“It was a night I often dreamt about as a kid: being on stage and ripping it.”
I dreamt of guitar solos center stage with bright lights shining and crowds bouncing up and down. Wanting faster and louder guitar riffs they would scream my name: “Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!” Always wearing a cool-ass rocker shirt, I would lay down killer chord progressions with perfect rhythm and melody. Hey, it was a dream, so why not play it out? As a kid, I idolized musicians and fantasized about being a rock star. Unfortunately in reality, it wasn’t so easy. Practice makes perfect they say, and learning to play guitar perfectly takes a hell of a lot of practice. I loved practicing and I loved improving day by day, little by little, acoustic guitar to electric guitar. I even messed around with the keyboards and drums. I just loved music and part of me still believed I would one day be a rock star. Go figure. “Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!” I kept imagining my life on stage.
After 10+ years of solo practice and four years in a band, my time had come. It was August 4, 2010. My band, Wednesday If Not Before, was headlining at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, a legendary establishment in Atlanta nightlife. Night after night, smoke fills the air and pints of Sweetwater and Guinness flow freely. It is a place where local bands have gotten their breaks and others have gotten booed off stage. There is even an old placard that reads “The Best Musicians and the Greatest Music Fans Walk Thru These Doors.” It is a pretty damn cool place for drinking and listening to music. With a large crowd of friends, family and groupies coming, I was super excited and ready to rock. I realized, though, I had one really important thing left to do: buy a cool-ass shirt to impress the crowd. Forget calming my nerves and practicing the set list, it was all about the shirt. And deciding what to wear on gig night is not always an easy decision. So with less than five hours to go until stage time, I hopped in my car, drove down Ponce de Leon and headed to Urban Outfitters. I chose a cotton-polyester blend T-shirt. The print design? A chimpanzee in an astronaut helmet smoking a cigarette. I call her AstroChimp! It was perfect as it represented the vibe I wanted to promote at our show: edgy and fun. Forget stuffiness and exclusivity; let’s have some shots and party.
I noticed the crowd thickening as people began trickling inside, filling table seats and posting up all around the stage as the opening band played. It was exciting. It was awesome that my friends had come to support my band and me. Now I had only one thing left to do in return, rock it out! With a guitar pick in hand and amp turned up high, my first riff sailed into air and lifted the crowd off its feet. Looking past the stage lights, the audience resembled a jubilee of people singing, dancing and, yes, screaming my name. “Chuck! Chuck! Chuck!” After a kick-ass intro, any nerves that presided gave way to pure musical ecstasy. What also helped calm the nerves was shot after shot of Jägermeister. Since my band has played together, taking shots of Jägermeister on stage has become common practice. It all started when our bass player, Lenard, and I used to bartend together at La Paz in Vinings on Saturday nights. We had a drink special for $2 Jäger shots. We packed our bar every Saturday night and sold (and often drank) a lot of Jägermeister. I even earned the nickname “Chuck Jäger” (a play on the historic Chuck Yeager from the 1950s) while working there. People still call me Chuck Jäger today and that liqueur is still my shot of choice.
The gig was one of the most memorable nights of my life. We rocked it out and had the best time with our friends and everyone in the audience. After the show, we not only received compliments about the performance but I also got several compliments on my shirt. AstroChimp kicked ass. Whenever I look at the smoking astronaut-chimp, I can’t help but picture everyone’s smiling faces and feel the support they gave me at Smith’s that night. It still humbles me today. It was a night I often dreamt about as a kid: being on stage and ripping it. Yeah, it may be far removed from what a real rock star experiences but, to me, the real beauty is doing something you love to do and getting to do it in front of people that support you. That’s pretty damn cool. That is why I am donating my AstroChimp shirt. It’s not just a shirt to me. It represents an important part of my life, and I want to keep the memory alive.
The video below is the last song of our set. Although the audio absolutely sucks, the video shows just how happy I was to be playing for everyone.
Thank you Chuck for sharing your awesome story and donating your AstroChimp shirt. We've repurposed Chuck's donated shirt and created "Story Tags" like you see below to be sewn on new elovate.us t-shirts. So that we can connect with each other and make new stories to share.