The Ampeg

I was 26 when I joined a band. It was pretty crazy-the Hobbit I was dating was a pretty decent drummer in this other band, but somehow that band wasn't doing much when the lead singer/guitarist approached me one night:

"I heard you play guitar-wanna start a band?"

I was like, what?! I hadn't played guitar since I left Annie, my prized nylon stringed classical guitar in the Gar du Nord in Paris-that's another tale for another post...

And even then, I was a very very subpar "guitarist"-I mostly played Mazzy Star songs and tried like hell to sing like Hope Sandoval. And Bob Dylan...I loved playing his songs at hippie parties...okay I only did that once, but that was a fucking awesome night.

The truth was that Jason knew that even if I sucked, I had an interesting image, and I didn't have dick to do since moving to Springfield, IL from NYC. I traipsed around town in fishnets and Chucks, and had short jet black hair-I didn't look like any of the Karen's or Judy's in central Illinois. As a matter of fact, I couldn't believe the day I saw a woman my age in a rose print (I mean HUGE roses) white dress with shoulder pads. I literally stopped in the road I was walking on and just stared, forgetting that unlike NYC, people actually NOTICE when you stare at them.

I got an electric guitar from the Hobbit's dad. It was a Peavey ( I think, or maybe I am imagining that) and it was tan wood colored. Not very punk rock, but it was a start. He said it was from some famous singer from the 70's I pretended to know.

Jason had an amp and I plugged in. I felt like a complete phony-and had no idea what steps I had taken that brought me to that practice space at the anarchist collective we later moved and moved into called The Space (I know-you can't get more punk than that-cue eye roll).

Jason asked if I knew any songs we could play to get a jam session started. I looked at him blankly. I literally learned nothing on my guitar. I had such bad ADHD that I had to type or write everything on paper and never memorized a single thing. Not one song.

He clocked me for what I was-an imposter. But this guy was not giving up on his vision. He didn't even hesitate "Do you know like G, C, D?" G, C, D?! Oh yeah! I remembered those from Fade Into You!

He was a little relieved, and the Hobbit (who was maybe in love with me, it was hard to tell in those days), and the ACDC bassist with the handlebar mustache and a perpetual cigarette hanging from his mouth just looked at me and Jason, as he proceeded to reteach me guitar. It had been 4 years since I had even held a guitar, so I felt so dumb as he counted frets and helped me place my fingers.

The next thing I know, we have booked a show. It was in between male dancers at the local gay bar outside city limits. It was terrible-us, not the dancers-they were amazing. But more on gay clubbing later. Jason was high as a kite "We did great, guys! I booked us another show, this time all ages at Jimmy's!". I remember looking at this hot middle-eastern, northern Illinois raised hipster pushing 30 thinking what the fuck is he on? wasn't he there? Didn't he hear me forget all the words to "Those Are People Who Died"? I didn't even hear my amp thanks to the bassplayer...who's amp would overpower mine...until the ampeg came into my life.

Now, here's the thing about hanging out with people who get excited about things-they definitely rub off on you. I became a gear junky, pouring over these guitar and amp magazines, going to thrift shops and hunting for bargains. It was weird. I had no idea who I was, but I was having a blast pretending that we were good enough to sell tickets to our shows.

We had merch and Jason was a genius when it came to marketing and shmoozing with other musicians on MySpace. He got all kinds of bands to come play with us at Jimmy's (the Hobbit's dad's sub shop). He found the space and time where no one was doing all ages shows anymore, and carved out a space for that scene to be rebirthed. He even got someone to take pics of the band like we were celebrities. It was surreal.

We recorded albums in a real studio, met Howard Zinn who gave us permission to use one of his talks on one of our albums, and got us to share a stage with some legendary musicians like the guys from Screeching Weasels, who I literally never heard of, but their bands were amazing.

Depression is a funny disease, because I was actually falling apart the whole time this was happening. The small victories, like the day I got the beautiful 1950's 18,000 pound Ampeg amp that was 5 feet tall, were fleeting and added to my insecurities of being an imposter. I got sick to my stomach before every show, and I hated that I was living in this tiny town I had no ties or no business being in and I was miles away from doing anything productive with my French degree.

The day I unplugged my Fender (a nice boy in another local band gave me his red and white fender and I loved it so much more than the Peavey


) from the baby blue Ampeg I had somehow moved up and down basements and in and out of cars for two years, and walked up the stairs and out onto the street was one of the single most heart breaking days I ever lived. No one came after me. No one called the next day. I had broken up with the band one too many times, and the guys were all sick of it.

Months later, Jason asked me if he could have the Ampeg. Of course I said yes-I think I even helped him move it from the practice space to his house, but I can't remember because I was so removed from my body that day.

A couple years later I played with them one last time. It was magnetic to be on stage again, having kids scream sing my lyrics back at me. But I never played with them again. Ever.

And I will probably never own another Ampeg, even though I had a nicer newer one for a while...till I sold it.

Sometimes, we can be so detached as a young person...

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