Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Below Average White Band

I’m in a band. Well, not a real band. I mean, it is a real band in the sense that several of us gather to make noise, but we’re not a paid group, inasmuch as paying to hear us perform would be like paying to be assaulted.

Our group consists of a bunch of graying guys from the neighborhood who play bass, guitar, keyboards, saxophone, and drums. What do I do? I bring beer.

All right, I do contribute a few vocals. For example, when our keyboardist sings “Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out”, I back him up with “woo-ooo-ooo”. But other than that my main function is to fill their empty glasses. I am basically a roadie with a mortgage. Plus, all the musical ability I have would fit in Calista Flockhart’s brassiere. Actually I sound almost exactly like Billy Joel, in the same sense that broccoli tastes almost exactly like chocolate. No, seriously, I sound just like Billy Joel would sound if he were caught in a bear trap. And had pneumonia.

So why don’t I play an instrument? Because I possess the musical talent of shrubbery. For example, occasionally our drummer can’t make it to practice, and on a few occasions I have volunteered to fill in. Not that I have any drumming knowledge; I figured I could just keep a beat going in order to assist my friends’ playing. They very nicely asked me to stop, mainly because my attempts sounded like someone had used ten metal garbage cans as bowling pins. So you see, I’m not even fit to bang a stick against a solid surface – something a monkey could do. In fact, monkeys are equal to me in a number of ways: they have opposable thumbs, they communicate by grunting, and they hurl feces.

You can actually recognize some of the songs we play if you take your fingers out of your ears. It’s mainly rock and roll tunes from the 60s and 70s -- an era that most people know about only from history class. Why do we play only stuff that was originally released on vinyl and 8-track tapes? Because most of us are in our 40s and 50s. In fact, our drummer's kid often has to change my Depends during “Wild Thing”. And let me tell you, she is not happy about it.

I’m not a musician, so I am always impressed when the other guys talk music. “We’re doing this in B flat.” “I thought it was A sharp.” “Tone down the amp.” “You stink, Jeff.” “Shut up, buttwipe.” “I think I swallowed my reed.” “My chest hurts.” And so forth.

While we might lack a few things that normal bands have, like rhythm and talent, we do have enthusiasm. So even though we stink, we at least stink loudly.

Every year we play at the neighborhood block party. We don’t get paid, although one year they paid us not to play. I’m glad to say that our high-volume screeching and off-key singing do little damage other than setting off the occasional car alarm. Actually we go largely unnoticed by our neighbors, who happily yell at each other in order to be heard while sipping my homemade beer. But we don’t go unappreciated. After each song we are treated to a fervent round of chirping from deaf crickets.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “I want to start a band. I mean, if Ben and his middle-aged friends can form a musical group, then so can I.” In order to help you, I’ll pass on some of the knowledge I have gained. The bare minimum you will need for this endeavor is:

1. lead singer
2. lead guitarist
3. bass player
4. drummer
5. beer

I can’t overstress the importance of beer. Whenever we practice, the first song or two sounds like Hurricane Andrew. But after a few beers we become Aerosmith. Oh, we might not sound any better to the casual (i.e., sober) observer, but we sound a lot better to ourselves. Beer is liquid talent that turns Willie Nelson into Tom Petty.

Now that we’ve done lots of rock n’ roll tunes, I think we’re ready to move on to another music genre. Maybe classical. Imagine the contributions we could make to the music world with “Heart Attack in D Minor”.