(Reminder! Chat live tonight Nov 10th! Daron & me from 8-9pm Eastern here on the site, then 9-10pm livestreaming video with me taking your questions, reading, etc! -ctan)
I woke up in the morning groggy as hell and confused about where I was for a second, especially about why I appeared to be squished between two very warm people. The A/C was blasting so I was not upset to be sandwiched between two very warm people, merely wondering for half a second if we’d gone to a rave the night before that I didn’t remember, or what.
Then I remembered Carynne and Bart and the somewhat comedic scene that had taken place when we got to the room. Remember, originally it was going to be just me. Then it was me and Carynne and she had tried to get another room, but there weren’t any, and then had tried to find another hotel nearby, but there weren’t any, and I had told her not to worry about it and to just stay with me. Then it happened that they didn’t have any rooms with two beds. Also not a big deal, neither Carynne or I were worried about sharing a bed with each other.
But that was before we’d realized Bart had shown up earlier than planned. Upshot: three people, one bed. They didn’t have a rollaway either. The clerk had assured us it was a very large king size bed.
The comedic bit was that each of the three of us had tried to insist on sleeping on the floor until I finally said never mind, everyone should just get the fuck in bed. It wasn’t like ANY of us were going to worry about it.
I wasn’t expecting them to snuggle with me, though. I don’t think they did either, but it was fucking freezing in there. I had to pee and tried to extricate myself from between them gracefully–failed and woke them both up. I tried to adjust the A/C–gave up when the controls didn’t actually appear to do anything.
No two Tower Records I’d ever been in were the same. They were all different sizes, layouts, and styles. Some had a book section, some didn’t. Larger ones had whole separate sections for different genres, others just had different adjacent bins. The one I worked at in Boston was a multi-story building with whole separate rooms for jazz and classical, but some were just a segment of a strip mall. They could fit a Tower into just about any commercial space you can imagine.
The Annapolis one wasn’t as big as the Boston one but it was a major enough location that they had space for in-store shows. We headed over there early in the day to check the place out and meet the manager. Good thing, too. It had a very nice little stage and Carynne had called ahead to tell the manager it wasn’t going to be just me, so there were two high stools and three microphones, which was a small problem because you can’t play a cello from a stool that high and I needed to use my foot stand so I couldn’t sit on a stool either. I was going to play in classical position.
Carynne did the managerial thing and did all the talking to explain it and the manager, who was a nice but unmemorable guy, was very apologetic but really it was no big deal to swap out the two stools for two run of the mill folding chairs. I was just impressed that they’d already set up the stage and stuff that many hours before we were due to appear. At the Tower where I worked we had rarely been that on top of things.
Then we went back to the hotel and rehearsed. Actually we spent a good hour quizzing each other on intervals. Once I get an idea in my head, you know how I am. My ear training hadn’t fallen off as much as I’d feared. Bart was also enthusiastic about us practicing some sight reading when we got home.
“I’ve got tons of stuff,” he said. “God, you know what? My parents gave me their old piano and how much you want to bet there’s even stuff in the bench? Crap I was forced to learn when I was twelve.”
“That sounds perfect.”
We played around with an arrangement of “From the Summit” which was the song on the album that really actually required an electric guitar, which was why it was the one the rock radio stations had glommed onto, I guess. But we had fun with it anyway.
And then I taught him a song I’d been fucking around with instrumentally for a while that still didn’t have a name and I figured I’d have to give it one before we played it that night.
We were in the rental car on the way to the store when I started thinking out loud about it. “I have no idea what to call this song.”
“What’s it about?” Carynne asked.
“It’s instrumental. It’s not ‘about’ anything.”
“Sure it is. Just because it doesn’t have words doesn’t mean it doesn’t mean something.”
I looked at Bart for agreement but he just looked back at me curiously. “I didn’t intend for it to mean something,” I hazarded.
“Yeah, but, how did you feel when you wrote it?”
“I felt like I wanted to write a song in 6/8?”
“How does it make you feel when you play it?”
“Happy, I guess? But it’s not really a cheery, happy sounding song. You know, it’s not like peppy or uptempo. But I guess I always feel happy when I play something good.”
Bart chewed his lip. “When you first started writing it, though, what were you going through? Creatively are those the same notes or the same riffs that you would have played if you’d been going through something else?”
Hm. “I don’t know. Good question. It’s been percolating for a long time, though. I’m not even sure I remember when I started it…” As I trailed off though I realized I had started writing it all the way back when I was living in Los Angeles with Jonathan. It was something I would work on while sitting around the studio waiting for whoever I was gigging for to be ready for me, or while at home sometimes.
Sitting in the stone courtyard with the flowering vines all over the wall and feeling sometimes happy and sometimes like I was never going to fucking get out of there.
“Familiar feeling,” I said aloud.
“There’s your title,” Bart said.
“Okay.” Thinking about Los Angeles had put me right into a melancholy mood. I thought about getting tattooed with Ziggy instead and felt a little better. Bart hadn’t said anything when he’d seen the tattoo last night while I’d been moisturizing it. He’d just given me a little eyebrow raise and a nod.
I was wrapped up enough in my thoughts and my emotional whatever that I wasn’t even really thinking about what this gig was going to be like.
That changed drastically as we approached the store and we realized that there was a line of people outside the door waiting to get in. Apparently they were keeping people who were only there to see me outside but letting people into the store who wanted to shop. I mean, wasn’t the whole point of an in-store that it attracted people to the store who might buy something while they were there? I guess if there were too many it would impede regular customers, though? I wasn’t sure why I was thinking so hard about it.
Don’t ask my why but I wasn’t actually expecting a ton of people. I guess in my mind I had pictured maybe twenty people standing around. This was more like… a hundred? Two hundred? I have no idea.
I should have been very excited by the large crowd. But I was feeling very wrapped up in the Jonathan thoughts and finding it very hard to break free of them.
The crowd outside buzzed as we waved and walked past and the staff hurried us into the break room. I joked a little with the manager and a clerk about how similar it was to the one in Boston, but it was kind of like I was saying it through a fog. They were friendly. They offered us soda and Corona in glass bottles. I sucked down a Corona and checked the time. Still an hour until the announced time for performance.
“Can I go out and meet the people?” I asked.
“You want to?” Carynne asked.
“Any reason not to?”
The manager guy waved his hands. “Oooh wait, are you willing to do, like, autographing?”
“Daron–” Carynne said, as if she was warning me, but I kind of barrelled ahead.
“I could take a Sharpie right down the line, yeah? Until it’s time to play?”
“Welllll, here’s the thing. I was thinking some people in line would buy the record if we gave them a chance, but if you’re going down the line–” He scratched his head.
Carynne took charge, in that Carynne way. “Here’s what you do. You announce to the people in line if they want to come in and buy the album right now, and get back in line, there’s a chance–a chance–that Daron will autograph.”
“Bart, too,” I said suddenly. “I’m one hundred percent sure these are Moondog Three fans.”
“Whatever you want, boss,” Bart said with a shrug.
“I’ll go tell the fans to move in an orderly fashion toward the cash registers,” Carynne said.
“And I’ll take a stack of the disk to the front,” said the clerk.
“And Bart and I’ll stay here for a couple minutes until that gets going.” I took a seat and contemplated having another beer since the soda they had was Pepsi and I’m a Coke snob. Bart sat, too, while the rest of them moved out like a SWAT team.
A couple minutes later the manager came back with a couple of Sharpies and handed them to me and Bart.
I stood. “Let’s do it.”
We went out of the store and started at the front of the line. I’ll be completely honest. I don’t remember a single person out of the group. It was a blur of working our way down the line autographing whatever they had. As I suspected, lots of them had Moondog Three albums or pictures for us to sign. Lots of them took photos of us or with us. I don’t remember anyone individual but I do remember everyone being incredibly, well, nice. Let’s put it this way: I felt the love at a time like that.
I also felt an incredible pang of loss, though. These were all people who loved our now-dead band, who were never going to see us play as a band, and who were here to experience whatever they could.
I’m depressing myself right now just remembering it, honestly.
But it was hard to be sad while there in the moment with people who were also incredibly excited to meet us. Both women and men, some younger, some older. The older men mostly just seemed to want to shake hands and say hello, maybe ask a gear question or something like that.
We went through the whole line, because when showtime came, we were three quarters of the way done anyway so they just slowly started letting people in to take seats on the floor in front of the low stage and we did the last people and then went in to get ready.
Getting ready consisted of tuning up in the break room. Bart said, “You know, I didn’t think of this before but we really should have practiced one of the oldies.”
“You mean an M3 song?”
“Yeah. I should’ve thought of it sooner.”
“I guess. Are we legally allowed to?”
“At this point if BNC’s going to fuss over us playing songs we fucking wrote we should just fuck it and bomb the place,” Bart said, which surprised me, because Bart is usually so mellow.
“Hm, could you play the melody of Wonderland? If you did that I can do an acoustic guitar version.”
“I could if we had some time to work it out but not right off the top of my head,” he said. “Remember what happened the last time we did a thing at a Tower Records, though? When we filmed the video.”
“I do remember.” He and I had played acoustic, both on guitars, and we’d played “Candlelight” and the crowd had provided all the vocals. “We can’t do that here.”
“Because I don’t think I can take it,” I said honestly.
It didn’t matter. The little show went great, with Bart and I pushing each other, having fun, and the cello and the Ovation sounded really lovely together. Carynne took photos of us on the stage and of the crowd. I blathered a little to the crowd but mostly we played. We had a sold half-hour of material which turned into more like 40 minutes what with blather and also a little more tuning.
It was fun. I told myself to enjoy it. I was soaking in the adulation of an audience and playing music with my best friend and there couldn’t be anything bad about that, right?
But when it was over, and we got back into the rental car to go in search of dinner, I fell into a deep, deep funk. Like we’d just played at our own funeral.
Maybe I was just tired.