Mexican Radio

New York was New York.

Mills planned a reception and press conference at Limelight to announce our “new relationship” and told us to invite whomever we wanted. I got the number for the Pool Bar from directory assistance and left a message on Jeremy’s answering machine telling him to show up.

There wasn’t anyone else I could think of to call. You’d think I hadn’t grown up driving distance from here. Bart invited his parents (who had a house in Greenwich, Connecticut) knowing that they wouldn’t come.

The BNC publicity department also set up a bunch of other interviews and things for the following day at their offices, and we had the photo shoot and the video shoot to do. With all the hoopla to come, playing the show seemed like a mere prelude.

Which, in a way, I suppose it was. Backstage was crawling with all kinds of hangers on, just like LA. Press, agents, photographers, managers, executives, radio station personnel…

I wished for one minute that I could sit down somewhere quiet, undisturbed and have a talk with Ziggy. I didn’t know what I’d say, exactly. But he’d slept most of the way from Pittsburgh to the city and had snapped at me when he was awake. I kept thinking about the last time we were in a pressure situation like this, was it less than a month ago? In Los Angeles. Broken mirrors and hysterics we didn’t need. What was I going to tell him, Behave? Be a good boy? That’d do more harm than good.

So, we arrived, we signed the contracts that afternoon in the BNC offices, we went to soundcheck, we played the show (another manic crazed set), we went to an after party for MNB, I spent another night alone. The next day a tall, black woman named Belle whose title at BNC I didn’t catch took us to a studio to record station IDs for a long list of radio stations we’d never heard of (“to help get you out of the college radio ghetto” she explained) and insisted that I buy a new coat before I froze to death. It was around sixty and sunny that day, warm for October, but nonetheless warm. We shot publicity stills in Washington Square Park. The press conference was scheduled for eight. Mills sent us out to dinner with Belle and another VP of A&R, to an Italian restaurant around the corner from Radio City Music Hall. I don’t remember what I ate. And then it was time to go to the Limelight.

Belle got in the cab with me and Bart. “Don’t be nervous when they start throwing questions at you,” she said as soon as the car was moving. “People will be yelling out things. If you don’t hear a question, don’t answer. If you don’t want to answer, pretend you didn’t hear it. Remember to say what you want to say and not what they want you to say.”

Bart laughed. “But what do you want us to say?”

Belle pursed her lips. “Do what your mama told you: say something nice or don’t say anything at all.” I began to think she looked like Anita Baker.

We were ushered into the club through a back door. Belle led us through a maze of stairs and narrow corridors to an echoey room with a vaulted ceiling. The place was already full of people, eating the hors d’ouvres and drinking. Cash bar. The other VP came up behind us with Ziggy and Christian in tow and I wondered if they’d gotten the same spiel from him. Mills came over and talked to Belle while we stood around them and listened.

“We’ll give them twenty minutes at nine. The table’s all set up. MTV News is setting up their cameras right now.” He looked at his watch and grinned fiercely. “Rolling Stone is furious that Spin is scooping them on this!”

Belle took our coats and sent us into the crowd.

Limelight used to be a huge, old cathedral. Well, it still is, only now it’s a nightclub, not a church. The main dance floor is where the big masses used to be held, complete with stained glass windows and arched roof. We were in some other part of the place, like the choir loft or the rectory or something, a smaller wing with a separate entrance, milling around with about a hundred people. I wondered how many of them were actually reporters and how many of them were just hangers on of various kinds. I didn’t see Jeremy–he was probably tending bar and helping some band with their gear and all those things tonight. Now I saw what Mills meant by table being set up. There was a long banquet-type table against a backdrop of the BNC logo, with four chairs and four microphones. A couple of TV cameramen were standing next to it, talking, their cameras at their feet. I made out the logos of MTV and Entertainment Tonight. Jeezus.

I noticed a young, red-haired woman standing at my elbow.

“Hi,” she said. “I saw you come in the side door.”

“Uh, yeah,” I said.

“I’m from the College Music Journal and I’m guessing that you’re Daron.”

“You’re right. What’s your name?”

“Jill. Jill Sanders.” We shook hands. “I wasn’t really sure if it was you from the pictures I’ve seen, and I don’t think anyone else here has any idea what you look like.”

“I guess that’s why they have these things.” I gestured at the milling press in the room.

“Yeah.” She made a cute shrug and started asking me if we had plans to tour on our own.

I filled her in on what I knew of BNC’s plan to rerelease the album with Candlelight as the single, the video (which I recalled we’d be doing more filming for tomorrow), and our trying to return to the places we’d just been to headline smaller venues. We didn’t get any kind of tour support from BNC in the deal since it was only for the re-release of the record, I explained, and although that had made sense during the negotiation it sounded flimsy now. In fact, this seemed like a lot of hoopla for the dinky contract we’d just signed. But maybe this was just the way it was done.

She must have seen the confused look on my face because she said, “What’s the matter?”

I shook my head. “Nothing, just trying to remember something. Anyway, where was I?” An idea came to me. “I think we’re handling tour arrangements ourselves. Does the CMJ publish a list of college radio stations or anything like that? Do you guys track who plays what in which areas?”

She beamed at me. “Of course. That’s what trade journals are for.”

Amazing. Uncomfortable as I was, I was getting the hang of schmoozing. I got her business card. The next guy I talked to never told me where he was from and might not have even been a reporter. There was definitely one guy from People. The press were beginning to catch on to who was who, now. Ziggy was pretty unmistakable, surrounded by four or five people. I found myself saying the same things over and over, and vaguely wishing that I could hear what Ziggy was telling people, what they were asking him.

I found Jonathan by the bar and caught the tail end of his conversation with another journalist about magazines that owed them money. “Hey,” he said.

“Nice to see a familiar face.”

He smiled. “And hey, I’m just here to schmooze. The story and photos are already done.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I did it all on my laptop in the bus on the way to New York.”

I wanted to ask him what he’d said, but didn’t.

A woman with wet hair and an armful of folders rushed up to Jonathan. “Press?”

“Yes.” he answered. She handed him a folder without glancing at me. She was wearing an overcoat and a very business-y business suit, knee-length skirt and new-looking white Reebok high tops. Maybe she’d run to get here. Through the rain, it looked like.

She repeated the routine—-“Press? Here.”—-with the people next to us, dispensing folders as she went.

Jonathan opened it. “Check it out.”

Inside was an 8×10 color photo of me and Ziggy on stage, back to back and sweaty, a classic rock and roll shot. “Where did they get this?”

Jonathan eyed it more closely. “Either some photographer had really good stage access, or this is transferred from the film or video or whatever.”

The reproduction was somewhat grainy. “Weird. What else is in there?”

“The usual press kit stuff.” He let me leaf through it. A one page bio and history of the band, a clipping from the CMJ showing the album’s chart position, a clipping from Boston Rock reviewing our live show, and a black and white posed photo of the four of us in Los Angeles, from that day we’d gone sightseeing and dragged Jonathan and the press corps along with us.

Belle appeared at my elbow. “Showtime, gentlemen,” she said, as if there were more than one of me there. I made my way toward the table, met Bart halfway there. The woman with the wet hair, her arms empty now, was talking to Mills off to the side.

“Well, at least you made it in time,” he was saying to her.

“Oh, and I almost forgot.” She pulled a tape out of her pocket, still in its shrinkwrap. “I had to go to two stores before I found one that had it.” She was holding a copy of our album.

“Well, go run it up to the dj and have him cue it.”

She did so. Mills turned to me with a blank smile on his face.

When all four of us were together, Mills made an announcement from the podium and they trooped us out to sit in the designated chairs. Cameras were clicking and flashing. The two tv cameramen hefted their equipment onto their shoulders and blinded us.

To tell you the truth, I don’t really remember much of what I said or was asked. Ziggy was very professional about the whole thing. I mostly sat there wondering why on Earth Mills sent this woman out to buy a copy of the album when he could have simply asked me for one. At the end of the questions, Mills said something about the Candlelight single and the sounds of it filled the room. I felt myself blush suddenly. It was one thing to have people listen to music you’ve made. It was one thing to have people watch you play it yourself. But it was entirely another thing to sit there with everyone staring at you while they listened… I could almost hear the critiques and reviews being written in their heads. They weren’t listening to enjoy the music. I hadn’t been so uncomfortable since that afternoon Carynne trapped me backstage in Wisconsin. I looked at Ziggy. He seemed to be taking it all in stride, his eyes roaming over the faces in the crowd. My palms itched and I wished the lights weren’t so bright.

When the single was over they turned the volume down but left the album on, the camera lights went off, and they let us back out into the crowd. “When the press have had enough, feel free to wander around the club,” Belle told me. “We won’t need to see you again until tomorrow. I’ll send a driver to your hotel at noon.”

“Thanks, Belle,” I said. And she looked at me funny, like thanks was the last thing she’d expected me to say.

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