A friend of mine, Johnny, and I do a musical improv duet routine. We get suggestions from the audience and then we make up songs based on those suggestions. Johnny goes on Craigslist and looks for people looking for music or comedy acts and then gets us booked.
In Portland, there is always a gig, an occasion, an open mic or a bunch of homeless people who can’t throw you outside when you are already there. The gig we did early January was not as good a venue as any of those.
S.T.O.M.P. was billed as a fashion show. I am pretty sure we were one of the first ones to answer the Craigslist ad as a music act. I am also pretty sure that the producer/MC/hirer came up with her name, Amber Havana, here (my randomly generated name is Jasmine Flame).
Initially, John and I were scheduled to play at 11:30. The day of the show John kept getting emails that pushed our start time earlier. At the pace we were being rescheduled had the show been another week away we’d have gone on in December 2011.
John and I showed up at 7:00 as requested. We tracked down Amber, who looked like her skirt was too short for her age of approximately 10 years too old to be reaching for this dream. We told Amber our names and she looked at me as though puzzled that I had deigned to appear at her show with an exotic name not randomly generated by a website. By the 5th attempt of getting her to even try to say my name I realized it was futile and told her to introduce us however she wanted. We had burned an entire 15 minutes of the 2.5 hours before we were slated to go on stage so we found some barstools and hung out.
The DJ started jamming some pretty decent house music. There was a bewitching light effect with the music that had me mesmerized; I only stopped barking like a dog at the sound of a bell two days ago.
S.T.O.M.P. carefully selected their venue by thoroughly searching out “what was available for a very low budget” and came up with Mt. Tabor Theater. I am not certain how the event was advertised, but judging by the crowd I would say that some people were told it was a fashion show, some people were told there were some local bands playing, some people were told it was a storage shed auction, and some people were told to meet their parole officer.
About a half hour after the slated start time the music stopped and a weirdly over-produced “interview” started playing. It was our hostess Amber talking about why she put on the event. I am pretty certain I was the only one listening to the words of the interview and from what I could gather, Amber put the show on, “because.”
Suddenly the music starts up again and Amber came out on stage holding the microphone with her arm crooked as though she was in traction. She started talking about the layout of the show and several things became apparent:
- There were three camera men at the front of the stage, two stills one video, all focused on Amber. That’s when I figured out the reason for S.T.O.M.P. – Amber wanted to be a model/emcee so she created a show where she could do that.
- Amber mentioned EVERY act in the show, and the name of the bartender, and the DJ and the lighting crew, and the bouncer – but, she did not mention Johnny and me. Amber was rethinking having us perform.
- No one had done a sound check because every time she stepped on the catwalk-jut of the stage there was feedback – Amber apparently did not understand what caused this, because she kept stepping forward.
- Amber believes “uhMAYzing” is the best way to punctuate a sentence – every band, every designer (only 2 of the 3 slated actually showed up), the stylist, the bartender, the deejay, the door staff, the crew, the models and the barstools were all uhMAAAAAYzing!!!!! (Johnny and I were not mentioned).
All of a sudden, and without any warning, Amber broke out into what can only – with a tongue firmly placed in ones cheek – be referred to as rap. She rapped slower than LL Cool J’s Going Back to Cali; with less panache, style, rhythm and comprehensibility. It was completely ummMAYzing!
The first band finally came out to rescue the evening. My first impression of them was that I was surprised that Carrot Top knew how to play the guitar but also glad that he found something to do that did not undermine comedy. The lead singer was a cute blonde girl who probably had to play first because she had an 11:00 curfew. Her hair had been cut and dyed by 7 blindfolded first-graders. She had a strong belty voice but was what Paula Abdul would call “pitchy” most notably when singing a cover of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep. Three songs into their set the drummer and bassist inexplicably took their shirts off. It was really awkward to see their pre-pubescent undeveloped lank. After the fourth song they introduced their next song as their last. They did this again for the next five songs.
As they were wrapping up their fifth last song the stage hand grabbed Johnny and me and told us we were up next instead of after the first designer. Right before we went on stage he asked us if we could stretch to 15 minutes because they needed to do some setting up for the fashions show. We made our way to the stage and bantered with Amber.
“Amber, if you could sum up this entire event in one word, what would that word be?” I set her up.
“Well, I guess that one word would have to be that this show is just a dream I had and wonderful and really exciting and I just am really happy that all these great people are here.”
“That’s really great, but what is the ONE (here I held up my index finger to help guide her) word you would use to sum it all up.” Please say uhMAAAAYzing, please say uhMAAAYzing, please say uhMAAAAYzing.
“Well, I guess that word would be, Fantastic.”
The song we sang was called Fantastic. But, I managed to slip in a few wide eyed uhMAAYzings into it on the hook.
Our next song was inspired by an audience member’s ex girlfriend and went really well.
At this point we had burned about 5 of the 15 minutes we were asked to do. Johnny started getting another suggestion from an audience member while I made fun of his shirt. That’s when Amber came back on stage in a new outfit and told us our time was up. That’s right we got the hook.
The audience had been delightful, and I always love performing, but I could not have been more glad to be kicked off a stage. So, away we went.
When we got backstage Johnny wanted us to stay there so he could ogle the models. I thought it would be cool to see the fashion show too. We sat down and looked around for the models and simultaneously realized that the people backstage dressed in re-purposed leftovers from the 1980’s section of Goodwill were the models – and, as Johnny stated, not a looker among them.
We left through the backdoor and headed to the car. The best part of the night was heading back to the car someone from the show was having a smoke outside the backdoor and told me my calves were awesome.
They kind of are.