You Gotta Look Sharp

I came to life about an hour before soundcheck, soaked myself in the shower and went down to the suite to see who was around.

Carynne was there, the per diem book in her lap while she took notes from someone on the phone. I heard her give some complex-sounding details about tour logistics. She jotted something down. After a few minutes of listening I figured out she was double-checking stuff with the Boston promoter, including details about our accommodations, the concert hall, even some kind of promotional party. She finished the call with the words “I’ll take care of it.” I’d heard her use a pseudo-professional voice a bunch of times on the tour, but this was the first time I’d heard it for such a sustained period of time. She put down the phone, looked up at me, and smiled a professional smile. She tapped the book. “Need your allowance?”

“Sure.”

She counted out some cash for me and made a note. “You and Martin are the only two not over there, yet,” she said as she picked up the phone again.

“Who are you calling now?”

“Bunch more reservations to confirm,” she said as her eyes scanned the page in front of her. “I’ll be down there soon. You guys should catch a cab together, probably.”

Martin was in his room caught up in some sporting event or other on television. “Hey buddy.” He snapped it off with a theatrical sigh and a doorman got us a cab at the lobby.

We arrived at the venue to find Matthew and Remo on their hands and knees under the stage. Remo crawled out and brushed himself off. He shouted to John behind the PA board, “Try that!”

A nasty buzz filled the room. Remo threw up his hands. “Kill it!” A loud pop crackled through the PA and the noise stopped. “I haven’t got time for this.”

Waldo muttered from the stage. “I’ll say you don’t. They want you down at the radio station in fifteen minutes.” He exchanged glances with a guy I’d never seen before. “Ain’t you got enough roadies to handle this without you?”

Remo nodded and the guy looked relieved. Remo handed me a screwdriver. “Here, I might miss the check, don’t wait for me. After all, this is why I hired you, right? Find that hum and kill it.” He left with the stranger.

Matthew beckoned for me to come up to the stage. He was standing there with two more guys I didn’t know but from the look of them I assumed they were the in-house tech crew. The stage looked permanent but the sound set-up didn’t, and I guessed the place was more used for dancing than for live music. The room was one open square of scuffed wood with ice rink type railings along the sides demarking the dance floor.

I handed Matthew the screwdriver and he put it in his belt. “Where do we start?”

“It’s got to be something we brought in because it wasn’t here when we started.”

I hoisted myself onto the stage and looked at the crisscrosses of black cables fixed to the floor with swatches of gray tape. “So let’s start unplugging things and see when it quits.” Matthew waved to John who cranked the volume of the buzz up so we could hear it was still there.

I started with the drum microphones, but they checked out fine. I moved on to the keyboard setup while Matthew followed behind me, reconnecting what we could rule out. He ducked his head under Martin’s china cymbal and said “How’ve you been enjoying New York?”

I shrugged, then realized he wasn’t looking at me as he spoke. “I haven’t been out much.”

“Oh, you feeling alright?”

All I could say was “No.” He didn’t ask me any more questions after that. We didn’t find the source of the hum either. It just went away sometime between 6 o’clock, when we gave up, and 7:30, when Remo returned. He had the Musician reporter in tow, and someone else I didn’t recognize. I went through the preshow setup like a sleepwalker.

The only thing that broke my reverie was when Remo introduced me to the man I hadn’t recognized earlier. “Daron, you remember Artie Hansen? From Wenco A&R?”

“Nice to see you again,” Artie said, shaking my hand.

“Yeah, likewise.” It hit me suddenly who this guy was. This was the guy who discovered Nomad all those years ago. He’d seen one of the shows I played in, and Remo and Martin and me had made a demo tape for him to bring back to his company. It hadn’t been the first time Remo had made a tape for someone and we’d all thought nothing would come of it… and were wrong. Five years ago? “You look different,” I said, for lack of anything else to say.

“So do you.” He gave me a business card. “Remo tells me you have a band of your own now. Give me a ring if you ever play in town.”

“Yeah, I will.” I tucked the card into the breast pocket of my denim jacket. Then, even more dazed than before, I went back to sitting around doing a lot of nothing and staring at the tops of my sneakers.

The next thing I remember was stepping onto the stage into lights and waves of sound and energy. The lights swirled and it was impossible to make out any faces in the crowd; the audience existed as a wall of approving noise. There I was with all the people I had barely spoken to for two days, really there, like I woke up from a dream. The stage was a little small so I was right in front of Alan’s keyboard rig, Remo next to me with Alex on the other side. We clicked so well I forgot to worry about all the press there covering the event. I played so hard I didn’t have any trouble getting to sleep that night.


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