Turn left at the fire

The drive to Lake Martinez in Yuma is an interesting trek all five times we had played this gig. At the time it was John, Dan and I and we were in the midst of what we called the “Tequila/ Meth /Corona” phase. The Band had gotten so tight by this point we really didn’t have to have all our wits about us; we just kicked it into auto-pilot by the end of the third set and let the machine do the work for us. We played about four days a week and it was a constant party.

The drive out to Lake Martinez takes you along the Interstate 8 East through El Centro, then through to dunes where they filmed “Return of the Jedi” across the Colorado River into downtown Yuma. We then went north into the US Army Proving Grounds, through a series of endless dirt roads until you slam right into it. A man-made lake for the All-American power boat booze hound. They all got that sunburnt wife in a bikini and 2.3 kids in tow…literally…on water skis.

From 15 miles out this was an ominous gig. We could see a plume of smoke in the distance directly where we intended to go. Usually, you don’t drive to a plume of smoke that big unless it’s your house that’s on fire, but hey, the show must go on right. Every mile the plume got bigger as we got closer. By the time we turned onto Red Cloud Mine Rd. We could literally see the deep orange of the blaze mixed with thick black chemical fire smoke. It was in the same little cove that our clients shared with another San Diego family as a weekend recreation home.

Even though there were fire crews on the scene it was still pretty fuckin scary to be that close and not be moving post haste in the different direction. But, that last mile trying to find the right dirt road to turn on, gave birth to “Go Left at the Fire” saying that hung around for many years after this away game. The fire had blown out all the electric to everyone on that side of the lake, but, there was an alternate plan in the works and was just about to pull into this man-made harbor.

As the plan was explained to us I looked out past the docks of our client’s house and it came into view. A Goddamned…real deal… fuckin river boat. It had the big red paddle wheels for propulsion in the rear, three decks of open space for dangerous festivities and the confederate flag hanging behind the main bar on deck one. I had no idea I was about to play my first Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn riverboat. Up to that point, I never realized that those ol Mississippi river boats had flat hulls until it pulled up to the shallow water by the client’s dock.

This was a welcome turn of events until the captain and client informed us that we would be playing up top that way everyone on the lake would hear real good for about ten minutes as we passed their coves. The logistical nightmare instantly set in. Here I was. The speed Dan and I had done before we left Oceanside took on a totally different face when hauling our gear up two flights of boat stairs in 127-degree weather while doing shots of Jack Daniels pushed on us by an employer who clearly just wanted to get tuned up. My mouth was the fuckin Gobi Desert.

By the time the task of getting upstairs with the gear was done there were about 50-60 people from around the Cove getting ready to board with all the supplies you would expect out proper Arizona river party folk. It was fuckin beautiful. As we finished setting up two drunk girls in Budweiser tank tops came straight back to the stage area on the third deck yelling… and I quote, “If you play Sweet “HOmE ALaBmA” we’ll show you our boobs.” We never did see that particular ta-tas that night but you must understand how that set a tone for the rest of the evening, and many nights for years after.

Once a small generator issue was taken care of downstairs we started in with “Some Kinda Wonderful” our usual sound check number and the river boat left the docks. The first few songs I must admit were a strange experience. I had never played music myself or with an ensemble while everything around me was constantly moving. It was…Literally… like playing Led Zeppelin on a fucking carousel. Once Vertigo left and the drugs kicked in, well let’s just say, that riverboat was a rocking.

The rest of the four hours of the gig just flew by. We took two breaks and it was time for the luxury shit-liner to come into port.

When we docked and the passengers had disembarked the vessel the dreaded task was once again at hand. We were burnt from heat and dehydrated from the drugs and booze. We sluggishly hauled the gear down three flights of narrow stairways. This was the first of two times that R2D2 almost ended up taking a swim. Our riverboat cruise had come to an end.

These Arizona trips were always a whirlwind. We would leave Oceanside at noon thirty arrive in Lake Martinez around 4-5 p.m. set up, play the gig and break down around midnight. Our gracious host always packed our cooler full of road beers and we would drive off into the desert night. The road home was full of the off color banter that was religious in its degenerate manner. Drums and Bass up front polluting Guitar’s air with Marlboros while he slept on the bench seat in the back. Every trip home ended with a dawn arrival home. We would travel through three different biomes twice, played four smoking sets and got hammered on the way home. The end of every AZ trek ended this way. I would stumble out of the van and the coming day would look at me and scowl.

 

           

 

 

Mulford Jeremy

Musician/writer Editor at Chariot News.com

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