It was December of my senior year at Central Senior High School in the depressed rural county of Lunenburg, Virginia, and I was preparing for a concert on Saturday, the 19th. I was in this concert, playing bass guitar for a band with Mugs and Lucas called Uprooted, and we were getting ready for a six-band show in the improvised back room club at the Mean Bean coffee shop in Clarksville. We’d drawn the third slot out of a hat and had a 45-minute set to rehearse consisting of songs written almost entirely by Mugs.
Some of the tunes were decent, some of them were crappy (in retrospect), but nearly all of them reflected some romantic angst between Mugs and an unnamed gal from our school, and for whatever reason, the songs enjoyed a growing popularity in our area. By the week before the gig, word had spread around our school of the upcoming show and we were expecting a fair portion of concert attendees in support of our fledgling act.
The night of the show came, and while the two bands before us had disappointingly short sets we were more than ready to take the stage. As we stood on the riser, instruments in hands and stage lights coaxing the sweat to surface before we even started playing, we looked out over a steadily building crowd in this ersatz concert hall and kicked into what would be our last concert together. We played a varied set, sure to include some of our shorter instrumental pieces that grabbed the attention of the small town youth when Uprooted debuted at Autumn Days back in October. The room continued to fill until a girl, the object of Mugs’ lyrics, walked through the door. We scrapped our next song and substituted a straight blues rocker, “I Can’t Get You Off Of My Mind.” My brother wailed the lyrics in a scratchy baritone, all but singing to the unnamed show-goer in the front.
I remember stepping out of the lights with a high I’ve yet to experience again. I’ve never sought to draw attention to myself (honest!), but for the better part of an hour we were rock stars in our region. After unplugging our instruments we joined the crowd for the rest of Bean Fest ’98 (seriously), receiving many a high-five and compliment as we mingled with the patrons. I remember enjoying the rest of the night, but I don’t remember the rest of the bands…
We packed up our gear from the back of the building in the van of our drummer’s father, and after the lights went up and concert-goers started to leave, we made our way to the curb in front of the coffee shop to meet up with our ride. Paulie, our step-dad, had pulled up in our ’93 Dodge Intrepid with Farmville’s WXJK playing over the speakers.
When he stepped out of the car I could hear Simple Minds start to play over the radio, so I rolled down all the windows and cranked up the volume so we could bask in our short-lived teenage glory.
Will you recognise me?
Call my name or walk on by
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down, down
Okay, so here’s some honesty: Memories are notoriously unreliable and murky, so I’m sure some of the events described herein aren’t completely accurate. I may have even exaggerated some of it for effect. What I know to be accurate for sure, though, is what I felt. What I still feel. Uprooted didn’t last much longer. The drummer and his father – our sort-of manager – wanted to avoid any more free gigs and start playing more clubs further around the state. Mugs wanted to focus on the music and was afraid of being too caught up with the money. We dissolved before Christmas.
We may have only lasted three months, but that band gave me some of the only good time I ever had in high school, capped-off and summed-up in the strains of “Don’t You (Forget About Me).”