I got to see what it feels like to be a rock star the other night. Well, pretty close. See, I was watching MTV and they had this show where they fool these guys into thinking they're auditioning for a band, when actually they're in a contest to be a rock star for five minutes. The winner gets to perform one song onstage in front of a live audience with a major rock act. In this particular case it was the Goo Goo Dolls. The guy who won looked like he was having the time of his life and I couldn't help thinking how cool that would be. After the song was over you could tell he was in seventh heaven. Definitely a dream come true. What could be more fun?
First, maybe I should explain why I was watching some goofy reality show on MTV. Nothing wrong with reality shows or MTV mind you, but it's not the kind of thing I usually do. At least not the kind of thing I admit to. It's because of the damn video store.
You may have noticed that the local video store isn't the local video store anymore, it's the local DVD store. You can hardly find videos in my neighborhood anymore -- they've gone the way of 56k modems and pay phones, relics of a dimly recollected era. If you want to rent a movie anymore you have to make the jump to DVD.
Of course, once I resigned myself to getting a DVD player, I could hardly watch them on my old TV. I bought it at a thrift shop for $30. It has this cool feature where you have to get up off the couch and walk across the room to turn it on. It works OK, but the problem is that the picture tube seems to be getting a little dimmer and the colors all look a little on the muddy side. Hardly the proper medium for viewing a state-of-the-art digitally re-mastered edition of Big Trouble. So I got myself a new TV. It is, in fact, the first new TV I ever bought and it is a monster. I decided to go with the 27-inch screen so I could watch the wide-screen DVDs and not miss a thing. The damn thing barely fit into my car, I had to take it out of the box to get it home.
Once I started watching it I was mesmerized. Everything looks so cool. Even commercials. The first day I had it, I basically just sat in my apartment and watched everything that was on. It doesn't matter what it's about, so long as it's visual. No wonder I was seduced by the flashy cuts and the undulating camerawork of the MTV show: Guitar! Tattoo! Pierced Belly Button! Cleavage! Loud Rock Music! Stretch Limo! More Cleavage! Another Tattoo! I was hooked. I wanted to be a rock star too.
As it happened, that same night I had a gig with my buddy Jimmy and another guy named Will Ray. Our regular guitar player couldn't make it, so I had suggested to Jimmy that we ask Will to join us. Will is a fairly well-know session musician and record producer who has played with the likes of Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams. He also produced Jimmy's demo. I was half-kidding when I made the suggestion, but Jimmy took me seriously and Will agreed. We spent one evening rehearsing at Will's house -- I was petrified, I mean this guy is the real deal. Plus he did all of the arrangements to Jimmy's songs. How's he going to react when he hears me mangling them? As it turned out the rehearsal went pretty well. Will is so cool, he made me feel totally relaxed and I hardly screwed up at all. Actually it was a lot of fun.
But not nearly as much fun as the gig. I didn't realize when we were rehearsing that Will was holding back. Once we got on stage he really let it rip. All I had to do was stand there and try to stay out of his way while he tore the place apart. I managed to keep up all right but it was hard to remember that I was part of the band and not the audience. I was having such a great time, it didn't even seem like I was playing. It felt just like I was the contest winner on MTV pretending to be a rock star. Except it was better because I got to play the whole show.
The best part was, Will had a good time too and wants to play with us again. That may be about the best compliment I ever got as a guitar player. That night as I drove home, I felt like a real musician coming home from a real gig. It was cool.
I guess I'm a little old to still have MTV rock star fantasies, but you're never to old to have a dream come true.
Happy New Year.