The Bottle Rockets are celebrating their 15th Anniversary with a 15-city tour and thankfully Nashville made the cut. I was a bit reluctant to go to the show for fear of my life.... but first a little back story:
Bottle Rockets drummer Mark Ortmann had been a Pearl artist for as long as I can remember. I loved the band since their hit “Radar Gun” was all over the radio. Sometime in the early 90’s, I still remember sitting around with friends when the band appeared on The Conan O’ Brien Show to play “the hit”. We stopped in mid-conversation/pool game and were astounded by their sound and presence... a great band! Of course, I bought the album the next day and told everyone about them.
Flash forward to mid-2008 when the ominous winds of change were hanging over the Pearl artist roster. Although we had found ways to avoid it for the past five years, we had to make cuts in the roster. Unfortunately, Mark was on the blacklist handed to me so the letters were generated and mailed the next day. I certainly didn’t want a guy who I admired to hear the news from a cold piece of paper, so I decided to call him. Before we get to the conversation, it’s important to know that receiving a letter from us is not always bad news. Every year, we make sure to send all the guys birthday cards to let them know we’re thinking about them.
I nervously dial the phone... (maybe he won’t be home).... <first ring>....(I could call tomorrow)....<second ring>... maybe I’ll just leave a messa.....“Hello” (aww crap)
“Hey Mark, It’s Derek.”
“Hey! Good to hear from you. Perfect timing too as I just read your birthday card!”
Now I want to die because what’s a better birthday present to give someone than a verbal pink slip?!? I stammer along until I can get the words out and not surprisingly Mark was as nice as he’s been to me since Day 1. He said that he was pleased he was on the roster for as long as he was but I felt like I had the cartoon donkey head on for the rest of the conversation. To show how cool Mark is, he says “We’re playing Nashville in a couple of weeks, would you like to come out?”
After the news I delivered to him, he can still invite me to a show?!?
I thought “I bet you’d like me to come out so you can have your roadies tie me to the rear wheel of the bus.” But I agreed to meet because after all.... he’s a guy that doesn’t hold a grudge....right?
The night of the concert, I show up about 40 minutes early so I can find Mark (and the meat-fisted roadies) but couldn’t find him until I heard a familiar laugh. He had cut off his long hair since I last saw him and looked completely different. I approached him and we had a great conversation.... he even told the group of people around us the “birthday card” story. I told him again that I was sorry about the whole thing but it was something we couldn’t avoid. He said “It was worth it cause now I have a great story to tell people. It’s all about the stories! If stories were money than I’d be a rich guy.”