A NEW NATIONAL ANTHEM

Sometimes you just don’t know how a given gig is gonna go or just what might happen in the course of a night. This was such a night for our band Second Wind this past Saturday, when major elation turned into a healthy dose of humility, followed by a stunning surprise that made the night more meaningful than we could have ever imagined.

Arriving in downtown Silver Spring for our first public gig in Maryland, and first at McGinty’s Public House Irish bar and restaurant, all in Second Wind were riding high.  The load in was very Spinal Tap-esque, as we tiptoed amidst rat catcher traps and boarded a freight elevator rife with the smell of fresh kitchen grease, laden down with our bevy of assorted band gear.  After arriving on the third floor, we wound our way through a back room filled with kitchen supplies, inclined to mimic David St. Hubbins and shout, “Hello Cleveland” at least once, and into the beautiful confines of McGinty’s upstairs bar area to set up for the show. The mood was very positive, as we laid our eyes on arguably the best venue we would play at yet. Familiar faces from mostly my DC and MD peeps, including fellow Channel 9ers and others, began to waft in. Ch 9’s chief weather dude and rock and roll fan Topper Shutt, my cousin George Houk flying solo, CBS Outdoor guru David Wolotsky, Rockville mayor Susan Hoffman, my fellow Bruce fan and former Channel 4 boss Donna Weston, and the lovely Amanda Sheehan, VP of marketing for the Examiner newspaper, who would prove to be the star of the night at least on the dance floor, with moves that took the band’s eyes off of their instruments and onto her every time she’d hit the boards, were among many other new and old friends of mine that made it out that night to see us. THEY would be the crowd tonight, given that the usual large VA contingent brought in by the other four guys in the band would not be making the trip over the river and around 495 into MD this night, choosing to wait until our next gig in their VA ‘hood to check out Second Wind again.  

(courtesy Oh My Goff)

After an hour and a half set up, we were rarin’ to go, and GO we did. From the first note, it could have been our best first set, or any set, ever, as the band, powered by Peter Sleight’s killer sound mix, was dead on, in sync, and rocking hard. Those who came to see us for the first time caught us at our best, and those who had seen us before knew we had definitely improved since the last time. Everyone applauded and cheered to every song. Even a cry of “Marry me, Steve!” was heard a couple of times, which is always a fun thing to hear at my ripe old age, even though I am happily married already. It was fabulous.

Fast forward a couple hours ahead, and our familiar crowd had largely headed for home. So there we were, with a good set and half still to play, we had a contractual agreement to play until 1:30am and whoa, it was only about 12:15. Major thanks to loyal fans Angie Goff and her friend Colleen, who would be about the very last of the familiar faces to depart; in fact, the clip at the top of this post was shot by Angie on her way out. But literally no one really cared whether we were there or not throughout the better part of the second and into the third set. Hey, it happens to the best of ’em, especially playing all the way over in Maryland without our NOVA core audience. But it’s still a daunting task to stay mentally up when you’re basically playing for yourself and your sound guy, who politely provided the only applause for a good ten or so songs. Hey, we coulda just phoned the rest of the gig in, but fortunately everyone had more pride than that, plus a great sense of humor, so we played like we were in front of a thousand people. The band continued to sound great, and slowly you could see the fifteen or so 20-something diehards who had been there since before we started setting up, start to take notice.

 

By the middle of the third set, two of them had brought their stools to the dance floor, and were grooving to the music. They yelled out “play Thunder Road”, to which I began to sing a cappella but stopped midway through. One of the girls then came up to the stage (in the middle of a song no less) and told me something that absolutely floored me. Her cousin Taylor and her friend’s brother Matt were there tonight…and they both had just returned from a tour in Iraq. Taylor is a Marine who had been there for seven months. The girls asked if we could play something patriotic. We had just finished Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You” to which Taylor was mouthing every word to, and that made some kind of poetic sense. But what could we do to finish the night that would be a fitting tribute to these heroes at this mind-blowingly unexpected moment for our band?

We all agreed, well, let’s just play what we were going to finish with anyway, somehow it just fits. So for probably the first time at any gig, in any bar, anywhere on earth, the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated”, for this one night, went from being a punk anthem to becoming the national anthem. Taylor and Co. were dancing wildly throughout the song, and with lines like, “Put me on an airplane and take me to the show, hurry, hurry, hurry, before I go loco”, it took on a whole new meaning. I was up there singing, watching this kid who couldn’t have been much more than 21 and had just returned from hell on earth, gyrating euphorically to the strains of this punk classic, beer in hand, seemingly so friggin’ happy to be back home. We finished the song, the small crowd cheered wildly, we shook hands and got hugs around, and then just shook our heads in amazement. This rollercoaster of a night went from a raucous packed house, to us playing just for us, to this amazing tribute to two young veterans. Only rock and roll, right?

Oh, and Taylor told us he’s returning to duty in February, and hopes he gets sent right to Afghanistan to hunt down Bin Laden. Thanks for letting us in on your welcome home party, Taylor and Matt. You made our night. Be safe, brothers. Semper Fi.

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3 Responses to “A NEW NATIONAL ANTHEM”

  1. Sounds like one hell of a night!!

  2. Mike Harvey Says:

    Steve,
    Thanks for the lowdown on the McGinty’s gig. Even though I can’t always make it to every show, as I would like to, I can always count on you to leave me feeling like I was there. Your well chosen words paint a great tapestry my friend. I can’t believe I missed Donna Weston! I’d have loved to see her reaction to your new found creative outlet (the band).
    Peace and I’ll see you soon.
    One of the VA contingent.
    Mike Harvey

  3. John Farrell Says:

    Who’s having more fun than you? This was a fun story from Donna to Iraq and back. Rock on brother…

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