Sarah James and band at event
June 5, 2024

A Prickly Situation

I worked for a friend years ago who had a saying that has stuck with me: “If it’s going to be funny later, it’s funny NOW!” We all have stories about gigs we’ve done over the years. But this one is a keeper.

I played my last Arizona gig on May 17 before heading to Western New York state for the cooler climate and to beat the soon-to-arrive inhuman Arizona heat. We were splitting up for the season: my guitar accompanist for six years, Paul Meisenzahl, was going east at some point, my friend Ronn Moss who joined me frequently was headed to Europe for his five month tour, and my new friend and vocalist Victoria Noreide of the “Twist Tops” sat in for a few songs that night and she was soon headed for Seattle. There could not have been a more perfect Arizona evening to close the season for me and at one of my all-time favorite venues, Raven’s View in Cave Creek, Arizona, up in the Desert Mountain area. Such an incredible view and wonderful owner and staff!

Well, everything on the desert is gonna prick ya, poke ya, bite ya, sting ya or chase ya and in some cases, eat ya. The restaurant, trying its best to extend the exotic ambiance of the desert into the patio area, has a very large potted prickly pear cactus right next to the small, tight stage area. No one seems to have noticed that over the years it has grown imperceptibly bigger until now it was encroaching on the place where a musician might be standing (that would be me!). To make matters more constricting is that there was a mamma quail who decided that the safest place to build her nest holding a dozen or so eggs was right in the middle of that spiny cactus. So it could not be moved.

I don’t know about you, but the “load out” at the end of a gig is never my favorite moment … it’s dark, I am tired, (over)-thinking my performance and coiling cables is the WORST part. Well, I had bent down to disengage my pedal board and pack it up and in so doing I backed my butt right into that cactus, then when I jumped up, I lost my balance and catching myself I leaned my left shoulder right into it. It was quite a floor show. My white jeans were impaled at the left cheek with dozens of tiny needle-like prickly pear spines and my shoulder burned with their sting. It was going to be along ride home. And Vicky? Yeah. she got it too — she came over to help me and got the same treatment. It’s been nearly a month, and even after a few soaker baths and a visit to my derm doc, I am still tweezing out the little stickers! So is Vicky. And it’s still funny

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