I’ve been here before. I had that thought repeatedly at Lakewood Amphitheater. The loading dock was familiar. The men’s room was familiar. A particular part of concrete hallway was familiar.
Over there was where Jonathan kissed me. And there was the spot where Courtney tore Dave a new one. But most of all I was haunted by the image of a bandaged, fragile Ziggy here, there, and everywhere. We’d almost cancelled this show, I remembered.
I remembered having to put antibiotic drops in my eye and being unable to take a proper shower because of the need to keep the bandages dry.
Jeezus, let’s hope we never have to go through something like that again.
I didn’t have Court’s phone number where she was staying in New York so I left a message with Carynne who probably did. Just a “hey, I’m in Atlanta and I miss you guys, pass it on” kind of message.
I again brought everyone to the stage with a random song. Another old fave: “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin. Once everyone was there, I said, “Who’s doing a lounge act? Clarice and Fran?”
They gave me the single-nod-in-unison and went to their mics. They proceeded to sing an acapella version of “Stop! In The Name of Love” by The Supremes except instead of the regular lyrics they did a somewhat X-rated parody version in which the female singer exhorts her lover not to give it to her up the ass. (I can’t recreate the lyrics but I do remember “fart” rhymed with “heart.” “Haven’t I been sweet to you? Think it oh-oh-verrrr.”) As you can imagine this was a massive hit with the band and crew (and me) and established a very high (low?) bar for the next act to follow.
“Any takers? Any takers for tomorrow’s lounge act?” I called when the raucous laughter and clapping died down. (The horn section had practically pissed themselves they were laughing so hard.)
Alan spoke up. “We might have something. If not tomorrow, next day for sure.” He and his brother exchanged meaningful looks.
Day after. That meant they were going to actually rehearse for it. I felt a huge grin inside me but I kept it cool on the outside. “All right. We’ll see who steps up tomorrow. Reem, what song do you actually want to do now, though?”
He chuckled. “Right.” He exchanged a couple of words and some hand signals with the sound crew and we did a little of “Widowmaker” and then we both changed guitars and did most of “Riptide,” which was the current single starting to catch on radio-wise.
Remo was still chuckling to himself when we finished with that. He lost the mirth immediately, though, on catching sight of Melissa and some of her family standing just off the edge of the stage. Ford was nowhere in sight–presumably in the bus or backstage with someone because a soundcheck was considered too loud for infant ears–but Melissa looked ripshit about something.
Happy Occident started setting up and as the band dispersed I should’ve hightailed it somewhere but I guess out of curiosity or masochism or something I hung back a little and heard her tear into him.
“Did you think that was funny? That was not funny.” When that didn’t get a rise out of him she went on. “That was not appropriate for my mother to hear!”
You know there’s no winning an argument like this, right? Remo didn’t, or had forgotten, or was trying to change that. “‘Scuse me? Mel, your mother isn’t exactly living in a convent.”
“What are you implying about my mother!”
“What? Nothing! Just that she’s an adult, not a five-year-old–”
“And this obviously is not a family environment!”
“No, it sure as hell is not,” he said, reasonably but I could hear the steam rising under his collar. “It’s a rock band, Mel. Did you forget that?”
“You.” She pointed at me. “You’re his godfather. How can you condone filthy language around your godson?”
Her finger was like a laser stabbing me. “Me?” Silly me, I tried to win the argument, too. “Mel, Ford doesn’t even understand words yet and even if he did I’ve told you before to keep him away from the noise.”
“Nonetheless. Anal sex is a disgusting topic I won’t have discussed in front of my child.”
Remo tried to help? I think? “I guess we’ll wait until he’s eighteen to tell him Daron’s gay, then.”
I know, I know, I know, this fight was going every kind of wrong. I was still trying to deal with Mel being an irrational nut about propriety in an environment where propriety was never going to fly so I hadn’t even gotten to being potentially offended about the fact that underneath it all she might have been equating me being gay with anal sex and therefore disgusting, and instead Remo made the gay-equals-buttsex leap instead… Argh. Everyone’s blood pressure was through the roof, basically.
Anyway. Melissa looked at me like I had poo smeared on my jeans, looked at Remo like she expected him to spray me with Clorox, and took a deep breath like she was preparing to launch into a full diatribe when her own mother cleared her throat from behind the Marshall stack.
“Mel,” she said, not super-sharply but with that kind of Mom-putting-her-foot-down tone that was intensified by the fact she was a chain-smoker whose voice had degenerated to a rough bark anyway. “Give it a rest.”
Melissa clenched her fists, turned on her heel, and marched away. Her mom pulled on her cigarette, shrugged at us and shook her head. “You try to raise ’em with some common sense but what can you do?” So that part endeared me to her. What she said after that put me on the defensive again. “You tell those darkies I liked their sense of humor just fine.”
I didn’t trust my voice to say anything so I just nodded and walked away.
Holy shit, did she just call Fran and Clarice “darkies”? I didn’t even know what to say. Did she think she was being polite by not using the N-word? I was too stunned to even know how to react. Did she think I wouldn’t be offended? Did I have a right to be offended? I was more offended about that than I was about Melissa equating my sex life with shit.
I went straight to Fran and Clarice to tell them how fantastic they were; their lounge act had in fact been the perfect thing. Then I tried to pretend like all I wanted to do was my vocal exercises (which I’d skipped on our day off) but they were having none of it. “You’re vibrating, Daron,” Fran pointed out. “You’re livid. Something happen?”
“No,” I lied. I’m such a coward. I modified it to the truth: “Nothing I can explain, anyway.”
They respected that and we tried to go through the exercises but it was like my voice literally quavered from the adrenaline still running through my system.
So I had a beer. Just one. Alcohol is a sedative. It’s calming.
And then we tried the exercises again, and got through them. But at the end, Clarice said, “You know, your pitch gets off when you drink.”
My blood ran cold. “You’re kidding.”
“I’m not,” she said with a very sad shake of her head. “Messes up the inner ear somehow. You’re not off by a lot but just a little-little bit.”
A little-little bit was too much so far as I was concerned. I mean, fuck, pitch was a kind of orthodoxy with me, remember? I’d rather have true pitch than a pure soul any day. Fuck fuck fuck.
I consoled myself with the thought that when we left Atlanta we were leaving Melissa, Ford, and family behind and so stress level should go down. We were going to get through it. I promised myself I would talk to Flip about easing me back to my old old rules about not drinking at all until after a show. It was too late for today but next show, next one. Or maybe the one after that. Nashville and Memphis were coming up. One of those.
One of those.
(Folks, we’re coming up on the end of July. Last chance to make a donation to one of three designated charities in order to get an upcoming bonus story about Ziggy! Full deets on this post here: https://daron.ceciliatan.com/archives/5507. The three charities are: Equality Florida, The Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, and Rock The Vote. After you make your donation of any amount, even just $5, email a copy of your receipt/confirmation (either a screencap or a PDF or your paypal confirmation) to daron.moondog @ gmail along with your mailing address, and I’ll email you back the bonus story as soon as it’s done. For $25 or more I’ll send some DGC stickers/tattoos (send me your mailing address). $50 or more a DGC red notebook. -ctan)