(Saturday bonus post! Thank you everyone who donated to make it happen!)
The show was at the Paradise, which was one of the strangest buildings ever made into a rock club. Have I described it before? The place was kind of longer than it was wide, with the stage not at the far end, like at Bill’s Bar, but on a side wall, with a column smack front and center of the stage and a balcony along the opposite wall. It was a large-ish place capacitywise but it felt cramped when it was full.
They had turned the entire balcony into a “VIP area” for bands and crew because the actual dressing room downstairs wasn’t going to go far with ten bands or something on the bill, but this being a benefit show everybody was a friend of somebody so the entire place during soundcheck was one giant schmoozefest. Thank goodness Carynne was there to remind me who various people were. Everyone looked kind of familiar but that was sometimes not because I had actually met someone but because they were just a type.
The bands were all local, or local-ish, including two bands from Providence, and they seemed to be a mix of thrash and–surprisingly–homocore. I had to ask Carynne about that. I really hadn’t paid attention to gay punk in Boston and I had been under the impression Billy Mastiff was straight.
“He is–that’s his girlfriend over there,” she said, pointing out a pale woman with ink-black pigtails and red Doc Martens to match her red plaid kilt. “But I guess some of the guys in his band played in some of the queer bands and you know, everyone pulls together.”
At one point I betrayed my nerves about the show to her by saying, “What if we suck?” and she said, “What if you do? Nobody loses a limb. Oh wait oh my god that isn’t what I meant–” and we both lost it laughing. When I stopped laughing I realized she was right, though. If Whizbadger utterly stank it didn’t matter in the big picture. It only mattered to me, really, and what I thought didn’t really matter. It was an odd situation to be in. I was determined to try to have some fun with it, but stretching my definition of “fun” might have been kind of necessary in that case.
Soundcheck for that many bands is kind of useless but at least it proves you brought all your equipment. Which is maybe the most important thing anyway. Colin had put up his mohawk–first time in over a year, he said–and had convinced Chris to shave just the sides of his head around his ears and put the rest up in a kind of samurai topknot. When he didn’t have it up you couldn’t even tell he’d done anything.
Bart and I, on the other hand, made a pact not to change anything about ourselves. I planned to hit the stage in my street clothes, which was to say black Chuck Taylor high tops, my most worn-out pair of jeans, an old Dead Milkmen tank top, and a flannel shirt. And I did nothing to my hair but let it hang in my face. I didn’t put on eyeliner. If it was good enough for the Ramones, it was good enough for me.
Soundcheck for us consisted of one song which was two minutes long. I was pretty well convinced my voice sounded like shit but that was okay because it was supposed to. We were going to be third to last on the bill, with only Billy’s girlfriend’s band and then Killpolka itself with a fill-in drummer as headliners. That had to be kind of weird, I thought, to be lying in the hospital and have your band play a gig without you in order to raise the money for your amputation. The amputation wasn’t the weird part: it was the thought that the gig which was supposed to benefit you could be what led to you being replaced. As you can probably tell, I was in a kind of weird headspace that day/night.
Colin started to get nervous as showtime approached but upstairs there were literally buckets of beer to help with that. They helped with the schmoozing, too.
The thing that helped the most with the schmoozing though, actually, was that more than half the people there looked at me and Colin sitting on a bench in the balcony–and at the cloth adhesive backstage passes we had on our legs that said WHIZBADGER on them–and walked away without recognizing me. I’d been out of the local scene too long and I often don’t really look like I do in photographs, and people assume I’m taller and yeah. That cut down on the number of people trying to impress me by a lot. The people I actually knew there were few and far between. The former drummer of Sugargum who was transitioning to male was playing with one of the homocore bands but we didn’t actually talk. Marilyn. Oh, and Watt, actually, but he just came and handed a check to promoter, said a quick hello and that he couldn’t stay, and I promised to call him and have lunch before I went back to New York.
That was it. Everyone else was a stranger. In fact, Colin and I were actually getting these “who the fuck are those guys” looks from bands lower than us on the bill. We enjoyed the free beer and Colin told me amusing stories of failed relationships. I still found it interesting he and Marilyn didn’t consider their relationship a failure so much as simply over–except that the friends-with-benefits part wasn’t over. Or, I guess that was a new relationship that started after the romantic one ended. I wasn’t sure I could compartmentalize that much.
I was amused that at least two people did recognize Colin as formerly of Thrash Rat Brigade. Then again Colin was hard to miss with a mohawk that made him seven feet tall.
At one point after the show had started, but during a break between bands, two guys came up to us, both with the “underage” mark in Sharpie on the back of their hands. One of them was hanging back sullenly and the other was trying to get him to quit it. The sullen one was on the chunky side for a punk, but his brownish hair was well-spiked, he had an assortment of piercings in one ear and his hands jammed into the pockets of his leather duster.
The bolder one, who was skinny like Colin, finally came right up to us. His accent was a lot like Christian’s, central-Mass. with a touch of Southie. “I made a bet with my brother Ernie that you’re Daron Moondog.”
“I’m telling you,” Ernie, the sullen one, said from a few feet away and then rolled his eyes and came close enough to be in the conversation. “He’s fucking not.”
“He fucking is,” Colin said, like some kind of bodyguard for me. “Who wants to know?”
“Mark. From the Markdowns,” the skinny one said. “And this is my brother Ernie.”
“And I told you I’m Raid now,” Ernie/Raid said with an exasperated huff. “This guy’s barely older’n you, Mark. If you’re Daron Moondog, prove it.”
Colin gave me a glance, like maybe he was looking for my signal to do get rid of these guys, but I had a better idea. I slipped my flannel shirt off to reveal the rocket tattoo on my shoulder.
Raid turned bright red, said something half-strangled that might have been “oh my fucking hell,” and then ran away.
“Idiot! Get the fuck back here,” Mark shouted, and Raid came slinking back. “He idolizes you.”
“I don’t listen to that corporate shit anymore,” Raid insisted, his face still lobster-red. “I mean, no offense, but.” He mumbled something that might as well as been “oh my fucking hell” again at that point.
Mark swatted him on the head. “Quit being rude. Do they look like sellouts to you?” Then to us, “How did you guys start a punk band anyway?”
“It’s a long story,” Colin said.
“Oh shit we’re on next,” Raid/Ernie said. “Come on, Mark, talk to them later!” He ran away again and this time Mark didn’t try to call him back.
Mark lit a cigarette and shook his head. “Sorry about him. He’s a little excitable. Still in high school and you know how it is. But he does. Idolize you, I mean. Learned every song on Prone to Relapse, can do the solos note for note. I better go, though, before he has a heart attack.”
I shook his hand. “Nice to meet you. Break a leg.” They were the first words I actually spoke in the conversation.
He gave us each a nod and retreated.
Colin and I waited until he was gone before we busted out laughing.
A short while later Bart and Chris came back from having gone out for some dinner–something I couldn’t imagine doing before our set. Beer would have to do; my stomach wouldn’t take anything else. Bart was trying to tell me that he had discovered that the chinese restaurant we liked to order from was located across the street but I wasn’t really focusing on his words, just nodding in agreement. I had apparently drunk enough to be detached.
I was detached and out of it–but not anxious–right up until the show and then I had one moment of anxiety where I was like, what if I stay this detached and I have to be the one who goes out there and actually fronts this fucking band? And then it was too late to worry about it, we were up there.
The emcee, who was a local radio DJ I recognized, accidentally introduced us as “Whizbanger” which actually made more sense than our actual (fake) name but whatever, I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I said something like “Here’s hoping Billy’s okay” and then Bart counted off and then I was screaming into the microphone.
I don’t think I made eye contact with a single person in the audience. I was bent over for half the song, and then I was screaming and pointing at Bart who had his tongue sticking out of his mouth while he banged the drums trying to keep up with his own pace and the bam, the song was over. I was out of breath, and we were all staring at each other kind of wide-eyed from the adrenaline rush. Short songs played very fast.
It was kind of cathartic, I guess. I was out of it enough that if I fucked up the words I didn’t even notice. Since no one knew the words it didn’t matter. By the fourth song though I was noticing the audience who were screaming and jumping around, a mosh pit had formed and people were getting into it. Cool.
Then came “Sex with an Ex” and an accidental but very cool thing happened musically, where my voice broke halfway through a line and Colin, who was miked to sing backup, finished it. And we ended up singing the whole song that way, in a kind of call and response fashion.
Of course by then the words had ceased to have any meaning for me, because the only way I could really get through fronting the band like that was for the words to just be musical sounds that came out of my mouth, and we ended the song with that idea of getting the crowd to chant “Sex with an ex!” and some of them did, lustily, and with great gusto, while some milled around in the back which was par for the course for a show like that. Actually fewer people were milling around during our set than most, so I felt good about that.
Generally speaking my feeling as we rolled into our last song was great. It was great until my brain rewound the tape and listened to what was still ringing in my ears and I realized how the back and forth between me and Colin could be interpreted, i.e. like the two of us were exes yelling at each other. Now I remember / how you like to fuck. Do you remember / the taste of my cock. Et cetera.
Fuck it. So what. That’s what I told myself as I threw myself into our last song and then ended the set by stage diving, which was something I’d never done before. The crowd passed me all the way to the bar on the far side and when I landed on my feet, someone handed me a drink. Rum and Coke, I think. I said thank you and drank it.
That may be why I was puking in the bathroom when the riot started.
(Enjoy your weekend everybody. More news about books & stuff this week. And don’t forget about the February Fanworks Challenge on threesomes/moresomes, ok?)