Chris wasn’t in the van to the venue. I refused to worry about it and reminded myself I wasn’t his babysitter. I still felt relieved when I saw him standing outside the back door, though, shooting the breeze with the security guard there. He didn’t appear to be barred from going in: he was wearing his backstage pass on a lanyard.
He trooped inside with the rest of us. The sound system had been set up long ago–yesterday probably? I didn’t know. After the beautiful open air place we’d been in Santa Barbara, this felt like an airplane bunker.
I finally cornered him in the men’s room. He was washing his hands after doing what you do. “Hey,” I said. “So what happened last night? If you remember, that is.”
His hear jerked up like I’d goosed him, his long hair tossing like a mane. “You don’t have to be snarky about it.”
“Sorry, wasn’t trying to be. She okay?”
“Yeah, she’s fine now. She just got a little carried away last night. I didn’t think we even did that much, but I guess she already had something in her system. Prescription medication of some kind.”
“Oh.” I wasn’t sure if that made it better or worse. “I just, you know, I have to say this, right? I don’t want it to be you we cart out on a stretcher next.”
“I know. I know. Trust me, Dar’. I don’t need the lecture.” He leaned on the sink and let out a long breath. “Or maybe I do. I’ll be more careful. No, wait. I won’t have to because she’s quitting, so it won’t come up again.”
So Bart was right. Scared straight. “Okay. Okay, right.” I didn’t know what else to say.
Fortunately Chris was more than ready to change the subject. His eyes were on his own reflection in the mirror, as he finger-fluffed his hair for a moment. “Hey, so this is the place where that Deep Purple album was recorded.”
The Forum, in Inglewood. “Led Zep, too, right?” I asked, as I held open the door so we could exit together.
“Yeah, lotta bands, actually. Kinda neat, don’t you think?”
“Christmas Cat Elvis says ‘yeah,'” I said, as we made our way into the green room.
“Christmas Cat Elvis?” he asked, giving me the hairy eyeball.
“Did I not show you this before? Remo sent me a good luck charm.” I dug Cat Elvis out of the Ovation’s case and dangled him from his string. I whistled at Colin, who was at that moment just standing around. “Hey, one last thing to set up.”
“Sure thing, boss.” He took the figurine and went to put him on stage.
Chris was chuckling. “You’re a nut. And I mean that in a good way.”
I cracked a smile. “Aren’t I, though?” Since we were doing so well now, I decided to push the one other thing that had been nagging me. I sat cross-legged on the floor next to the guitar case. “Hey, by the way, I wanted you to know, I didn’t, like, get offended at what you said the other night.”
He must’ve known exactly what I was talking about, because he blushed to the roots of his hair, and Chris did not blush easily. “Oh, man. The second I said it I wanted to kick myself.”
“It’s really okay. I knew you didn’t mean it in a mean sort of way.”
“Yeah, of course not, but that didn’t mean you might… I mean…” He rocked from foot to foot towering over me, and then crouched down. “I’m glad you’re not offended, but I think Ziggy was.”
Well, maybe he was, but I couldn’t be responsible for how everyone felt, only how I felt.
“I mean, not like he can really talk exactly,” Chris went on, when I didn’t say anything. “I mean, how could he take offense at someone calling him gay or whatever when he goes out of his way to provoke it?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, before I had quite digested what he’d said.
“I mean, come on, the whole sashaying around and the Bowie references and the, well, the makeup…”
“Wait a second, you used to wear just as much back when Highway went through the goth phase…”
“And I used to get called ‘faggot’ for it, too,” Chris snapped back.
“You’re fucking kidding me.”
“And that gives you the right to–?”
“No! No. It doesn’t give me the right. Oh fuck Daron, can we just shut up about it now before I dig my grave any deeper? I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it.” He made a frustrated noise and pushed his fingers into his hair.
“Yeah, okay,” I said, because what the hell else was I going to say? And how did me telling him everything was okay and no apology was necessary turn into him apologizing and BOTH of us feeling like we’d put our feet into our mouths? Argh. Words. Humans. Sometimes I hate both.
I fled to the stage then, pretending to check out the setup. It was almost time anyway. To amuse myself while I waited for the other guys so we could do a soundcheck, I strummed idly and tried to remember the specs on the venue. Carynne had a chart that listed each place, the date, the number of seats, et cetera. I couldn’t remember exactly but it was somewhere between ten and twenty thousand, but closer to twenty thousand. The Forum. It was to the West Coast what Madison Square Garden was to the northeast, a canonical venue.
And we’d sold it out for tonight and they’d added a second show tomorrow night, which last I heard was sold out, also. That’s what the deejay had said on the morning show and they’d given away a bunch of tickets.
Carynne came to the foot of the stage. “Hey.”
“Hay is for horses. How are you holding up?” I asked, resting my hands on the top of the guitar and feeling the weight on my shoulders.
“Not too bad. Tired. How about you?”
“I had two naps today so I’m golden. Are there plans for tonight?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean is anyone throwing a party tonight? Do we have to do anything or be anywhere?”
“Oh. Not officially, no. There are two reporters here looking for interviews, which you should do after soundcheck and before show time, and once they’re out of the way, you’re off until soundcheck tomorrow, unless something comes up.” She leaned against the stage, clutching a clipboard in one arm.
“Everything’s all right with the crew?” I asked.
“Peachy,” she said. “I’ll tell you when to worry about something.”
“Haha, okay.” I smiled. Maybe everything was going to be okay. I stepped on the foot pedal that cut me into the sound system and let loose a little riff.
I did the thing of not being able to place it myself until I realized it was “Save It For Later” which I really didn’t know. So I meandered around with chords until I settled on something else.
It was like the Pied Piper, the sound of my guitar, bringing band and crew members out of the woodwork like the children of Hamlin, right? Chris jumped in with a basic backbeat, and Bart picked it up too, and then Ziggy finally came in on the chorus of “No New Tale to Tell” by Love and Rockets.
We ground to a halt not long after, and picked up our real soundcheck, doing about half of Grenadier and half of Candlelight, which were the two extremes of dynamic range in the show. And that was plenty.
Then came the waiting around. And the eyeliner. I was looking forward to one much more than the other, as you might imagine.
(The Daron’s Guitar Chronicles Kickstarter has raised $355 so far! We need to get to $2,750 by May 21st to make our goal of having a printed omnibus paperback. If you haven’t donated to the site in a while, this is a great way to do so and get some nice perks and/or books for the trouble! Full details on the Kickstarter page here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1458565937/darons-guitar-chronicles-omnibus-book)