Music · 2005-10-14


It’s time for me to admit that, having kept my hand in on the stitching, I’ve also been indulging in my other favorite pastime: rock ‘n’ roll. Through craigslist, I found a listing for a just-forming “rootsy bluesy jam band” around the time that I was moving to the Seattle area. Rootsy — sure, sounds good. Bluesy — sign me up. Jam — why not? Soon after, I became their sometimes-lead sometimes-backup singer and general whip cracker.

The first gig was almost accidental: Our fearless leader lives in the Madrona neighborhood and runs their annual outdoor BBQ festival. We got invited to play one set’s worth of material, which served (as we say in my native country of Buzzword-Bingoland) as a forcing function to make us practice. I’d say we managed a creditable 45 minutes…and I won’t go into much detail about the 5 or 10 minutes that weren’t.

The band’s name? That’s a bit of a shaggy dog story. For a week we were Pot Roast, a name selected because our drummer happened to be at a concert the previous night when the delicious smell of pot roast wafted into the venue for some reason. I sort of liked this at first because, well, I like pot roast. But after about 24 hours of reflection, we all came to realize it was — how shall I say? — dumb. Then we settled briefly on The Roasters, which paid homage to our glorious Pot Roast history. By the time we actually got to our first gig, we had become Not Dead Yet. I rather like this one. It evokes Monty Python, asserts that although we may be old rockers we’re not quite keeling over, and reflects the fact that our set list contains only about 50% Grateful Dead songs (there are a couple of us who will actually fight to the death to keep the percentage down). The only difficulty is introducing yourself to the crowd. Band: “Hello, Cleveland! We’re not dead yet!” Audience: “Well, yes, we can see that. But your name is…?”

Here’s where the naming thing gets a bit more interesting. We have now wandered into our second gig situation: a Hurricane Katrina charity event coming up on October 29 in our now-favorite neighborhood. The event is called, yes, MadronaPalooza. Since along with the Dead tunes we’ve also been getting into more New Orleans-style funk jamming, someone suggested at last night’s practice that we should call ourselves the Madrona Social Aid & Pleasure Club. Sold! (I had to read up a little bit on the original SA&PC phenomenon to fully appreciate it.) It occurred to us only after the spur-of-the-moment name change that Not Dead Yet would perhaps have been unseemly for the event.

I was lucky, back in the day, to start out with a successful gigging band my first time out. (I’ll save that story for another time.) Then at college I found myself in a band that occasionally played around Boston and Somerville, then a bunch of dorm-party bands. Then it sort of drizzled down into pickup bands every once in a while. (Oh man, I’ve got some really good stories here too, like one of the Arbortext holiday parties… And then there was last year’s XML Summer School… The band names alone would make a whole post.) I think they were all quite good, actually, but the “seriousness” quotient declined pretty radically. It’s exciting to be part of something a bit more regular — but still in the Will Play for Beer category.