From The Omaha Reader, July 25, 2001
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 be exterminated.
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 merchandise moneybox
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 cell
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.