The Invented History of Superjock, Part 2-- Beginnings and Origins
Friday, November 11, 2005
So I was in.
I went to the Brighton Music Center, an over-priced music store that's had a stranglehold on Beaver County for decades, and bought a Peavey bass, a bag for the guitar, a shoulder strap, and a red white and blue cord. I think four bucks from that purchase went to the American Way foundation. I could be patriotic and play the rock and/or roll. Next up, red white and blue toilet paper.
Deeming the bass guitar not cool enough in its straight-from-the-shelf appearance, I slapped on a Better than Ezra sticker on the back (I'd had that thing for year, after I joined their fanclub when I was in junior high) and a Deep Elm Records ("for the working man") sticker on the front, under the strings. I was cool, dude. Right? Right??
Since there weren't many opportunities to play music on Geneva's campus, we made plans for our next performance. I don't remember the exact date of Superjock's first gig as a quartet, but I'll wager that it was sometime at the end of October or the beginning of November. So we had around a month to prepare. (And for those keeping track, it's also worth noting that this was in 2000, my sophomore year.)
So I had my gear. I didn't own a bass amp, but I'm occasionally suave and can act pitiful when need be, so I figured I could bum one off of one of the countless other students that played guitar or bass. We planned our first practice, to meet on the third floor of the Pearce Hall, one of the men's dorms.
It was an "acoustic practice," and the initial plan was to cover some of the songs that were already set in stone. But before we get into that, let's talk about the actual band members.
Let's start with Verien. Verien Brotzman was the drummer, and it was his room we planned to practice in. Out of the rest of the band members, I probably knew him the best because we sometimes hung out and were in marching band together. Verien was 5'5" tops. He could've passed for someone's little brother, and I've heard women whisper, "Aww, he's so cute" umpteen times behind his back. But Verien was also in his late 20s; he took a few years off before he went to university. So he looked like a baby doll but beat everyone else age-wise.
Verien was a talented drummer. He kept a spartan kit, never went for flashy solos or ridiculous fills, though he was perfectly capable of them. He was also a fine jazz drummer. Verien was talented batter of the team, someone the crowd cheered for, able to possibly bring the team back from a sure-fire loss. He made funny faces when he played, either looking totally calm or like a rage-infected primate. It was like Keith Moon had risen from the grave and shrunk, walloping his two toms with a child-like glee.
Then there was Jeremy. Jeremy Hartzler was new guy, newer than me (I think). He was added to Superjock as the lead guitarist, since we had none. Jeremy was a weird dude. I don't think many of us knew anything about him at first, other than that he lived in the "handicap" room on the basement floor of Pearce. We immediately learned that he had part of his colon removed, and occupied the special-need room because he had to have a bathroom close by. Or so he said. He did have a colostomy bag on his person at all times, though. We eventually--cruelly, even--dubbed him "ass-bag" over the next few months after his erratic behavior came to light, but save that for another installment.
Jeremy was a talk, lanky dude, with a shaggy mane of curly red hair and a splash of freckles. He had a tendency to wear fancy, trendy threads, and liked to make snide comments about people. He was a good guitarist, though, and when he was "on" he brought a LOT to the band's sound. He sported a mean Les Paul, one that cost him an arm and a leg. But as I hinted at, he was the band's wild card, the player the team brings out if they're desperate, the one that can either hit a grand slam or slump over into an unconscious stupor before he even makes it to the plate. But we didn't know this in the beginning.
(Note to readers: I switch between first and third person in this description...it's confusing, sorry. Hang in there, though! You can do it! I'm Chet, in case you're wondering, and I'll explain why later)
Then, me. I was awesome, okay? Just kidding. Chet was the second tallest in the gang--next to Jeremy--and stooped his shoulders slightly and swaggered like John Wayne with an enima. Next to the rest of the quick wits and smart mouths, he talked like a toothless bagpiper with marbles in his mouth. But he was pleasant, maybe, and usually didn't make much of a fuss. He had been playing guitar for some time, but was only self-taught. But how hard could bass be? Right? Though he managed to fiddle around with his brand-new instrument, he hadn't really played it much, and he had no experience with the instrument. But, despite what some say, if you have experience with the guitar, bass is a tiny bit easier to learn. I learned this via trial by fire. Chet was the rookie of the team, the new last-round draft pick that was just getting his cleats dirty, the guy that shows promise but hasn't made good with it, the guy that keeps getting walks inside of long drives to center field. Would he survive, or would he crash and burn in a haze of self-perpetuated glory-seeking?
Finally, there was the man, the muse, the wonder of Matt. Matt Reed was an engineer, smart and wise beyond his years. He was short, slightly broad-shouldered, a slightly weathered and sculpted face registering beneath a tuft of wavy and curly hair. His face perpetually sported a look that could've been bemusement or cold, calculated planning. But he was just a nice guy. And he was surprising too. He ate literature and poetry and film like popcorn, wolfing down anything and everything that he could read or watch or listen to. He easily could've been a brilliant literature professor, but opted to play with tools. He had a wise, uncanny sense of humor, one that snapped and crackled with raw energy. It showed up in his lyrics, hiding under a frosting of self-depreciation and hopeless romantic non sequiturs.
Matt played guitar and sang. His voice wasn't operatic, or classically trained, but it worked fine for power pop. It had a conversational quality to it, like he was relating the lyrics to you on the treadmill. His guitar playing was also workable. He knew a few chords, and liked using capos because all you had to do was move the capo and--pow! new key! He sometimes player electric guitar when the band was a trio, but with Jeremy's addition, he switched back to acoustic. Matt was long-time player, the MVP, the Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig of the team,the one that got called out once in a while but was excused because "the wind made the ball sail into the outfielder's glove." He was golden.
The four of us all shared an appreciation for power pop. I really can't think of any common grounds, but the closest would probably have to be acts like Fountains of Wayne, Elliott Smith and the Beatles. Verien was more into the alt. country side of things, but was a fluid enough musician to not let this influence the band much until later. Jeremy, well, who knew what he liked. I was big into the Matthew Sweet/Teenage Fanclub face of power pop, but also had some horrible taste at the time, taste that it took me years to shake off (I mean, I had a Deep Elm Records sticker on my bass. Blergh). And Matt...well, he liked a lot.
We met on the third floor of Pearce. History was about to be made.
NEXT on SUPERJOCK:
...four men practice in a cramped, dingy room; one looks confused....Chet is seen wandering around a thrift store, holding up two sweater vests as if he has to make a choice....the band is practicing in a large room, possibly a gym, and the tiny drummer sports a cross face as he tweaks with sound equipment...a crowd of fifty or more people sit in a large, dark room, facing an empty stage; the band making their way to the front of the crowd in slow motion...
posted, with grace and poise, by Jason @ 11/11/2005 01:23:00 PM, ,