On The Bus

Months ago, I decided to go to an art party in North Park after a racquetball game. It wasn't the best idea. It was a weeknight and I would be all sweaty. I planned to stay for an hour before going to see Johnny Winter at the Belly Up Tavern. I couldn't find a place to park and circled the art school on Park Boulevard a few times. I found a spot a mile away, in a residential area, and hiked over. People who were leaving talked about the live models whom the students were painting. I glanced through the glass window, only to see they weren't nudes.

I felt underdressed in my San Diego Siege T-shirt; most of the men wore ties, dress shirts, sweaters, and slacks. Of course, the models who were being painted had nicer clothes on than me. One wore Victorian attire. I always thought models would feel weird posing nude for artists; but I had met one at a party years ago and she had no problem with it.

At the party, a guy played classical guitar. Later in the evening, musicians played mandolins and flutes, which went well at this type of party. It was fun to sip wine and watch artists at work. A few molded clay. Occasionally, an employee (usually Christine) would come over and tell me about this school, the Athenaeum School of the Arts.

This wasn't a party that conducive to mingling. There were lots of couples, and everyone was quiet so as to not disturb the artists. When a song would finish, there often wasn't applause.

I met a guy named Mark, who had just turned 21. I asked him what he did, and he said, "I'm an everything guy. I do everything." I asked what he didn't do, and he replied, "I don't do windows."

I met a documentary filmmaker named Tony. He asked about my basketball shirt, whether the Siege was an ABA team. I told him they were a female basketball team. He said he made a documentary on minor league baseball. I said, "So, you're the Ken Burns of minor league baseball." He laughed and said, "I wish. It's nothing that elaborate. I just followed a few teams around."

We ended up talking sports for half an hour. When I mentioned that I don't play pick-up ball anymore, and how most younger players do a lot of illegal things such as carrying the ball, a woman said, "You're allowed to carry it if you give up your dribble." I said, "Are you a basketball player?" She replied, "I'm a college referee." She answered a few of my questions regarding rules. I asked her if it was hard to get respect from the male players, and she said, "Yeah, but so what? I don't get into that. Sometimes I have to get into a player's face."

She was on her way out the door when we met, so I didn't have a lot of time with her. I met an interesting couple near the desserts. The guy was named Gary, and he used to work at 91X. We talked about the local music scene and DJs we both knew. His girlfriend and I kept munching the chocolate, including huge M&Ms. They started cutting the cake, and I grabbed a piece of that, too. So much for the calories I burned off hours earlier while playing racquetball.

I told the woman who'd invited me that I had to leave after the cake because of the Johnny Winter concert. She said, "It's sold out, so you better have a ticket." I couldn't believe that; the last time I saw him, the place was half full. He was in bad shape, had to be walked onstage. I was bummed I would be missing him until she said, "I work at the Belly Up. Let me see if I can get you in." She made a phone call outside and told me to head up there, since he was already onstage.

I threw my half-eaten cake away, thinking about the poor children in China who would've loved it. I ran the mile to my car, turning my now-dry T-shirt a little damp again.

I got to the Belly Up as Winter was finishing. I talked to the manager for a bit, seeing if I could sneak backstage. He talked to the tour manager, who came over and said, "I'll let you hang out with them on the bus. But you can't write about anything crazy you see on there. Is that a deal?" I agreed.

And, it's really a shame I agreed to that. The party on that bus ranks high up there on parties I've been to (and I've been to hundreds). Since Johnny was sitting at one of the tables, talking with two gorgeous women, I sat down next to the bass player. We talked a lot about other good bass players. I brought up Flea, Les Claypool, and Bootsy Collins. He was getting into the conversation. I wondered what it must be like for a band that backs a musician who's been famous since the '60s, with fans rarely bothering to talk to them.

The women went to a different part of the bus, and I sat down with Winter. I told him I loved the show, although I only saw him perform half a song. I started to talk to him about Muddy Waters, since they did an album together. Just then, a young guy burst in the door with three guitars and pictures for Winter to sign. I stood up, saying I'd talk to him later. The guy pushed me out of the way, and I told him, "Take it easy, dude. Johnny ain't going anywhere."

I told the other band members I enjoyed talking to them and walked back into the club. A guy grabbed me and said, "What happened back there? What do rock stars do after the show?" I smiled and said, "What happens on the tour bus, stays on the tour bus."

Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.

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