The arena in Dallas was another hockey/basketball/concert venue, which seemed dull and boring compared to both Red Rocks and Arizona. The bus pulled into the parking lot and into the area fenced off for our vehicles with temporary chain link, the kind with slats through it so you can’t really see, eight or ten feet high. It felt a little like pulling into a prison yard, a uniformed guard waving the bus through.
I could hear something as I carried the Ovation’s case across the asphalt toward the back loading dock. Something too loud to be a radio or pre-recorded music played over a PA. Some kind of loud metal, two guitars… and two basses? Sounded like it, but maybe one track was prerecorded. It was too slow for thrash but too raw-edged for “arena” rock.
Chris was walking behind me. I turned around and said, “I think we have our answer.”
I shrugged. “Just guessing.”
It was. They’d arrived hours earlier, done their set-up and decided to either rehearse or do some checking.
The second they stopped playing I heard something else loud and nerve-scraping. A shouted argument. I came around a corner into the arena proper and there was Louis, facing down not one but two men in white polo shirts. Two enormous men who before seeing I had no idea they made polo shirts in circus tents size.
One of them was in the middle of saying: “Don’t give me that bullshit! Look, we were nice, we tried to make it worth your while, now move the hell away from the control board.”
“Fucking hell I’m moving,” Louis shouted back, so angry I barely recognized his voice.
I ran the last twenty yards to him and shouted myself. “What the hell is going on here?”
“So glad you could join us, Daron, my boy,” Louis said, sounding almost Scottish at that moment, his volume dropping suddenly. “Please explain to these two gentlemen that it is nowhere in our contract to let them dictate their own lights.”
“Listen you little cocksucker,” the one of the two men with a bushy dark mustache said to Louis, ignoring me, “I signed that contract myself and it says you’re responsible for providing the lights…”
“Providing, that’s what I am.”
“If you don’t give me what I want–”
“You’ll what?” I stepped between them. “Excuse me, but Louis is my employee.”
“What are you, some kind of mickey-mouse-self-managed operation?” Mustache shot a glance at the guitar case in my hand.
“As a matter of fact, no, but I sign my own fucking contracts,” I said. “Now, one more time, what’s the problem here?”
The other fat man, this one chewing an end of an unlit cigar, spoke, trying not to shout but failing to keep from spraying a bit as he did. “We agreed to the terms to let you provide all the light equipment. That doesn’t mean you get to… to… dominate it.”
Louis sniggered behind me. I turned to him.
He shrugged. “Nowhere does it say I have to let them touch the rig. I never have before. Fuck’s sake, I’m being paid to do both bands, don’t you think that means I should be the one who does it?”
“I’m telling you,” Cigar said to Mustache, “he’s going to make our guys look like crap.”
“No one, and I mean no one, looks like crap when I light ’em,” Louis said, deeply offended.
Carynne to the rescue. Maybe. “Excuse me,” she said, in that sweet voice I knew she was using to disarm them. “Could I talk with you guys a minute?”
“Of course,” Louis said, but she meant the two fat men.
The three of them moved off several yards and I turned back to Louis. “Well?”
“They’ve been utter bastards since we arrived. They’re brothers, and team manage Megaton. Bastards,” he repeated.
On the stage the band was milling around–their band, I mean. I noted with some satisfaction it did look like two basses, as well as two guitars, drums, and a singer.
“Are you going to make them look like shit?” I asked Louis.
He gestured. “They already look like shit. I’ll just light it up nice.”
I did not laugh at that. No, I’m lying. I did. Which meant I had to wait a little while before I could try to introduce myself to the guys in that band, so I wouldn’t be smirking at them weirdly.
They were done then for the moment anyway, and I met up with them backstage, after figuring out which room was ours. We’d been assigned to the locker room of some sport that wasn’t in season then.
Colin was the one who told me, “This isn’t supposed to be our room. We’re supposed to have the other one, but they got here first and took it.”
“Does it matter?” I asked. “What’s the difference?”
“This is the visiting team locker room,” he said. “They took the home team. And it’s bigger.”
“Well, duh,” I said. “They are the home team, here. They’re from Texas and they’ve got five guys on stage so they need the bigger room. Makes sense to me.”
“Yeah, but… they shouldn’t just take it without asking.”
Just then Pete bellowed into the room. “Let’s go, ladies, shake a bustle and hustle on out. We’re late.”
“Are we late?” I asked Colin.
“Maybe a little?” he answered with a shrug.
“If we are then I wouldn’t have waited around for us to get here to take a locker room, either. It doesn’t matter. Don’t blow it all out of proportion,” I told him, but I was already thinking about Louis and the manager brothers.
I didn’t have time to think any more about it, though, as I got on the stage. Our crew had arrived before us and done a lot of the set-up. Someone must’ve done the drum set-up already, too. Or most of it. Chris adjusted the height of a few things while I noodled away at whatever was in the back of my head.
Haha, Eddie Van Halen’s “Spanish Fly” solo. I moved it from there into Paul Simon’s “One Trick Pony,” but before the band could catch up to me I heard Petey in the monitor.
“Give me ‘Candlelight,'” he was saying. “I need to calibrate on that.”
I didn’t answer other than to count off, and start playing.
(It’s choose your own video today… one of “Shout” by Tears for Fears and one of “Shout at the Devil” by Motley Crue–from the Moscosw Peace Festival in 1989.)