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The Tao Of Poo

Here are 10 certainties you can count on at a club show

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Going to see a live band is always a foray into the unknown. It doesn't matter how many times you've seen 'em. It doesn't matter if it's a local club show or an all-ages basement blowout. There are just too many variables. Now, having said that, there are certain elements you can count on; band members everywhere joke about them, and most original-music lifers have come to recognize these details as part of the backdrop. By no means do they define what makes a good gig, but the 10 constants that follow do serve to characterize live shows, because -- no kidding -- they always, always, always freaking happen.

1. There are either no shows, or three great ones. For weeks at a stretch, your reasonable nightlife choices may be limited to a hip-hop night populated by obnoxious, strappy-T'd underage white guys or indulging a close friend's regrettable open-mic jones. But just when staying home, staying sober and staying flush begin to look good, that one buddy whose band you actually get excited about seeing calls to let you know they'll be playing on Friday.

Buoyed by the news, you begin flipping enthusiastically through the latest copy of Creative Loafing, only to be reminded that -- wouldn't you know it? -- not only are the remaining Beatles playing in town that same night, but Jesus Himself has a tour stop at a local venue, and Cobain is rumored to be part of His backing band. When it rains, it pours, and when the sun shines, it's likely to blister the skin off of your fool face when you look upward to smile.

2. If you don't go, the most amazing thing will happen. We've all encountered this. Feeling a little worn out from work often seems reason enough to skip that night's show -- but only until the next day, when you find out that the singer for a rowdy band got naked onstage and peed all over the girl who books for a rival club. Of course, had you gone, such a thing probably wouldn't have transpired in the first place, but you know how the old saying goes -- nothing ventured, no one stained.

3. The band you most want to see will have the most inconvenient slot. It doesn't appear to have anything to do with the band in question; rather, this phenomenon seems directly linked to the circumstances of your own life at that moment. A band's name could be smack-dab in the middle of the bill on the flier. They could send you an e-mail the day of the show, with their time slot bolded, in italics followed by eight exclamation points. However, if you have that one extra beer before leaving your house, you'll arrive just in time to hear their last three chords, and if you simply must leave for the airport at 5 the next morning, they won't be going on until, oh, around 4:15.

The Floating Slot Enigma is directly related to the concept of time-flow as specifically applied to performance-space environments, which leads us neatly to the most widely recognized constant of gig attendance. Ironically, also, the most perplexing:

4. There's Real Time, and there's Club Time. Albert Einstein postulated that what we perceive as the passage of time is not fixed, but is subject to the forces brought to bear upon it. Obviously, here was a man who took in more than one rock show. Speed of light, shmeed of light -- anyone who goes to gigs regularly is intimately acquainted with time's malleable nature. Once inside a venue, that pitiful conglomeration of tiny gears strapped to your wrist means nothing, and simply adding an hour in your mind is, at best, inadequate preparation. The "15 or 20 minutes" between the second and third band may well be the longest of your lifetime; the 40 minutes of music thereafter may well be the shortest. No one knows why it is, only that it is. Get used to it.

5. Someone you're avoiding will be there. Look, nobody here is Gandhi, right? We can't all enjoy everyone's company, and the original-music regulars are pretty, well, regular. The ex-boyfriend, the dude who spits when he talks, and the young woman whose father you accidentally shot during a disastrous turkey-hunting trip are probably gonna be there every time you want to check out a set. If they weren't, you never would have encountered and become irritated by them in the first place. Which dovetails nicely with our next surety:

6. Shit will be talked. Count on it, but for the love of Pete, don't worry about it so damn much. Guys in bands talk shit because they have to -- they're full of it to the point that the options are a) let some of it run out of their faces, or b) strap on a colostomy bag. Sorry. If any musicians are offended by the previous statement, by all means feel free to nobly choke on your own stifled opinions until they begin eating your brain.

7. The Men's Room will be unsuitable for going Number Two. Granted, there are rare and wonderful exceptions to this rule. But in virtually every venue, in virtually every city, in virtually every country of the world, someone will have defiled the commode(s) beyond redemption long before your sudden need drives you into the stall, hoping against hope. Perhaps it's a traditional homage to legendary but filth-encrusted places where if you've ever used their can, you need not fear hell; certainly it's rather pungent evidence in support of the aforementioned contention that musicians are, by and large, full of shit.

8. "Free Bird" will be requested. Again. Some things, like Zippo lighters, never go out of style. Other things, like yelling out "Free Bird!" at any show, to any band, of any genre, went out of style so long ago that even doing it ironically marks you, immediately and permanently, as a cretin. Yet it will happen. Why would you do that? Please, please, please shut your Skynyrd-hole.

9. It doesn't matter whether you drive or ride -- at some point, you'll wish to God you'd done the opposite. Ah, the Ride-or-Drive Conundrum. If you ride, you're free to abuse your body's various systems to an unparalleled degree. Of course, if you drive, you can cut out whenever the hell you want to. Given the volatile nature of any social event, much less one characterized by loud music, heavy drinking and people you maybe shouldn't have made out with, it's probably better not to think about it too much. Flip a coin. Go with your gut. Either way, someone you're with is going to want to leave early, someone else you're with is going to want to go to the after-party, and you're going to drink more than anticipated, become surly, and ruin everyone else's good time by bitching about how nobody cares what you want to do.

10. It's always an adventure.

This article originally appeared in Tampa's Weekly Planet. *

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