Complete text -- "THE PLACE"

26 December


Cornell Kinderknecht, Southeast Nebraska, July 1984
(Guest Writer**)


A recent gig that I played was plagued with confusion and a comedy of mishaps. The whole thing seemed unreal. It got me thinking of past gigs that had an unreal bent.

A band that I played with in college was doing OK. We were all living in and around Manhattan, Kansas, a college town in the Northeast part of the state. We were getting regular bookings, somewhat of a dedicated following, and playing some good music. We'd gotten studio time and did a four-tune demo (an expensive and big deal back then). We even had a TV station produce a music video of one of our originals with us as the "stars." It actually aired on an area station's Friday night video music show. Music videos were the new, hot thing at the time. MTV was just a few years old. "Thriller" had put music videos on the map. We were just beginning to hear about Madonna, etc. So, this was a big deal for us.

Anyway, with all this going our way, we were certain that we were on the verge of something big. We felt it was time to hand the day-to-day business dealings and scheduling over to someone else so that we could concentrate on making music. We signed with an agent who was going to take us to all these new and exciting places. The agreement allowed us
to finish out our calendar of gigs that we'd booked but any future gigs were to be handled solely by the agent. Well, we got exactly two bookings through that agent. The situation was very twisted. After the second gig, we agreed that we would not pay him his percentage and make a clean break from agreements we had with him.

So, here's the true tale of one of those bookings...

Our super agent booked us for a two-night gig at a bar in a tiny town in southeast Nebraska. Even though the population of the town was only about 200 and it was a 4-5 hour drive for us, he assured us that this was THE PLACE to play to get exposure.

On the scheduled Friday, we headed down the road and checked into our motel by mid-afternoon. The motel was actually in the nearest neighboring town large enough to have a motel. Then we made the 20-minute drive over to the club. It was a nice drive through the valley along the Missouri River. Here was our band, travelling the route of the Lewis and Clark expeditions.

Was this really the gateway to our fame and fortune? Although a pleasant drive, by now we were getting leery of our agent's claim that this was THE PLACE for exposure. It seemed we were in the only vehicle on the road. There's only one highway that leads here. All we could see for miles were fields and farmhouses. Perhaps a talent scout lived in one of those farmhouses?

We pull into town and take a right turn and see a small non-descript building with a parking lot. Is this the place? The only other buildings are a laundromat and a church. Let's peek inside and ask.

Yep, this is the place. OK, this doesn't quite look like the typical college-kid dive that we usually play. This is a place where the tough crowd from all the surrounding tiny communities meet up to get drunk, holler, and if it's a good night, see a fight or two break out. How did the agent ever think this was the place for us? This bar was all hard-rockin'. We were playing synth-band alternative pop, Euro new-wave/punk, and some older Brit band covers.

You really don't want to look different in this town. Time to leave my sissy-boy faux leather baby blue boots and sparkly shirt in the suitcase over at the motel. I'll wear my jeans and run over my T-shirt with a pickup truck a few times and I'll fit in. I had a punk-teased, unnaturally colored head of hair that I couldn't do anything about in
time for the show.

A few of the women in the band were afraid for their lives here. It wasn't scary in that way to me. It was not all that different from the little town in which I grew up. I had friends and family that hung out with the tough, hard-drinking party crowd and, even though I seem to have been cut from a different section of fabric than the rest of them, I was, by association, an accepted friend of the rough crowd too. If you're cool, they'll love you. So, I wasn't worried about getting kicked around for being different. I was just worried about getting creamed for playing our weirdo music.

We set up our gear and did a sound check early and then just hung around the club. There were some locals who came in to eat catfish (the food here was EXCELLENT). But there were never more than 10 people or so there at any given time. I didn't expect that we'd see many more than that all night. But, around 9 p.m., that place filled up. The population was 200 for the town but this place was hopping. I was relieved that I figured out the dress code earlier -- jeans and T-shirt run over by a pickup was the correct uniform. However, I didn't have a bottle of cologne that had a hint of cigarettes, motor oil, and Jack Daniels. But, maybe just by hanging out on the grounds for a few hours, I'd absorbed enough of the atmosphere to cover my scent.

Man, was that a rowdy crowd. There was this bizarre ritual in that club that I hope to never witness again. There was a woman who worked at the bar. She was BIG! Not the round kind of big. She was about 6-foot-2 with shoulders as wide as the doorway. Her upper arms were as big as a Christmas hams sticking out of her sleeveless T-shirt. Anyway, the game seemed to be that the men hanging around the bar would verbally tease her and then she'd pick them up and throw them. She'd throw them into chairs, onto the pool tables, or whatever else was around. She'd even punch the guys.

Wow. She would get really mad and loud. They would all be laughing and she would be shouting. Now, THAT I found scary. I didn't want to cross her path. But she was really nice to me and called me "honey" all night. Nonetheless, I stayed clear. Whether I was going to get thrown into the bait-and-tackle counter, or be "honey" ... well, I just wanted to get back to my little motel room intact that night.

That crowd hollered and swore all night long but mostly at each other. Roaring pickup engines and squealing tires were the constant background noise. We played our music. Surprisingly, they liked our music and danced to everything we played. Ever see a guy in boots and cowboy hat doing a rock and roll grind to the Eurythmics' "Who's That Girl"?

That was a totally unreal night. We made it back to our rooms OK. No pool cue broken across my back and "honey" let me go with a simple "see ya tomorrow." To occupy our time the next day, we went bowling and had a picnic in a park. Then, it was back to the bar that night for a replay of the night before.

We never figured out how this was supposed to be the place to get exposure. If a talent scout did live in one of the farmhouses, he must have been signing someone else that weekend. Our phone was not ringing off the wall because of this gig. I can laugh about it now. At the time, I was wondering if it had all been a dream.

**ed. note: I guess I have two pet theories. One is the fact that I believe a lot of artists grow up in small town America and often now remote Canadian town where they discover the various arts not only from a love of the genres but also out of sheer boredom. The other theory is that a person who pursues one art form is often adept at another. Cornell Kinderknecht hails from a small Kansas town called Ellis and he not only has a vast musical talent and can play a multitude of instruments, but through a series of emails between band members while working on a recording project for Shelly Niebuhr, it came as our sheer delight to find out that Cornell was a clever writer as well. I loved this story at once when it kind of spilled out one evening amid a discussion on something that I had said and, after pleading for several days, I finally persuaded Cornell to include it on the Hob Nob site. I think people of all the arts will be able to identify with this tale. BB

Posted by billybucher at 01:43:10 - Category: General

billybucher wrote:

Thanks again for letting everyone read your story. Since everyone in Shelly's group reacted to it in such a positive manner, I knew others would as well. I know, in the future, they will react to your compositions as well.
You learn so quickly, my friend, and I could note, with interest, how each draft was molded even more deftly than the previous one. And there are a lot of good lines as well. "Perhaps a talent scout lived in one of those farmhouses?" being an example. Hope you'll have some more posts for us in the future.
Billy Bucher
12/28/04 19:09:07

Shelly wrote:

Hey Cee,

You've been holding out on us!!!
Great story and even greater storyteller!!!

12/31/04 20:49:03

Cornell Kinderknecht wrote:

Thanks Billy and Shelly,

This is one of those stories that tells itself. It was a night that is an example of the things we go through to have our art seen/heard/read. I think we all can relate.

Billy writes such great stories that make me want to join in the fun.

--- ck
01/01/05 13:20:17
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