The other day I was on the phone with my friend Lwan from Pure Star Movement and recalled this story. Then I realized I should tell it to you.
In early 1999 a band I was in entered a contest in Chicago. We had worked really hard to make sure that we were in top form. We had put in the hours, and believed that we could really go up there and clean house. I was particularly excited about the fact that the concert was being judged by a hero of mine, Max Hsu.
Now I have no expectation that you will know who Max Hsu is, so please allow me to enlighten you. If you have ever met a kid who was into underground music, I was even more underground. I was the biggest scene kid you have ever seen. Except that my “scene” was “cutting edge” christian music. A rarefied art form, to be sure.
As such, I was very, very aware of Max Hsu. See, his band Church of Rhythm was the first “techno” group to ever receive a Dove Award (1996) – the equivalent to a Grammy in christian music. Never mind that they won in the “Hip-Hop” category.
So… my band went up and played our best, and did our best to be super-professional. We showed up early. We loaded in quickly and efficiently. We had our gear set up in record time. Our sound check was very clean and painless. We kept our set to the prescribed time. We were very proud of the fact that all of the other bands had played past the end of their time, and we ended a minute early. Weren’t we nice?
Then, the last band got up. They were a pain during sound check. They brought in a HUGE backdrop with their name on it – a bit ostentatious, considering they were already late starting. Their singer looked like Eddie Vedder on roids and had all the swagger of Bono. Then they proceded to bring in busloads of kids from their church who had not been there all night. Then they played. Not for 25 min – the allotted time. No. Not even 45 min. Nope. An hour and twenty minutes later they finished their “encore” to shouting and adoring fans (mostly cute girls).
The judges gathered around and conferred for about 15 min. What was there to talk about? We weren’t quite as sexy as the last band, but they clearly had broken all kinds of rules! Pretty lame and unprofessional, especially for christians! The band before us was pretty creative, and nice people, but their execution sucked. We clearly should win.
We were third.
Wow. I was pissed. We did all the “right” things for (in my opinion) the “right” reasons, and these jerks came in, stacked the deck, and that Max Hsu guy didn’t even see through it! What the heck was God thinking? (This was at the tail end of my fervent, ultra-religious, guided by the white dove in my head period).
I wasn’t sure how to respond. I tried to be my usual affirming, friendly, nothing-can-get-to-me-because-I-have-Jesus self, as I congratulated the winners and began packing my drums. I really liked the obese kid from the band that had played before us. He was an obvious Carter Beauford fan, and maybe should have learned to count before attempting all that fancy stuff, but he seemed genuinely nice, and working hard to get better.
All of the sudden I noticed someone standing beside me. Before I had a chance to look up, a cd with a white surface and a pink anime girl at the top was thrust in front of me. “I want you to try out as a percussionist for my band”. It was Max. Max Hsu, with his super-fab glasses, Paul Oakenfold haircut, and amazingly sweet dj clothing. Max Hsu, who had just defied all rational thought and had voted my band down to number three.
Most of you won’t believe what my response was. “Oh, thanks man, but I really feel like God has called me to be in my band for now”. “Besides, I am not a percussionist.” Max looked at me with a baffled look on his face, scanning mine to see if I was kidding. I was not. Respectfully he responded, “hey look, I am sure we could figure the percussion thing out, I would love for you to meet the rest of the people in the band and see if it’s a good fit.” I mumbled a bunch of nonsense about not being able to afford it, and some religious jargon about my convictions and calling, bla bla bla.
“Well, hang on to this and think it over. I loved your stage presence, I think you could add a lot. Feel free to contact me if you change your mind, but do it quickly, I want to get this thing rolling”. I said I’d give it a listen.
The next time I saw him, I wasn’t in the band God had “called” me to. I was working as a security volunteer at a music festival when I opened the gate for his band’s really, really nice bus and trailer.
The band was called Superchick.