666. Devolution Working Man’s Blues

When we landed in Baltimore Carynne had a bunch of pages to answer so she went to a pay phone while I waited for our bags to come around on the luggage carousel. When she came back she said, “Bart’s here.”

“Here?” I looked around.

“In Baltimore, I mean. Came in on the train. I just paged him back.”

“Okay, but if you just paged him and he’s calling you back, don’t you need to be by the phone?”

The pager in her hand beeped. “There. He’s on his way here.”

“How do you know?”

“I paged him with my number and also left him a voice mail that said if he can come meet us here, we can share a shuttle to the hotel in Annapolis. He just paged back an acknowledgement.”

“Sounds complicated. I keep thinking I should get a pager but then I think will I even remember to turn it on and check it?”

“You should definitely get a pager and you can just leave it on most of the time. This one, see, it will even show me the number if the message is just ‘call this number.’ Or people can leave voice mail I can retrieve from any phone.”

She was showing me a tiny screen like the one at the top of a calculator, except it was on the end of the pager, black dots on a dark gray background. All it was showing was a number one.

“Why is it showing you a one?”

“That was Bart’s acknowledgement. One for yes, two for no, although there’s no ‘no’ in this case.” She looked at the bags at my feet. “This is everything?”

“I think so. I have all of mine, anyway, and that’s yours.” I did a double check: guitar, backpack, and the bag with my actual clothes. Yep.

Carynne took her suitcase, which was sage green. “Let’s move away from the carousel. In fact, we should probably move all the way to somewhere with real food since he won’t be here for like an hour.”

We ensconced ourselves at an airport restaurant on the departure level and she went back to the payphone for a while. I finally opened the magazine I hadn’t gotten around to reading on the plane.

When she came back she looked at disgruntled as I felt. We glared at each other. She slid into the booth and faced me. “You first. What happened.”

“No, you first. Mine’s nothing.”

“Oh just the hotel we’re going to tonight is sold out and it’s impossible to figure out what’s the next one closest to there, and they already charged for one night. And I thought Bart wasn’t coming until tomorrow, and argh.”

“Car’, it’s not a big deal. See if they’ll give us a rollaway bed or I’ll sleep on the floor or something.”

“No, no, no, you should not be the one sleeping on the floor. You’re the talent.”

“And I’m also five-four and can fit in an armchair.”

“You’re not as skinny as you used to be.”

“But I’m just as compact. Honestly, it’s not a big deal. Bart won’t bat an eye either, you know.”

She blew her red bangs out of her eyes. “Okay. All right. We’ll live. Now, what happened to you while I was gone?”

I turned the magazine around to face her on the table and pointed to the review of “Tracks.”

She started to read it aloud. “‘We finally know what the mysterious initial in Daron M. stands for and it’s Mediocre–‘ What!!”

It was only a capsule review, three sentences total, but maybe stung even more because of that. Musician‘s music critic, J.D. Considine, was notoriously sarcastic and I often chuckled at his reviews. He’s the guy they make fun of in the Spinal Tap movie when they say their album “Shark Sandwich” had a two-word review: “shit sandwich.” I kid not you, his entire review of Billy Joel’s Storm Front was “An apt title for such a blow-hard,” and he wrote of Kylie Minogue’s Enjoy Yourself album only: “Not if this is playing.” So I guess I should have been grateful he added two sentences about how my “compositional sense” was solid and my playing was “fluid” if “lacking edge.”

“What the fuck is this doing in rock reviews, anyway?” Carynne was saying. “The jazz guy should’ve been the one to review it and fuck J.D. Considine, anyway.” And other such supportive statements of outrage.

Bart arrived a short while later, and although I was trying to put the review out of my mind by then, Carynne had to show it to him. He’d already seen it, apparently, and shrugged. “Kind of interesting that Considine even bothered to review it at all, though, you know? Sometimes he doesn’t like any of the albums he reviews at all, but just getting a mention from him means it’s worth noticing. Don’t you think?”

That made me feel a little better. And yeah, it was a little odd that it was being reviewed by the rock critic. About as odd as the fact there were some rock stations playing “From the Summit.”

Bart was toting a cello. I was much more interested in that, by then, than the review. We decamped to the hotel, where he and I dove into playing around with some things relating to the album, and then just as a crowd pleaser worked up an all acoustic version of “Why the Sky,” with me handling most of the melody in the verses and the cello handling the melody in the chorus and it really worked.

Carynne made us stop a little before ten o’clock when she got nervous the other guests in the hotel might want to sleep and also reminded us to eat. The hotel in an office park but if we walked to the other side of the office-type buildings we came to a T.G.I.Fridays that was still serving food. We are something deep fried and probably terrible. I don’t really remember. I was too engrossed in talking with Bart about what we were going to do, not just at Tower tomorrow, but in New York.

Carynne was reading the newspaper while Bart and I enthused at each other and I made notes in my notebook, which was getting full and I would soon need a new one.

“That motherfucker lives here,” she suddenly exclaimed.

“What?” Bart and I both said.

J.D. Considine lives around here.” She turned the folded-back newspaper around and waved it a bit too much for my three-beers-already eyes to focus on. But I gathered from what she was saying that it was a concert review she was showing us, about a local show written by a staff writer: Considine.

“I don’t recommend we go knock on his door to complain,” I said. “He’s entitled to his opinion.”

She folded her arms. “I wasn’t planning to. But man, if he shows up at Tower–”

“Why would he do that?” I asked. “If he didn’t like the album.”

“Because he’s interested enough in you to bother to write about you at all,” Bart insisted. “I think he likes you, he just didn’t like the album.”

“I don’t know what to think about that.”

“Come on, this is the guy who loves all the working class session players. He was the one reviewer who bothered to review–glowingly–Stevie Salas’s album.”

Okay, I know most of you won’t recognize Stevie Salas’s name. I knew him at that point only as another guitarist in some demand–maybe Chernwick or Molina had introduced us at some point? He had toured with Rod Stewart, played on a lot of albums (Eddie Money, Bootsy Collins, Was Not Was, etc…) In other words, a guy whose career mine was shaping up to be a little bit like. He was not as much of a well-known name as Steve Vai or Joe Satriani (I know, some of you won’t recognize their names either…) but to me and Bart he was a guy we definitely identified as someone like us.

“Stevie Salas released an album?” I asked.

“While you were in Spain. Stevie Salas Colorcode it was called and it sank without a fucking trace.” Bart shook his head sadly.

“Jeez.” Now I was curious to hear the album. Chances were I was going to like it, though, and then be bummed that it didn’t do well. We all knew perfectly well that a lot of things had to go right to make a band or a record catch fire and so many fucking ways it could go wrong. The business had a hundred ways to sink you.

These were not the thoughts I wanted to be having while on my oh-so-brief promotional tour. But they were the ones I got.

By the way, if you’re wondering what me and Bart playing together might sound like covering a rock anthem on acoustic guitar and cello, this will give you some idea.
Montana Skies cover “Another Brick in the Wall”:


  • s says:

    BART!!!! Yay!

    Daron, don’t you know that what the critics say is usually the opposite of public opinion (you know, the people who actually buy the album)?

    Btw (I totally feel a tongue-lashing coming from this, but I’m gonna say it anyway), in the movie “If I Stay” there is a scene where the main character, Mia, a cellist, plays Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Today’ with her aspiring rock star boyfriend and her father’s former-rock star friends all playing guitars. I realize the actors weren’t playing the instruments, but someone was, and it was pretty cool, and it’s a great song, so…

    • daron says:

      See, the thing is I usually *agree* with Considine, so that kind of stings, too.

      Who are you expecting the tongue-lashing from?

      • s says:

        Ok “tongue-lashing” may have been a bit harsh. But you know how doctors get annoyed with the inaccuracies of medical dramas, soldiers with war movies, etc.? Why should musicians be any different? Beside, it’s a YA book-to-movie and people seem to get all pissy about those these days. I figured *someone* would at least roll their eyes at the mention of it.

        Anyway, don’t take the criticism too hard. We all know you are amazing.

        • daron says:

          Eh movies are movies. I don’t think it’s their job to be “accurate” (unless they’re documentaries or something)

          • s says:

            Ok. Cool. Well, it’s probably the best scene in the movie. If you want to watch it it’s on YouTube (isn’t everything on YouTube?). I searched “if I stay smashing pumpkins” and voila, there it was. 🙂

  • marktreble says:

    “If I stay smashing pumpkins.” I feel a song in that.

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