From The Omaha Reader, July
Add Boy Wrangler to my
résumé. Travel in a van with eight boys halfway
across the country and back,
make sure they’re where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be
there, collect their pay, set up food and drink at the gigs, sell their
merchandise and know when to be quiet. Voila, you’re a Boy Wrangler. The boys
are the Prairie Cats. The gigs were in New York City and Arlington, Va. Here’s
how to be a successful Boy Wrangler:
Bring a pillow, blanky and the
willingness to sleep sitting up. Tote along a map because the boys won’t.
Patience is a must because you’ll hear about someone’s bowels every time the
waitress puts your meal in front of you. "I haven’t gone to the bathroom
today," said Dan the trumpet man at the same moment my blueberry pancakes
were plunked in front of me. Pack a HUGE bottle of spray that dissipates
locker-room smell so you can hose down the van nightly. Do NOT wait until the
fifth day when the smell has snaked itself around and into the seats and cannot
Boy Wranglers must share in
the excitement of their band’s first East Coast tour. Wednesday night at the
Hudson River Festival, One World Financial Center, was a panoply of characters.
A fight almost broke out in front of the merchandise table between a citizen
who wanted to ride his bike through the dancers taking swing lessons and a
security guard who wished to redirect the biker. A Boy Wrangler doesn’t get
involved in outside issues. Especially if the issue involves guns or handcuffs.
A Boy Wrangler has to be
willing to take charge in unsafe situations.
Thursday night’s venue was
the Rodeo, an intimate, smoky, peanut-shell-strewn roadhouse. A cut-out horse
trailer strung with chili-pepper lights encased the bartender. It was the
honkiest, tonkiest location in the East Village. Manager Bia’s Brazilian
loveliness made the band sweat. The sound guy’s lips made Bia sweat. The
to guard and no bouncers
made me sweat. The Cats swung the house from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Outside, the van
was loaded again and so was the guy with the quart of Colt 45 who quietly
sidled up to us while we stood on the corner of 27th Street and Third Avenue.
He started going off about the "white man" at the same time money
manager/drummer Jeff started handing out cash to the rest of the band. Mentally
I got out my rope. Verbally I used my Boy Wrangler voice to herd the nice,
trusting Midwestern boys into the van. Boy Wranglers must avoid headlines like
"Excitement Over Good Gig Ends in Tragedy."
Friday night the Prairie
Cats invaded Jack’s Joint at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 47th Street. Larry
and I parked the van in front of the building. We double-checked with host
Patrick to make sure we wouldn’t get towed. "I’m not sure if you can park
there. I don’t drive," he said. "I am so sick of that answer," I
responded. Boy Wranglers must be diplomatic in exasperating situations. Patrick
squealed and put both hands over his mouth. We moved the van to the nearest meter
at 61st Street and Broadway. It wouldn’t take our quarters. A possible $250 tow
fee convinced us to move the van to a working meter. Meters are checked until
10 p.m., so Boy Wranglers must carry lots of quarters and amuse themselves for
hours, in a strange city, alone, while the meter passes time. BW’s must carry a
phone so they can answer
affirmatively when a band member wants to know if he’s left something he needs
for the show in the van. The payoff? "Best band I’ve ever booked,"
said booker Lee Sobel.
Saturday night the Prairie
Cats introduced themselves to New York at
Windows on the World at the
top of the World Trade Center. A thunderstorm and a miniature Statue of Liberty
on one side and a "diorama" of Manhattan on the other complemented
the Cat tunes. Thaddeus the Booker complimented us by wanting us back. Boy
Wranglers have to be able to say, "It’ll cost ya."
Boy Wranglers must be
vigilant about flirty boytenders. Sunday night at the Clarendon Ballroom in
Virginia, the Cats worked the dancers into a frenzy. The boytender worked on
hot tea for Daddy K’s throat and the Boy Wrangler. A midnight return to the
hotel meant the boys enjoyed beer and art films before they went to bed. Back
in her own room, the Boy Wrangler ate chocolate cake and plotted the wrangling
of the next tour.
Boy Wrangling isn’t for
everybody. Tempering frustration with absolute
admiration for the band and
its talent and figuring out that the band is made up of boys who take their
work but not themselves seriously add up to excellent Boy Wrangler
qualifications. Plus, if you look forward to hitting the road again as soon as
you get home, you’re probably Boy Wrangler material.