Sarah made it back into town in time to see the show at Nassau Coliseum, which was yet another hockey arena, this one in Long Island. I had to wonder was some of the problem with places not selling out that they had, for example, put us in four venues in one week that were all within a one-hour drive of where Remo and I used to live? Except later I asked and found out that all the New York area shows had been sellouts. So much for me trying to apply logic to the situation.
The show was great. Because we did three shows in NY/NJ (plus one in Philly) we’d played around with making each one a little different, so that the die hards who went to them all wouldn’t get bored. Not that die hards would get bored, but you know what I mean. Yes, there were “Nomads”–of course there were–the Grateful Dead weren’t the only jam-heavy band with a following.
Maybe it was my imagination, but it felt to me like the crowd was more intense at that show than the others. Maybe that was because of Remo’s announcement that this was the last “big” tour for a while? And maybe it was because now that the band was really starting to gel we were pushing the envelope.
Take a song like “River Run,” which is one of those songs that everyone knows because it was a hit from all the way back on Gary’s Garage. You have to play it because people will be disappointed if they don’t hear their favorite song, but it will die if you do it exactly the same way for years and years. So there’s a section in the middle where the guitar, bass, and drums, are all in unison in a riff that’s actually just the lead-up to a Remo guitar solo. Alex, Martin, and I were all making eye contact–I was actually standing on the drum riser myself at that point actually–and the next thing you know we just made a kind of telepathic decision to stick on that riff and not move on to the next section of the song. Martin kept hitting the fill and Alex and I went from doing the riff in unison to passing it back and forth between us. Martin pushed the tempo–or maybe that was me–so it was going faster and faster, and it was like a little competition between me and Alex, who could land the riff more cleanly despite the speed. And then all three of us were together again, and it was like a freight train that finally hit top speed, chugging along, unstoppable. The cheering was deafening, we were all grinning like fools, even Remo, who was standing off to one side with his hands resting on his guitar, watching the horses run away with the carriage.
We brought it back, of course, when I gave him a look and a nod that meant “get ready,” and we threw it back into his lap with a sudden return to regular tempo for four beat followed by a cymbal crash. Remo was ready and off he soared into that solo with the crowd screaming themselves hoarse.
After the show Sarah punched me in the arm, which seems to be how girls think it’s best to express their excitement to me. (Maybe Courtney teaches them, I don’t know.) “Holy fucking shit,” she said, because, you know, Sarah is so ladylike, “I knew you were good but I have never seen the doors blown off like that in my life.”
“Never?” Anticipating a quick after-party and then a long bus ride, I had grabbed a quick shower and put on dry clothes.
“I hear tell that Springsteen’s concerts are like that but I’ve never seen him,” she said. “Just shut up and take the compliment, will you?”
“All right.” We were in a corner of the green room. I took a can of beer out of a bucket of ice and handed it to her, then fished out another one for myself. I drained half of it in one go and then decided maybe I should fish for Gatorade instead. But then I had a half-finished beer in my hand. I finished the beer in a second round of gulping, tossed the can into the empty bin a few feet away (pause for victory dance) and then pulled a bottle of Gatorade free. I sipped it much more carefully than I had the beer. Too much Gatorade too fast would give me a head rush, I think from all the sugar. “But enough about me. How are you?”
“Good. A ton of stuff going on, which is why it’s good.”
Jordan came over and kissed her on the cheek and handed me a cassette, which I jammed into the pocket of my jacket. I hadn’t even realized he was at the show, but he sailed on his way to talk to someone else without really interrupting us. I focused on Sarah again. “What kind of stuff?”
“A ton of international charting, for one thing. Apparently they really like me in Belgium and Spain and France. Oh, and in Germany. Unified Germany.”
“Yeah. I’m going to be doing a bunch of festivals this summer. Gonna get a lot of stamps in my passport.”
“Maybe when it’s summer there.” She shrugged. “It’s good to see you.”
I don’t know why her saying that struck me as funny. “Do I look different from usual?”
“Silly. I mean it’s good to get to talk to you after not seeing you for a while. How are things, you know, not business things?”
“All right, I guess.”
She gave me a skeptical look.
I shrugged. “Nothing new to report. Lawsuit logjam still in existence, he and I ignoring it and just…seeing each other when we can.”
“That sounds…kind of good…?” she said tentatively. “Not the lawsuit part, I mean. The rest.”
“That’s a good way to put it,” I said. “Kind of good. How about you and…?” Dammit. “That cute academic with the butch haircut and the round glasses that I met at your holiday party but whose name I don’t remember?”
She sighed. “We’re off. I’m barely here to have a relationship with. We still really like each other but we just can’t keep it going with me being gone weeks at a time.”
“Huh. That sucks but at least you can still be friends?”
“Yeah. In a weird way I was hoping for a little dose of good old fashioned heartbreak, though. To jumpstart the muse.”
“I haven’t written shit since…I can’t even remember. I’ve been too busy to really do it lately and I’m not even really getting ideas for songs or riffs right now, which scares me and makes me think I’ve already used all my good ideas.”
“Which you know is bullshit, right?”
“Right, but it’s scary. I sit down at the piano and it’s like nothing comes. And that’s if I even have time. I mean, I never have very long but I think at least I could just play around with ideas? But nothing comes.”
“Maybe when your brain knows you have to run off to a dance rehearsal or a meeting it doesn’t want to get into writing mode.”
“You’re probably right. This is why bands all go away to a chateau in France or wherever to work on albums, right? To get away from all the distractions?”
“And I think they like being able to chase French pussy and drink wine like water and make asses of themselves like rock bands do,” I said with a shrug, “or am I stereotyping straight people, now?”
She chuckled at that. “Something tells me if you go to a chateau to record an album no one will get any sleep because you’ll be up all night recording.”
I nodded. “And we’ll enjoy it.”