Morning came too early, and so did the train to New York. Bart and I did not rehearse in the vestibule between cars because we’d had enough time prior to that to feel like we didn’t need to.
I was excited and eager to do this new kind of gig at The Cat Club. It felt more like nervous energy to me than anxiety. I didn’t sleep on the train. I wrote in my notebook and talked career plans with Carynne, and she and Bart mulled over my thoughts about Ziggy but we came to no consensus.
Carynne had booked us in a hotel near Penn Station that was not the Penta but was only a couple of blocks away. A smaller place. We left our bags there and then headed straight for a meeting at the Wenco offices. Bart tagged along even though I told him he didn’t have to come to this part.
“If you don’t want me to come, say so,” he said, “but what am I going to do in the hotel, sit around with my thumb up my butt? I finished my book on the train down to Baltimore. I might as well come with you.”
I thought this was going to be another one of those “meet Artie and shake hands with some staff” meetings. It was, but what they hadn’t told me about was the mini-press conference after that. I say “mini” because there were a mere six guys there rather than an entire roomful.
After asking me a few token questions about Tracks, and then two or three transition questions about Nomad, the questioning went about like this:
Reporter 1: So can you tell me why you played with Ziggy on the air last week?
Me: I was in town and he asked me to.
Reporter 2: Okay but like are you working with him again now? Like permanently?
Me: What do you mean “permanently?”
Reporter 2: I mean, you know what I mean.
Me: (making eye contact with a different guy)
Reporter 3: Do you have plans to collaborate with Ziggy in the future?
Me: At the moment my only plans are to finish out the Nomad tour.
Reporter 1: What was it like playing with him again after being apart for so long?
Me: You make it sound like decades went by.
Reporter 1: Did it feel like decades had gone by?
Me: Kinda, yeah, now that you mention it. But you know what they say, it’s not the age, it’s the mileage.
Reporter 2: Who says that?
Reporter 1: “They.” It’s a joke.
Reporter 2: Oh, okay.
Reporter 3: For a little while Ziggy was putting together a backing band but then he fired them. Is that why he hired you?
Me: He didn’t hire me.
Reporter 3: For the radio station gig? You just…did it for fun?
Me: I guess?
At that point the person from publicity who had set up the meeting quashed them with a small tirade about how if they wanted to know all about a BNC artist they could march over to the BNC offices themselves right that minute and ask there. The chastised reporters, looking as sullen and busted as dogs who got caught stealing food off the dinner table, then asked me some generic filler-type questions and the whole thing was over quickly after that.
“Jeez Louise,” Artie said when we were back in his office. “First they spring a surprise press conference on us and then they give you the third degree. You handled it pretty smoothly, though.”
I drank Coke from a can someone had gotten for me. “It’s all right. I’m used to people being much more interested in Ziggy than in me.”
“Hopefully tonight won’t be like that and the reason we had this little thing today was to get that out of the way. Tonight the plan is for the official launch party stuff to be fairly early, five to seven, and then they’ll start letting the regular crowd in. How much material you got?”
I looked at Bart. He answered. “About forty-five minutes, I think.”
Artie gave a slow now. “Go on at 6:15, then, unless you’re in no hurry, in which case closer to seven. We officially end at seven but it’s a soft transition to the public. All depends on how fast you want to get out of there.”
“We’ll play it by ear,” I said, with absolutely no pun intended.
Our next stop was The Cat Club, where we didn’t have a chance to do a soundcheck but we at least checked out the place. Small stage half taken up by a piano and a small drum kit. I asked for two chairs and three mics: two for the instruments and one so I could talk. The stage manager asked if we needed music stands. I found that charming. I told him not this time.
Bart decided to stay there with his cello while Carynne and I took off for the next leg of the itinerary: two radio slots which were of course not anywhere near each other and required a very anxiety-inducing cab ride from one to the other. I was slightly less anxiety-ridden because Carynne was there to do some of the worrying for me, but it was still a nail-biter. The actual interviews went fine and I played the same two songs at both, “Awash” and an acoustic rendition of “From the Summit” that made it sound almost like a completely different song because the electric guitar is so much a part of that song’s signature. But whatever. They liked it.
The result of all the rushing around in drive-time traffic is that we waltzed into the record release party close to six o’clock. Which meant I was totally stressed out about being late and therefore not thinking about anything else when I rushed in other than putting my guitar on stage, finding Artie, and hitting the men’s room–not necessarily in that order. Being focused on those things, I therefore hadn’t prepared myself at all to run smack into Tony outside the men’s room door.
He was guarding the door.
“How you doin’, boss.” He gave me a nod. “You can go on in.”
“He’s in there, isn’t he?”
Tony gave me a knowing nod. ” ‘ts why I’m standing here. I figure you can go on in, though.”
I went through the door to find Ziggy just emerging from a stall. I don’t know if either of us thought about what we were about to do very much or if it just happened, but we hugged hello and I felt a huge release of tension when I wrapped my arms around him. Like so huge my eyelashes were wet.
He chuckled. “Breathe, Daron.”
I pulled away and took a leak. “Whew. Sorry. Stressful day. Jeez. And now we’re an hour late.”
He huffed. “Don’t be silly. You’re the celeb. You’re supposed to make everyone wait for you, and then make an entrance.”
I zipped up. “Well, I blew it then, since my ‘entrance’ was to plop my guitar on the stage and then hurry over here.”
“That’s fine, then. Let’s stay in here a couple more minutes until the buzz goes around that you’re in the building somewhere.” He leaned against the counter the sinks were set into. It was nicer than the restroom you’d find in a rock club of this size, but still not what I’d call “nice.” The paint was scuffed and the two mirrors didn’t match. “If we go out there together it’ll make the biggest splash.”
There was a knock on the door, and then Tony stuck his head in. “Leader of the house band needs to take a leak.”
Ziggy motioned for him to come in. A guy in his mid-fifties, hair streaked gray, wearing oval sunglasses indoors and an oversized beige leisure jacket, pushed past Tony then. “What the fuck are you rock and roll prima donnas up to in here? Some of us have to work,” he barked as he undid his fly.
Ziggy rolled his eyes behind the guy’s back. “Just taking five.”
“Yeah, well, sorry there’s no backstage dressing room, your highness.” He shook off and zipped up.
“Richie Barone,” I said. “Right?”
“Pleased to meetcha.” We shook hands. “You’re Daron what-the-hell am I supposed to call you now? Moondog? Or Marks?”
“Marks is fine,” I said.
“My daughter’s a nut for your last album. Two years I keep waiting for it to not be the thing in her car tape player and no such luck.” He shook his head.
“How old’s your daughter?” Ziggy asked.
“Twenty-eight,” he said. “I thought I raised her right, you know? On Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck. What can you do.” He shrugged. “Although I hear you’re some kinda hot shit. The next Steve Vai or some shit like that.”
I might have been looking at him kind of intently. This was basically a round of musician dick-sizing and I wasn’t finding it easy to back down. I tried to be casual about it, though. “I get by.”
He waved the gauntlet. “You ever play with a jazz combo?”
“A little, yeah. Blues more than modern jazz, but.” I gave a little shrug.
He laughed and threw the gauntlet down. “You want to sit in on our first set?”
Like I was going to say no. “Sure.”
He laughed harder. “Eight-ish. The other guys’ll show around quarter of. See ya then.” He gave me one of those too-hard pats on the shoulder and walked out.
Ziggy gave him the finger as the door shut behind him. “Asshole. How’d you know his name?”
“I remember him from a party at Jordan’s. His jazz purist stance doesn’t keep him from answering his phone when a pop act needs a sax solo. Although these days there are fewer and fewer of those.”
“Maybe that’s why he’s bitter.” Ziggy shrugged. “You ready to make an entrance?”
“No, but I’m ready to get out of the fucking men’s room.”
Ziggy grinned. “All right. Come on.”
(Have you voted yet for who you want a Christmas story about? Details at the bottom of last post! And even if you have no preference, please do review volume eight on Amazon now that it’s out! -ctan)
(Even Joe Walsh sounded overproduced and lackluster and boring by 1991. -d)