We didn’t know we were “crowdfunding” when we started The Thicket Society – the term hadn’t shown up yet. It was Joanne Marshall’s idea. Get a few of our friends to chip in a few bucks to help cover the cost of renting the gear. I don’t know whose idea it was to do the t-shirts. We hadn't a clue what it would become.
It’s been an amazing run, but we’ve decided that Boston was the last “official” MLA/Bearded Pigs gig.
In San Diego it was eight friends and two twelve packs and we were tucked into an unused meeting room that Ray arranged for us. It was low-key, just an excuse for us to get together and play. At the San Diego Zoo the next day Tambourine Grrl saw the pen with the bearded pigs in it and we had a band name. In DC the next year we put up a poster and 50 people came. Folks went to the liquor store across the street and brought booze back. The hotel was not amused and threatened MLA with a charge of several thousands of dollars for “trashing the room.” Rock stars!
By the time we got to Phoenix the crowd was rising and the next year, in Philadelphia, I saw more people dancing that I didn’t know than people I did. Folks were stacked up in the hallway trying to get into the room. “What are all these people doing here?” I wondered, as I hammered another E chord. “We’re not that good…” But we had something. I've been looking at the pictures. What times we had!
But each year was a bigger production. TG would start designing the t-shirts in March, but she’d still be scrambling to finish it up in time to get the shirts delivered to the hotel the day before we arrived. Duke and I would spend hours on the logistics of gear rental, and then there’d be the hauling and setup and tear down. Rolling and labeling the shirts over bloody marys on Saturday morning to try to get them to registration by noon. For the sheer joy of those three hours on a Sunday night we all put in hours and hours of planning and work. Thank goodness we never actually practiced – where would we have found time for that?
It was worth it. But it wasn’t what I’d signed up for.
Don’t get me wrong – I loved it and I am forever grateful to the Thicket Society members who made it possible for us to do the gigs and to all of the people who showed up. But every year we’d get done and I’d think, “The work to fun ratio is not quite tilting in my favor anymore.” And I’d wonder if I really wanted to do it again the next year.
It was after Seattle, during the summer of 2012, that it seemed to me we’d come to the end of that road. I wasn’t ready to break it to the band, but I decided that Boston would be the last official MLA gig.
We gathered for dinner at the Summer Shack and I laid it out for them. Time to go out on a high note. There was no disagreement. We’d already done so much more than we ever imagined. It’s been a wonderful gift. I hope we’ve given people at least a small measure of pleasure for all that they’ve given us.
Boston was a great gig – certainly one of the very best. With my short-circuited nervous system I couldn’t play guitar, but I could still belt out the vocals. The change in instrumentation made everybody step up their game. And we had the amazing Jack running the mixers and making us sound better than ever. But as great as it was, I didn’t waver on the decision.
So that’s it for The Thicket Society. No more buttons, no more shirts. Of course it is not the end of the band. Although MLA was always the highlight of the year, we've always managed to find other times and places to play. We never know where and we never know when, but we do know The Bearded Pigs will play again… and again… Who knows, it might even happen at an MLA near you. We’ll keep it a surprise.