It was another hurry-up-and-wait soundcheck which didn’t actually start until 3 and dragged on until 4 when they were having some kind of trouble with the synthesizer rig. Eventually MNB let us have the stage, and when we were done they went back to trying to figure out what was crossed up, Tread and two roadies making a load of noise. Then I went to find John to get some more details about the additional tour dates, but he was off wrangling with the caterers. By that time it was way past working hours on the East Coast but I figured I’d try to return some of those calls, anyway. In the cinderblock hallway behind the stage there was a pay phone and a stack of milkcrates piled at the approximate height of a chair. I stood leaning one arm on the wall. The first person I got was Artie’s assistant, Denise.
“Oh, Daron!” she said, like she knew me. “He’s been hoping you’d call. But he’s in a late meeting right now and I don’t know when he’ll be done.”
“I’m at a pay phone at Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium in Portland,” I told her. “We’ll be in Seattle tomorrow night…”
“I know. I’ve already talked to MNB’s management to get the phone numbers. But could you try him once more tonight? He’s crazy to talk to you.”
“Okay. By the way, Denise, have we met?”
“Oh not really. I saw you play at the Pool Bar but I missed you when you came into the office.”
“Well, it looks like we may be in New York again soon.” From nowhere this charming-type voice came out of my mouth. “I hope we’ll meet then.” She just sounded so nice. It was hard not to be nice back, even if I was a little aggravated and nervous about what Artie wanted. The fluorescent light overhead began to flicker.
“Sure! I’ll tell Artie that you’re going to try to call back.”
I left voice mail at the number I had for BNC–for an A&R department head named Mills. Then I tried Charles River and got their answering machine–can’t really call it ‘voice mail’ when I’ve seen the machine itself, an old two-tape Panasonic. “It’s Daron,” I said. “Gail, since I know you’re the one who’ll hear this, we’re in Seattle tomorrow morning, staying at a Marriott but I don’t know which one. Um, Denise in A&R at Wenco has the number if you need it…” and the machine cut me off. That left the mystery number. It rang seven times and no person nor machine answered so I gave up.
Ziggy was standing behind me and I startled a little as I turned around to find him there. He lay a hand on my shoulder. “Take it easy.”
I blew out a breath. “Just a little frazzled. There’s all these messages.” I held up the pink slips like proof. “I don’t know what’s going on though since no one is in.”
He squeezed my shoulder. “It’s probably all about the extended tour.”
“Yeah, guess so.” I put my hand on his shoulder and squeezed him back. After all, I thought, there’s nothing too weird about two guys at arm’s length.
In the dressing area John was done arguing with the caterers, who were laying out trays of food. He looked relieved to see me. We sat down in plastic folding chairs with the caterer’s name branded on the back and he started throwing out details–Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York, Philly, DC, Atlanta, Miami.
“No Boston date?”
He shrugged. “Not this time.”
We talked terms, and he mentioned that someone at Charles River had been trying to get them to carry our T-shirts, tapes, and CDs at the concession stands. “If that’s what it’ll take,” he said, “we can arrange that.”
I’d already negotiated a fair chunk of concessions and licensing between us and CR… Adding up what we might make with what they were going to pay us, it sounded like we might make that video after all, even if we had to fund it ourselves. We dicked around with other piddling things, like tour buses and accommodations, basically extending the contract we already had. John said he’d have copies for me to sign when we got to Seattle.
I went to try Artie again. Denise answered.
“Hey, do they pay you overtime?” I said.
“Nope. I do it out of the goodness of my heart.”
Oh, you’re in the wrong business, honey, I thought, but I didn’t say it. “Is…”
“He’s coming. I’ll put him on.”
There was some silence and then Artie, sounding a little out of breath came on the line. “Daron! We’re going crazy over here.”
“Here, too. I guess you heard about Hurricane Flats dropping out?”
“No, I… oh maybe that explains it.”
“Explains what?” A burst of noise from the PA drowned out part of what he was saying and I put a hand over my other ear.
“… signing with BNC. Did you hear that?”
“No, I didn’t hear a word you said.” I said, louder. “I’m on a payphone in a hallway right outside the amphitheater. They’re having some kind of technical difficulties. Loud ones.”
“So I hear. What I said was, what’s this rumor about you signing a deal with BNC?”
Now I knew I hadn’t heard him right. “BNC?” I looked at the other messages in my hand. “Well, nothing’s definite, yet…”
“Be straight with me, Daron.”
“Come on, Artie, you know we’re under contract with Charles River. If BNC are that interested, they haven’t come to me with it yet.”
There was silence on his end for a moment, if not mine. Then, “I shouldn’t say this, but if you wanted to start a bidding war, I think you’re about to.”
“How did you hear about all this?” I half shouted and then suddenly it was quiet around me. “This rumor?”
“Someone at BNC said something to the reporter for Spin who was with you in Los Angeles. He said something to me. Now I’m saying something to you.”
“Well, look. We’re signing on to do the East Coast with MNB. We’ll be in New York pretty soon. Maybe we’ll straighten it out when we get there.”
“Yeah. Look, will you keep me posted? Wenco still wants a crack at you, you know.”
I promised I’d talk to him again when I knew more. And then I stood there looking at the phone and listening to the dial tone like it was out of tune. I wanted to try the other phone numbers again, or something, but it was no use. I’d have to wait to find out more. And now there was a show to do.
Backstage Christian was drumming on the back of a chair with his fingers. Ziggy and Michelle were playing cards and Bart was nowhere to be seen. Most of MNB were at the food. I wandered a random circuit through the room. I wanted to talk to someone, but not anyone that was here. I wanted to tell everyone what was going on, but I didn’t really know. I didn’t really want to infect everyone with my doubts and jitters about the fact that somewhere in the halls of corporate America, the commodity called Moondog Three was being discussed. I wanted to talk to Remo, most of all, I realized.
So I went back to the phone and tried his home number. I got his machine, left him a message and tried his answering service instead, left a message there, too. Now I was sick of leaving messages and sick of being in the dark, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
Bart came down the hall, whistling. “You’ve had that phone glued to your ear all night.”
“I know. But I haven’t talked to anyone yet!” I wasn’t going to tell him about Artie now.
“Well, you can work out you frustrations in your solos tonight, okay?”