Friday in Chico turned out to be all about the performing arts for me. My cousin is pretty active in the local drama groups, and he acts and directs a number of shows each year. He invited a few actors over to his house to read through the first act of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which one of the community theaters was going to perform for a fundraiser. He hadn’t been able to find anyone to read the part of Honey, so he asked me if I’d like to do it. “Sure,” I replied.

The actors came over, and we all sat around the dining room table with our scripts, munching on some fruit and reading through the play. When we were done, my cousin (who will be directing the show) joked that the first rehearsal will be in New Jersey, because they need to cast me in the role. All the other actors agreed, which was very flattering, since I haven’t been in a play in a very, very long time! As they left, they all promised to come to the bar that night for the show my cousin was putting together.

Duffy's TavernAs I mentioned in my previous post, my cousin owns a bar in downtown Chico. It’s a small town, so pretty much everyone knows who he is, and anyone who doesn’t know him personally definitely knows Duffy’s Tavern.

Since he owns the place, he was able to bump the Irish band that usually plays there on Friday nights in favor of putting his two cousins (and himself) on the stage. He made a few phone calls to put together an impromptu band, then invited the cast of a show he is in (Go-Go, a British Invasion musical) to perform some of the songs from the show. He sent out a huge email blast, and we were all set to perform during happy hour.

My dad and I leafed through his Fake Book to find some appropriate songs to perform. I decided on “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” my dad picked some songs too, and we sent the lead sheets to the band leader so he could take a look at it before the gig.

When we got to the bar at 4:00, the place was pretty empty. The band leader was setting up the stage, and a long-haired blond kid named Loki (I kid you not, that is his name) was tuning his guitar as well. Loki hugged my cousin and stared at me like he was seeing an angel. I felt slightly creeped out, but decided not to mention anything because he seemed pretty harmless (I found out later that he had dropped acid that afternoon and was tripping the entire night, which explains a lot).

I looked around asked where the drums and keyboards were, and I was told that my cousin couldn’t get anyone on drums or keyboards at such short notice, so we were stuck with three guitars (another guitarist showed up a few minutes later) and no microphones. I wasn’t too concerned about the lack of mics for me in such a small room — I can make a big sound when I want to — but acoustic guitars are quiet instruments by nature, and I was worried no one would really be able to hear the chords under the melody.

But we had to make do with what we had, so the guitars started playing, and then they invited different people to come up and sing: Samantha, a talented belter in the cast of Go-Go; Kelly, a friendly bass (also in the cast of Go-Go); my dad; me; and my cousin. I only had the one song, whereas everyone else had two or three. I guess I probably could have prepared more songs, but I didn’t know what the scene would be like, and doing jazz (especially with my jazz trumpeter dad) always makes me a little shy and self-conscious.

It’s a good thing that I sang in the first set, because after 5:00, the bar started getting really crowded and loud. My dad sang another song and played his trumpet and flugelhorn while Kelly sang a few numbers. My cousin got up with the cast of Go-Go and started singing songs from the show. As the crowd got louder and louder, the singers couldn’t hear the guitars hardly at all, and everyone was trying to belt really loudly to be heard over the din of the bar. My cousin got the bright idea of getting the audience to sing along, which worked quite well, although the guitars were still inaudible. But everyone was having a great time, and that’s what counts.

Happy Hour was over at 7:00, and my dad and I went back to the house, leaving my cousin to chat with his customers. When my cousin came back home, we all ordered Chinese food and hunkered down with a movie for our final evening in Chico.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name
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  • Amy

    Wow! This sounds like incredible fun!