Sunday, January 15, 2006

Weird Gig No. 2 - Blues eyes cryin' in the rain...

By Brian Butler

Note: This story, written by Seattle guitarist/singer/songwriter Brian Butler (left), was originally published on the Caldonia web page around 1996. Funny, both of the Weird Gig stories published on Jet City Blues so far are related to county fairs - what does it MEAN?!

South of Seattle near the foothills of the Cascade Mountains lies the small town of Puyallup. That's where this weird gig story starts. Normally an uneventful hamlet, the town roars to life each September when the Puyallup Fair cranks up and dominates the life of its citizens. In a far corner of the huge fairgrounds, past the bungee-jump and the dime-toss, is a performance arena built somewhat like an early Western fort. It was there some fifteen years ago that the Brian Butler Blues Band started its peculiar descent into weirdness.

Live music shared equal billing with the chainsaw artists who were noisily engaged in turning Douglas fir into totem-like poles depicting bears, salmon, eagles, and other wildlife figures. Before the last note of a band's set slipped beyond the range of hearing, the mighty chainsaws were fired up and for the next 45 minutes, primitive art-making was king.

During one of the breaks in our show, a lanky fellow in his fifties (we'll call him Jack) approached, and, talking loudly over the din, expressed a desire to hire the band. "We have get-togethers where we always hire country-western bands, and I'll tell ya, even drinking doesn't make them sound better. I'm in charge of hiring the band for our next party and I wanna hire you guys!" His association was a group of CB enthusiasts (Citizens Band radio). "No sweat", I thought, "just another gig."

Jack needed a little more support from his colleagues before he took the big step and hired a blues band, so he brought a group of friends to our next gig in the area - the Engine House No. 9 in Tacoma. The four couples seemed to enjoy themselves that night, talking boisterously while the number of empty beer pitchers accrued on their table. The final sign of approval came at the end of the night, when one of the women in a fit of wild laughter, fell over backwards in her chair. Jack and I confirmed the date and dough and the gig was on.

On the chosen night we rolled south to the countryside outside of Gig Harbor. The parking lot of the meeting hall was a forest of antennas. This being a CB club, each vehicle bristled with a soaring communication appendage. Inside, the activities were getting started. Folding tables lined the perimeter of the dance area and machinery for making plastic badges was set up on them. The CB folks wore vests and denim jackets covered with these badges or "handles", the use and display of names and aliases being a ritual of the members. We noted all of this while we rolled the gear in and set up on the stage.

We started playing and whipped into our proven, crowd-pleasing blues as the audience watched impassively from their chairs. When the third or fourth song was over, a woman sporting a huge cowboy hat yelled out, "Play some country!" These people were used to country music and that's what they wanted. We went into a huddle and scratched out a list of all the country songs we vaguely knew, padded with country's second cousin, classic rock songs.

The next song that crowd was up; stretched across the dance floor and they were two-steppin', natural as can be! I remember playing "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" several times that night. We enlisted audience members to help us sing a couple of numbers and somehow we limped through the night. We entertained that crowd and they went home happy, although they probably stripped Jack of his entertainment planning responsibilities.

The final surprise came when we were paid. There were a couple of twenty-dollar bills and the rest was in a huge bag which Jack proudly dumped out on the table; quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies-more change than a Carson City slot machine!

We need more Weird Gig stories! Do you have one that the readers of Jet City Blues might enjoy? If so, write it up in an MS Word document and e-mail it to Mike Lynch at Thanks!

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