On my birthday, my friend David Krueger posted a picture on my wall of me and his son Christian. I’ve always been fond of this picture because in it Christian is wearing a “Long Live Stendek” shirt, and we both look really happy in the moment. I have this photo framed at my house, and whenever people see it for the first time they assume he’s my son and I jokingly say, “Yep, that’s my boy. Stendek Jr.” Like every bithday since the advent of Facebook, I get to experience a huge uptick in attention from all my friends, and this year was no different. But what I didn’t realize on my birthday when I saw this pic again, is that the photo is from exactly 10 years ago.
Looking at this photo makes me realize just how lucky I am today. At that time I was overweight, broke, and unemployed. But what’s really significant about this picture is what had happened not 10 minutes before it was taken.
I was performing at an outdoor block party in Rockford, and I got one song into my set and my pedalboard died. I had no idea what happened, all I knew was all my electronics onstage stopped working. At the time, I was powering all the pedals on my board with one 200 milliamp power supply.
It had been working for the previous two years without failure, but apparently it decided at random that day to just cease functionality in front of hundreds of people. I was devastated. At that point in my career, I had about 1 hour of solid material with my pedals, 10 minutes without them. When my pedals stopped working I was forced to plug my acoustic guitar directly into the sound board and play the few solo acoustic songs I knew and try to maintain a positive demeanor in the face of such an embarrassing onstage failure. I think I played Norwegian Wood, Pink Moon, an original song, and then walked off stage. I felt horrible.
What happened to me that day was the direct result of me not taking myself seriously enough to spend an extra $20 on my stage equipment. I didn’t have the money because I was a mess. I didn’t have a strategy for making a living from music. All I knew how to do was get onstage and pour my heart out and hope someone in the audience would want to listen.
When I look at this picture, I realize that it took me a really long time to get my act together. It wasn’t until 3 years later I called up Roland Corporation and talked to Chris Giloy and he explained to me how to get the proper amount of power for my equipment, and he convinced me to spend 39 bucks to make sure the most important part of my show worked when I needed it to. Some people like to learn things the hard way I guess.