July 16th 2015
Story originally written and experienced: July 11th 2015
It was some of serendipity’s best work.
But you need to know this first:
5 years ago I did something that only seniors in college seem to do best…
A time when I went down
With a rogue group of lady friends:
To seek the beach and see what would happen next.
And as expected fate would have it.
We (literally) stumbled across a group of gentleman visiting the area for such a purpose as well.
So we became friends.
And it was a beautiful thing.
We got twirled a lot.
Were treated to (neon) jewelry:
Played some games:
And then whatever.
We all went home.
And that was that.
Before we left and said our goodbyes to both the people and the scene:
We exchanged info with them.
Planned to keep in touch…via Facebook likes…and simply assumed our lives would naturally
From then and there.
But they didn’t.
And that’s where the story gets interesting.
Fast forward >>
5 years later, and in both expected and unexpected fashion, I received a Facebook message from one of my long lost spring break friends—Doug.
Said he was currently living in Los Angeles. In town for the Emmys. Heard I lived here as writer now. And wanted to know if I had time to catch up.
And I did.
And two months later.
He was back in New York again.
And we planned to meet once more.
But this time.
He had an extra concert ticket to Madison Square Garden.
To see Dispatch & The John Butler Trio:
His cousin was playing with Dispatch on stage.
And he wanted to see if I wanted to come with.
To which I said.
When the day arrived, Doug sent me instructions to meet him at a penthouse on 39th street and 3rd ave at approximately 3’o clock p.m.
“When you get to the front desk, ask for Hans,” he elaborated.
The afternoon-to-evening adventure took off right away.
Started sporadically with hard chugs of coconut water in one hand (hydration is fucking key) and a lukewarm Corona in the other, just for extra assurance that the evening would be enjoyable to an ample degree:
“My cousin’s band is going to be playing outside MSG before the show. Want to go a little early so we can see it?” Doug rhetorically asked me, his brother Greg and another fellow Spring Break alum, Steve.
And in perfect tandem we all said:
During prep and commute, I asked Doug all about how his cousin’s band how they ended up where they did. “Didn’t your cousin and his friends just graduate college? How did they score such a big gig?!”
“So they’re all fellow bandmates from college who continued to play even after they were done with school. And one night, they happened to playing at a bar in Connecticut, and the bass player of Dispatch happened to be there. Liked their stuff. Invited them to play with them in the most famous arena in the world, and now…we’re going to see them.”
The story and the sentiment were incredibly cool.
And I remembered thinking that the first I saw them, playing their hearts out for every person outside of Penn Station right before their big show. And when I asked him, “Which one is your cousin?” He pointed to the guy doing this:
Who had clearly never picked up a saxophone in his life.
And everything about the way they performed and energized everyone’s emotions from the ground to the sky, and sparked an absurd collection of people to jam out to their brass-like ways:
And entertaining. And everything you’d hope to see, believe and root for in a group of passionate players who were truly gunning for it all.
They played from about 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. before the cops bRoKe Up ThE sHoW and told everyone who had a ticket that they had to go inside. He was hasty, pushy, rude and when we told him “Sorry chief, we’re goin!” He said with steam blowing out his rosy ears “I’m no chief!” And nonsensically stomped away as we laughed our way up the Madison Square Garden stairs.
“Our seats are in the balcony,” Doug said through the security pat down. “But my cousin, Tommy, is going to come get us after The John Butler Trio show and bring us down to the front…only if he can get the All Access passes for us…but if I know him, I bet he will.”
We bought chicken tenders. Drank beer. And the show was unreal.
And by the time the main act rolled around, I was perfectly buzzed and content with less-than-All-Access seats.
I mean hell.
I could see what I wanted to see. Hear what I wanted to hear. And after the first few John Butler Trio songs, forgot about the possibility of a close up look at all.
“Tommy said he’s coming!”
Doug said instantly after I reached that conclusion, tilting his dying phone towards me in excitement with Tommy’s text message on the screen. “He got the passes, he’s on his way!”
And like clockwork, Tommy came cruising down the the arena stairs, passed out passes:
And said very discreetly, “Follow me.”
Our pace was quick as we zoomed passed concession stands ==== security guards === and people idly lingering in the halls during intermission ====
And then Tommy said, as he pushed through a back stairwell and sprinted down some
As we blindly followed him with obedience, excitement and without the slightest clue of what was going on, “So here’s the deal, I got these passes for you, but, once I take you to the front, you can’t come back out of the area. No bathroom. No drinks. Once you’re in, you’re in. Got it?”
We maneuvered our way around the arena until finally reaching the crème de la crème seats. “Just show them your passes and you should be good,” he said as we were approaching the security guards.
So we did.
And we were.
And after that.
We were completely home free.
Dispatch was incredible.
The crowd was screaming every lyric and the energy of the arena was something you didn’t even have to look up to see.
You could feel it.
And with each song came a dose of excitement knowing that the songs the brass band—The Funky Dawgs—were performing in, were just a little bit closer to being played.
And then the moment came.
And the Funky Dawgz f-i-l-e-d on stage.
And instantly, every one of Doug’s family members and friends pushed their way to the front screaming, “That’s my cousin!!!!!” all along the way.
And when we finally got there.
We saw this.
And they played their hearts out.
And at the end of the show, in true rock-n-roll fashion, the drummer threw his drum sticks into the crowd. And one rolled right in front of me >>> and I just couldn’t reach it over the fence barring back the fans.
I extended my arm pointlessly, in full knowledge that my arms were tragically too short to reach.
And then suddenly.
A kind security guard picked it up. Handed it to me. And said, “Here you go kid.”
And I didn’t let go of it for 6 hours after that.
Only breaking ways for bedtime.
Which wasn’t until 5:30 a.m.
But I’ll get to that in a bit.
I held a firm grip all the way to the afterparty. Utilizing it as a wand, weapon and eventually adopting the name “One Stick Wonder.”
The afterparty was at the The Houndstooth Pub on 37th and 8th. And this time upon arrival, I didn’t have to ask for Hans, but was rather told,
“When you get there, just tell them you’re with the band—the Dispatch party downstairs.”
The bar was packed in seconds.
Partially because people caught wind of who was there.
And also because the Funky Dawgz burst into song mere moments after arrival.
And people went absolutely bananas:
I met the bands.
Both of them.
Waved my signed drum stick in everyone’s face.
And somehow immersed myself in conversation with every individual band member after that.
And it was evident.
After I talked to all of them.
That if given the choice to do anything on this earth.
They wouldn’t do a single thing differently.
They loved music.
Playing it for people.
And that was it.
I told one of them, Chewy, that I heard the story of how they got discovered in a bar by the bass player and thought it was the most amazing thing, and that I loved the fact that they’ve been best friends for years. “Funny you say that actually,” he said. “I really didn’t know these guys in college. We were all in the music program, and our professor had e-mailed all of us individually to meet him in a room one day really early in the morning. We all played different instruments and all had different friends. So when we walked in the room we had no idea what we were all doing there. And then he told us…that he wanted us to become a band and thought we could work more than great together if we gave it a try. So we did. And now? At the age of 23? We’re playing at Madison Square Garden with one of the most renowned bands in the world.”
Last call was at 3:45 a.m. and no one was ready to go home.
“This is the best night of our lives,” they all told me. “I don’t want it to end!”
But as meandering around the semi-abandoned streets of New York City would show us, (along with a 3-gentleman display who had given up on any sort of effort towards anything in life entirely)
White Castle at 5:00 a.m, was one of the only desirable and opened places to go.
So we did.
And I brought my closest friend with me.
And that was that.
Before I left and said my goodbyes to both the people and the scene.
I realized that.
Truth be told.
This was one of the best nights I had ever had in New York City.
And it really wasn’t because “I was with the band.”
Drank with a drum stick in hand.
Or arrived home entertainingly late too.
It was the serendipity of the company.
Evoking such a high level of endorphins at both a concert and local bar that adrenaline and enjoyment easily kept us up past 5:00 a.m.
Being around people who knew what they loved to do. And were doing it.
And doing it damn well.
Spending an entire 12 hours surrounding yourself with the kind of people and passion you want to be associated with.
That without a doubt.
Brings a whole new meaning to the saying
“I’m with the band.”
Because really, to me, what it meant was:
“I’m with the people who inspire, know what they like, and are 100% doing both.”
Huge shoutout to Doug, Steve, Greg and the entire Funky Dawgz brass band for:
A hell of a night.
A hell of a show.
And the ridiculous recap that came with it.