One year I posted a bulletin that no one in the band was straight edge anymore, and that veganism was far more important so we were definitely continuing as a band. That got a lot of angry messages.
Another year, after MySpace started allowing music players to be embedded in personal profiles, I got in and changed the band names and all the song titles. I changed our band name to "The Dick Holsters" and made an awful pink and purple logo, that made a lot of people very upset.
The best, worst prank I ever used Cherem for though was one I wrote about for the Until My Heart Stops blog I used to do. I've been going back to that a lot lately (which is the writing I was doing while I was on fun-employment last winter, instead of blogging on here) and ran across it earlier tonight. It's so dumb that I felt like I had to share it.
APRIL 1, 2004 - KILBY COURT
If I had to guess, I’d say that Cherem played somewhere between 75-100 shows in Salt Lake City alone. After a while they all start to blend together, and the more time passes, the harder it is to distinguish between any of them. This one sticks out and is still memorable only because of how much planning we did and how badly we failed at its execution.
Someone named Danny—a guy that none of us had ever met—sent Clint an email and invited Cherem to play a benefit show for a local animal rights group. He was setting it up at Kilby Court, which intrigued us. Kilby Court was a small venue mostly reserved for indie/punk bands. They had done hardcore shows in the past, but there were too many fights and they stopped allowing them. We hadn’t played a local show in a while, and saw it as an opportunity to bridge the gap and get back in the good graces of Kilby. Salt Lake was always in need of a venue, and we felt that we could use this show as a platform to prove that things had kind of turned around and fights at shows were a thing of the past.
The show was also on April 1st, which meant that we also had to come up with a really good prank to go along with our diplomacy.
I came up with an idea, pitched it to the rest of the guys, and we put the plan in motion.
On our website I wrote a post about how we were going through tough times as a band. Bill had recently been contacted by the police and was under investigation as a terrorist threat. The police had claimed that he was the mastermind behind a string of animal liberation-related crimes around the state of Utah, the events were being investigated and a case was being built against him. While Bill hadn’t been arrested yet, his lawyer had advised him to lay low, and avoid any and all contact with people that may be associated with that kind of thing, and thus, would be taking a little break from singing for Cherem.
Since we didn’t want to cancel the show and we still felt strongly about the subject, we’d still be playing the benefit on April 1st, only our good friend and surrogate band member, Brook, would be filling in on vocals. We thanked everyone for sticking with us and asked that everyone come to the show for additional support.
It worked way better than any of us had anticipated. I didn’t really think anyone ever looked at the Cherem site, but I was very wrong. Someone had seen it and reposted it as a MySpace bulletin and things spread like wildfire. We started getting emails and messages every day, and people were calling Bill to make sure he was okay.
Keeping half a dozen people committed to a two-week long joke is a lot to ask, and for the most part it worked. There were a few people that called bullshit as soon as they saw the April 1 day of the show, but we all kept up a pretty unified front, and just avoided the question whenever we could with lines like, “I don’t know. Bill’s lawyer doesn’t want us to really say anything.”
The lineup for the show was a little awkward and we had no idea where we’d fall in the order. There were two indie bands, a gutter punk band and us, but things kept changing all the way until the last minute. Clint, Nick, Chris and I all showed up and loaded our gear in through the back and Brook arrived not too much later. Bill showed up with his girlfriend, Misty, as soon as I found out when we were playing, but hung around outside by his car while we set up.
The way it was supposed to work was that we’d get everything set up, sneak Bill in through the back door and have him hide behind all the extra equipment that was off to the side of the stage. We’d start playing, Brook would be at the front of the stage jumping around and pretending to sing into a microphone that wasn’t turned on, while Bill actually sang from the side. It would look like a terrible lip-sync, and everyone in the crowd would be confused. After the first song, Bill would come up on stage, say “April Fools!” and we’d all laugh before finishing the set.
But getting that many people on board for a joke was a lot harder than it should have been. The main problem was the sound guy at Kilby Court. He had absolutely no idea why I wanted two microphones, but only wanted one of them to be turned on. I tried my best to explain it to him without ruining the joke, but he still didn’t get it. I explained to him what was going to happen, but he didn’t know why, and the more I told him the less he understood. He eventually gave us two microphones, shrugged his shoulders and walked away.
When we were all set up and ready, he asked for a soundcheck. He did all the instruments, and got ready to start. I was facing Clint and he was gearing up to count us off, when we heard the sound guy’s voice come through the speakers.
“Okay, uh, microphone one. The one on the stage, I guess.” he said.
Clint just started smiling and broke into a giant laugh. I turned around, looked at Nick and said, “Are you fucking kidding me?” He and Chris were both laughing. I just shook my head.
Brook shrugged, started laughing and spoke into the microphone. After he had finished, we waited for him to check the second mic, the one that no one could see and further ruin the surprise, but he didn’t. After Brook checked his, the sound guy’s voice came through the speakers again.
“You’re good to go,” he said.
I looked off to the side of the stage, and Bill was tapping the microphone with his fingers. No sound was coming out. He shook his head, and Clint counted off. We started playing the first song, and Brook tried to lip sync, but there were no vocals. Every few seconds Brook would make a noise and it could be heard over the PA. He stuck with it for about a minute until Bill walked up on stage, took the mic from him and we finished the set.
A few people appreciated what we tried to do, a few people were angry that we’d joke about that kind of situation, and a couple were just relieved that Bill was okay.
Bill, Clint and I spent the rest of the year explaining to people in every city that we drove through that we’d made the whole thing up, and that’s why we weren’t accepting donations towards Bill’s legal troubles.
I learned two things from that whole ordeal. One is that it takes a lot of hard work to get good practical joke to land, and two, a lot of animal rights activists have a terrible sense of humor.