Simple noise complaint, nothing else.
We get them all the time, especially during warm weekends. People get out and have a good time, talking and laughing until late at night. Not a big deal. Or sometimes it’s the dogs. They’ve been cooped up all winter and now it’s warm and they’re outside and so start barking.
(Which I’ve always thought of as the canine version of standing on a street corner shouting at random passers-by: “Hey! Hey! Hey hey! Heeeeeeyy!”)
Regardless, noise complaints are usually pretty benign.
Except when they’re drunken parties. Those bastards get ugly in a damned hurry. Wanna feel uncomfortable? Jump into the middle of 15 or 20 young drunks, all beer-brave and bullet-proof.
Best way to handle young drunks is stride right up to the toughest, meanest son of a bitch you can find and beat his or her ass.
‘Cause literally? Yeah, that’ll get you fired, sued, maybe thrown in jail. There’ll be a ton of paperwork. Plus, you take the chance that maybe you aren’t quite as tough as you think and you end up fired, sued, thrown in jail, drowning in paperwork, and on the bloody and bruised bottom of the pile while a bunch of drunks laugh at you.
Or you go the other direction. Surprise them not with fear and awe, but with something so stupid they simply can’t believe that’s what their seeing.
Which would be my strength.
So I get to this noise complaint, find the only house on the block surrounded by cars, climb outta my crime cruiser, straighten my gunbelt a la Barney Fife, and get to work.
The problem is…there’s not any noise.
Seriously. I have to strain to hear anything.
In the deep, dark distance, I can finally make out a thump. A rhythmic thump. A deep, rhythmic thump.
Dude, that’s a bass drum!
I’ve played drums for the better part of 32 or 33 years…plus, I’m a trained observer…and I can sniff out a clue when I have to.
Not only a bass drum, but an entire kit. Banging snare, crashing cymbals. And damn if there isn’t a guitar and bass laid right over the top.
Now, you gotta understand how excited I get about live bands…even shitty ones. That someone is up there, wailing away on whatever music they love best, exposing themselves, just gets me off every time.
Here’s the thing: this band is playing some good old R & B but I can barely hear them. So 1) the person who complained about the noise is probably just jealous they didn’t get invited and 2) this band needs me to teach them how to WAIL!
(which means, first of all, turning those damned amps up to 11, obviously)
So I wait until they finish a tune, then I bang on the door. And what do I hear, yelled through the closed door?
“We got enough beer…thanks, though!”
Finally, someone yells for me to go to the other door. I get around to the other side as the garage door comes up. Five or seven big drunk boys…well, boys with bellies and gray beards and at least one walker are staring right at me.
One of them looks at me and in one of the most hilarious stage whispers I’ve ever heard, says to everyone else, “It’s the fucking cops.”
I tore past them like a stiletto blade through flesh down to bone, and headed into the main room. Acting like I actually was in charge, like I knew what I was f’ing doing, like I was Johnny Law.
And almost crapped a brick. At least 20, probably closer to 5,264. All drunk. All whooping and hollering and ALL staring at me like I was the local leper working as a waiter.
So, rather than trying to figure out whose ass to kick, I went to the drums.
And started playing.
Have you ever seen 5,264 people stroke out at once? It’s a helluva sight. They had no idea what the hell was going on.
Which is a pretty good place for a herd of drunks.
So I’m banging away, just noodling around, playing a few licks, showing off just a touch. Then I stop and they cheer.
And that’s when I tell them there’s been a complaint and ask if they can pull the noise (which wasn’t all that damned much, remember) down a touch.
Then I get up to head out and the birthday girl cornered me, pummeling me with both beer breath and too-tightly packaged and too-heavily displayed boobs, and said, “Where you going? You can’t sit down and then leave. You gotta play a soooooooooonng.”
Okay, not what I’d expected. Not even close.
The guitar player started playing, the bass player fell in with him and they hit ‘Mustang Sally.’
Hey, I know that song. One of my old bands played it.
I hesitated, I’m still on duty after all, but then said, “Fuck it,” and dove in.
It was the best 3 1/2 minutes I’ve had in I can’t remember how long.
(though it was incredibly difficult to play wearing a gunbelt, ballistics vest, and trying to hear my radio in case I got called to…I don’t know…a traffic crash or murder or something slightly more important than a noise complaint)
When we finished, everyone cheered and clapped and when I asked again for them to tone it down, they all assured me everything was fine, the party was mostly over anyway ’cause “We’re all old,” one of them said.
They were, too. Gray hair, stooped shoulders, the walker. And they weren’t playing very loud, either. Sort of embarrassing for a band, I thought. Damn sure not playing at 11. At best, they were turned up to maybe 8.
And as I drove down the road, my back hurting and my right hand slightly numb even from just 3 1/2 minutes, I realized my ears were ringing and my head hurt.
Damnit, next time I bust and play at a party, I’m going to have to turn it down to 7, maybe 6.