The show was at a place called the Seattle Center Arena.
I had no idea what to expect with a name like that, but I knew from one of the many lists of Carynne’s I’d seen that it seated eight thousand. Inside it was kind of a miniature Madison Square Garden. Once upon a time it had been an ice rink (and maybe still could be? I wasn’t sure) and it had been converted into a kind of civic center. Like a lot of civic buildings it had a lot of concrete, but it was kind of a quirky place.
“It was built by a local beer magnate so they call it the ‘House of Suds,’ I heard,” Christian said while we poked around backstage. “Not sure if that’s true or if the guy was pulling my leg.”
“One of their guys.” Chris waved in the general direction of the hall where various forms of preparation were still taking place. “Did you meet all of our guys?”
“Most of them, anyway,” I said. I’d stopped remembering names around the fourth person because Carynne had introduced me to too many of them at once.
This thing happens in a tour situation like this, which is kind of hard to explain. I’m not great with names to begin with, but it’s even worse when everyone knows who I am, but I don’t know all of them. This is the thing. They could know me before they even walk in the door, before we even get introduced, but I have no way of knowing them. And so they can walk up to me and start a conversation like they know who I am and what I do… because they do. Meanwhile it takes me a few sentences to figure out what role they’ve got, or if they’re just somebody’s nephew hanging around for fun, or if they even belong there. Security can be pretty lax sometimes, some places.
I wasn’t bored waiting for sound check only because I had Colin’s nerves to deal with.
“Explain again where my job leaves off and where the sound man’s picks up?” he asked, while we were sitting side by side on a couch backstage. He was supposed to be using the electric tuner on the Ovation but kept getting distracted. I swear I could’ve tuned it faster myself by ear. But whatever.
“What do you mean?” I asked in return.
“I mean, okay, you break a string, that’s me. You knock your mic stand over, that’s them.”
“Well, I’m going to be on wireless, supposedly, but yeah.”
“So what if you kick your wah pedal loose?” He had freshly shaved the sides of his head before we left, but had let the ‘hawk grow long. It hung in his face as he bent over the guitar.
“I’ve never kicked my wah pedal loose.”
“But hypothetically speaking?”
I pretended to think about it for a minute. “You know what? Whoever’s closer. If you’re the one hovering in the wings by me and something goes wrong, mic stand or whatever, you’re going to jump in unless someone else gets there first. I’m going to look up for help and you’ll be there.”
“But what if I don’t know what to do?”
“You mean like if crazed lemurs escaped from the zoo, stampeded over the stage, and unplugged my effects box and tied the cords in knots before running off?”
“Colin, the worst that can happen is that we have a little more dark stage time than planned. I mean, I know we want it all to run like a well-oiled machine, but really, you got this. And if it takes an extra minute to figure something out, we’ll deal with that when it comes.” I refrained from taking the guitar out of his hands and tuning it myself, since that would probably undermine the argument I was making. “You could probably do my set-up in your sleep at this point. Or at least with your eyes closed.”
I stood up. “You’ve just got first night jitters is all.”
I shrugged. Of all the things that made me nervous in life, getting up in front of people to play music just wasn’t one of them. And I say that despite the minor flip outs I had on the previous tour; none of those were actually about playing, really. At least, that’s what I’d decided by then. I was eager, I was excited, but I wasn’t nervous.
I was so calm that at the very end of our soundcheck, when my wireless mic was still on, and Digger came hurrying down to the edge of the stage to say, “How’s it hanging, kiddo?” I didn’t even miss a beat in saying, “A little to the left, Daddy-o.”
Which was how Digger was the first one of us to get a tour nickname.