Hello dear reader(s)!
There are very few things in my life that are difficult for me to talk (or write) about. Certain times during my cancer experience that are still too fresh, a few things from when I was a child, and Sprout (particularly Dale). Yesterday, I shared with you a post entitled “How I Stop The Spiral”. In it, I shared this video.
Searching for that video to share with you brought up a lot of feelings, which I think I finally just need to get off my chest. So I’m going to attempt to tell you the story of Sprout, and also of Dale, from my perspective as the drummer, friend, brother, enemy, and hopefully…friend again.
The video is for a 2010 benefit concert and our first show together in many years. The benefit was for the guitar player and one of the two vocalists, Dale. Dale died from cancer later, while I was fighting my own. But let me start at the beginning.
I was 15. I was a terrible drummer. But I was really just learning (always learning, but you understand what I mean), but I could play along to music, I could change my dynamics, and I had a decent meter. Dale and Tobin were a few years older (my brother’s friends, originally), were great at their instruments and music in general, could write songs (though I can happily say I contributed at least something to just about every one) and decided to take a chance on their friend’s little brother.
I was hooked. I loved playing music with these guys. The combination of Dale’s modern punk-rock style and Tobin’s more pure rock style actually meshed very well together to form our sound, which could never be duplicated without the original members. We would practice a lot, and write some songs. And as soon as we had our first set, we started playing shows. It was the only thing I wanted to do.
We started playing at parties (our first show was at this massive outdoor party that got broken up by the cops), and then little alternative clubs (one of which is now a strip club) and dive bars. Eventually, (for a local band), we started to get pretty popular. Our practice was beginning to pay off and we developed a sizable following. We all wanted to “make it”, do not let anyone fool you. This is not the story of someone finding success and realizing they hated it.
We really enjoyed playing together, and became friends. Eventually, as band members often do, we became more like brothers. As our following grew, so did our opportunities. I won’t name drop, but we got to open for some of my musical heroes at the time. (And a couple of bands I love to this day.) But as so often happens when one reaches a decent level of success, people started to enter the picture looking to exploit that for themselves.
People in “the scene” praise him like a God, but we ALL have our flaws.
Dale was funny, he was talented, he could be generous, and he was always the life of the party. Yet he was also incredibly selfish, bitter, and worst of all…an easy target. People swooped in to take a bit of his life. They fed his addictions and were the bug in his ear. And eventually Dale faded from view as the drug-fueled Dale emerged.
Practices were cancelled, and if they did happen, he was always late. As a drummer, I really had to struggle to keep him in time. He was great, it wasn’t him. There is a reason people call it speed. He began to distrust Tobin (because of what the hangers-on would tell him) and think that his style didn’t fit with where he wanted to go. He would attempt to convince me regularly, but I held out.
Until Tobin missed a show. It was a non-show at some little coffee shop (playing for the sake of playing). The two of us played anyway, and I was pissed. Despite the constant cancelling of practices, and the way the band was already cracking due to Dale’s actions, I stupidly had this line that had been crossed. Dale saw his opportunity. He convinced me that we needed to replace Tobin. Worse still, because according to him, I’m “better at serious stuff”. He convinced me to tell him. God, I was dumb.
So Sprout continued on with the revolving door of bass players. We would have glimmers of success again, (when Dale was less strung-out), but nothing compared to what we achieved as the original band. As time went on, I began to hate the band, the music we played, everyone around us, and Dale. I quit once, but then he convinced me to make another go of it. It didn’t last long, and I quit again, and moved away.
I returned to town in 2009 and went on about my own merry way, removed from “the scene”. Then I learned that Dale was fighting cancer. It was proposed we do a “one time reunion show” for a benefit that would be for Dale in 2010.
So we met a couple of times (literally 2) to rehearse and then played the show where that video was taken. Dale was clean on those days, and, despite being pretty thin and obviously tired from his fight, it felt like it was in the beginning. This was the Dale I knew. We played the show, had a blast, and were asked to continue playing. I tentatively agreed.
The next show, Dale was asleep at home when we were supposed to be setting up. Tobin had to go to his house and wake him up and bring him. At first, I figured he was exhausted from his illness. But as we attempted to play, I realized it was more. And he copped to it. I was done.
I don’t hate Dale for falling victim to his demons. I actually did love him like a brother. I do, however, hate the people who exploited them for their own gain. I tried to visit Dale in the hospital once, but he wouldn’t see me. At first, I was really upset, but then I had my own cancer fight, and realized just how hard it can be to see people, especially those with whom you weren’t on the best of terms. I can barely listen to any of our old music, because when I hear it, all I can think of is the pain he must have felt during his short life. I really hope he knows that I tried to be his friend.