The Last Gig


In October of 2019, I was humbled and honored when asked to join one of the most well-established local bands in San Diego. Electric Waste Band, a tribute to the music of the Grateful Dead, has enjoyed a 28-year residency at Winston’s in Ocean Beach, playing every Monday night without pause during that time. At least until March 16, 2020, when word went out to all Californians that the bars and clubs were ordered closed to try and control the spread of a growing pandemic.

Through a flurry of texts that entire day, we tried to figure out a way to save that 28-year streak. Thanks to the generosity of the owner of Winston’s, we were allowed access to the club to organize a livestream event that night behind closed doors. We rolled into the club at 7pm that night, much earlier than normal, and said our hellos through elbows rather than hugs. There were no fans to greet us, no beers flowing from the bar, just our audio and video team, the owner, and security.

There were noticeable changes to our routine that night. For one thing, we were down a man, having learned earlier in the day that our regular bassist was unable to do the show. We put out the call for a replacement and were honored to have formidable bassist, Martin Holland, make the drive in the rain from Orange County at the last minute to join us. We also altered our stage setup for the evening, spreading out on stage to achieve as close to a 6-foot distance between musicians that the stage would allow. Instead of two drummers side by side, we split them to separate sides of stage to give us more distance.

Sometime around 8:30, guitarist Mark Fisher strapped on an acoustic and started playing the 1968 Bob Dylan tune, “I Shall Be Released” as we all proceeded to join him onstage. Within a minute or so, while the videographer was still plugging in cables and setting up cameras, we were all singing the chorus together. As I sang harmony, a million emotions flowed through my head. The last time I played that song was for a benefit concert for my dear friend, Doug Lunn. Doug and I always loved to play this song together, and when he passed away from cancer a couple of years ago, this was the first song we played at his memorial. I fought back the tears on that day long ago, and I fought them back this evening as well. It was an emotional beginning to what would become a 3 hour concert for our friends and fans.

It felt so strange to play to an empty club, but we were energized by the hundreds of faithful fans tuning into the show. During the livestream, we took requests from our fanbase in real-time and tried to accommodate them all. The original plan was to play two sets, but we never really took a break. We all wanted to cram as much music into that night as we could. Despite our hopes that we would be able to do more of these livestreams in the future, I think that inside, we all knew that might not happen. That instinct proved correct, as a few days later, statewide restrictions were increased that prohibited all gatherings, even a private one such as this. Two days later, all musicians in the state were effectively put out of work.

The show proved cathartic for all of us, I think, and boy did it fly by. Honestly, it felt like we were on stage for an hour, not three. Before I knew it, I was unplugging cables and packing my car in the pouring rain. There were no fans outside to talk to, no congratulations for a great show.  The drive home that night was so bittersweet. There was still the adrenaline rush from the show flowing through me, but also profound sadness.

Here is the video of the show, from beginning to end. There were plenty of audio and video difficulties, which were to be expected due to how fast this was all put together. We never even did a sound check. Still, I think it captures what was in our hearts that night, and is filled with some really special moments.

As I tread forth on this path of uncertainty during these challenging times, I don’t know what the future holds. What I do know is that I’m so grateful that I could share a stage with so many wonderful musicians one more time before venturing into this strange new world. It is a night that I will always remember.

For now, I will setup my home studio again and spend time composing new music, and learning new tunes to play with the band someday. I will also spend time with this journal, relating my thoughts and feelings during this unprecedented change in the world around us. I pray that we can put this all behind us soon, and more importantly, I hope we all come out on the other side, safe and healthy. When this is all done, I know that I will have a newfound appreciation for every moment that I have the honor to step onto a stage and entertain others.

Until next time, stay safe friends.

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