Let's Make The Most of the Night

John and the Hodgmen, my cover band, played their first and last show on a cruise ship somewhere off the coast of Florida. Shortly before the cruise I sent this comic to my band mates because it was us.

It started with a dumb joke.

I am starting a band. Our name will be John and the Hodgmen and our genre will be Ragna-rock. Now accepting applicants.

So when Sara told me that there should be a John and the Hodgmen show on JoCoCruiseCrazy 3, I said "yes".

There were three of us: Mike on lead vocals, Sara on cello and vocals and me on electric guitar.

I initially hesitated when Sara asked because they live in Vancouver while I live in New York, meaning we would only be able to practice together once on the cruise. We brainstormed a six song set we could play for a 30-minute show.

Sara needed help with cello arrangements, so I did my best to figure out parts for her. I listened to the songs we picked over and over trying to dissect how they worked. We all practiced at home, but until the cruise I had no idea if things were going to come together.

Thankfully our first practice session was productive. We started to sound like we were making music instead of just noise. The main takeaway was truly how much fun it was. Even if the show was terrible, I was having so much fun that made it worth it.

We had more practices as a group, and Sara and I did a few late-night practice sessions in the ship's chapel. During one of these a random couple came in to watch us and we mostly continued as if nobody was there. After they left we thought the fact that we were able to continue while they were watching was a good sign.

We got better. By the last practice session we were playing the tightest as a group we sounded throughout the cruise (including the show). At this point I knew that no matter what happened we had done the best we could and hopefully it would be enough.

On the day, I showed up early. We played in The Crypt, a nightclub meant to be goth but instead was decorated like someone read about goth in a magazine without ever seeing it. Sara and Mike showed up and we arranged everything. Once the sound guy arrived I was able to tell him exactly what I wanted.

As someone who had never played a show before I expected to be in over my head, so it was odd when it felt like I knew exactly what to do.

It is kind of a hipster cliche to be one who goes to a concert and complains about the sound levels but I am totally that person. Seeing a show where there is not enough guitar or vocals in the mix can ruin my experience.

So while Mike played my guitar and Sara played cello, I stood in the crowd and told the sound guy what I wanted. If anything was confidence building about the whole experience, it was being able to say "more vocals" or "a little more cello" and having the final result be a mix I was happy with.

Unfortunately I have no idea how it was for the actual show. Due to the slap-dash nature we did not have monitors and the sound guy left after we finished sound check. I could barely hear Sara playing and she could not hear herself singing, but we did the best we could.

By the time I changed into my show outfit and it was go time, thirty people had showed up. I tuned and told Mike to go ahead.

We had a rocky start. Our first two songs had a number of mistakes but things tightened up as we went along. After practicing the whole set multiple times through the actual show felt like auto-pilot. Before it started I was really nervous, but then I was not afraid at all. It was calming. I felt like this was something I could do.

The show was over in a flash. By the time we got to the last song I wished we had six more. Of course there was no way we were going to be able to do any more in a week, but I did not want it to end.

The crowd of our friends asked for an encore so we did the only Jonathan Coulton song I can play. The crowd sang along and it was wonderful. Then it was all over.

What I was not expecting was how much the whole experience seemed both everything I wanted and also somewhat mundane.

I think I may still be processing what happened. Part of my confusion stems from the fact that I am still not sure if I was expecting more highs or if my brain was too busy making sure not to fuck up my parts that forgot to process any joy.

Maybe it was because we were in a safe environment. The audience was made up of our friends who would have loved it even if it had been a complete train-wreck. Maybe there was not enough risk for it to be truly rewarding. Or maybe after the events of the week, the anticipation building with each practice as the days counted down; the actual event could never have lived up to that excitement.

And that is okay because we did it. We formed a band and put on a show. For thirty minutes on that cruise ship we were fucking Rock Stars and that will never change.

(Photos used with permission from Rachael Ludwick and Robert Burke)