Happenstance 2007

Happenstance 2007 @ The EARL - Atlanta, GA

12/20/2007 – Sorry this is so long… The last few days have been full of rock and roll, and as my habit of late, it’s taken me a few days to spill my guts.

Last Saturday was Happenstance 2007. Take 30 musicians, assemble them at 10 AM in a bar, and have them draw names out of a hat to determine what 6 new “bands” that they will be in. Next, have them go away for the day and write 20 minutes worth of original songs and learn one cover. Sounds easy right? RIGHT?!

I rolled into The EARL at 10 AM, signed in and grabbed some coffee. As more folks arrived, I got more and more excited. Jenny and Mike from The Eyes were there. Mary O. Harrison, Tracy Clark from The Preakness, Blake Guthrie, and lots of other folks were there and ready to rock in the early morning.

Quick enough the 6 “front persons” took center stage and pulled names out of 5 baseball hats, one each for guitar, bass, drums, and one for an auxiliary player, that could be any instrument.

Jenny Hutton from The Eyes was up first and drew Mike Goldman, her guitar player’s name from the hat. There’s a rule you can’t play with anyone you’ve been in a band with before, so she had to draw again. “John McNicholas.” Cool! I was really hoping to get a chance to play with Jenny and I was equally as excited when she drew Tracy’s name from the sweat-stained PBR baseball cap next! The other players would be Harry on drums, and Allen on guitar and keyboards.

The other bands were quickly assembled. We picked our Journey cover tune, and then everyone gathered outside The EARL for the official group picture.

The band headed back to the Harry’s practice space, which as luck would have it, was three doors down from the room that The Yum Yum Tree uses at Thunderbox. When we arrived, Harry unlocked the door, looked in the room, paused and said, “one sec.” A few minutes later he came out, “Hang out for about 10 minutes, there’s a guy sleeping in here.”

He shares his space with 4 other bands, and one of the guys got kicked out of his apartment and was couch surfing in the space. Literally. There was furniture.

With Sleepy out we began the process of coming up with three tunes. Allen’s keyboard was D.O.A., so we took a short break while Jenny ran and got her keyboard as a replacement. By 12:30 PM we were ready to rock.

I had had an idea on the way over about a song with a Lee Renaldo-spoken-word style verse and a catchy chorus, so that was the first song attempted, and the first song quickly aborted.

Jenny and Allen had an idea for a song with a 50’s progression that we all jumped right in on, and it sounded great right off the bat. Jenny decided to compose lyrics about the guy that was sleeping in the space. Fun!

I started messing around on guitar and Tracy said, hey, that’s good for the song that you wanted to do earlier. For the next hour and a half we worked on what would become a song called “One Great Song!” It’s a fictional story about how all the guys in Journey met. I love it.

Next up, Tracy suggested we work up a fun and funky tune. We did, and we called it “It’s Your Thing.” This one quickly became a favorite of the other bands in the space, as I later heard how much they were digging that one at 3:30 PM in the afternoon from the rooms next door.

We took a break for pizza, told some stories and attempted to clear our heads. We did, we cleared them so well we could barely remember the songs.

Back at the space we ran through everything a few times, worked on Tracy’s tune and Jenny finished up the words to what would become “Practice Space Surfer.”

Next up was the cover, Journey’s “Wheel in the Sky.” Awesome, yes I know. We stripped out all the hard parts, and rocked it with guitar solos and vocal harmonies. Yes, it was glorious.

Suddenly it was 8 PM. We had to be there by 9 PM. We ran to our cars through the rainy parking lot and headed home to change/nap/eat before load in.

I ran home, changed, and got back to the EARL a little before 9pm, met with Liz and brought my stuff inside.

The order of the bands was randomly decided, and we were picked to be second. This was perfect, let the first band break the ice and we could play before we forgot all the songs or had to many beers!

Happenstance 2007 @ The EARL - Atlanta, GA

The first band sounded great, Mary O. was on keyboards, and they sounded damn fine. The bar was set high. We were up next. Guitars we’re quickly thrown on stage, tuned up, beers refilled and before I knew it we were being introduced. “Will you please welcome to the stage ’27 Vagrants!”

Happenstance 2007 @ The EARL - Atlanta, GA

We started with Tracy’s song, “It’s Your Thing,” and the people were dancing. So far so good! Next up was Jenny’s “Practice Space Surfer,” and after a few false starts we were off and rocking. Tracy and I were hitting the backups hard and Jenny’s lyrics were great. I’ll have to provide a transcription soon.

Happenstance 2007 @ The EARL - Atlanta, GA

My song was third, and “One Great Song!” was rocking from beginning to end… not so much in them middle, but hey, it was rocking and nobody noticed, right? I told the story of 4 musicians in the 70s, rocking and rolling their way to rock and roll history.

Happenstance 2007 @ The EARL - Atlanta, GA

For the grand finale we rocked The EARL with some Journey from 1978! “Wheel in the sky keeps on turning!” Jenny switched over to keyboards and we ended the tune with an arena-rock ending, Tracy fell over, Allen and I pulled out some rock moves and then we burned the staged to the ground with pryo. I made up that last part.

Happenstance 2007 @ The EARL - Atlanta, GA

In just the blink of an eye our day was over. It was a quick day, a quick set and now we would sit back and just enjoy ourselves for the rest of the evening.

Happenstance 2007 @ The EARL - Atlanta, GA

Blake Guthrie headed up the next band, featuring Leanna from the Georgia Fireflies on drums with some other fine folks. They sounded great and the words were top notch.

Happenstance 2007 @ The EARL - Atlanta, GA
The fourth band consisted of Regina from Cowboy Mouth and others. They started of by jumping into the crowd with a rocking surf instrumental and the intensity only went up from there for the entire set.

Happenstance 2007 @ The EARL - Atlanta, GA

Band number five feature Mike from the Eyes on guitar and Yum Yum Tree drummer Alex. They rocked. The best joke of the night goes to the unknown drummer in the audience that used his sticks and did a “One, Two, Three, FOUR!” and the entire band started except for Alex. Fantastic.

Happenstance 2007 @ The EARL - Atlanta, GA

Finally, band numero six hit the stage. I don’t know any of these folks, but they rocked it and rocked it good. It was a fitting way to conclude what was one of the most fun and memorable days.

What an amazing event, with an amazing group of talented people. Thanks to Brian Fletcher of Luigi and everyone else that made this evening happen. (photos)

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