Please Love Me
I’ve had the same mic stand for fourteen years. It’s seen plenty of action prior to its current incarnation as the foundation of my new home studio.
It’s a boom mic stand. It was purchased in 1990 with money earned by my college band, Smokey Junglefrog. We were paid to stealthily set up in the front hallway of the Fiji fraternity house at 4 a.m. and wake up the brothers. We were just launching into ‘The Finest Worksong’ when a Neanderthal-type with a baseball bat suggested we stop playing. $300 later, we had two boom mics from Radio Shack. I’ve used the stand for many, many gigs.
Once, deep into winter of 1993 at a gig in the basement of a fraternity house in Keane, NH, the stand formed a perfect circuit with the spilled beer and rogue electricity coursing through the mic. Or perhaps I should say that I completed the circuit when I was thrown onto the wet cement by a jolt of lightening.
Once, a year or so out of school, my acoustic duo-mate Eric Gilman and I dragged ass from Saratoga Springs, NY, to Burlington, VT, where we performed at an all-girls, Catholic college. They baked us a cake that said, ‘Welcome Eric & Benjamin.’ I swear to God. And yeah, the mic stand was en tow.
I don’t use it for every show in New York, the likelihood that it’ll disappear is too high. But odds are good that if I’m doing a CD release or something major, I have it a long for good luck. Why? No reason really.
There’s an circa-’97, oval-shaped, kelly green, royal blue and silver Benjamin Wagner Deluxe sticker affixed to the gunmetal gray base which is about the size of a 77 RPM LP (ever seen one of those?). There’s a tattered and faded black and white Smokey Junglefrog sticker on the silver telescoping cylinder that rises from the base. Other than that, it’s nothing special.
Still, years ago (1996), I left it at a venue (The Red Room) and rode my bike (Cannondale M900) downtown in the middle of the night (well, 1 am or so) to retrieve it. Worth it? You bet.
Why? Well, as Spinal Tap manager Ian Faith said of his cricket mallet, I guess its totemistic. Though the luck in my 15+ years of performance hasn’t elapsed precisely as I’d have imagined (hello, cover of Rolling Stone?), it’s been a good ride. From that Fiji house on Euclid Avenue in Syracuse, NY, to Bill’s Bar in Boston, MA, to Sin-e, The Mercury Lounge, and well beyond, the mic stand’s been my sole steady companion. Upright, reliable, resolute, and downright attractive, it’s been there for me day in and out.
And that’s it in a nut shell, really, isn’t it? Nothing beats a little reliable excellence. Like Aimee Mann. I saw her perform tonight in Brooklyn, and God bless her, she remains my heroine. Yeah, yeah, yeah: she’s adorable. And she’s funny — no one drops the f-bomb with more precision. But above all she is all things: she’s a lyrical genius (“There comes a time when you swim or sink / So I jumped in the drink / Cuz I couldn’t make myself clear”) with a beautiful voice and a kick ass band. I will seize any opportunity to see her (next show for me: June 30 at Hudson Park). And so should you. Because real, live, reliable performance is hard to come by.