The North Buick Lounge, a gig story

My anticipation of the evening of September 24th 2016 was building like a tiny fire in the pit of my stomach as I found myself pacing around the yard of the North Buick Lounge, listening to the party sounds inside the barn, and looking up at a star-filled sky, trying to get my head straight and visualize putting on a good show. Man, this stuff isn't easy. Most of life is a blur, right up until that moment when I am on stage behind a microphone, with my guitar, playing my songs. Is that weakness, or am I just limiting myself? I'm happy doing other things too, but man, waiting in line at the bank...I'm awkward as hell. I can't sort out my insurance to save my life, but give me a guitar, and maybe a stage to play it on, and I'm in my own little world where I make all the rules and everything makes sense.

Finally, it was about fifteen minutes until I was to start my set, up there in North Berwick Maine. The energy in the barn that evening was strong, and the two opening acts were killer. Ten minutes in, and my heartbeat is approaching hummingbird territory, and I find myself stretching out here and there as if I'm some kind of athlete. A few knuckle cracks, leg stretches, and a "You can fuckin' do this, you've done it hundreds of times!" Five minutes until gig time, and I am on stage getting my equipment straight and the guitar in tune, going over a skeletal set list in my mind. I knew the first tune I would do, "Somewhere Between India & Idaho" and had a rough idea of a few others I wanted to play, but other than that it was a shoot-from-the-hip and read-the-audience kind of night.

A sweet introduction from Marty, and the set begins. I start riffing and trying to get into the music and make it the only thing that matters. "Don't look around the room," I think to myself. "You might see something or someone, and it will make your mind skip and take total control away from the music. Oh man, the monitors are just right, and my amp that I brought is just kickin' and perfect and clean." The crowd was electric, and I felt like some sort of classic stage performer. Like I was carrying some sort of torch. A lot of times I discredit myself, and I gotta work on the self-esteem thing like anyone else, but in that moment I felt pretty damn good.

Songs just come out of me, one after another, and I keep my eyes closed, almost imagining that I am hovering above myself, listening in awe at how I was singing. It was coming from somewhere deep, where thinking has no place, and subconscious takes over...That had never happened before. Maybe a Zen master would classify that experience as something or other, but I gotta tell you, it felt magical. I had gotten right to the bone of it. All the gigs, the chords, riffs, cables, lyrics, records, EVERYTHING. I got right back to the beginning, and to what truly matters: being inspired by the music. Thank you to Martin England and Jen England, Continuum Arts Collective, North Buick Lounge, and all the kind people who attended the gig. It was one for the record books, and in my top-five for sure.
t.o.

The Yamaha

It was a Sunday afternoon just a few years ago now. The flea market was winding down, and Danielle and I had made our way through the whole thing, zigzagging through the aisles and gazing at all the junk. From about twenty feet away, I spotted the head-stock of an acoustic guitar sticking up in the air and my heart began to race and I blurted out "An old Yamaha!" I dashed to the table and grabbed the guitar and began inspecting all the neglect it had been subjected to over the years. A split rosewood bridge, worn out frets, junked up and broken tuners, and the whole thing, I mean the WHOLE thing was covered in some kind of shellac. It was truly from the island of misfit guitars...

I waited for the merchant to return to his booth, and upon his return he told me it was "$25 with the case!" Immediately, I knew this guitar was going home with me. I couldn't resist..."$20 without the case," I shot back with a smile. "OK, how about $23 - and take the damn case!" A handshake sealed the deal, and away I went with this beaten old FG-110 Yamaha, from some time in the 70's, made my a skilled craftsman in Japan. Most certainly based off of some old Martin design. All solid wood. Since then, I have glued the bridge, replaced the frets and removed all the shellac-type-stuff, drilled out the headstock and added modern tuners, carved a new bone nut and saddle. Still needs a neck reset, but it's got mojo for days. This is one I will keep.

The Bar-Room Singer

The bar-room singer notices many things while in his corner of the bar plying his trade: casual butt grabs by significant or not-so-significant others, office workers three beers deep, acting like Dockers-clad Vikings. The hardworking waitstaff putting up with these aforementioned characters. Three 45 minute sets with a few breaks.


And finally, the end of the night comes and the guitar goes back in it's coffin. Cables are wound over-under, over-under, and speakers are packed up. The singer loads his tools and collects his bounty from the bar manager, and off he goes down the road. With sore fingertips and tired ears, and a long drive to reflect on just how lucky he is...One down, a lifetime to go.

Double-Dead-End Street

there's a double dead end street
in the town where I was raised
the citizens walk up and down
seemingly unfazed

there's a beggar on each corner
and a cop every mile or two
and they both know the roles they play
the mayor tells them what to do

there's a problem with addiction
and no needle exchange
makes you wonder where it comes from
and if it will ever change

i don't have any answers
I live here just like them
this town will let you pour it out
and it won't ever say when

the river's pretty clean these days
there's no three-eyed fish
thoreau and his older brother
spent several weeks on it

and during election time
the hotels make their cut
they fill up with politicians
trying to snatch the electorate up

they pose for pictures in diners
and shake hands with average folks
who if they weren't running for office
they probably would have never spoke

the twenty-somethings want to get out
and go to L.A. or New York
but in a few years they return home
and get right back to work

hitting that double-dead-end street
on nearly any given night
helping the bars pay their rent
trying to get that buzz on tight

it's the biggest little city
in one of the smallest, boldest states
live free or die
on all the license plates

we're known to the rest of the country
if they even know us at all
as that little speck, up near Maine
with the pretty leaves in fall

 

© 2016 Tristan Omand

 

The Plane Crash


    My dream had every detail of our little home, but with a few fictional appointments.  To the shades on the windows, to the half drunk bottle of wine sitting on the green kitchen counter top. It was all there in slightly diffused, dream-like detail. My girlfriend and I, lying in bed and each in our own little world, were awakened by the high rpm whoosh of a small prop Buddy Holly-type plane. It became very clear from the growing closeness of the sound that it was going down. No doubt about it. We threw the covers off, both knowing that some shit was going down, and rushed to the front door window, pulling up the blind with one quick snap of the cord. The shaky, smoking, and soon-to-crash Cessna made it over our house at close range, and suddenly made its inevitable CRASH into the lower end of our dead end street.

    Our hearts collectively raced, and we gaped at each other with a look of holy-fuck amazement. All of a sudden, lights were snapping on in all the neighbors houses, and people were slipping out their front doors and into the streets, clad in their nightgowns and crumby sweatpants. The plane was in a smoking heap at the end of Meek Street, and we could see the pilot stumbling out of the hatch in a daze. Before we knew it there was a cop on the scene. My immediate impulse was to run out there and help, though the thought of possible explosion of the plane was in the back of my mind, and of course, it was a dream and my feet appeared to be glued to the floor. My girlfriend was in the same super-glue-like state of being immobilized. I must remind you once again, dear reader, that this was a dream.

    In my mind as I was seeing all of this, certain segments of the sequence were glossed over, and the next thing I knew we were back in bed, but in a newly formed bedroom on the opposite side of the house. We were sitting there propped up against the drywall, legs under warm covers, smoking some pot with the window open, apparently not too worried about the plane that had just crashed outside. Suddenly, a helicopter with a cop in it, complete with government issue cop mustache and aviators glasses buzzed by the window in a small helicopter - something that a farmer in Colorado might use or something. He looked right at me, shook his head and pointed in our direction, and then down to the front door, indicating that he wasn't too pleased, and would be coming in to do his policing.

    I said to Danielle, "God dammit, I knew we should have closed the shades…" to which she replied "Maybe we're not in trouble, just go down and see what he wants, baby." We called each other babe and baby quite frequently in the way that young lovers do. All of a sudden, the dream flashed with a white light, and I was in some sort of airport terminal converted into a police station. He was running my file and checking my background, looking for something to give him reason to arrest me besides the puny amount of grass he caught us enjoying. I was being polite as a country boy in church speaking to the Preacher. Smiling, and standing up straight under the florescent glow of the terminal. Realizing it was a dream, I could tell that things would turn out OK in the end. Waking up is a true blessing.

    "Well kid, we're letting you off with a warning. Stay away from that hippie lettuce. I should take you right down to the Armed Forces recruiting center and sign your ass up. You need some discipline, son." the stern, aviator-shade-adorned douche of a cop said to me with a wag of his boney finger. "Thank you sir." I replied in my overly polite, dreamlike grinning-idiot tone. And just like that, I was jolted from the sequence and back to the darkness of our actual real bedroom, located on the proper side of the house this time.

    The red digital numbers of my bedside clock read 4:21 in the a.m. and I blinked my eyes and felt a stiffness to my body that told me I had been restlessly dreaming again. Nightmares and sleep tremors were my forte from a very early age. This was never seen as a problem in my household growing up, but then again, we rarely went to the doctor when hurt or in sickness. My parents were old-fashioned like that. "Oh, you're brother sharpened a stick on the asphalt of the driveway and then threw it like a native and it stuck in your wrist? Come here, lets go bandage you up, son. Nothing a little hydrogen peroxide and gauze won't fix." I still have the scar on my left wrist. It wasn't too serious an injury to warrant a hospital visit, I must concede. The pilot of the dream-plane, well, that's another story.

    Laying in our warm shroud of blankets, I went over the whole thing in my mind. Printing it there instead of getting up out of our love-cocoon to get a notepad. I call myself a writer, yet did not have a tablet or even an old receipt and a pencil on my nightstand for emergency dream notation. What the fuck? Ok, I'll work on it. And with the the ease of which the plane crashed into our dead end street, I was back into some sort of slumber. This time, no visions were had, just the blackness of sleep. I'm glad that I woke up, and that my hallucination was just what it was - a dream.

    My alarm clock alerted me that it was time to get up. It was sometime around 6:30. I willed myself out of bed, ready to go downstairs and write while it was all fresh in my mind, and I could bend the internal agenda of my brain towards creativity right at the start of the day. I think I read that in a John Prine interview once. Writing is best done in the morning, after your mind has been percolating all evening.

    I now find myself writing this little story at our kitchen table, with French-press coffee in a cup next to me and the greyish-blue of winter just outside the window. It is warm in the kitchen, and the rumbling hum of the oil furnace in the basement can be heard. I am glad to not be dreaming anymore. Reality is much more convincing, and the coffee is just too good. I don't think you can taste in dreams, can you?
   

A Quarter For Every Year

Sampson put his four quarters into the air machine slot and reflected upon the date of each coin as he popped them in. Memories from each year began to flash through his mind like a microfiche in a dusty library.

Blurred pictures and experiences. Some cancerous, some benign. The coins made their way from slot to slide and to what is assumed to be a pile of quarters in the belly of the machine, with a sensor keeping track of how many quarters were inserted. One dollar will get you four minutes of compressed air. Better take those valve-caps off first...

1979,
Click, Slide, Clang.
1986,
Click, Slide, Clang.
2001,
Click, Slide, Clang.
1994,
Click, Slide, Clang.

And with a few knocks and a sputter, the whirring vibration of the air machine sprang to life like a man jolted from a trance.

Thirty-two pounds in each Good Year brand tire.

"It has not been a good year..." he muttered to no one in particular but the lug-nuts and pitted rims of his 1992 Chevrolet G-10 short-box van.


 

Tar-Paper

Moonshine.
I had it once in Maryland
Heard about it on TV
Tasted like loneliness to me
Like the same old alcohol I.V.
I smoked some hash too,
And that took me somewhere
I didn't sleep on a couch that night.

And in the morning,
I drove through rural Virginia
Admired the tar-paper shacks
And stopped for a Coke at a roadside store
After strolling in through the screen-door
On an 87 degree day
I paid in cash.

The Stool

A spindle or two,
Some pegs and some glue
Just a stool
But maybe more

Built by a man
With capable hands
Back in nineteen
and sixty four

A few pairs of legs and a seat
A little worn, a little beat
From years of keeping people,
Off the floor

Somewhere to rest
When in trouble or in jest
But if you sit too long,
You'll be sore

Four legs and a top
That won't split, crack, or rot
It's about as sturdy
As an old oak front door

Somewhere to be sat
It's never been more than that
Just a stool,
But maybe more

"Clayton"

Clayton sat quietly in his beat-up red pick-up truck, his eyes darting from the clock, to his hands gripping hard on the steering wheel, up to the small but dimly lit marquee of Jack's Southern Dive which had spelled his name wrong for the third time in two years. Seven minutes passed, and a cold gulp of coffee was finished from a cheap Styrofoam cup, which was purchased from a roadside church group for 50 cents. The coffee tasted like shit, but a voice in his head told him to finish it and throw the empty cup to the floorboard.

He finished off what was left of a roach of dirt weed he'd picked up in Virginia, and held in a long rip until his eyes watered, and bluish smoke exited his nose and filled the cab of the truck. "Shit." he said, after he had rid his lungs of the pungent smoke, and stretched his arms that ached from steering his ailing vehicle over an eight hour drive on the way to Jack's.

After straightening out the food wrappers, miscellaneous hand tools, maps, and CD jewel cases from his passenger seat, Clayton uneasily stepped out of the truck, imagining a masked assailant coming out of nowhere and sideswiping him with a framing hammer. He shook off the imagined moment of panic, opened the small rear half-door of his truck cab and reached inside for his guitar, a 1978 Aria acoustic, and his road case of CD's, and vinyl, all released on his own record label (426 copies sold over the course of one year, a new milestone for Red In The Face Records).

By this time, it was 7 pm, and the sky was quickly turning a deep pinkish purple, with the sun dying somewhere in the distance. A Mack truck roared by, and he felt the gust from it's wind-drift slam cold against his flannel shirt and Levi's, each with four days on them since the last wash, which was in the bath tub of a Red Roof Inn.

The bartender gave him a nod of semi-approval as he walked by, and headed towards the stage. The PA was a Kustom, all covered in black vinyl padding, direct from the factory, and was installed around the time of Jimmy Carter's inaugural address. The stage monitors' metal screening had been bent and stepped on, with beer stains populating their faces, yet somehow they worked every time. The thin green carpeting on the stage had now turned a shade of brown, and was ripped and torn in places, and stood upon and scuffed and puked on so many times that it almost looked artistic. Show business.

Clayton deposited his two cases, and headed for the bar. After several minutes, the bartender peeled himself away from the 21 year old blonde he was coaxing over to his studio apartment after his shift, and asked what it would be that evening. Clayton gave a half smile and introduced himself, "Hey man, I'm Clayton. Playing this evening..." The bartender raised both eyebrows as if surveying his face for a hint as to how bleak his life must be, and replied "Alright man, you know the deal by now I s'pose." as he slid a frothy beer to Clayton's calloused hands.

All the Yuengling you can drink and $100 at the end of the night, with an optional room in the bombed out motel that was attached to the place. Nine to midnight with two breaks. That was the deal. After gas and food, that left him with $30 profit for three hours of work, not to mention the eight hour drive.

The house music played a duet with George Jones and Melba Montgomery. Something about swingers that just can't stay away from temptation. The Yuengling seemed to be sweating profusely, as Clayton cradled it rather nervously in his fretting hand. He took a long pull, and remembered the first time he got laid. About as dismal as this bar, he thought to himself and the bar-stain laden oak booth he was sitting in.

A grizzled farmer type sat at the end of a long line of red vinyl swivel-top bar-stools and barely moved an inch. His drink looked like whiskey, and so did his face. He just sat there, staring at it, as if it was speaking to him. It most likely was.

Clayton cracked his knuckles quickly and effectively, both hands, and took a deep inhale of the tavern air and began feeling nauseous. It was still two hours before set time. His eyes were only closed about fifteen minutes, silently trying to calm his nerves, before he felt someones presence coming towards him, and a hand slapping him on the back. "How yah doin' rock star?" All of a sudden a cold sweat began to form on his back, and an uncomfortable feeling hit him like a board to the face. "Hey Tory, I'm doing well, how's the family?" he replied to his father's best friend from high school, who came to see him whenever he played Virginia.

The sound guy was an over-excited sound engineering student who worked at Jack's when the not-so-well-known acts came through town. He pelted Clayton with technical questions, and made statements about compressors, proximity effect, and certain frequencies that he was trying to get under control in the room. "Just give the guitar and the mic a little extra low, a little verb on both, and absolutely no delay." This statement was met with a blank stare from the young sound guy, and was followed by a disappointing "Alright, suit yourself. Want me to record the show for you?" to which Clayton replied "This isn't exactly a night that I want to remember, or have documented, but thanks."

While working on a new song this morning, I had a memory come back to me from when I was around 8 or 9 years old...I was riding my bike down a hill from the baseball fields, and unbeknownst to me there were a few older kids at the base of the hill waiting for me, and when I made my way down rather fast, one of them stuck a big stick in the spokes of my rear tire trying to make me crash. Luckily, it was a rotted branch, and it broke and I just kept on riding. And to be honest I was probably scared shitless because they were a lot bigger than me. I can just remember wondering why someone would do something like that...Well, I just worked that memory into a song, so thank you douche bag strangers from my youth...

"Living ain't hard
if you know a few jokes,
But every once in a while,
you get a stick in the spokes"


-Tristan