By eight pm Ziggy was still nowhere to be found, and I still hadn’t read the main part of the article. I sat in the basement with the Ovation in my lap noodling until Bart finally said “What’s wrong with you?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, what’s going on in your head, Daron?” He put his bass down and sat on the rug across from me. “You’ve been totally moody this whole week. In fact, you’ve been like this ever since New York.”
“Like… I don’t know. You didn’t used to be so… uneasy, opaque, distracted, glum.” The string of words hit me like slaps.
I wrapped my arms around the guitar and rested my head on the neck. “I’ll feel better when we get this record done and hit the road again.”
“I think you’ll feel better if you get out of the fucking house. Have you even left here for five minutes this week?”
He knocked me on the shoulder like he always did. “You know Colin’s band is playing tonight at Axis? Ziggy’s not going to show–it’s Friday night and he’s blowing us off, how much you want to bet? Let’s go down there and blow our eardrums out.”
“Is it 18+?”
“Oh, come on, everyone knows you there. We won’t even have to pay to get in. Colin’s your housemate forgodsake.”
“I hate it when you talk sense.” I’d had four hours of sleep and could not let go of the fact I wanted them to hear the tape of Midnight. But he was right, Ziggy wasn’t going to show, and staying home wasn’t likely to make anything better.
“So come on, let’s go. Tidewater’s headlining.” He stood up. “I’ll call Michelle to come get us.”
“Alright, alright. Let me change my clothes.”
Colin’s band, which changed names every few months, was a kind of post-punk retro band with mohawks and nose rings. Chris and I would sometimes kid him around the house about how Sid Vicious had been dead for ten years already, but actually I kind of liked their thrashy, noisy stuff. They used to practice in our basement too before their drummer moved to a bigger place. Tonight they were calling themselves Thrash Rat Brigade. I changed from blue jeans to black, put on my black high tops, put a flannel shirt on over my T-shirt and my leather jacket over the whole thing.
Bart was right, we didn’t have to pay to get in. Tidewater were local, but bigtime local and so who knew, maybe there’d be a crowd. I even had a CD of theirs. The three of us went into the alley where the load-in doors were. Colin was sitting on the wet concrete smoking a cigarette. “Hey, hey, hey,” he said as we walked up. “The artistes emerge at last. Follow me.”
We did, up the cramped back stairway to the “backstage” area. Security barely gave us a glance, and Colin gave us each a beer out of his band’s stash. “Sorry it’s only Miller,” he said, “but this is only a $75 gig.” I carried my beer downstairs to see what was happening: one band was already on stage, and there would be two more after Thrash Rat Brigade. The club’s booker’d had the good sense to put other thrash bands on the Tidewater bill. Maybe by the time the headliner came on the pit would be full of mohawked figures in leather and engineer boots, but right now the floor was sparse. I stood on the edge with my beer, wishing for my ear plugs. The sound here was so loud it battered me physically like a strong wind, but you know it was sort of soothing too, wearing off my rough edges and making me feel numb.
I finished my beer around the time Reggie, Thrash Rat’s drummer, started lugging his kit to set up in front of where the headliner’s drum kit sat pre-set on the stage. I went and gave him a hand while Colin and the rest tuned up. “Don’t know why I bother,” Colin joked over the music being piped through the PA. “Two seconds into the first song I’m going to be all out of whack anyway.”
“No no,” Reggie said as he tightened a cymbal, “I’m the one who does the whacking.”
I put Reggie’s stool down with one hand and his high hat with the other. “I think that’s everything.”
He looked over the assemblage of percussion. “Yeah, looks like. You know, I’m really a metalhead at heart. If I was a real punk, I’d just have a kick, a snare and maybe one crash. Instead I’ve got all this.” His set-up was still small compared to Christian’s ever-growing collection. Reggie circled around the gear moving things and positioning microphones.
“So how’s the stuff going?” Colin said before I could jump off the riser. “I mean, the rehearsal and stuff.”
“Pretty good. Never know what’s going to happen, though.” I took a step off the riser. “Talk to you after.”
Something about Colin’s question made me feel conspicuous. I was becoming aware there was something different about us from the other bands we knew. We had a major label deal and everyone was curious about it. Don’t ask me for advice, I thought, because I’m just making it up as I go along. In another year we could be back to playing $75 gigs, third on the bill, too… well, I didn’t quite believe that.
Thrash Rat were loud, fast, raucous, and funny. Marilynne split singing duties with Colin, and she put her all into growling and spitting out ironic lyrics with sometimes intentionally terrible rhymes. By their fourth song the pit was filling up. Maybe next time they’d play second on the bill for $100.
I realized I’d lost track of Bart and Michelle a while ago.