We played at many high school dances but people did everything but dance. We took our gigs very seriously in a very un-serious way. Joe Despagni was the band’s right-hand man, and he would build these elaborate light shows with smoke pots and everything.
I remember this one gig at the high school. We’d start preparing the stage show days in advance, driving around through Old Westbury where the rich people lived and sneak up on their property and steal their flood lights for our show. What a bunch of derelicts. If we had a few beers we’d play this little game of sticking our ass out the car window at people who were in the streets (wow what fun).
Around that time, I was taking guitar lessons from Joe Satriani. He was about 4 years older and we worshipped Joe. He could really play the guitar and we could barely speak in his presence except a “Hi Joe” and a smile. His house, where I took lessons, was like hallowed ground for us. He was very different (did I say different?) at that time too. Totally reserved and in control, very laid back and sophisticated, where I was constantly getting thrown out of classes for going into uncontrollable laughing fits.
So one night we’re doing our “sticking the ass out of the car window” thing and it was my turn. Ah…I spied an unsuspecting couple having an intimate conversation under a warmly glowing street lamp. Perfect suspects. I pulled down my pants, rolled down the window, and stuck my butt out, waving my hands as the driver of the car madly blows the horn.
In the middle of this little display of infantile brilliance, I realize that the couple I’m shaking my skinny little 16-year-old ass at are none other than Joe Satriani and his girlfriend. Our eyes met, and I was stunned. It was too difficult to retract my buttocks into the car so the only thing I could do as we drove by was wave and yell “Hi Joe!!”.
I don’t know about you, but as I’m writing this I’m having one of those uncontrollable laughing fits. I can hardly type. God, I’m still so juvenile sometimes.
So we got our flood lights and Joe Despagni is going to build these flash pots. We had to go to JC Penney’s and buy these powdered rocket engines and peel them until we had a huge pile of explosive gray powder. Despagni would strategically place these on the stage, giving us 4 small explosions and one huge one for the finale.
Back then I wanted to be Jimmy Page. I even tried to play the guitar with a violin bow. There was this one point in the show when I was doing an unaccompanied violin bow solo with a tape delay unit. I would strike the guitar with the bow and when it echoed back I would point the bow at a designated area where a flash pot would go off. Well, on this particular night, they were all working but the last one. I could hear Joe yelling “I’m gonna set off the big one!”. I was standing there in pose from the previous ignition and knew that as soon as I so much as move my little finger, Joe was going to Let-em-go!
That was all well and good, but the problem was that the final mega-flash pot was situated between my legs. I was petrified and confused. I whacked the guitar with the bow and hit the deck in an attempt to evade the effects of the blast.
When I came to, my clothes and face were stained with sulfur and my eyelashes were singed off, but the audience was loving it and that made it all worth it.
I think in my next guitar lesson Joe Satch said something in regard to the streaking whiteness of my passing buttocks, and I was just “Wha…wha…what do you mean??”