Someday he’s gonna make it to the top
And be a juke box hero, got stars in his eyes~ Foreigner
I’ll never forget when I played my first gig in a bar. I was 14 years old and our band Mulberry Tree got a gig at a dive called “Europe Gyro” in Kent, Ohio. We got there to set up and the stench of alcohol, cigarette smoke and urine had filled the air. A couple bands were playing with us and treated us like second class citizens, so of course we went on last. It was a Sunday night before school on Monday. We went on at 10:30 pm to an audience of one black man, drunk out of his mind and yelling out, “play some Jackson 5 man!” My Dad had set up the gig for us. At one point I dropped my pick in the middle of a song and was deeply embarrassed when he picked it up off the ground and handed it to me. I think the microphone picked up my words, “get away Dad! Get away!”
Not long before this, we had our first experience in an amateur recording studio. The man who recorded us was a total throwback to the 70’s and 80’s. He had a wild long pony-tail down to his butt cheeks. He played the saxophone. We recorded all our Mulberry Tree Songs live, and then I did the vocals. We finished a whole album of 7 songs in 12 hours. We laughed at Duane, our drummer, because we had to duct tape headphones to his skull, they kept slipping off because he banged his head to the beat while drumming.
All of this led to the pinnacle for us. We had a chance to play in front of our peers in High School at what Hudson High School in Ohio called “Rock Fest”. It was 1996. Hits like “Stupid Girl” by Garbage and “Tonight, Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins were on the radio. Duane, Mitchell and I were nervous before the show. We snuck into a bathroom upstairs in the High School and turned off the lights. We lit up a cigarette and shared it. We hopped up and down pumping ourselves full of adrenaline before the show. Then the moment came. We were on. I stepped up to the mike, plugged in my Cherry Red Sunburst Gibson Les Paul, and wiped away the hair hanging over my eyes. We played our first song, and through the whole show the crowd stayed into it. We were deeply hooked on the accolades we got from the masses of peers looking onward.
And afterwards, we were able to sell our album to all of our friends. It was on cassette tape. I had to make copies myself on my high-speed audio dub recorder, and we gave some weed to a friend of ours for making our “high-tech” album art on his 95′ PC Computer.
But after the show, Mitchell’s Father cornered me. He proceeded to tell me that “red flags” were going off in his mind, because in one of our songs I had a lyric that sang “smoke it up, toke it up, drink it up, gulp it on down”. He was sure that I was singing from personal experience. I assured him that I was writing fictionally, and felt bad for all of the poor people who were caught up in the mess of addiction. After a lot of interrogation, Mitchell’s Father backed off.
I came up to Duane and Mitchell and they were asking me; “What did he say? What did he say???” I told them that he tried to get me to admit I was doing drugs and drinking, and that I was sure I pulled one over on him.
I was becoming a liar. I certainly struggled with lying to my parents, because we had such an open, transparent relationship. Nonetheless, somehow, lying became a new weapon that I felt I could use to protect the things I did in darkness… I began lying to many people, including my parents and some of my close friends. I began to abandon my conscience and step into a whirlwind of hedonistic freedom of which I had not experienced yet.