I think maybe my nerves were contagious. None of us sat down after Megaton started playing. It wasn’t as if the second they came off the stage we had to leap out there ourselves. We had plenty of time. There was some stage re-setting to do, and it being the first show with the new opener I expected that to take longer than usual, so we could have relaxed.
But we didn’t. We ended up standing in a circle, like we should’ve been playing hacky sack, except instead we were shooting the breeze. And by “we” I mean all four of us, Christian included.
We’d gotten onto the subject of Star Wars and it turned out Bart knew basically the entire movie by heart, line for line. I think once upon a time I knew it pretty well because right after we got cable TV, HBO played it about a million times. But I couldn’t keep up once he started quoting. He’d say a line and I’d say a line, but I’d forget what came next. Only the first movie. That had led to other stuff, like Ziggy saying, “No really, what was up with Luke and Leia? Because she kisses him so many times and then… wham, she’s his sister?”
“Yeah, what was up with that?” I hadn’t really thought about it before. I only saw the third movie once, at a summer drive-in, with two other guys in the front seat of a car, while the fourth guy’s girlfriend sucked him off in the back seat. So I hadn’t really absorbed half the details, just trying to pretend I wasn’t paying attention to what was behind me. “Plus it was revenge of the teddy bear people?”
“They had to all be on drugs, man,” Bart said. “And they changed drugs between the first movie and the last one.”
“Okay, so, Christian is obviously Chewbacca,” Ziggy said.
“The tall one with the hair,” Ziggy continued. “So…”
Bart laughed. “That makes Daron Luke, me Han, and you Leia.”
“You think?” Ziggy said, looking back and forth between us.
“Daron has to be Luke.” Bart pointed at me like that proved it.
Ziggy agreed. “Yeah, you’re right.”
“And between you and me, which one of us is going to be which?”
Ziggy broke out in the grin. “Yeah, yeah, you’re the scoundrel who was such a womanizer you got kicked out of music school not once but twice. And I do look better in a dress.” Ziggy fluffed his non-existent hair buns and cracked us all up.
“So, wait, why do I have to be Luke?” I asked, when we stopped laughing.
“Because you’re the nerd who wants to go to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters instead of doing your chores,” Bart said, not at all seriously, but it seemed to close the book on the subject.
“So, where are we going to eat in New Orleans?” Ziggy asked.
“If we’re recording the day of the 26th, and I’m sure it’s not going to take all day and all night, right?” He looked from one to the other of us. “We’ve got that night free. Show’s not until the next day. And seriously, how long is it going to take to lay down that track?”
Bart shrugged. “We had Italian last time. What’s the best restaurant in the city?”
“Antoine’s?” Chris asked with a shrug. “Commander’s Palace?”
“Commander’s Palace!” Ziggy said, clapping his hands. “That’s where we’re eating.”
“Why there?” I asked.
“Don’t you just like the sound of it? ‘Commander’s Palace.’ Sounds like the sort of place someone eats when they’re on top of the world, doesn’t it?” He turned to Christian. “Doesn’t it?”
“Yeah. But I think you have to wear a suit to eat there,” Christian said. “Jackets required.”
“We’ll see about that,” Ziggy said. He turned to Bart. “Wait, does that mean you’re the lion, Chris is the scarecrow, Daron’s the tin man, and I’m Dorothy?”
Maybe I missed how we got onto the subject of the Wizard of Oz, or maybe it was just Ziggy being Ziggy. However it happened, what ensued was a mock argument in which we each talked over each other, arguing who was who, and the only thing we agreed on was that Ziggy was, in fact, Dorothy.
Then Megaton finished and we scattered to get our gear.
My first impression of the crowd was that they were loud and the room was bassier than I remembered. Then I realized it was the crowd that was bassier: more guys, fewer girls. It was also the first show we’d ever had with a mosh pit.
That was fine in the songs like Grenadier, and even Why the Sky could kind of work in an aggro sort of way, especially with that kind of energy in the crowd, I played it that way and Bart and Chris stuck with me. And most of the show I kept giving Chris the nod to push the tempo. We normally did not rush, that’s one of those things they try to beat out of you in school with a stick: just because you’re excited about what you’re playing, don’t play it faster or louder. For that matter, don’t play faster just because you’re louder. But I knew we were going too fast when Ziggy looked a little winded. I took center stage at the bridge in Why the Sky to give him a slight breather, and hoped the guys were reading my mind because I planned to double the length of my solo.
They were. And that solo burned. Everything came together in that moment and something I’d never played before but which somehow was perfect just came streaking out like a comet.
The place where the show fell apart was the place it normally peaked: Candlelight. Oh, there were people there who knew the words and sang along, but they were in the back. Up front, disinterested moshers weren’t impressed with our stage blocking or the Solar 250 or anything but waiting for the tempo to pick up again.
In the wings before the encore I shouted into Ziggy’s ear first: “Let’s cut it to two songs.”
He nodded, and turned to tell Bart. I put my hand on Chris’s bare, sweaty shoulder so I could get my mouth close to his ear. He shrugged me off and leaned down instead and I repeated it.
“Which two?” he asked.
“Just the first and last, the uptempo ones.” At that moment, I couldn’t even recall what the hell songs they were, I just knew they were fast. That tells you something about how beside myself I was. What the hell were the songs called? I couldn’t even remember their nicknames.
This is why, ultimately, words weren’t my job. They were Ziggy’s job. But then Colin was sticking a bottle of water in my hand. I took a gulp and poured the rest over my head and then we were running back out there.
So that’s how I played two songs I couldn’t even remember the titles to, dehydrated, out of breath, racing with adrenaline from the aggressive crowd, and just, basically out of my mind.
Let’s be clear about one thing. I was not on any drugs. I had not been drinking. But I can’t tell you a single detail from the moment the lights came back up until some time later, in the bus, when I realized my wet hair was making my arm cold from the AC blowing on it. I was in the back lounge with my head in my arms on the dinette table. I raised my head, kind of wondering if I’d been asleep, but I think I was just checked out.
Colin was sitting across from me, looking concerned. He handed me a Gatorade.
I didn’t think Gatorade was going to be the cure, but I drank it anyway.