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During the heyday of alternative rock in the 1990s, I took a quick road trip with my Kansas City-based band Easterday. We were booked at a new club called The Aviator in Wichita, Kansas. The name of the venue was derived from being decorated like an airplane hangar -- not surprising in a town nicknamed the "Air Capital of the World."

Despite the whopping size of the fledgling club, we counted a grand total of 18 people when we took the stage. But a booking was a booking, and we still needed to play whether anyone was paying attention or not.

About midway through the first set, my fretless bass stopped working. I used active electronics in my bass pickups, which meant they were powered by a battery that activated once a cord was plugged into the input jack. It needed a battery replacement about as often as an industrial smoke detector -- which was not very often, and quite rare that it would happen during a performance.

Rather than stop the show, and thus prolong the lame gig, I suggested we play a song called "Autumn" that featured a 2-minute guitar and voice intro. Because I had spent years teaching guitar and bass lessons, I had perfected routine maintenance on student instruments in blindingly fast fashion. If I could change a string in under two minutes, I figured I could swap out a battery in about the same stretch.

I plopped down on the corner floor of the stage to execute the procedure. Even though I felt something sharp when I landed, the clock was running so I pressed on. The battery was changed with seconds to spare and I took my spot at stage right, alongside singer/guitarists Scott and Elaine. About a minute later, I noticed Elaine staring at my butt. This was not a common occurrence.

She pulled back from the microphone and began pointing at the back of my jeans. They were soaked in blood. Apparently, I sat on a broken beer bottle that littered the dark stage ... and it had punctured an artery.

"We'll take a quick break," Scott said into the microphone.

I was ushered into the men's bathroom and started stuffing handfuls of paper towels into my pants to halt the flow. At this point I began to notice my rear was really throbbing. The bleeding continued even as I kept replacing soiled wads of paper towels. A mirror offered a mesmerizing view of the amount of red decorating my blue jeans.

I can't remember much more about the show, other than we muscled through the grueling gig and loaded out. We had driven two different vehicles to Wichita, and on the four-hour ride back to KC (an overnight hotel stay was deemed too expensive), I sat in the front passenger seat of Scott's car.

When Scott eventually dropped me off, we noticed that my blood had soaked all the way through the towels positioned for me to sit upon. Maybe the incessant bleeding had made me loopy, but I could've sworn the permanent stains on his car seat spread out into the pattern of airplane wings.

— Jon Niccum


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Jon Niccum began working as a full-time journalist in 1993.

He is an entertainment writer for the Kansas City Star. He is the former Entertainment Editor at the Lawrence Journal-World daily newspaper and former Music/Film Editor at The Pitch, Kansas City's leading alternative weekly.

Niccum has won several dozen national awards for his entertainment writing, including multiple honors from the Suburban Newspapers of America, American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors, National Federation of Press Women, Kansas Press Association and was a finalist for a National Music Journalism Award.

Additionally, he has written the official record label bios for many artists, including Evanescence, Jeff Beck, Leon Redbone, Trip Shakespeare and Joe Satriani.

Prior to his career in journalism, he was a professional guitarist and bassist, performing in bands such as The Budinskis, Easterday and Bobby & the Chuxx.