Let’s Start a Band: The Story of Thunderpants

So you want to be in a band.

Friday afternoon, around 5:30. I crack open the first beer of the weekend. The baby sits in her high-chair across the table. She flashes me a grin and waves her arms. She’s happy to see me. I make faces at her and she giggles. I’m happy to see her too. My phone buzzes and I pull it out of my pocket.

“Totally 80’s Party” at House of Blues Tonight at 9:30pm

I clear the message and take a sip of my beer.

In a few hours, my friends will take the stage at House of Blues; one of the most popular and respected venues in town. Tonight they will play to several hundred if not more than a thousand people. These days when they play, they sell out venues and command exorbitant fees. It wasn’t always this way.

My three-year-old comes in and asks if she can watch a movie. I set up her DVD for her and then grab one of my guitars and play around a little. I’m terribly out of practice. I strum a few clumsy chords before giving up and putting it away. The baby’s starting to get tired of being in her chair anyway and it’s time to start dinner. I take another sip of beer and think back.

Friday nights are a lot different than they used to be.

Part 1: So you want to be a rock and roll star…

There comes a time in every man’s life when he seriously contemplates one of two crazy ideas. The first of these is “I should open a bar!” And the second is “We should start a band!”

Luckily, I’ve never had enough startup capital to open a bar. But I did learn how to play the guitar in hopes it would get me attention from girls. Once you can strum a few chords, you’re really just one song away from riches, fame, groupies and world tours. And it doesn’t even have to be a good song. I learned a lot about how just how bad some really popular songs are because I was in a local cover band for several years. It was at the same time one of the greatest and most frustrating projects I have ever been and probably will ever be a part of.

Thinking of pulling the old axe out of the closet and getting a few players together for some Saturday night beer money? Sit back and let me tell you all about it.

The whole thing started one night when I was having drinks with my friend Dez. Dez had recently moved here from New Orleans where he had been part of a local party band called The Chixie Dix. NOLA was also a place where concepts like ‘party band’ existed because the people there like to party and have fun; unlike the people here. The idea we hatched that night was completely new for the Houston scene and would turn out to be an incredibly hard sell for a lot longer than we ever imagined it would be. Ironically, everybody now does what only we did then, so there’s that, but at the time we were pioneers. Pioneers who got weird looks all the time.

Dez and I enlisted my good friend T-Bag on bass, then set about advertising for players on Craigslist.

THUNDERPANTS HO!

Costumed party/cover band seeks lead guitarist and drummer for local bar gigs and private parties. Yes, you read that right: we wear silly costumes, have goofy nicknames, and play popular cover songs from the 70’s through to today’s biggest hits. Must be able to practice 2-4 times per week and have professional equipment. Songs we play include…

This is a pretty straightforward ad, yet, as Alex Kimmel has pointed out in his articles, the people who read and respond to musician ads are pretty much crazy. I would get phone calls from people asking what kind of band we were, if I wanted to join their band, if we could supply drums, or if we wanted to buy drugs. This guy called me once and I couldn’t get to the phone in time so I called him back immediately and he bitched at me for calling so late on a weeknight. It was 8 pm. Then, when a conversation would go well and I thought we might have an audition lined up, the subject of the costumes came up and people would flip out. “Uh, I didn’t know about the costumes. That’s a bit wild for my taste. Thanks anyway.”

So, the three of us played together, compiled a list of songs, and began to work on what we would eventually become.

Thunderpants

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


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