I got invited to hear a band play on Friday. They started at 3:00 PM, which is a perfect time for replacement hip-sters like me. The days when I could sit around until ten o’clock waiting for Foghat to come on and get home at one in the morning? Those days are long gone. What really works now is for the music to start in the afternoon so that I’m in bed by nine.
To make matters better (worse if you’re under 50), the band was a biker band. Not the leather-clad, knife-toting Hell’s Angels type biker band, but rather a mostly clean and wholesome lycra-clad bicyclist band. When I saw Foghat in 1978 at the Houston Coliseum with Marcello, I was in 8th Grade. Marcello was in 8th Grade, too, but not by choice. For some reason the school system thought that the best way to handle a very tough guy and first-class drug dealer was to hold him back year after year so that he wound up in classes with small, hairless, easily frightened kids much younger than him.
Marcello had a deep voice, he shaved, and from the locker room I had visual confirmation that he was what we all aspired to be: A man. I had gotten tickets to the Foghat concert from my brother, who had been grounded for selling drugs, or for stealing the car late one night, or for getting straight “F’s” on his lack-of-progress report.
Marcello would have never gone to the concert with me were it not for the free tickets. I remember my dad dropping us off out front as the long-hairs, freaks, and dope merchants streamed in.
“What kind of band is this, anyway?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” I lied.
“Well, have a good time. When should I pick you boys up?”
“Midnight?” I said, praying it didn’t sound like a question.
“That’s pretty late.”
“I’ll be fine. I’m with Marcello.” Marcello nodded and smiled politely.
We got out and he drove off.
The concert, which started at eight, started at nine when Judas Priest came onstage. By then we’d had a solid hour to smoke Marcello’s concert goodies and the haze was so thick we could barely see the stage. Foghat followed and played until midnight. I don’t remember anything about it except that when we got to the car Marcello said, “Snap, man!” and jabbed me in the ribcage when my dad pulled up. Somehow, I snapped.
How times have changed. As I entered the Stag & Lion in the middle of the afternoon, the crowd thickened. My biker pals on stage were completely sober, and the cyclists packed into the bar were sipping at the one beer they would be drinking all day. No one was smoking, of course, as it was a no-smoking establishment and a bar, an impossibility back in the 70’s on a par with squaring the circle.
At three o’clock sharp they started to play, and at five o’clock sharp they stopped. The music was phenomenal, the band was tight, and on top of that the songs were original. In fact, the music was better than any concert I had ever attended during the heyday of 70’s rock and roll — ZZ Topp, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Tom Petty, the Stones, even Foghat. Then I remembered that I’d never actually heard any of the music at any of those concerts, or if I’d heard it, it had been through the 100-yard concrete brain filter that comes from being inside the THC equivalent of an oxygen tent.
“Wow,” I said to Mrs. WM. “Music sounds so great when you can hear it!”
She gave me a funny look and kept sipping her margarita.
My buddy’s biker band laid it down for two solid hours and not a single song was off the “B” side. Afterwards we went out and had dinner. One of our group, Surfer Dan, had ridden down to San Diego from LA, a solid little 100-miler so that he’d be sure to get his ride in before the festivities.
At dinner it was a typical bike racer dinner. Calories were counted, low-cal menu options were selected, and everyone finished in time to hurry home, put on the leg compression devices, and rest up for the big Saturday ride.
The band’s name? HTFU, of course.
I told you they were cyclists.