40. Town Called Malice

As soon as I could, I booked us a gig in New York, anywhere, so we could showcase for Artie. This was not a simple feat, even for a band willing to play for basically nothing. NYC is crawling with underworked bands and the club owners don’t even have to give you the time of day, much less return your phone calls. But I eventually landed something, at a place I’d never heard of and never seen.

The Pool Bar was possibly one of the tiniest rock clubs I’d ever been in. It was so small that if there’d been a pool table (as the name implied) there wouldn’t have been room for anyone to walk from one side of the room to the other. To call it a hole in the wall was almost accurate, except it was more like a hole in the ground, down a flight of stairs into what might have once been some restaurant’s storage room or something. Artie wouldn’t mind that–after all, the place he’d “discovered” Nomad, Maddie’s, was something of a dump (if a bit larger). And it was Artie’s opinion that counted–this show was intended for an audience of one. But after the months of trying to set up this gig, I couldn’t help but look at the size of the place and feel low. The stage was little more than a riser a few inches off the floor, and it was set partly under the stairs that lead down into the club from the street level. If we’d had a drummer I don’t know where we would have put him. I’d been in recording studios bigger than this. Not to harp on the size of the place, but, somehow I had this thought that in a bigger city the clubs would be bigger, too. Maybe the only thing that got bigger was the attitudes.

We arrived around five in the afternoon and I came down the stairs blinking into the small dark space. The only person in the place looked like he’d walked off of the Sunset Strip, in skin-tight purple pants, cowboy boots, with a long mane of wavy, teased black hair. I said, “Excuse me, I’m looking for Jeremy?”

He turned around to show me a hairy chest and a hand heavy with rings. “I’m him,” he said and we shook hands. I could feel the hardness of the rings in his grip.

I set down my guitar case and told him we were double parked. “Can we load in, now?”

He had an easy smile. “So, are you Mr. Moondog?” There was a twinge of California in his accent when he said it. I almost felt like I must have met him before, that time in LA.

“It’s just Daron.”

“Sure, bring your stuff in. Let me give you a hand with the door.” He led me back up the stairs to where Bart’s car was sitting, blinkers on, in the street. “This it?”

“That’s it.” I’d switched to playing the Ovation mostly, and had bought an amp that took up less space, so now we could pack the car to the roof with gear and still leave room for three people. Not having a drummer had that advantage, too. Bart climbed out of the driver’s seat and stretched. Ziggy jumped out the passenger side and almost got clipped by a passing taxi. He flipped a friendly bird to the driver who didn’t even bother to honk. I opened the hatch and started to move the bass amp.

“Hi, fellas.” Jeremy shook Bart’s hand. “You better keep an eye on the car up here. A ticket’ll cost you more than what I’m paying you.” He took the other handle of the amp and we hefted it onto the curb together. “Give us a hand with the door,” he called to Ziggy, who held the glass door at the top of the stairs open while Jeremy and I eased the amp down, one step at a time.

“Thanks,” I said when we reached the bottom. “But you really don’t have to.”

He held up a hand. “The day I can’t move an amp is the day I get out of rock and roll,” he said, and it sounded like something he’d said before. “Besides, usually I have one tech guy here to help out and he’s running late. Most of the bands that play here don’t have road crews.”

“We’d have to get another car for them,” Ziggy put in as he came down the stairs.

“We’re something of do it yourselfers,” I added.

“I know. No booking agent, no manager.” Jeremy nodded and started back up the stairs. I followed. “So am I. I’m everything from owner to booker to bartender. Suits me. I moved out here from LA just to start this place.”

“Oh really,” I said, trying not to act like I had guessed. I never did ask him why he called it the Pool Bar.


  • Jude McLaughlin says:

    I hate to say it, D, but that second paragraph makes you sound like a size queen. :}

  • BriAnne says:

    I’m not sure how Ziggy managed to get out on the passenger side and nearly get clipped by a taxi, considering that the passenger side would be the side against the curb (or the parked cars if double parked).

    Really enjoying the story! (Here by way of Rikibeth.)

    • daron says:

      Um, not on a one way street in New York City, where you can pull up with the driver’s side at the curb…?

      Glad you’re enjoying it!

  • Ed Lewis says:

    bought the eBook at B&N, liked it much, thanks for the extras!

  • LOVE the E-book! Picked it up last week on my nook and am Hooked!! As a musician (drummer) I love the music details. Thank you for This!

  • Bill Heath says:

    There are holes-in-the-ground all over the place. I should know, I played in forty or fifty of them my sophomore and junior years in college. Most of them styled themselves “piano bars.” But I got tips. Things got much better when I started announcing that anybody who bought a drink AND gave me a tip could pick the next song.

    It was the drink sales that drove my bookings. I wound up with five or six steady gigs and my dance card was full. Some of the tips were only a quarter, but at that time for a buck fifty I could get a pack of cigarettes, a beer and a slice of pizza.

    When we started the band we moved into larger places and we tried the drink and tip routine. Sometimes it worked. When we finally moved up to places that hadn’t been condemned by the health department, we had to drop the tip part.

    Ah, the band. We spent a night in jail when we were all arrested for indecent exposure. The drummer had played the last set in just his boxers. However, the publicity worked nicely. We started getting private sorority gigs where we all played in our underwear.

    Then there was the night we were all arrested on drug charges. Our front man pulled out an enormous roach on stage and lit it. Might have gone over OK except we were playing for a police department event. Turned out Neil was playing a joke, there was nothing in the roach but tobacco.

    Some joke. I spent the night in a cell with a three-hundred-pound drunk redneck looking for a new boyfriend.

    • daron says:

      I guess that’s the big difference between piano players and guitar players. You have an indoor gig for tips where there’s booze and we dumbasses just stand on the street, sober.

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