songs cold, that I don't have to stand pigeon-toed and perfectly still and look unhappy while I play them (unless the pre-show meal was off-kilter, but I already asked you for help with that), that my already-poor technique will be at least as good as I need it to be, that I can hear myself when I play, that the band doesn't train wreck, and that, if everything goes well, I will be happy, I will enjoy myself, I will smile...and I will be musical at all times. Amen.
[SOUND OF LOUD THUNDERCLAP]
Bryan, this is The God of Bass.
Oh my God - James Jamerson? John Paul Jones? Gene Simmons?
[ANOTHER LOUD THUNDERCLAP]
NO! I have come before all you mention. I am THE God of Bass, and I have heard your prayer. You have asked for a copious quantity of my merciful guidance. What good works have you done to deserve so much of my loving kindness?
Well, I taught bass lessons for a while...I donated my old fax machine and some t-shirts to The Salvation Army last year...I've tried to be a good influence, and I've never done anything lewd onstage, except maybe for that solo back in Boston....
Yes, that WAS a poor effort, but no matter. I speak of good works for the bass community at large. What have you done for them?
Uh, I - I - I write a column for Bass Player Magazine!
[LIGHTNING STRIKES AUTHOR]
Reprinted with permission from the December, 2001 issue of BASS PLAYER. For subscription information, please visit http://www.bassplayer.com.