Okay. I fully admit that bullshit ideas about how to “be a man” are what turned my father into a toxic waste dump of a human being–probably what fucked up my grandfather, too, now that I think about it–and were very instrumental in all the ways I tore myself apart like a Cuisinart blade spinning inside my skin when I was growing up. I was aware of that on that night. That didn’t mean I could stop myself from flipping open the guitar case like it had a tommy gun inside or feeling like while I was tuning it I was priming a shotgun.
Thing is, when your bullets are notes and riffs, there’s really no compelling reason not to let them rip.
I shook hands with the other guys in the combo, a piano player and a drummer. They said they had a bass player sometimes but he had another gig that night so not only was he not there, but the standup bass he played wasn’t there either. Bart said that didn’t bother him: he could play the cello like a mini standup bass. Also it turned out he knew the piano player because they had done jingle and other studio gigs together at one point. Small world, small world. I think that made Richie less inclined to bust his balls.
So I stayed low key at first. Thank goodness for a jazz class I’d taken back when (in high school, in a summer arts course) that had emphasized the canon of jazz standards. If anything I think Richie made them do more standards than usual as a kind of test for us. He blew a sweet, smoky rendition of “Misty” that really gelled partly because I didn’t have to feel my way through it.
The Ovation can be played quietly but it really never completely blends in with the rest of the instruments the way a standard electric guitar can because of how cuttingly bright the strings sound. It’s like a piccolo that way. It leaves no room for you to flounder or fuck up. Which was part of why I loved it. Makes for a bit of a tightrope walk but then again every live performance is one of those.
We did a couple of go rounds with some jazz/blues progressions, handing off solos, and pretty soon I forgot that this was supposed to be me proving myself to these guys. But I guess in the back of my mind it had changed to me proving myself to Mills all over again. Ultimately I know the person it was most important to prove things to was me, but that’s hindsight. Right then, I felt I needed to stick it to him.
Maybe that’s why my fingers fell silent when Ziggy finally took the stage to do a song with us, since I didn’t know the song and didn’t want to fuck it up. Me wanting to watch Ziggy and bask in his Ziggy-ness was part of it, too.
I’ll cut to the chase. Ziggy sang “La Vie en Rose,” that Edith Piaf song he’d learned from his mother’s record collection when he was a child. He sang some of the verses in French and some in English. They call that a “torch song,” right? If they don’t, they should, because he burned the motherfucking place down. I mean, really. God. You know what I mean, right? When he’s like…magic? I’m not the only one who feels hypnotized in place, like he’s burning an image in my retinas because I can’t even blink until the song’s over.
He took bows. Even the musicians clapped. He and Richie high-fived as he went off the stage.
Ziggy handed the microphone to Sarah. She got up and took bows to much hooting and hollering from the crowd who were riled up and wanted more. Then she came over to confer with me. She gestured for Bart to come over.
“Hey. Can you cook up an acoustic version of Candlelight?”
“Yes,” Bart and I said simultaneously.
“Okay, cool. We’ll do ‘Night and Day’ first and then that.” She then told something to Richie, presumably the same thing. They conferred quickly about what key and I couldn’t help but grin when Sarah said she could do it in any key they wanted. So we did it in G, which I gather was the key they usually did it in. The piano player (I swear I’m going to remember his name one of these days. I tried calling Bart to ask him but he didn’t answer.) even had charts so I didn’t have to guess on the chords. It would have been better if I’d played the song before, but ultimately a pop song is a pop song, even one that is now a jazz standard.
Sarah was brilliant, somehow managing to alternate between outright parodying Frank Sinatra and doing her own stylistic rendition that once again had me thinking, not for the first time, that she was wasted as a bland pop songstress. What is talent? That’s talent.
Yeah, and then came “Candlelight.” Ziggy was sitting in the table right at the edge of the stage all the way to one side. His eyebrows went up and he gave me a look like “Really??” the moment he recognized it. I gave a little shrug trying to clue him in that it was Sarah’s idea.
The others didn’t play, just me and Bart, and I was working too hard on listening to Sarah to make sure we stayed together and that I kept up with her changes and interpretations that I didn’t have a chance to notice the lump forming in my throat. She made it sound fresh–which made the wounds inside me associated with the song bleed fresh–but I had to ignore that and keep going.
She blew kisses to the crowd when it was over. Ziggy was standing up, applauding. Actually maybe everyone was giving a standing ovation and I couldn’t see them or really even notice it. The club was packed by that point so most people in the back and on the sides were standing up anyway.
Anyway. She got off the stage and we burned through a couple more numbers but it was clear to everyone the set had peaked, and at nine sharp Richie took a bow and signaled to the sound man to switch back to recorded music.
He then pulled my chair off the stage and plopped it at the table that Sarah and Ziggy were sharing, and forcibly sat me in it, while he himself sat on the lip of the stage. He ordered a round from a barback and lit up a clove cigarette. “Fuck,” he said appreciatively.
“Well?” Sarah said. “Come on, Richie.”
“Nope. Can’t do it. It’s a tie,” he said. “Hence I’m buying.”
Oh. It hadn’t occurred to me that not only would both Ziggy and Sarah want to bring the house down as a matter of course, they were trying to outdo one another. A little friendly competition. I guess I was not the only person there who felt I had something to prove.
Bart joined us a couple minutes later and I let myself be carried on the hubbub of conversation and camaraderie that followed. Richie had apparently decided that we were in fact hot shit and then regaled us with amusing tales of times he’d gone on the road in a horn section. I told him about the horn section in Nomad and he had stories about each of them. Small world and Richie had been around a long time.
Then he looked at the clock. “Fuck me, time to make the donuts. You up for another round?”
I locked eyes with Ziggy. Ziggy didn’t move a muscle, but somehow I knew he was saying no. “Sorry, man,” I said. “I got somewhere to be.”
“Fuckin’ dilettante,” he said affectionately and cuffed me on the side of the head. “G’wan. Get out of here. Call me the next time you’re in town, though, seriously.”
Ziggy stood to go, then, and I followed him on autopilot, but I was definitely thinking I should find Carynne and I should make sure I had my wallet and guitar before I ran off with him this time.
Thursday is your last day to vote on who you want to vote for who this year’s Christmas/holiday story is about. In order to register a vote, here’s what you have to do.
1) I’ll give voting “points” for various actions:
- 10 points – Leave a review on Amazon for the newly released Book Eight
- 5 points – Review it on Goodreads
- 5 points – Join the DGC Patreon as a regular supporter (if you’re already a Patron you get 5 points to start with!)
- 1 point per dollar – Make a donation via the TipJar!
2) Email me [email@example.com] with the report of what you did and whose bucket you’re putting your points into (you can also split your points if you want! just tell me how many to give to whom).
Here are your choices:
I’ll tally the votes at some point on this Friday, because I need time to write the story! So get your votes in before then! Right now Bart and Colin are tied.
(If you don’t know Bad English, you probably recognize that lead singer as John Waite with Much More Hair than he had in his solo career, and the keyboard and lead guitar here are the bedrocks of the early 80s Journey: Jonathan Cain and Neil Schon. This was what they did after Journey broke up following lead singer Steve Perry going solo. This song was a Top 40 hit partly thanks to it being used in the movie Tango and Cash. -d)