Los Angeles – Out of the blue comes an e-mail from my brother, Miles: “All confirmed. Rehearsals are next Friday, and your show with Andy Summers
and Incubus at the KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas will be on Sunday.”
Whaaaat? I dimly remember Miles mentioning something about this radio concert, months ago. At the time I said, “Wow, cool,” and then forgot about it.
So I’m thinking about it now, a little panicked, and figure, what the heck?
Of course, I had better dig out my drums and try to get some life into my wrists. I remember too vividly getting my ass whupped by young Brain of Primus when I jammed with them some time ago, after not addressing my kit for years. After a long layoff I can still play, but the tiny little muscles that provide the finesse, that enable the cool persnickety stuff that the folks like, are only good for a few squirts before they quit.
I call up Mike, Incubus’ guitarist, to see what they have in mind. He proposes that we play the Police’s “Roxanne” and “Message in a Bottle” and Incubus’ “Pardon Me” and “Megalomaniac.”
Andy and I have been trying for years to think of a way of playing Police songs together that doesn’t stink to high heaven. We like the songs, and we like playing together, but Sting don’t wanna. Of course, we can’t be called the Police unless it includes Sting, so what can we do?
I get to rehearsal early. My son Scott is in tow, and he’s very impressed to be hanging out with a band that many of his friends are into. His ole Hall of Famer dad is just a dad, but Incubus, “Like, wow!”
Andy and I inspect Incubus’ gear, and the first thing we notice is how small it is. Speaker cabinets are now so efficient that no one needs the huge stack-ups that I used to fantasize about as a kid.
Even the drums are small and oddly shaped. Jose has them tuned way tight like a jazz kit (so do I, but neither of us play jazz). I used to be the only drummer who knew how to get a heavy sound from high-pitched drums. Kids today start out knowing everything that we had to learn.
When the band shows up, we go straight into “Roxanne.” Having two drummers means that each of us can occasionally depart from our sacred mission of steady groove and indulge in flights of fancy, while the other guy holds it down. Jose is fun to play with.
Brandon, like all pro singers, keeps a low profile. He saves his voice during rehearsals (it’s called “marking”) but still gives us the cues we need.
Andy and Mike have their heads together, staring intently at each other’s fingers on their fret boards as they play.
Eleven bands are set to perform during the gig. Backstage, it’s a rock’n’roll party, a mob of carousing fun lovers with crazy hairdos and loud clothing.
Incubus hits the stage to do its own set. They are great performers, an excellent combination of power and poetry. We join them after a few songs. As soon as I’m sitting down, my hands take over and my horse is charging through the bit and over the fields. I try to rein it in a little so that Brandon can sing the song.
We play, and then just like that, in a flash, it’s done. Sure, there were a few fender benders. OK, so I played too loud, too fast and too much, but shows like this are such a rare treat that I feel no remorse. Catch me at a real concert, on a real tour, and you may see some finesse, but this was something else. So shoot me if I had too much fun.
By the time I get out of the shower, the rest of the band are whooping it up in the dressing room. It was a good show. The room quickly fills up with friends and family.
I really want to see Green Day play. I lost a bet that I made 10 years ago with my niece that they would vaporize after one hit. I had them figured as a McPunk band (which I didn’t hold against them, because that’s pretty much what the Police were at first).
So I drag myself away from the party and head out to the auditorium. Here’s why Green Day is still here: They write hits, keep it simple, and they connect with the audience. They are tight, professional, confident and energized. I’m not about to rush out and buy all their CDs, but I respect this band.
Life is full of rewards and miseries, but I’m very happy that shows like this come along every once in a while. To some, it may look like Andy and I are clutching on to past glories by playing old hits rather than doing something new. But the fact is, we are both doing a lot of new stuff. Heck, I have a whole new and unrelated career as a film composer.
The devil may take me, but every now and then I will reach into the cookie jar…
Thank you, Incubus, for letting us hitch a ride.