For as long as i can remember, all i ever wanted to be was a rock star.
As a child, i would shut myself in my bedroom, stand on my bed with hairbrush-microphone in hand and sing along with whatever was on the radio. At nine years old, i learned to play the guitar and wrote 3 chord songs about magical lands with cotton-candy clouds, gumdrop mountains and chocolate rivers. (i was nine! Don’t judge!)
Mmmmmm…..chocolate riverrrssssss…. Some fantasies never grow old.
As a teen, i continued my private bedroom concerts, discovering my voice and coming to the realization that i was never going to be a Barbra Streisand or an Olivia Newton-John. Instead, what developed was an ear for perfect pitch but a sound more like a goat in heat.
Cue Stevie Nicks.
Stevie was the only other goat-voiced singer i knew and she was a rock goddess. i devoured her music, dissecting her ability to make goat singing an art form. Through her music, i learned how to write songs that were less about rainbows and candy and more about mystically-suggestive love and love lost. (And to read how she once tried to kill me, check out this.)
At 13, and a freshman in high school, my perfect-pitch ear got me in Swing Choir as the youngest member ever, but my goat voice held me back from being selected for solos. i was an alto, holding down the bass end of the songs, blending my always-in-tune-but-also-always-bleating-sheep-voice with the other flawed non-soloists.
But i never stopped dreaming of being a star on stage, singing my own songs, and i promised myself one day i would find a niche for my odd voice and i’d be a rock star, just like Stevie Nicks.
i butchered popular songs on the radio and destroyed any karaoke-based attempts at getting discovered. Half-drunk at a deaf friend’s wedding, i forgot that i totally suck when it comes to karaoke and took my turn at the mic. Afterwards, my dear, mostly-deaf friend took me aside and asked me politely if i would not do that again.
i guess even deaf people can’t tolerate my attempts to sing other people’s pretty music.
As a young adult, i tinkered around with a couple of bands but none of them ever stuck and my singing was once again relegated to epic solo-shower-stadium concerts and freeway-driving, windows-rolled-up-tight gigs. i got more than a few honks and laughs at red lights.
Then, in my thirties and well past the allowed age range for hung over couch surfing and schlepping gear from gig to gig in an old, perpetually breaking-down van, my rock star guitarist friend called me up with a crazy idea. She’d been in bands since she was big enough to hold a guitar and she had pulled together a couple of musician friends and wondered…would i like to sing?
DOES A BEAR SHIT IN THE WOODS?????
i was all over that like white on rice and the next thing i knew, i was in her basement, a very real and non-hairbrushy microphone in my grip with actual living, breathing, human-being musicians playing beside me who didn’t care that i sounded like a screaming goat because it was ROCK music and it worked.
AND IT WAS EVERYTHING i EVER DREAMED IT WOULD BE.
Today, 14 or 15 years later (exact date we all got together is a bit blurry – math is hard and tequila is yummy) the band is still together. i lost a drunken bet oh-so-many years ago and the band’s name is Station Wag. It doesn’t mean anything and always results in a fun one-o’clock am bar conversation with new, mostly wasted fans trying to figure it out.
You can find us on Facebook and ReverbNation, where you can hear my farm-animal crooning for real. We’ve kept the same lineup minus a few drummer changes. Turns out, mostly sober drummers who actually show up for practices really ARE hard to find! The current Wag incarnation is the best by far and we have become a family – supporting each other through job promotions/losses, hookups and breakups, baby births and cancer scares. i love this motley crew.
Which leads me to Saturday night.
The band hadn’t had a show in a while – mostly due to my travel. We scored a gig at Luckey’s – an iconic watering hole in Eugene, OR – complete with a massively long wooden bar and a history of once being a men’s only “cigar club”. We play there once every 3-4 years or so…but never more often than that. i suspect it’s when their management changes and memories of that “crazy rock band that tears up the stage” get lost with the turnover. New guy comes in, begins booking bands and bam! We get our one shot at Luckey’s until he takes his talents somewhere else and passes the baton on to the next unsuspecting management hire.
It’s possible Station Wag’s modest local success can be directly attributed to the high employment turnover in the bar industry.
And that our fans are all drunk.
But Saturday night, we were on FIRE. Big (drunken) crowd complete with one lonely mosher, great PA system complete with a sound guy who knew what the hey he was doing, and a driving, thumping band sound complete with goat-voiced singer who was a Total. Rock. STAR.
IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL THING.
And then, when it was over and i was still riding high from the adrenalin, i sidled up to the bar to have a shot of tequila. (And to return the plastic bear full of honey i stole because my throat was hoarse. Hey! Don’t judge! Goat screaming is hard and i’m no spring chicken! Some rock stars do a line of coke before a gig – i squeeze a plastic bear and squirt honey down my throat. Honey bears are my drug-of-choice.)
A young dude in skinny jeans, faded rock concert t-shirt and snazzy felted cap was sitting at the bar doing shots with his cute girlfriend.
“You drinking Hornitos? Me too.” He said. “Ever tried it chilled with an orange slice and cinnamon?”
WHAAAAAAT? You can drink tequila COLD? i was completely blown away having somehow spaced the fact that, duh, margaritas are COLD, and made with TEQUILA. (To my defense, this wasn’t my first shot of the night. It may or may not have been my third. Fifth. Whatever.)
i took a sip of the cold elixir complete with cinnamoned-orange slice and BAM! An entirely new world of tequila drinking opened up before me like the Buddha’s lotus flower boldly bursting into blossom from the depths of a murky pond.
It was THAT good.
And, as it turns out, my new found drinking buddy is the owner of all of the Voodoo donuts here in the great Northwest! No joke! This guy lives and breathes everything donuts! It’s like Willie Wonka walked into a bar, ordered a candy-corn martini and proceeded to tell me all his secrets about how he keeps his cookie, cream-filled flowers free from flies and his chocolate river free from clumsy, sugar-high tourists. My absolute fav Voodoo donut is their jauntily named Cock-n-Balls, complete with chocolate frosting and cream filling and shaped like, well…you can see it here.
Voodoo Man turns out to be in town to see Alice Cooper (Really Alice? You couldn’t book Station Wag for your opener??) and he and his girlfriend end up being just about the nicest folks you’d ever want to meet at midnight in a former-cigar-club-turned-rock-venue.
The last band went on and i started feeling every one of my 48 years (That’s 115 in Rock Star Years) and decided it was time to head back to my parents’ house where i am staying. i chose to go via Voodoo Donuts whose employees both confirmed that Trace, the owner, was indeed in town to see Alice Cooper and that they are conveniently open 24/7 and do some of their busiest hours at bar-closing time. (Because drunks are hungry for donuts. It’s a thing.)
Driving up the river (and through the woods) home, cock-n-balls in hand (couldn’t resist) and chomping down on the chocolatey-creamy deliciousness, i realized the narrow road, close trees and pitch black country night look a bit murder-y. Suddenly, a giant flapping THING swoops down in front of my car and my headlights shine off its silvery wings and the long, dead, iDONTWANTTOKNOW hanging from its talons as it flies ahead of me. Then, as quickly as it appeared, it flew away – banking a sharp left and disappearing into the dark woods.
WHAT. THE. EFF. WAS. THAT??
Hyper-alert now, with images of giant flapping vampire bats carrying entrails running through my brain, i stuff the rest of the donut’s balls in my mouth and grip the wheel tightly with both hands while i drive through Murder Woods and emerge safe and sound at my parent’s house.
The next day mom said the bat carrying entrails was really probably an owl carrying its dinner and it was “cool” that i got to see one in real life.
But maybe not as cool as getting to share some tequila with the real life Willie Wonka Donut King.
THAT was BEYOND cool.