635. State Farm

(DGC News: Daron’s Guitar Chronicles volume 7 ebook is now live for pre-order. Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00ZN34BEK | Smashwords: http://owl.li/OmVAX | Daron & ctan will livechat on August 4th to celebrate. RSVP on FB.)

I did nothing much on our day off in Indianapolis. I finally got to sleep and I slept several hours, and then after the maid woke me up I slept again. I had a short swim in the pool and then a long soak in the hot tub. Clarice and Fran caught up to me there and we all soaked for a while, and then they told me they were going to take me somewhere for barbecue.

I confess before that night I knew absolutely nothing about Indianapolis other than it was where there’s a big car race every year. And after that night all I knew was that there’s a big car race and also a really great barbecue joint that I never learned the name of but it has a big pig on the sign. I was the only white person in the place, but I didn’t mind that. It didn’t feel all that different from the days when I was the only kid tagging along with the grownups.

Fran was absolutely flabbergasted at how much I could eat.

“You normally eat like a bird,” she said. “You pick a little here, a little there.”

“I know. That’s why there’s all this room now.” I had a lot of bones piled in front of me at that point. I’d picked them clean. “Besides, it looks like more than it is because it’s mostly bones.”

“You. You are mostly bones,” she said and shook her head.

The reason they brought me there, though, wasn’t just the food, but because a bunch of old dudes got together there most nights of the week to play the blues. And that was great. By “old dudes” I don’t mean they were like forty. These guys were all sixty-plus, seventy-plus. I kind of wished I had a tape recorder but a part of me knew that trying to capture what they did wasn’t where it was at.

Listening and living in the moment was where it was at.

I kept myself to one beer again and was fine. Sometimes tour life is a really great life, you know?

And then when we got back to the hotel me and Charlie worked on “For No One” until a noise complaint shut us down.

We picked it up the next day at soundcheck, where I asked Remo what he thought. He had some thoughts, and we worked on a part. And ultimately we decided what was going to work best was just Remo and me on guitar and Charlie on flugelhorn, and really the idea was for it to be all Charlie. We were going to each just take a 16-bar solo and then hand it back to him for as long as he wanted.

And then came the show and it was fine. Remo and I were fine. Neither of us felt the need to apologize to the other nor to ask for an apology. We were avoiding each other a little, I think, both waiting until we were well past the argument before we tried again. That felt good–like we were respecting each other’s space rather than letting it fester.

That was a big difference between Remo and Digger. Digger would have been all over me if he felt like I was avoiding him, picking on me or lording it over me. It was only after having him out of my life for a good while that I could see just how much bullshit he forced everyone around him to put up with on a constant basis–me especially, though. With Digger, everything was a power struggle. By comparison, Remo’s shortcomings were small potatoes. And besides, I actually loved and respected Remo, so I was willing to cut him some slack.

That night was the first of another three-in-a-row: Indy, Ames (Iowa), St. Louis. So right after the show we got into the bus for an overnight drive to a new city. I got to cross Iowa off the list of states I had been to, though all I saw of it was darkness out the bus window, the green room and stage of the Hilton Center in Ames, and then more darkness out the bus window. My impression was that Iowa was mostly farms.

Flip and I started writing a song together in the bus on one of those overnights. He had a riff and a little bit of a start, but he didn’t know where to take it. We were playing the guitars he had tuned to the Guitar Craft tuning and he had a good thing going but part of his problem was where the melody really wanted to go was higher than he could sing.

Anyway. Remo and I kept our cool.

In St. Louis we were due to play on a Sunday night. I woke up in the bus outside the St. Louis Arena that morning with someone knocking on the wall beside my bunk.

“Mrrf?” I pulled open the curtain.

“I have a favor to ask.” Remo was leaning against the bunk above mine, looking at me. “Can you play the Star Spangled Banner?”

“Pffff. Of course I can play the Star Spangled Banner.” With a little more bravado than warranted I added, “What key do you want it in.”

“I don’t know. One that I can sing it in.”

Ah, so that’s why he was asking. Except, wait… “Get me some coffee and then we can figure it out.”

So it turned out that the Cardinals, who are the baseball team and are kind of a big deal in St. Louis, wanted Remo to sing the Star Spangled Banner at the game that day. At one o’clock. I had forgotten the bit about Remo having lived in St. Louis but apparently there was a whole native son angle to the thing, and who knows, maybe it would help sell out the last of the tickets to the show? The one hitch was that this all having come together somewhat last minute, Remo hadn’t rehearsed the national anthem.

In fact, it was a bigger hitch than I realized because it turned out the Cardinals wanted us to record the anthem and then mime playing it. So I grabbed a shower quickly, and we hurried to a radio booth in the stadium where we worked on it for over an hour until we had a usable take. See, they had recording equipment but not any editing equipment so we had to do one full take with no mistakes. This was trickier than you might think. I played guitar and he just sang.

I was a little bit full of it when I’d said I could play it in any key, but we did find one that worked. I kind of forget that the Star Spangled Banner is a difficult song range-wise because I’ve always had the range to sing it, but Remo, although he’s a very good singer, doesn’t have a super-wide range. So it was important to get it right.

Ultimately it went great, and I could see why they insisted on a pre-recording. The PA was so far away from us that by the time the sound reached us whole seconds had gone by, and to synch up with the video board… I had to not look at us on the video board. We’re pretty good fakers, though, you know? They gave us Cardinals jackets to wear and there is nothing bad about having a stadium full of people cheering for you.

And then we were apparently allowed, if not downright expected, to stay for the game. I was glad they had given us jackets because it was as if the chilly weather was following us around. It had dipped under forty during the night and because it was overcast didn’t make it all the way to sixty that day.

I wasn’t a huge one for baseball, you know, but it was kind of like a mini-vacation in the middle of the day, to get to sit outside and have people bring you beer and hot dogs. And we had really good seats. The game wasn’t going too well for the home team, though. They were getting beat by the Phillies by like five runs. We resolved to leave after the seventh to beat the traffic.

But in the seventh the Cardinals scored four runs so they were only behind by one. I pretended I wasn’t looking at the clock. We stayed. When the time of our soundcheck came, it was the bottom of the ninth and the first batter got a hit. The crowd was going crazy. I looked at Remo. He looked at me.

“I’m officially pretending I don’t know what time our soundcheck is,” I said.

“Me too,” he said. A second later, the Cardinals tied the game.

They ended up winning it in the tenth, on a crazy play at the plate, which was good, because after that inning we really really would have had to leave, and instead we got to go nuts with everyone about them winning and then hightail it out of there. Fortunately the venue wasn’t actually that far, maybe five miles? And we walked a couple of blocks from the stadium to a hotel and caught a cab there.

While we were in the cab, Remo said, “If anyone asks, our official story is we got caught in game traffic.”

I chuckled, but didn’t feel I actually needed to say anything. His face was red, and not from the chill air, beer, or excitement. He knew damn well after chewing me out about responsibility and priorities the other night he was being something of a hypocrite now.

“Worth it, though,” he admitted with a chuckle of his own. Then a bit more seriously. “Man. You saved my ass again.”

“What do you mean, ‘again?'”

“When did you learn the Star Spangled Banner, anyway?”

“Jeez. First time was probably junior high? We had that band director who hated everyone. He made everyone learn it at one point. I think every day a different member of the band had to get up and play it.”

“I don’t remember you being in junior high band.”

“I was. There was that whole thing where I was going to play the saxophone?”

“God, I forgot about that.”

“So did I. But I learned to play the national anthem, and I had to relearn it about ten times since. It comes in handy, you know?”

“Well, it certainly did today.” He held out his hand for a thumbs-up handshake and I took it. “I don’t know if I’ve expressed it adequately. But I’m really, really glad you’re here.”

“I’m happy to be here,” I said, a little warily since I didn’t know if the conversation was going anywhere from there.

It wasn’t. He just nodded and patted me on the shoulder, then changed the subject. “Tough day to miss soundcheck, though if tonight’s Charlie’s thing?”

He meant Charlie’s flugelhorn showcase song. “No, we decided to wait until the New Orleans show. Which is tomorrow.”

“Day off in New Orleans tomorrow,” Remo corrected.

“Right. Smart.” Really smart. If you were going to have a day off, there weren’t many better cities to do it in. “Got plans?”

“Nope. Wander around. Eat. Take in some music.”

“Sounds perfect. Want company?”

He smiled and I realized how relieved he looked. I don’t think the relief was just because the anthem-singing gig was done, either.

(By the way, yes, this is really what happened to the Cardinals on April 21, 1991. See Retrosheet. -ctan)


  • chris says:

    So, from someone born and raised 5 minutes from the St. Louis arena I can tell you that sound check was going to suck regardless of what time you got there. They didn’t call it “The Barn” for nothing. The Cardinals are still a “big deal” in St. Louis… another St. Louis nickname “The cardiac cards” for crazy comeback wins. Heard a rumor recently that a developer was trying to rebuild a new stadium, to be a replica of the Arena. Ah… the concerts I went to there…I would like to think that MD3 was one of them and that I have a tee shirt around here someone to prove it!

    • daron says:

      The Arena was a funky place, that’s for sure. I didn’t really get to say much about it this chapter because it was getting long.

  • s says:

    What an awesome experience that must have been. I’m a big sports fan and love listening to the national anthem before games…gets the energy flowing, you know? Once again I wish I could hear you play…

    • daron says:

      It was pretty keen. I’m not very overt in my patriotism but yeah.

      • s says:

        I’m not really either but something about that song just gets to me. When my favorite college basketball team plays their in-state rival the entire crowd sings the anthem. 24,000 people singing it will give anyone with a pulse chills. It’s awesome.

  • Averin Noble says:

    Did you catch Metallica playing the anthem at Oracle before game 5 of the NBA finals. Very tasty. Plus, the home team won!

  • cayra says:

    Not being American, I’ve never heard the actual anthem. Though amusingly, I love the minor key cover.
    ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_PtnvVQhqA )

    • daron says:

      Supposedly the anthem’s tune is cribbed from an English drinking song, which is pretty ironic when you think about it. Also talk about a song that’s hard to sing while drunk! Though I guess that’s the point.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *