I think I was about 13 or 14 months sober when I played my first sober gig with the band I’ve loved being a part of since 1996, Corn Doggy Dog & the Half Pound. I’ll give you a little
back story to the band name first. In the early 90’s right around the time Snoop Dog was rising to fame I was with Erick Wilson (bass player for Sublime) and Trey Pangborn (guitar player/Falling Idols & LB Shortbus), just the three of us at my pad in the middle of summer. I had this killer apartment upstairs, with a massive outdoor deck. Since it was warm out I put a big plastic kiddie pool on the deck, filled it with water, and we proceeded to eat a bag of mushrooms, snort a hellacious quantity of cocaine and of course, drink plenty of alcohol. Midway through the evening as the mushrooms kicked in, I said, “It would be key if we formed a new band and called it Corn Doggy Dog and the Half Pound.” All I know is that Eric laughed so hard and so long, which seemed like hours, that we had to run with it.
Growing up in Long Beach, one of our favorite bands was the Falling Idols, so Corn Dog started rehashing all of their old songs, while having their original players, except the bass player Randy ( 20+ years in Pennywise) and David (20+ years in the Vandals). So I had the chance to be the front man, playing my favorite songs from my favorite band growing up, with guys I loved playing with. We wrote a bunch of our own stuff along the way, and started covering classic punk songs we loved from back in the day from bands like (Black Flag, Descendents, Circle Jerks, Iggy Pop, etc.) We used to call it “a vehicle for my party” which is what it was. We toured a bit with the Long Beach Dub All Stars, the band that was created after Brad Nowell passed away, and we had some legendary experiences with them to say the least. All in all, I have always loved performing. I love the energy of the music and connecting with people, loud, aggressive music that people can rock to and jump around a bit, and maybe throw a few bottles if the mood is right.
Now, for years I was loaded like a mother in this band, especially after the gig.I had several thoughts and fears running through my mind when I was sober when it came to the band. It took at least a year before I could even think about doing it, there was no way I was getting on stage at 6 months sober, I was still vibrating and detoxing radically, and physically it was an impossibility, so that wasn’t even in the cards.
But I was starting to get a little bit “itchy” after about 13 months sober and wanted to give it a go and see what it was like. Would I like it? Could I pull it off? Could I connect with people? Could I be funny or entertaining? And of course, could I deliver a good live show? We practiced a few times and I started to get in the groove a little bit and warming up to the idea. But being in the practice studio with guys you’ve known your whole life is entirely different than going into a live environment, especially one that has beer and liquor all over the place, and throw in some pretty girls drinking and you’re newly sober it can be a recipe for disaster if your sobriety isn’t in a good place both emotionally and spiritually.
Before I even played the gig I talked it over with my sponsor. He told me, there’s no reason I couldn’t play the show, but there were a few things he insisted that I do:
Drive my own car (and I did, and still do to this very day. In fact, I drive my own car to any function, unless I am absolutely 100% comfortable with who I am going with. However, this is one part of “control” I don’t like to let go of, so personally speaking, rarely does anyone drive me anywhere. If I get uncomfortable and want or need to bail, I am out. I don’t give a shit and I don’t have to apologize or give reason. Nothing, and I mean nothing is going to threaten my physical sobriety as well as my emotional sobriety. So when things get weird, I kick rocks and hit the road.
When I was done with the gig, I was not to be hanging around the bar. This made sense to me as well. I mean, what the hell am I going to do there? So, I took his suggestion very seriously, and when I was done with the gig, I said goodbye to my bandmates and blew out.
He asked that I send him a text message letting him know that I didn’t drink or get loaded and that I was okay. Now how cool is that? How awesome is it that this man cared enough to be looking out for me in this way? So, I did what he told me to do, and I sent him a text telling him I didn’t drink or get loaded, then I thanked him for caring about me.
I got through the gig, and 9 years later we play better than we ever have. We had wonderful gigs back in the day when I was drinking and using, don’t get me wrong, but what always followed were very, very dark nights followed by mornings that I’d rather never visit so long as I live. Playing live music sober is so much better, and I know without question that I am a better front man than I ever was, mainly because people tell me this, but I feel the connection when we are playing live so much more genuinely: I don’t curse the way I used to onstage, or have vicious outbursts the way I used to, my sense of humor and kindness is consistent and I mean it.
All that said, it stacks up to be a hell of a lot of fun, and I still get all sweaty like a basted turkey that needs to be thrown away, and I love every bit of it. In fact, if any of you are up for it, we’ll be playing at the Sunset Beach Arts & Crafts Festival…on freaking Mother’s Day! Believe it or not, they have had us there 4 years in a row…and I can tell you this, if I wasn’t sober, they would never be asking us to come back…and rocking the mom’s on Mother’s Day freaking rules.