My First Sound Check

You’d think at my age, I’d have done just about everything I ever wanted to do at least once.

Not so, my friend.  Not so…

For instance, I’d never been to a sound check for a live show before.

Sure, as a baby queer in high school, I had been in choir and drama club, watching judgmentally as the unbeloved tech folk set up their lights and sound.

Yeah, when I was in college and exploring the fraternity option, I day drank shit keg beer and blurrily watched as Otis Day and the Knights phoned in their pre-show prep at the Pike House.  Hey, it was a kegger-cum-concert.  I was more interested in figuring out if I could pass in a fraternity at KSU without getting the shit kicked out of me and disappearing sometime mid-rush week at the time than in the pre-show goings on of that band from Animal House.  Naturally, my focus was stretched as I further divided my attention by lustily considering my potential frat brothers and fellow pledges…yeah, I was gonna end up dead.

Nonetheless, I ended up seeing Otis Day scream into the mic a few times prior to the show, but it wasn’t a super complex sound system we were dealing with.  It was the backyard deck of a frat house, after all.

So, when my bestie-neighbor from Seattle called me and invited me to a show that one of her bands was doing here in town, I was in.

D-Slice and I possibly share a single liver.  Or were both cloned from the same one…they’re doing that, you know.  There’s a reason I don’t look like my brothers and sister!

As a human, she’s top notch.  As a neighbor, she’s kinda like a Julie McCoy.  I first met her when our apartment-turned-condo opened and several of us first wave residents moved in simultaneously as the housing market verged on its infamous 2008 crash…effectively stranding us all in a partially sold 146 unit building.

I would bet that there were only about 60 units occupied during those early years.  If I had a better – less muddled – memory, I could be more specific.  Alas…

Yet, this small group of us housing market castaways bonded.

What began as drinks in the community room, or the laundry room – usually bemoaning the fact that the sales office promise of a roof top deck had not yet become a reality – between a few dozen regulars evolved into progressive parties, moving from one unit to another on a host floor.  D-Slice upped this game by going private.  She resurrected a past event of hers that she called Free Drink Friday from a former residence…perhaps a college dorm, who knows?  What I do know is that the rules were pretty simple:  she starts us off with a few bottles of wine, some beer and/or whatever randomly occurring bottles of liquor she has in her unit (shut up, Diezel) and maybe some light snacks or a pizza or two.  Attendees can BYOB if they are so inclined or just show up and suckle off the provided well.  The party would go until quiet hours kicked in or the booze ran out.

Easy-peasy.

D-Slice, being a kindred spirit – key word:  spirit – was not one to let quiet hours stand in the way of a good time.  A few of us cooler neighbors would stick around and bat clean up after everyone else left.  With the booze, not the actual clean up, fuck that.

During one of these late nights, as D-Slice and I were the sole stragglers, we realized the booze-fueled brilliance of our drunken wit and wisdom deserved an audience.  Just like that, the Podcast was born.

Not the actual podcast phenomenon.

I assure you, we are not responsible for the low key craze of data-plan-eating streaming talk shows, no.  Our Podcast was pretty much just code for us hanging out, drinking and chatting.  Occasionally, we’d invite another friend or neighbor and call them a special guest.  Others, one of us would call a special session Podcast to debrief a specific situation or, more likely, shituation.

More often than not, my favorite part of our Podcast was its inevitable end.  Not because I yearned for the finish…no, it was the finale itself.  What I came to call Flooraoke.

I’m sure you can figure it out.

But at some point, we’d add in some music to the mix of our easy conversation and as the evening wore on and we became slightly worse – or better, depending on your criteria – for the booze, the focus on the conversation would wane and the attention to the music would take center stage.  Center floor, at any rate.  I’m no singer, but D-Slice has put out a few independent CDs and been a part of several bands since I’ve known her.  As gravity pulled us toward its inevitable victory, I would end up slumped in a chair while D-Slice put up more of a fight and ended up heroically sprawled on the floor in her ignominy.

Then, the magic would happen.

Some song would just spark her fire and she was zoned and in her zone, singing toward a gloriously undignified slumber.  After a few songs, I would make my own way home to bed, warmed with the already slipping away memories of the past several hours.

It is an amazing memory, these Poscast sessions.

So, hitting her show in Portland was a no-brainer.

Initially, I’d been worried about the show keeping me up past my bedtime for my early morning work alarm.  Turns out, the disclaimer that I might not stay for the whole show was unnecessary.  It was an afternoon show with the Heart Shaped Boxes.

Nonetheless, my disclaimer about leaving early had set the pre-funk ball in motion.  No need to derail that plan simply because the show was starting earlier.  In true rock star fashion, we just started drinking earlier…which is how I came to be at her sound check.  

I hopped out of my Uber on the corner of the block that the bar she was performing at was in and walked back to the door.  There, I was met by a heavy metal David Cross type guy.

But, once inside, the bar proved to be a pretty small collection of nice staff members with properly spelled tattoos.  Not  a bad place to spend a Saturday afternoon.

I was introduced to the other Boxes, all of whom I knew from the Facebook, D-Slice had met them all through a rock camp for girls where they were all camp counselors.  

Ok, it’s cooler than that makes it sound.  It’s called Rain City Rock Camp, if you’re so inclined google them and maybe donate.

Other than the HSBs and the staff, the bar was empty, save for a lone young man with the long, straight hair and basic black jeans and tee metal dude dress code.  He was sitting on a table, facing the back of the bar, doing some finger work on his guitar to warm up.  I assumed he was with the opening act, and said as much to D-Slice.  She said she wasn’t sure, she hadn’t been involved in the booking, she just went where she was told to be when she was told to be there.

Not a bad gig.

It was then that she excused herself for her sound check work and the metal dude turned on his table so that he was facing me.  D-Slice said I should go say hi and buy him a beer before leaving me to sip on my own.  We both knew I wasn’t going anywhere.

I sipped and watched each band member go through the mic checks and other asundry settings as each coordinated not only how their equipment sounded but also gave feedback on how the rest of the band sounded to them…which is important, although I’d never given it a thought.  In retrospect, it probably explained a lot about some of the shittier live shows I’d been to.

Meanwhile, metal dude sat across the bar from me, giving me deadeye while mutely jamming on his tabletop perch.

Other patrons started filtering in for the show.  Prudently, I ordered another beer before it got crowded.

I was meeting other musicians that knew D-Slice from the time she’d spent collaborating with the Portland version of the girl’s rock camp.  Apparently, this show was a fundraiser for them.  

I briefly felt bad about getting my cover comped by D-Slice. It passed…I mean, really, how often do you get to say, “I’m with the band” when you’re me?

I was surprised to look across the bar and see one of my high school classmates.

I joke.

That fella belonged to one of D-Slice’s band mates, who is also in two bands. Her name is TRex, hence the mascot that travels with her.  This other band of hers, Shower Scum, did a tribute song to The Donald.  Don’t worry, I may have misused the word “tribute” since the song was called Fuck You! Needless to say, the song went over like gangbusters in Portland. 

There was lesbian couple in the audience.  Very chatty and sociable.  In true Portland fashion, they brought their toddler.  In even truer Portland fashion, one mother’s outfit matched his outfit…which was a very hipster take on Oshkosh B’gosh overalls.  

Initially, I’d judged the dykes tyke’s presence in a bar pretty harshly.  Then I remembered grade A lesbian parents were, of course, above my reproach.  My reminder came on the form of his accessories:  construction yellow ear protection.

How damned adorable is that?

I just sat there and watched him switch between toddling between his parents and bouncing on one of their hips or the other’s as I watched a couple of the acts before Heart Shaped Boxes.

The opener.

TRex’s second band.

The metal dude’s band:  featuring a chunky girl with the blue hair and an awkward drummer with the mis-matched Star Wars socks.  Both of whom were probably only in  the band because they were in love with the aforementioned long-haired rocker that turns out to be their lead singer…

Suddenly it hit me, this was a benefit for a girl’s rock camp.  

Sleep away camp for girls that like music.

It was a daytime show on a weekend.

The awkwardness of the metal dude’s deadeye stare and the googly-eyed quality of the stares he got from his band mates.

Shit.  This whole band was underage.

I ordered another beer and moved closer to the front door.

D-Slice and the rest of the HSBs did their set and it was good!  Really good.  I loved knowing the arc her performing had taken since her first solo CDs – all of which I still have.

After her set, D-Slice and I found some time to squirrel away to the sidewalk parklet seating for another beer and some undistracted conversation now that her work was done.  We caught up on current life events – hers was going better than mine – and relived some of our greatest Podcast hits.

It was too short, of course.  Her band mates were her transportation and they were anxious to get back to the airBnB for some R-n-R after the show.

But, our decade long friendship had stood the test of being apart for a couple of years and fallen right back into that easy camaraderie that made it so precious to me.

I left the bar on that high, with a side of pride at not accidentally hitting on a teenaged boy.

Plus, it was a daytime show, so I was rested for work the next day.

And what the hell happens the following day on my way home from work?  A long-hair rocker dude sits down right next to me on the MAX.  I figure this is either the universe telling me something or at least dangling something different in front of me.  Maybe telling me not to be too closed minded when declaring the dating and mating seasons of my life closed?  I mean, really, D-Slice and I are unlikely friends.  She is a rocker, sleeve tattoo and all while I’m someone you’d easily mistake for an accountant.

Alright, universe, I’m listening.

Turns out, it was the exact same metal dude from the day before and the universe was just giving me the one fingered salute or trying to get my ass thrown in jail.

But, seriously…what are the odds?

My life, I gotta tell ya.

My First Sound Check

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