We were still getting by with no dedicated drum tech, with various guys on the crew just setting the stuff up. Colin had ended up doing most of it. The thing was you needed a guy to hit the drums while another guy adjusted the mics and stuff (and a third guy worked the sound board, of course). It was the most time-consuming part of the sound set-up and one of the reasons why a dedicated drum technician was necessary, especially given how Christian’s kit had grown since earlier in the year.
Two o’clock rolled around with no sign of him. I had nothing better to do, so I took the seat behind the drums and played around a bit. One thing that was obvious: Christian’s arms are a lot longer than mine. I had to stand halfway up some of the time, which made it a trick to work the foot pedals.
I wasn’t really thinking about him being missing that much, which probably meant I was trying not to think about it. Where was he and how pissed off at him should I be? He’d never missed a sound check before. Ziggy was the only one of us who had ever done that. I hit the drums instead of thinking about it.
It had been a while since I’d played drums. But there had been a time when I spent a lot of time at Martin’s house, back when I was avoiding my own house, and I had taught myself to play the kit. Come to think of it, that’s when I learned to be a drum tech, too.
Colin and I worked it all out as well as we could without Chris there, and then I convinced Bart to pick up the bass and Colin to pick up my guitar, and play some blues. Bart can play the twelve-bar blues in his sleep.
The way jazz improv tends to work, the whole ensemble plays together, then you take turns going through the solos. Colin took the first solo, and we tried not to laugh or cringe, but actually it wasn’t that bad at all, he had good instincts, but it can be pretty intimidating to go from playing sitting on the couch to playing through a gigantic sound system into an auditorium that seats thousands. Even when no one’s there. It’s a rush, though, moving your finger just the tiniest bit and hearing the huge noise you can make.
Then Bart took a solo and Colin did pretty good keeping up the chords, even though I could tell he was having such an adrenaline rush the only thing that kept his hands from shaking was that he was holding onto the guitar and pick so hard.
And then it came to me and I busted out a crazy epic drum solo, just having fun hitting things and kind of making fun of every overblown drum solo ever played, but trying to do it well at the same time. Couldn’t help myself. Trying to get the technique right was part of the fun.
Of course it fell apart before I could quite bring it home, because the other two were laughing so hard they couldn’t keep playing.
Then it was time for our REAL soundcheck, and Christian still wasn’t back. The extent I would let my worry show, though, was in exchanging shrugs and worried looks with Bart and Ziggy.
We carried on as best we could, and when we were just about to give up the stage to Megaton, who were ready to do their stuff, Chris came in. I’d like to say he was being led by Carynne with a deathgrip on his ear–or nose–but actually she wasn’t touching him. It just felt like she was dragging him in by the nose. She looked pissed off, but not the red-faced, screaming kind of pissed off. She had the bloodless, ice-cold kind of pissed off look about her. If I were Chris I would have been crawling after her when she was like that.
Chris, for his part, looked pretty bad, hair tangled, eyes sunken and ringed with dark. He didn’t say a word, just climbed unsteadily up the drum riser. We played through half of “Why the Sky.” I got the high sign from the crew that we were good and cut us off there. Chris slunk right back off the stage and disappeared. I wasn’t sure if he was going off to puke his guts out or just avoid us yelling at him. Didn’t matter, I suppose. He was in the doghouse and he knew it.
I caught up with Carynne a short while later. All the dressing rooms, offices, and other stuff were underneath the main floor of the venue, which made finding her a little tricky at first.
She was on the phone when I located the office. There were no other chairs so I sat on the edge of the desk where she was set up and listened to the conversation.
“I hope it’s not going to be a regular thing, but you know, we’re only halfway through this thing…” She trailed off, nodding and listening to the person on the other end. “Do you have a number for him?” She wrote something down in the day book. “I won’t call unless I think we really need it. No no, I can handle it. Thanks, unky.” She hung up.
Unky? “Getting advice from Waldo?”
She closed the day book rather harder than necessary. “Getting a referral.” She shook her head. “God damn him for making this necessary.”
“Who and what?”
“Chris. For making me call a doctor.” She shook her head again.
“Doctor? Is he actually sick?”
She looked me in the eye. “He’s an addict, Daron. If he can’t handle it on his own, it’s my job to get him through the next couple of weeks.”
“So what kind of doctor are we talking about?” Sometimes I can be the naive one, I guess.
“The kind who can ‘prescribe’ what the hospitals won’t.” She rubbed her face. “It’s not unusual for some bands to have a drug budget, you know.”
Naive. “I didn’t know. I figured that was an urban myth.”
“Yeah, not really. You never had a whiff of it with Nomad, I know. Those guys drink heavy once in a while but that’s all. I really didn’t think we were going to have to go down this road with you guys, though.” She seemed more disappointed than angry at this point. “So now I need to find a drum tech who can also be a handler, instead of an enabler.”
“Oh.” I’d already stopped thinking about Paco. “Think it’s worth calling the guys in Miracle Mile? I mean, they all went clean and sober. And they know Chris.”
“Hm, maybe. Do you have any of their numbers?”
“Not with me, but Bart might.”
“I’m sure I can get in touch with them through Fink’s office, too,” she said.
“Just so we’re clear, are we seriously contemplating getting drugs for Christian so we can keep an eye on him and keep him… functioning?”
She just nodded.
“Is it a last resort, or next on the list of things to try?”
“He almost missed soundcheck today, Daron. What happens if he misses a show?”
“I hear you. I’m not disagreeing with the idea. I just want to be clear on what we’re doing.”
“You don’t like it.”
“No. It sucks. But it wouldn’t be the first time someone had to do it, and I’m trying to be realistic. And if we have to cancel dates, we are so screwed, I can’t even begin to explain how screwed. Financially, especially.”
“Got it. Well, if we have to, we have to. But I’ll be more comfortable if we think it’s a last resort, not a go-to strategy.”
“I hear you, too.” She patted me on the leg. “Okay, next medical emergency. How’s Ziggy’s face?”
“You mean his black eye? Seems like as long as he ices it, it isn’t too bad, and he’s doubling up his eyeliner on the other side so it’s not as obvious.” I rubbed my own eyes, just imagining how itchy the makeup could be.
“So you’re not worried about him.”
“No. And I’m not worried he’ll do that again, either. Our fan club has the front row center seats tonight and tomorrow, so he’ll just sic’em on any troublemakers.” I was joking when I said it, but you know, it was kind of true.
“Okay. Hey, you’ve got press to do.”
“Right now!” She stood up. “Shit, they’re probably looking for us. Come on, let me introduce you.”
No rest for the wicked.