The next day we got to do a little more sightseeing before doing more press at the venue before soundcheck. I know, two days in a row where we got to see some of the city besides the parking lot and the green room? Unheard of. I suppose it was making up for the fact we didn’t see any of Bloomington, Minnesota? I went with Topher to a tiny, out of the way music shop that had vintage guitars and folk instruments of all kinds and we had a good time playing around with things like zithers before we had to head to the venue. I kind of wished we’d had a video camera because we had a kind of fun jam there.
Before soundcheck I took my bandages off and picked at the scab on my hand until it was almost completely gone. It felt basically like a sunburn now, and all the newly exposed skin was pink and shiny. I wrapped it lightly just so it wouldn’t look gross. I put the eyepatch with Cat Elvis, figuring I’d wait until the show to wear it.
Ziggy wasn’t doing so well. Carynne told him to take the painkiller before soundcheck this time. He seemed a little subdued during soundcheck, I guess waiting for it to kick in.
I gave Colin a guitar lesson for the first time since the pyro accident. Ziggy spent the time practicing his French with a security guard for the venue, so it was just Colin and me.
“Okay, have you been practicing?” I asked.
“Yeah, here and there. Every time I put a string on or whatever I play a little. It’s actually really helpful that I’m learning to play,” he said. “If I’m ever going to do this again.”
“Knowing how to play the guitar is never going to hurt you,” I said. “Signs never say ‘No Guitarists Need Apply.'”
“True.” He winced a little while he tuned up though.
“Fingers sore from playing by the fire last night?”
“Yeah, that’s it. You lose track of time. And I wasn’t even playing that much. Just kind of picking along, you know? Folk stuff is pretty easy to figure out.”
“Isn’t it, though?” Inside I was thinking, yes, yes he’s getting it! That was exciting. “Okay, have I started teaching you Travis picking yet? That blank look means ‘no,’ huh.”
“If you did, you didn’t tell me what it was called.”
“Then I haven’t started you on that yet. You know the song ‘Dust in the Wind’?”
“That’s the one.”
“That’s Travis picking.”
Now came the part where I had to explain what to do. “I can’t actually remember what Remo did to teach me how to do it. Maybe I figured it out for myself. You use different fingers to play different strings, basically, kind of going back and forth between our thumb, which does the low strings and the other fingers which do the high strings. Here, try this. Slow.” I picked out a riff using exaggerated movements of my fingers. “That becomes this when it’s faster.” I played it normal speed.
I played it slow again, and he followed me. “Wait, what’s your other hand doing?”
“Oh, right. You finger a chord. It’s just instead of strumming it, you pick on the individual strings.”
“Ahhh, I get it.”
We went back and forth with me showing him a pattern slow and then him stumbling through it. It’s one of those things you just have to do a million times before it gets smooth.
You get the idea.
We were absorbed enough in the lesson that I didn’t stick my head out to see the other acts. My hand felt fine. That gave me hope for a great set, too.
Remember how I said I thought maybe the acoustics would be great at this place? By the time we got on the stage I had forgotten about that and only really thought about it later: yeah, they were good.
So good I could hear Ziggy’s voice wasn’t right. He was hitting a high note early in the set. There’s a big E in “Rain” and I hit it up the neck of the guitar at the same time he does.
I couldn’t remember ever hearing his voice break like that. It made me listen more closely, probably. And then I started to think he sounded rough all the time. Part of me was saying I was being paranoid, part of me was remembering the gargle and the smoke from the night before. Part of me was thinking maybe it was a blessing in disguise that tonight we had to go all the way back to Chicago, fifteen hours, so no show tomorrow night.
After the show I helped him wash his hair in the facilities they opened for us and I confronted him about it. “How bad is your throat?”
“What?” He had one eye shut from the soap but looked at me with the other one. “It’s fine.”
“It’s not fine.”
“Yes, it is.”
“You’re on painkillers, you can’t tell,” I pressed.
“Okay, then why ask me? Far as I can tell, it’s fine.” He seemed annoyed.
He had a point. And it was probably just the smoke, I told myself. He’d noticed it last night himself. He’d say something if it was serious. I shut up about it.
You can cue the ominous music now.
(Site news: The Kickstarter fulfillment packing party is this coming Thursday at my house! 7pm – 9pm on Nov. 29th. If you’re in the Boston area and want to come over and help out, email ctan.writer at gmail dot com for directions!)