My de-pantsing as a professional musician
with Jamie Winpenny
“You coming down tonight, turkey?”
It was my old friend and bandmate Shon Gregory on the phone. He was on his way to SoHo Mixed Media Bar on Sunday, where Go Jimmy Go (Shon’s the drummer) was playing with English Beat for what was sure to be an epic gig.
“I dunno,” I muttered. “Maybe.”
I knew it would be epic because Shon and I had played a show with English Beat frontman Dave Wakeling with our band Red Session in San Francisco long ago, and he played all of the Beat’s hits. It was one of the most amazing concerts I’ve ever played, ever seen.
It was also the night of, possibly, hopefully, the greatest professional humiliation of my life as a musician.
Our band sounded fine, perhaps great. The humiliation would come at the end of the night, as members of all of the bands on the bill milled about in the ample hospitality rooms beneath the stage at Slim’s. I was sprawled out on a couch in our dressing room, drained by a high-energy set and still woozy with a sinister rock and roll hangover from the night before.
I heard a couple of my bandmates talking breezily with Dave Wakeling, whom I’d never met, in the hall. I wanted to meet him, but was more than a little starstruck by the prospect. I waffled for a couple of minutes, before finally lumbering off of the couch into the hall.
“Hey Dave, I’m Jamie with Red Session. I just wanted to thank you for having us for this show,” I said, trying and failing to sound breezy. I rambled on about how much I loved his work with English Beat, how he had influenced my own songwriting.
He listened politely, smiling and nodding. He extended his hand for amiable shake, and said, “Thanks, Jamie, that’s really great. You guys sounded amazing.” He was still shaking my hand.
“But I’m Rudy, the keyboard player,” he smiled. “That’s Dave in there.” He leaned toward me, pointing into another dressing room.
Rudy is a black guy with dreadlocks and a perfect Londoner accent. Dave is a white guy, and he was sitting on a bench with his elbows on his knees, still gasping after a particularly energized set. He looked at me as though I had just shit my pants. I nearly did.
There was an excruciatingly awkward silence. Thankfully, mercifully, my bandmates, Rudy, and Dave Wakeling burst into laughter. I waved feebly to Dave and skulked back to our dressing room, where I threw up into a trashcan. They were still laughing.
I never did meet Dave.