The next day was another media day, but at least this time there was no crack-of-dawn radio show on the schedule. I sat in the lobby bar, where my friend Crystal–the bartender from the other night–kept me well hydrated while a parade of rock critics and journalists took their turns with me. If I’d wanted, I could’ve done it at BNC’s offices, but I think it was a lot more fun to sit in the bar where we could see the people going by and a terrific woman brought us drinks than to be stuck in some conference room with stale coffee and no doubt a flock of hovering publicists.
Digger put the schmooze on each one before or after they spoke to me, and steered one or two to Ziggy, who was entertaining in the suite upstairs, from what I heard. It was a little tiring talking to so many people, and answering the same questions again and again, but really not high on the difficulty scale. It seemed to me as we went up the fame scale, the questions got dumber and more repetitive. Or maybe Jonathan had spoiled me.
Or maybe I was just bored. I used to be terrified of talking to reporters, afraid of giving something away. But this bunch didn’t seem very muck-rakey. Not a single one asked if I had a girlfriend back home.
The last one of the day was a guy from Musician who was doing a big story on stage set-ups and was going to come to the Forum to see ours. He hopped into the van with us for the ride back to the Forum. We were in the back seat of the van, me all the way in by the window, Bradley (the reporter), and then Chris who sat with his legs sticking into the door well.
“Who’s your main sound man, again?” he asked. “Russell Peters? He worked with Wickenham and those guys, didn’t he?”
“Who?” I asked, but Chris seemed to know what he was talking about.
“The Wall of Sound guys?” Chris asked. “Yeah, he might’ve mentioned something like that. But this set up isn’t crazy like that.”
“Crazy like what?” I asked him.
“The Grateful Dead used to have this insane setup where they had all their amps, like, up on stilts and stuff so that the sound came from above, and they had no monitors or mixing. Each instrument had its own stack, basically, and it was self-monitoring since the band heard what the audience heard.”
“Wow. What was the point of that?”
“They didn’t like the way the sound got muddy with echo in all the concrete stadiums they played, and so this is how they dealt with it.” Chris gestured like he was pulling taffy upward. “Not stilts. What do you call ’em. Scaffolds. Man.”
Bradley nodded. “Yeah, it was legendary. They had two rigs actually, and it took so long to set it up that they had to have a crew leapfrogging ahead of them on the tour so that it could be set up by the time they got there.”
“That must’ve been fucking expensive,” I said.
“It was. Which was why they quit doing it after a while,” he said. “Plus I think monitoring and mixing technology was starting to improve.”
Chris snorted. “I suppose we could ask Petey about that if he was around then.”
“He knows his stuff, that’s for sure,” I said. I haven’t said much about Russell Peters, I know. Honestly, there wasn’t much to say. He was a professional, through and through, and didn’t hang around with us much. If anything I got the feeling he didn’t care who we were or what band, all he cared about was that the sound was good. So far, it had been tremendous, as far as I was concerned, so I stayed out of his way and didn’t criticize. He talked to Colin and Paco and some other roadies more than he talked to me. It worked, so I didn’t mess with it.
When we got there and the reporter was safely taking a tour of the set up with Peters, and we were back in the green room, I asked Chris, “So how’s Lacey? She coming to the show tonight?”
“Nah, man, she’s already on a jet to Bali or somewhere for a photo shoot.”
“Bali or somewhere?”
“She told me, but I can’t remember. Started with a ‘B’ though, I think. Bali, Bangladesh, Burma… It’s possible she wasn’t even sure, hah.” He looked kind of tired. Or maybe he always looked that way and I was just searching for anything that looked off.
“How are you doing? I mean, generally.”
“Not bad, boss,” he said, with a bit of a puzzled look.
Okay, pardon me for asking? “Cool.” I just gave him a nod and walked away at that point.
I spent the rest of the time until soundcheck talking tech with Colin. I’d been giving him a crash course in electric guitar design and construction ever since he took the gig as my sherpa, but there’s a limit to what I could tell him. I’m just like those guys who know all about car engines and features but beyond changing their own oil, they haven’t actually gotten under the hood. That, though, was possibly about to change, because Colin had an idea.
“We could totally build a guitar for you. A custom one,” he said, when I was saying there were some things I liked about this one versus that one. “Right? We should be able to buy the humbuckers separately, and the body and all that.”
“There are ads in the back of Guitar Player, and I’ve been talking to some of the other guys on the crew.”
“Yeah. Don’t you think it’s a great idea? I’ll learn so much. We both will.” He was sitting on the stage, his combat-booted feet crossed at the ankles and leaning back on his hands. He was wearing a tank top that was too loose and showed his arm and chest tattoos. One of them was of a dragon with one of his nipples in its teeth.
For some reason I had to look away from it. Easy enough to do. I was sitting on an upturned milkcrate with a guitar in my lap. “We should do a solid body,” I said. “When we get back to Mass–”
“Oh, I meant we should try to start it now.”
“On the road?”
“Sure. We’re carrying a ton of shit anyway, and there’s hours a day I’m not doing anything. And you should see all the tools and stuff the road crew have.” He bounced his feet. His combat boots were well polished, a serious shine.
“If you think so.”
“Great. One of the guys knows a shop in town that sells some of the stuff we want. We can totally hit it before we hit the road to San Diego tomorrow.”
“I think it’s another media day tomorrow,” I said. “But maybe I’m getting mixed up what day it is.”
He shrugged. “Might be, for you. Road crew’s moving on. Show’s not until the day after.”
I nodded like I knew that, even though I hadn’t actually tracked on it. Truth be told, I couldn’t believe we were still in California and it felt like we’d been here for a month. San Diego was the last West Coast show before we started making our way east, though. Almost done.
I looked up from where I was picking out a little riff and caught Colin staring.
He folded his legs and stood up then, pretending he hadn’t been. “Should I round up the guys?”
“Just patch me in and I’ll get ’em,” I said, standing up, too.
Okay, yeah, I knew Colin had a kind of hero worship thing going on with me, but it was a little thing, I thought. We’d been living together for like two years already, and he knew me when I was a working stiff. So I didn’t really get the hero worship thing. But then I thought maybe I did, thinking about Mr. Caterer.
My dick leaped to attention behind the guitar as it wondered if Colin could or would suck like that guy had. Stupid, I told it. Don’t even think it.
I started to play. The riff had been stuck in my head since hearing it on the radio the other day. It was something that sounded like it had the echo of Buddy Holly in it, like it could have broken into a Tom Petty song at any point, except it never did, because it was “Desire” by U2, and U2 songs never went where I really expected them to, somehow.
Writing with Ziggy was like that. He never did what I would do, but he always did something that made sense and made it better. Well, okay, he didn’t “always” do something that made sense, which was why we fought, but mostly, mostly it worked. Which was why we worked.
He and Bart jumped in at about the same time, while the crew got themselves in place. Chris was last, and was waving his sticks, but not hitting anything, like he was trying to figure out where the beat was.
When he finally came in, he wasn’t even close to having the right rhythm, though, and the whole thing devolved into laughter.
Chris threw his sticks at Bart, playfully, but his face was a bit red. “What the hell time signature is it supposed to be?”
“Hell if I know,” Bart said. “I just play along.”
“If I had to give it one, I’d say it was 2:2,” I said.
“Two-two is different from 4:4 how exactly?” Ziggy asked, scratching his hair and making it stand up.
“Music theory lessons later, guys,” I said with a chuckle. “Crew’s waiting.”
Bart. “What do you want to check with?”
“Can we try running through something new?” I asked.
“How new?” all three of them said in unison.
“Like, so new that we’ve never played it before?” I took a mock-shy step back as I asked.
“Hah, and we’re not supposed to waste the crew’s time?” Ziggy joked, but he had that feral grin that meant he would take any dare.
“I want to work on that thing you and I wrote that night, the thing that you mixed ‘Changes’ into,” I said.
“Ooooh.” His eyes lit up even more.
Bart put a damper on our enthusiasm. “Let’s at least work out parts on the bus or something before we go noodling on something like that here.”
“Okay, fine. I don’t care what we do, then.”
“Pick something in 4:4 so Chris can get back in the groove, eh?” Ziggy joked.
“Yeah, yeah. Let’s give Walking a run-through, then.” A song we could all do in our sleep. I didn’t figure the crew would have to do much anyway, what with it being the same set-up as the night before. I didn’t think we’d even have to do the whole song.
But once we were on autopilot, we did the whole song, Petey gave us the thumbs up. And that was that.
Time to figure out now how to avoid Colin for two hours until show time, before I did something stupid.