Let’s Start a Band: The Story of Thunderpants Part 2

Last week, Scarydad began to share what follows the words every man with a guitar utters at some point—Let’s Start a Band. Here’s Part 2.

Part 2: Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend

I’ve always been more of a solo singer/songwriter type. I dabbled in bands in younger days but they always ended up crashing and burning early on. This was mostly due to bruised egos or too much alcohol, so I generally preferred the solo route. When you write your own songs, nobody can tell you how they’re supposed to go.

This is not so with cover tunes.

Even the simplest song has signature instrumentation that is almost always required to be played perfectly. You can embellish and/or cut corners a little, but you have to be careful. Every song you play has the potential of being someone out there’s omg-all-time-favorite-first-kiss-first-lay-best-night-can’t-get-enough-BEST-SONG-EVER!!! song. And you’d be wise not to screw that one up. (That one being all of them.)

So, you have to learn the song exactly how it goes. Very often, because of multi-million dollar production, a song you hear on the radio is a lot more than the instruments the band members actually play and you have to figure out the parts that are most important and accentuate them without losing the core of the piece. What I’m saying is that learning and playing other people’s songs is a lot harder than it seems. It’s a LOT harder than I ever thought it would be. Even stupid easy stuff like Green Day can be hard sometimes.

What’s sometimes even harder than that is getting everyone to agree on what songs we’re actually going to learn. But we’ll talk about that more later.

Somewhere along the line we found a drummer who was into the whole costume idea. We named him Animal and began to jam. Lead guitar remained elusive, however, and I was forced to fill in the gaps. At that point we had a name and a catchphrase and a gimmick, and could train wreck through about 30 songs. We figured we were ready for the big time. It was time to start booking shows.

Well, crap. It seems that isn’t so easy either.

Most bars demanded a demo CD before they would even talk to us. Then when we brought them one, they told us they were under contract with an agent and couldn’t book us anyway. When we contacted the agent, he asked where we had played before and when we told him we hadn’t, he said he couldn’t book unknown bands. So we were stuck in that whole ‘experience required’ cycle. Our solution was to lie a lot and blanket areas with for hire flyers.

It worked. Sort of.

One day we got a call from a guy named Lester who ran a place called Pickles Ice House. He wanted to get some live music working there and was willing to give us a shot. So, the four of us, Dez, Animal, T-Bag, and I got all our friends and family to make the 30-mile trek out to Pickles for our first official gig as Thunderpants.

Heh. Remember that scene in Blues Brothers where they played the country-western bar with the chicken wire in front of the stage? It was a lot like that without the chicken wire. There we stood in all our costumed glory facing a room full of the most buttoned-down hat, boot, and wrangler-wearing folk I think I have ever seen. There were kids and grandparents eating barbeque at some of the tables. It was half rowdy redneck bar and half after-church fellowship dinner and I was standing there in a Mexican wrestler mask and a hula skirt playing the opening notes to “The Bad Touch” by The Bloodhound Gang. In case you don’t know it by name, that’s the song with the chorus that goes, “You and me Baby ain’t nothing but mammals so let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.”

Yeah. That one.

The only thing that saved us, I think, was that our amps were so loud and our mics so hot that nobody could understand what we said.

But we played the whole show and got compliments for the most part. We stepped over the threshold from the practice room to paying gig and we were neither booed off stage nor did any of us really mess up that badly. I mean, sure we sucked, but we sucked together. We knew we were going to have to tighten up, learn more songs, and get an actual shredder on lead guitar, but we had done it.

We were a real band with a bright future ahead. Or so we thought…

Thunderpants

What happened next? Find out on the next Did It Myself.


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