I was neither worried nor upset by the fact that Ziggy was nowhere to be found when we left the hotel. Digger and Carynne were both around, and managing him was their job now.
As it turned out he was sitting on the loading dock of the music hall when we pulled up, holding hands with Susan Walsh, who looked much more comfortable in a UC-Berkeley sweatshirt and jeans than she had yesterday. The crew and gear had arrived some hours ago and I walked onto the stage to find my rig already set up and Colin half asleep backstage with his Walkman on. He opened his eyes when I tapped him on the shoulder and quickly hit the stop button.
“Hey,” he said opening his eyes wide like they were yawning.
“Hey.” I didn’t ask him what he was listening to, because I was pretty sure it was Prone to Relapse, our CR album, and I was pretty sure he was embarrassed about it for some reason. “We’re here.”
“Cool. Let me show you around.” He led the way from the dim cinderblock back into the wood-paneled, curtain-hung front. The place had the shabby look of a very old theater, carpet worn thin by the current generation of combat boots and high tops. Renovation money had been spent only on the sound system, it seemed, from the look of the black grilles peering like giant insect eyes from rough cut holes high up in the old paneling. The control board nested halfway up the orchestra section of seats, huge and many-dialed.
Colin introduced the man standing behind the board, an almost freakishly tall and skinny guy with no hair and tattoos of black knotwork on his scalp. “Graham,” he said and shook my hand. “Really looking forward to it, man.”
“Thanks.” I couldn’t stand too close to him or I had to crane my neck when we talked.
“You’ll never believe who was here last week,” Colin said. “Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists.”
“Cool.” I had seen the show they did at University of Rhode Island and was now reasonably sure we would have good sound. I’d seen plenty of nice-looking set-ups that still produced crappy sound. But if it was good enough for Fripp… “Not too much bass no matter what Bart says, okay Graham?”
“Okay, boss,” he said, just like Chris or somebody.
I went to the stage. Chris was taking his place behind the kit. He yelled in Colin and Graham’s direction. “Should we get miked up?”
“Already did it,” Colin yelled back as Graham’s hands went to the controls.
Chris spat out a little roll on the snare and then extended it into a long trip with the sticks over the rest of the kit, cymbals, toms, blocks, and ended with a steady bass drum thump. Out in the hall the sound reverberated, the PA pumping it up so it came back twice as loud to us as it went out. In the wings there was another board, a short-haired blonde woman in a tank top on a stool behind it. She spoke into a microphone and her voice came out of the monitors at my feet, softly spoken but loud in volume: “I’ll need all four of you to do monitor levels.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Chris said with a salute of the sticks in her direction.
Bart and Ziggy came up, Ziggy half in stage clothes already–a pair of black pants criss-crossed all over with silver zippers and a black fishnet tank top. “Hey boss,” he said, his mouth all shining teeth, and took a hold of the cordless mic waiting for him at center stage.
We played something soft, Rain’s opening, and something loud, the chorus and bridge of “Welcome,” we played a little individually, just us three without vocals, then all together again, backing vocals, lead vocals… the permutations shifting as Graham and Colin and the monitor girl nodded. Their fingers moved over the sound boards like some kind of big pianos.
“Hey, Col’, we getting a dub from this?” I said into my mic. I was already wishing I had a tape of the show and we hadn’t even played it yet.
He gave me a thumbs up from where he sat in the fold-down auditorium rows, a few seats over from the main board. And it clicked for me, duh, he’d been listening to a private dub from some previous show earlier, listening for pleasure. From Colin’s record collection I wouldn’t have thought we were really his cup of tea, but hey, no one ever expects me to like half the stuff I like either.
“You guys happy with that?” came the woman’s voice.
I was about to say yeah when Ziggy cut in. “I’d like to give a spin through Intensive Care, hey guys?”
Three shrugs: sure. We played the song all the way through and when we were done Zig said, into the mic held close to his chest in both hands, “So we’re doing that one tonight, right?” His voice echoed slightly from the PA in the empty hall.
“Instead of Windfall?” I just talked to him, no microphone.
“Why not both?”
Bart took a couple of steps toward us. “Where do you want to put it in the set?” We’d substituted the song in a few times, but not added it to the regular set.
Ziggy stuck the mic in the stand finally. “Why not open with it? It has that nice build.”
I was shaking my head already. “I like opening with Welcome better. We know that works.” With sound like this the quiet intro would be delicious, and an auditorium crowd would fall hushed for it. And, actually, I had already formed an idea in my head of Remo standing in the wings listening, and what I hoped he’d think of it. “Let’s not mess with it.”
“Why not?” Ziggy rolled his neck back and forth like he was stiff. “Come on, Daron, we’ve been doing almost the same set every night for weeks. It’s getting stale.”
A glance at Bart told me he was staying out of this one for now. I rested my hands on top of the guitar. “I think it’s fine.”
“This is a hip crowd here, you know. They’re here for the new stuff. We’ve got to get playing it some time.”
“We can add Intensive Care in the encore, after Candlelight. Kick it in then.”
He shook his head. “I think we should take out Walking and put it in then. That song’s never fit that set anyway.”
“You’re out of your mind. That’s the perfect place to change the pace.” I looked at Bart again and he took a step backward.
“It would be a change of pace if you took out Rain, and put Way of Life in instead.” He had his bottom lip inside his mouth as he looked at me, the challenge there, but soft, like he hoped I’d give in without a fight.
“Sounds like you’ve thought this one out pretty thoroughly,” I said.
“Yeah.” He waited to see what I was going to say.
Did he think I wasn’t going to notice he was suggesting taking out songs that I’d written and putting in ones that he had? Or was I being paranoid? Get a grip, Daron.
I looked away, out at Colin who was standing up now, eyes on us. Was I so hyped up wanting Remo to hear me, not the band but me, that I couldn’t even consider changing it? “We open with Welcome. We’ll put Intensive Care in after Candlelight to kick it out at the end. There’s plenty of room for Way of Life between Cross and Right Hand.”
Bart did speak up. “But then we lose that nice transition, that sustained D.”
He was right. It was one of my favorite moments to throw them zingers, too, plucking out quotes of songs we knew, if the mood was right, or just to stand quiet and gather energy for the next three song push. “You’re right.”
Ziggy folded his arms over his fishnetted chest. “I’m telling you it’s getting tired.”
“It’s getting tired or you’re getting tired?” My voice sounded sharp suddenly, snippy.
But Ziggy could out-snippy me any day. “Me, I’m getting tired. Tired of your bullshit. We’ve been bending backwards for you this whole trip, dammit, with your prima donna bullshit and I’m sick of it. Sick and tired of it.” He made a little motion with his arm like he was throwing something at the ground. “Throwing” a tantrum, maybe.
I clenched my jaw, willing myself not to admit he might be right. He had done it again–flipped our roles, this time making me out to be the over-sensitive one.
He was still yelling. “What’s the use? I know these two will agree with anything you say, but I’ve gotta speak up when I know you’re driving us into the ground.”
“Aren’t you being a little extreme,” I said, but I said it quietly and he ranted right over me.
“I wish I’d never signed that stupid paper. There’s nothing fair about giving you the final say. I don’t even know why I bother. Where would Way of Life be without that chorus? Some stupid ass shit, probably.”
“Ziggy…” I let out a long breath, trying to swallow my annoyance and dampen him down. “Zig, calm down.”
“Or what, you’ll fire me? No, goddammit, I’ve got things to say.”
“Okay, fine. Look, you made your suggestions. I’ve taken your suggestions for set order before. I just don’t think it’s going to work this time.”
And then, things to say or not, he did a textbook dramatic exit, and stomped off, stage right. I held up my hands and Bart mirrored me. I heard the rattle of Chris letting his sticks fall as he got up.
“Curtain eight o’clock,” Graham announced through the PA. “You’re on at 9 sharp.”