Postcards From The Road by Joey Huffman: Soul Asylum on Saturday Night Live – 1993

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One of the highlights of my career was performing with Soul Asylum on Saturday Night Live.

NBC protocol and schedule for Saturday Night Live is as follows:

Arrive at NBC and go through the lobby to the elevators where there is a security checkpoint. Everyone is searched and you are assigned an NBC page to be your minder for the day. Tuesday and Wednesday are for blocking camera angles, skit rehearsal and musical guest run through. Thursday is a day off. Friday is a practice run through of the show and trimming the sketches that aren’t working. Saturday is for fine-tuning the show. You do another show run through. Then around 7:30 p.m. they let an audience in. At 8:00 p.m. you tape a dress rehearsal of the show with an audience to act as a safety in case something goes wrong when you go live. It’s on a tape delay so if someone says F@#K on air they switch to the safety and everything is okay. After the run through they turn the audience and go live at 11:30 p.m. with a fresh audience. Remember…don’t f@#k up. There are only ten million people watching you. How all of this applies to the band is that there is going to be an excessive amount of waiting around. This will eventually lead to some drinking on the band’s behalf.

Tuesday they like to have you man the stage and stand in the spot you’re going to be standing for what seems like hours. Nothing seems to be happening but they are adjusting lights and blocking camera angles. You can’t play your instrument because it impedes the crew’s ability to hear each other. After this comes sound check. You check all your lines and make sure they are working for someone you can’t see because the control room is on another floor. Eventually you get to play your songs. And play them…and play them… Then you do it with a cue like the host is introducing you. Finally you are free to hang out. Don’t wander too far from your designated area or your minder will be forced to retrieve you. Apparently you must stay with the herd; and the minders are like border collies keeping you in formation. There is a TV in every room so you can see what’s happening on the set. Sometimes it’s just carpenters building sets. Sometimes it’s a cast member rehearsing a sketch. Sometimes it is just nothing. They keep you from around noon until nine or ten o’clock. Then they search you again when you get off the elevator when you are leaving. Limo back to the hotel and boom, you’re free to do as you please.

Wednesday is pretty much a carbon copy of Tuesday except you get to play a little more. Dinner was deli delivery. Turkey Sandwich…Yum.

Thursday is a much needed day off.

Friday saw the show start to resemble what you would see live on Saturday night. We did three run throughs. They were around two hours in length. They still need to cut thirty minutes from the show. They went about fine-tuning the show and we sat around a lot. I met Mike Meyers. That was kind of cool. Miranda Richardson is the host this week. I didn’t see a lot of her. Some of the skits are pretty funny. I’m starting to realize that I’m playing SNL. I start to get nervous.

Saturday – Day of the show. We had to bring our clothes for dress rehearsal. We do one dress rehearsal just like the show would be. You play twice so you play once and you have time to think about the second one. The show’s pace seems better. We have to go to makeup for the “Safety Run.” They are letting in the first audience. We are all a little nervous. Our first song is twenty minutes into the show. We watch the show on the monitor in our dressing room. Miranda comes out and does her monologue. We watch a few skits and then it’s time for us. We go to the stage in the time it takes to run the commercials. The light comes on to signify we’re back live. Miranda introduces us and we break into “Somebody To Shove. “ I was just thinking about my parts. It wasn’t so scary once you got up and did it. Before you know it, it was over and we’re back in our dressing room feeling good about ourselves… high fives all around. Now we wait until the next song. We are all looser and at ease now that we have one under our belts. Time flies by and it’s back out to do “Black Gold.” We nailed it.

Now it’s time to wait for them to turn the audience and 11:30 p.m.. Not as nervous as I was before. Time was flying by. We had to go back to makeup again and get touched up I’m back in the dressing room ready to play. Then the show starts…for real. You hear the band kick out the theme song and Don Pardo introduces Miranda. She does her monologue and the crowd is with her. They seem to be into it more than the earlier audience. Time passes…time to play. We rush to get to the stage and in place. We’re back live…Ladies and Gentlemen…Soul Asylum! We’re on; live in front of 10 million people. What a rush! The time that we were on stage flew by and it was over and the crowd was into it.

Now we’re herded back to the dressing room to wait again. By this time we were old pros at this. They do weekend update, then another two or three skits and it’s time for us again. Again we rush to the stage to take our places, back live, Ladies and Gentlemen once again…Soul Asylum! We break into “Black Gold” and I felt almost high. We fly through that song and it’s back to the dressing room to party. The only thing left to do is stand on the stage while they roll the credits…which we did. All in all it was a fantastic experience.

The after show party was at a club that was closed down except for us. We had a good time but the band pretty much hung together at our own table. We went to an Irish pub after that. I was walking by Danny Murphy who was sitting at a table. He told me I did a good job. Then he asked me what I was doing this summer. I said playing with you. We both laughed and he explained to me that they had a few shows to do without a keyboard player but they were doing the Alternative Nation tour with the Spin Doctors starting in June and that’s when they wanted me to start. I was ecstatic. I got a lesson in the way life works from my experience of the past year. I thought Rick (Richards) going to play with Izzy was bad luck for me. I had to be a tech again after playing in three bands. I thought I was taking a step back but I was actually taking two forward. When God closes one door on you he opens another. You just have to have faith and believe in the power of positive thinking. I am living proof.

1 Comment

  1. carol reese

    October 20, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    As usual loved his story