My relationship with instruments has had its ups and downs. Big up was at age fifteen. I played piano at Queens University while wearing a shiny blue suit I called my Tom Jones outfit. Mostly because the pants were so tight and flamboyant. I re-purposed the suit for a recital, where I performed, “Reaching for a Rainbow.” The combination was so aggressively “I’m a closeted gay teen” that I should have burst into glitter onstage.
The down was learning how to play guitar. My younger sister, who played classical guitar, did her best to show me how to play an Aerosmith song on one of her acoustics. I did for only one hour and quit. Her teaching didn’t dissuade me. It was the thought of forming of callouses on my tender fingers. I was a Liberace, not a Joni Mitchell.
Then about two months ago, my sweetheart Lara asked if I would learn to play bass in the music lesson series Lady Rockstars. I was already moonlighting as a so-so drummer with fabulous costumes for our glitter/punk band, JoRa. Why not add another instrument? The reason guitar didn’t work, I started to reason, is that I didn’t have the right costume.
Classes were at the Playroom every Wednesday evening for one hour. Krystle Baller, founder and instructor at Lady Rockstars, passed around glasses of Winking Owl moscato and red wine to keep us students from thinking too hard about what we were about to undertake: To learn two songs and perform them at Hattie’s Tap & Tavern in six weeks.
My fellow students were Laura Highfill, Shayna Cashner, Margarita Sheelor, Christine Lukowitsch, and Margot Parrott. We were each put into “bands,” or groups. Laura unfortunately had to perform with me. She and the other women, who all had demanding day jobs, were practicing hard every week, each time getting better, each time becoming more confident, even posting their practices on social media.
“How’s your practicing going?” Shayna asked in one class. While swigging my moscato, I said oh, I’m building up some callouses. Truth was, I was still scared of roughing up my fingers, so I was either gingerly plucking the bass string or writing fan fiction about Morris Jenkins, a local heating and air conditioning company to regale my fellow students.
“You need to practice and stop writing your erotic fan fiction,” Lara finally said. Someone had to, and that’s when I got serious: I told Laura in class our band name would be Starfruit and we needed to wear wax fruit at our performance. We had a glue gun and a dream, and one day before the concert to practice.
It was in that time crunch I realized the bass was a good fit for me. I enjoyed the deep, throaty sound. I liked backing up a guitar instead of being the guitar. I side-stepped the whole “bass bitch” moniker that was going around, so I simply said, “I’m moonlighting on bass, and here are the grapes I’m going to wear in my gold-sequined crown.”
Laura, with her wide-brimmed hat filled with fake bees, lemons and a red feather, and me with my skin tight galaxy suit, were the perfect distraction against my ability to sing and play bass at the same time. We killed with our fruit puns. You might say, “Orange you glad you were in Lady Rockstars?” And I’d say yes, smart ass, definitely. Scroll down to watch us in action at the performance.
Registration is open for Spring. I hear that you should sign up this week since space is limited. Go get semi-calloused fingers and a little tipsy.
Details about the Lady Rockstars Spring Session 2016:
Mondays March 7 – April 11 7:30pm – 8:30pm
Wednesdays March 9 – April 13 7:30pm – 8:30pm
All at The Playroom
Spring 2016 Concert April 15 8:00pm at Hattie’s Tap & Tavern