We blew the doors off the Worcester Centrum. I really think that pushing everyone to do “Baker Street” had heightened the whole band’s cohesion. Or maybe it was just that after a day off everyone was fresh and well-rested. Whatever it was, we were on fire.
Remo and I played an improv section in the middle of “Widowmaker” that was shit-hot. I mean, it had been good at all the previous shows, but it was so good we actually went twice as many bars as usual, and the whole band was on their toes so it was easy to do.
Since we were staying over, and there were a lot of family and friends from this area, we had a party back at the hotel.
It was during this, after he’d had a few, that Remo finally admitted to a wee bit of discomfort. “I think maybe we better stick to the set tonight. Tomorrow, I mean.”
“No more surprises,I promise,” I said. “We didn’t practice another stealth song.”
“No no, I mean let’s not overdo it with going off script.”
We were sharing a bottle of Maker’s, sitting side by side on a couch in a somewhat cramped hotel suite but no one seemed to mind that. And I was thinking: But isn’t that the whole point of live performance? And of the blues milieu? Genre? Whatever the fuck French word I’m trying to remember? Jamming is part of the script.
But what I said was, “Okay.”
He poured another finger for himself and for me then set the bottle back on the coffee table in front of us. “Do you know what I mean? Let’s not overdo it.”
“The fact you’re saying it makes me think… that you think… that we already did. Overdo it.”
“You know that rendition we did tonight of ‘Widowmaker’ was the best you and I’ve played, right?” I really felt that way, too. It was like some of the magic moments we had playing together in his living room or on his back deck or wherever the hell else we had been over the years. A beach in Australia. A musical instrument store in Japan. “The best.”
“I know. And I don’t think we overdid it. But I could see how we might if we don’t rein it in a little. If you don’t rein it in a little.”
I knocked back the whiskey and enjoyed the burn and then the numbness as it went down. “Okay.”
Remo nodded. “Besides, I always knew I was going to have to sharpen my chops to keep up with you. Fuck, I’ve had ten years to practice, you’d think I’d be further ahead by now.” He knocked his own whiskey back and then held the glass in his hand. “And to think you’re just going to keep getting better.”
“And so are you,” I said, knocking my shoulder against his. Was Remo feeling insecure? That really didn’t seem like him.
I asked Flip about this later when we were back in our room. “I can’t figure Remo out.”
We were lying on our separate beds, with the TV on but not really watching it. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, he basically put me in charge of the musicians because, he says, he wants to elevate the level of the whole show. So I go out and elevate the level of the whole show, and now he’s a little freaked. I think. It’s hard to tell.”
Flip rocked his head back and forth as if it was a Magic Eight Ball and he was trying to get an answer to come up. “Remo Cutler is a control freak,” is what came out.
“And having a kid has just made him into even more of one.”
Control freak seemed like a pretty strong word. “I think of him as a laid back kind of guy.”
“Who happens to do things like micromanage his touring arrangements, crew hiring, et cetera?”
“That isn’t being a control freak. That’s being smart. And you feel less helpless on the road if you know what’s going on.”
“Daron, seriously. You asked. Remo, I love him, he’s the best, and I’d work for him in a heartbeat, but he’s a micromanager. He wants to know what’s going on with every last detail. And you come breezing into his world with your improvisational attitude about everything and of course it freaks him out.”
“Wait, what do you mean ‘improvisational attitude about everything’?” I turned down the volume on the TV to make sure I was hearing him right. “Don’t you feel like Nomad is a jam band? And should be? And I really haven’t noticed the micromanaging.”
“Are you kidding? This is the guy who wanted you to play with a guitar pick instead of your fingernails.”
“Oh, right.” I’d forgotten about that.
“And this is the thing I’ve been trying to tell you, Daron. Nomad is only a jam band when you’re around.”
“Okay, well, I’ve never been around them when I’m not around, you know? So how would I know?”
“Well, I’ll tell you, musically they’re a lot more ‘by the book’ when you’re not here. Sometimes Remo plays the same solo note for note, night after night.”
“So? Everyone does that. I do that.”
“Look, you asked. Nomad is a different band when you’re here. A better band, if you ask me, but nobody asks me.” He shrugged. “If I were Remo, I’d lock you to that mic stand.”
I half-laughed. “He tried. He knows I won’t sign anything long term.”
“Wait, what? You’re saying you don’t want a long term gig with this group? You told me in Japan you’d waited your whole life to go on tour with them.”
“I did. And here I am on tour with them. That’s not the same thing as…making Nomad my whole career.” I sighed. “Once upon a time I would have. When I was fifteen I would have thought of nothing else. But I’m not that kid anymore.”
“Ahhh. I see. I have it all backwards. I assumed the only reason you weren’t actually married to this band was that Remo was stringing you along. Okay. That makes more sense.”
We lapsed into silence then, and I was thinking that in my own head it still didn’t really make sense, but at least maybe I was getting there…?
(Reminder: Come back Thursday for the first of our summer fan posts!)