I was taking a break from being in a band, but I still had an active account name in a web site called Band Mix. I had forgotten it was out there until the spring
of 2016 when I was contacted by Scott Baugh. He was the drummer in a band that was not quite complete, missing a bass player (and a name at that point). They were
playing classic rock covers, but not the usual same “easy” ones that you often hear from cover bands. It consisted of Jon Varo, who was quite busy doing all the
vocals and alternating between keyboard and guitar, Scott Baugh, hosting rehearsal and playing drums, and Derick Young on lead guitar.
They were all excellent musicians, and I liked the songs they had been selected up to that point. The first, come-over-and-sit-in session, not a try-out exactly,
went good, so I started coming back for the rehearsals, and at some point I was in, and the band was complete. Unlike every other group of people that I ever played
with, instead of a 20 to 40 minute drive each way, Scott was ridiculously close 6 to 7 minutes, depending on the timing of the one stop light.
The band name came a little later. In many of our rehearsals, we would, how I could I put it, get a bit side-tracked. For example, we’d be about to play a song,
and someone would be tuning or changing some settings. Someone, sometimes me I must admit, would start noodling around on a different song. Then one of the
other band member joins in, and off we would go playing that song instead. I thought of Shiny Keys for a name, because we were easily distracted, like a baby,
but that sounded too much like a Black Keys tribute band.
At some point, someone threw out the name At Wit’s End, and no one objected. Being nerds, we also liked that the end of the domain name with different capitalization
would look like ATwitsEnd.
The slightly ADD-style rehearsals we had at first were rather beneficial. We got a gig with only a few weeks to get ready, and needed 3 sets of music. Some of those
“trial jam songs” ended up polished, sort of, and on the set list. Despite the longer and more focused rehearsals leading up to it, we were falling short of the having
three sets of music gig-ready. The plan was to make Set 3 the “Best of Sets 1 & 2”.
The gig at the Monastery went well. I think we had a few arrangement miscues, but no one seemed to notice. They didn’t notice that we played some of the songs twice
either. It was the perfect crowd for a somewhat unprepared band. It was fun though, other than it being hot and outside. Being Arizona in July, the sun going down
didn’t cool it off too much. Unfortunately shortly after that gig was when I started feeling sick. That whole story is one for another day, but the effect for this
one is that it was increasingly difficult for me to make it through gigs, and even rehearsals, without feeling wiped out afterward.
We kept building up and polishing our song list. We weren’t getting too many gigs, despite Jon really hustling for them. He ended up getting us a Mesa Food Truck Friday
gig at the Las Sendas community in NE Mesa. We played several of those outdoor events to large and mostly appreciative audiences. That was a lot of fun except by this
point, it was a real challenge for me to make it through three sets. I was pretty out of it by the end, relying on muscle memory and all our rehearsals to make it through.
Despite really enjoying playing with these guys, it got to the point where those longer gigs were getting just too difficult. I was concerned about fainting before it was
over, or being so out of it that I couldn’t play right at all. Then I started getting lower back problems, and I knew that was it for me for a while. I wanted to give
the band time to get a new bass player before their next (outdoor in October, still very hot in AZ!) gig. I was glad to see they found someone who was able to jump in
and learn all the songs.
After that, I put the bass down, and concentrated on playing keyboard. That was much more back-friendly, and maybe like many bass players over the years, I was interested
in playing more than one low note at a time.
Can you spot Scott? Fender Band Jam, August 2017