THE OAK STREET CHRONICLES: NAKED
“How much do we get if we win?”
$500 was a lot of money to a bunch of kids who were trying to figure out how we were going to pay to finish our next record. What’s a few hours of discomfort and being surrounded by nudity?
My drummer had just gotten off the phone with his dad who told us about a gig at a nudist resort. His cover band was playing and he could get us a spot on the show. It was a battle of the bands thing with a big cash prize. We didn’t have to play naked, we just had to show up and do our thing for a half-hour and we’d have a chance to win a bunch of money. Even though it felt icky, at least we’ve have a fun story to tell our kids.
On the way down to the resort we agreed that no one would get naked on stage. It felt too gimmicky. It wasn’t us. Well, it wasn’t most of us. There would be one naked band member but not until after our set. Chances were slim that we’d win the money but at least we would leave with our integrity, right?
The stage and the field were huge. It felt like we were going to be playing at Woodstock but only with a few hundred people in attendance. I set up our merchandise in the back of the van as people were beginning to gather in the field. I’m not sure why we thought we’d be able to sell t-shirts at a nudist resort but people kept coming over to the van to say hi and check out what we had for sale. It didn’t take long to learn the value of eye contact.
Nearby, a father and son were playing catch. Naked. Apart from their baseball caps and mitts, of course. What had we gotten ourselves into? The first band was about to take the stage and I wasn’t surprised when one of the young men dropped his drawers before strapping on his guitar. Amateurs. When they launched into their first song, I felt our chances of winning 500 bucks skyrocket.
The sun was beating down and reflecting off the glistening, white bodies peppered throughout the field. It wasn’t the pretty sight I had imagined. Most of the folks at the show were from the 40+ crowd and in general it seemed that as much as they prided themselves on the beauty of the human body they sure hadn’t taken care of themselves very well. I mean, if I was a nudist, you’d be able to find me at the gym at least 5 days a week.
It was our turn to take the stage and I was getting nervous. I knew we could play but how was I going to connect with this crowd? I was used to playing shows to a rooms filled with fully-clothed teeny-bopper-hipsters not butt-naked-40-something-hippies. I went with my gut. I called out titles and counted off new songs before the final notes of the previous song even had time to resolve. We were tight and continued a blistering pace through the set list.
The crowd seemed to be getting into us. I think they noticed the different level of craftsmanship and professionalism we had brought to the stage compared to the previous bands. It took a lot to rip-off the Ramones and AC/DC but we were hard workers. We finished up our set and I booked over to the van hoping to sell some merch and maybe find a good place to hide for a while. People were kind. We didn’t move any t-shirts but we went through half a box of CDs. Some people said they would have bought something but they didn’t have any money on them since they didn’t have any pockets.
After we loaded our gear, our bass player de-robed to take part in the authentic experienced of being at a nudist resort. I would have covered my eyes but somehow I was getting used to the place. I think I was being desensitized and was able to look past the nudity. This was the case until a guy who had too much to drink got up and started dancing and shaking his business around in the general direction of the one attractive female at the event. It was all peace, love, and rock-n-roll until somebody can’t keep their hormones in check. Security came and carted him off saying that this is a “family” resort. I was embarrassed for the girl, and pretty much the rest of humanity as well.
The night was coming to a close as our drummer’s dad and his band took the stage. These guys were pros. They knew how to play to the audience and make the night as amusing as possible for themselves. The audience was cutting loose as the band made their way through a set list of hits from the 60’s and 70’s. The closing number created a scene that will forever be burned into my memory; 300 naked people doing the hand-jive. There was so much jiggling it looked like an earthquake had struck southern Michigan while everyone was just getting out of the shower.
They ended up taking home the prize. Well, most of it anyway. They handed us an envelope with a 100 bucks inside for making the drive. Classy guys for sure. We piled into the van and made our way north in silence.
I imagined the scene that would get to play out 40-50 years down the road as I sat in my rocking chair in front of the fire surrounded by my family. “Hey, did I ever tell you about the time I performed at a nudist resort?”