Sunday, December 9, 2012
Holy Covenant UMC
Rev. Matthew Johnson, preaching
Back in my college days, I was part of a marginally successful rock band. When I tell people about this, they often get wide-eyed and want to hear road stories about the glamour (or debauchery) of the rock-and-roll lifestyle. When this happens, I will usually disappoint them. Because most of what being in a rock band involves — unless you are incredibly famous — is monotonous physical labor. You might as well just wear brown shorts to every gig, because you’re basically a UPS driver that gets to play real a guitar instead of an “air” one on breaks. You load the van up, you empty the van out. You set up on stage, you tear down. Then, you load the van up, you empty the van out. By the time you get to play any music, your arms are tired and your back is sore. This is why most musicians will tell you that all marijuana is, in fact, medical.
Of course, the amount of physical agony and fatigue is relative, though, to how much stuff you have to carry. Occasionally, we found ourselves up here to the big-time — where there was a sound engineer and a top-of-the-line sound system. But, primarily, we played the college towns … at places that weren’t big enough to have their own PA systems. So, along with all our instruments, and guitar amplifiers, and effects boxes, and cables, we would also bring crates full of microphones and stands, audio mixers, power amplifiers, and racks of effects, and large speaker cabinets. We had accumulated the stuff over the years, and used it for rehearsing in the house where most of us lived together on Ward Street on the Southwest side of beautiful Macomb, IL.
Before every show, we would pack everything up that was strewn about in the living room, and we would make the journey from the house, through the back yard to the alley where our band vehicle — a late-60s Winnebago motor home — was parked. Like zoo animals pacing back and forth at the front of their cage, we all participated in this long, heavy parade so many times that we wore a path in the grass from the back door to the Winnie.
Consequently, we knew where everything was that would be beneath our feet on that path. We knew which of the back stair treads were loose. We knew the pitch and every dip that was in the yard. We knew where a tree’s roots had broken the pavement at the edge of the alley. Even in the house, we could navigate our way around the furniture, and the recycling bins, and the aluminum can castles.
Actually, not all of the band members knew the walk to the Winnie in the way we did. Our keyboard player, Eric, went to school in the big city of Peoria, so he didn’t play all the gigs with us. He was more wild animal than zoo creature. I’ll never forget one afternoon during load-up, Eric was there and he was trying the be helpful. So he was picking up everything in sight taking it out. But with every trip, he seemed to run into something. Carrying a monitor speaker, he ran into a chair. And he grunted, and with frustration simply said “Stuff!” Carrying an armful of microphone stands, he knocked something off the table. “Stuff!” he said again. It kept happening over and over.
Boom. Into a pile of newspapers. “Stuff!”
Blam. Into the charcoal grill. “Stuff!”
Crash. Into lamp. “Stuff!”
If there had been a rake in the yard, he would have stepped on it. If there had been a banana peel, he would have slipped on it.
Finally, something happened to Eric. He had this really powerful meltdown, and he screamed. “Ahhh! Stuff! STUFF SUCKS!”
It was a prophetic moment. Well, maybe a talking donkey moment. But there was still something of God in his cry. Because he was so right. It does. Stuff sucks. (more…)