On Sunday we played the Red Line Tap in Rogers Park, a bar behind the Heartland Café and owned by the same people. It’s a small place, next to the EL track and it’s the first bar I ever played. Ever. Three months after I began playing the drums Brian got us a gig there. I remember the way he told me. He was checking his e-mail at the kitchen table and as I walked by him, he looked up.

“Red Line just e-mailed. I got a show!”

“Great.” I assumed he meant a show for the other band he played with, until he peered at me over his glasses.

“Do you want to play drums?”

And without missing a beat, as if he had just asked if I could pick up milk on the way home, I said, “Sure.” Despite my nerves, I stayed cool about it. No big deal, I thought. Just a bar show.

But as I brought my drums in on Sunday, just two days ago, and talked to Kurt, the Sound Guy, and walked toward the stage where he told me to set-up, I realized playing here for my very first bar show was a big deal.

It was big deal because I could barely play. Even before the show, because I couldn’t keep a beat for very long, Brian and I agreed that I would only play 5 songs out of the set with time out in between so I could rest. Between songs I would sit down off-stage while Brian played solo a la Billy Bragg (who Brian doesn’t listen to, but I do). I remember being nervous the whole day, from the moment I woke up. I remember what I wore: a red jacket, white t-shirt, and black wide leg jeans. I remember I was wearing an amethyst necklace, which medieval folklore said offered protection and power. I remember that we weren’t even Short Punks yet. Our first band name was The Hours (yes, Short Punks is better). I remember also that I did not play my own drum set. I had one. A green Tama rhythm-mate bought off Craig’s List for $375. Instead, I played the drum set that belonged to the drummer of the band who was headlining.

The headlining band (the band that plays last) had arrived before us and because Brian had sent in a demo with mostly acoustic solo songs, the booking agent assumed he was a solo act. The Sound Guy told the band they could set-up first with their gear in the back and Brian would play in front of it. They were surprised then when they saw me bringing in my hunter green drums. They asked me if I would mind playing their drummer’s set. Sure, I said, not really knowing what that meant.

Now, I know. It’s hard to play another person’s set, especially if you’ve only been playing three months and you’ve spent hours and hours playing the same five songs on your own hunter green Tama drum set. In this case, flexibility is not an option. But there I was on that first night, facing a drum set with twice as many drums and cymbals as my own. I didn’t even know where to start.

I remember all this now. Now, after I’ve just played there again for the fourth or the fifth time and brought in my own blue Yamaha drums in their black nylon cases and my own Paiste cymbals in their cases and my 10 pairs of drumsticks and brushes in their case along with all the other drum paraphernalia. For my first show I had no cases for my green drums and every time we packed them into the car they got scratched. I carried my drumsticks, the two pairs, in my backpack.

On Sunday, I talked with the Sound Guy like he was our old friend – which in a way, he was. He had done sound for us 5 times or so and knew our sound and our ways. And we knew he had a good ear for us. He did the sound check on the drums – tonight, checking just the kick drum instead of all of them. Brian checked his mike and we started. Much different from my first show when the sound check was more involved.

My first show here was also my first sound check. And for the first time, I learned to “check the levels” with the Sound Guy, to play each drum as they request so they can check the mikes on the drums. At that time I didn’t know to ask for a check on my monitor. On Sunday, I did. When Brian began playing the first song, “Rosie,” I realized I couldn’t hear him in the monitor to my left, which meant, in essence, I couldn’t hear him at all which makes playing with him a little difficult. But without thinking about it or wondering how I should ask, I spoke into the mike and said to Kurt: “Could I get a little more guitar in my monitors?”

And there I was. A year and a half ago that would have been unthinkable but on Sunday, it was effortless, like I had been doing it my whole life.

Some days I forget how much my life has changed since I started playing the drums less then two years ago. I forget in the day-to-day business of life that we have changed a lot since our first show at the Red Line. But it’s a change that others may not be able see at first glance. I live in the same apartment, I have the same job, I’m married to the same person, but life, indeed, has changed. It’s only when we return to places we played at in the very beginning do I appreciate it.

The show went well. It was a quiet Sunday night. We played last because we were the headline act (another difference from our very first show) and we went home and had our usual post-gig meal. It was a quiet, routine, usual sort of night, just another bar show on a Sunday night. No big deal.

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