Here’s the thing about what happened during the show in Atlanta: everyone thought I was drunk off my ass.
I wasn’t. After what Clarice had said I didn’t dare sneak an extra drink in before the show, no matter how much I tried to justify to myself that I “needed” one.
I didn’t need one. I didn’t even “need” to calm down. I had a moment where I disappeared into a men’s room stall–the big wheelchair accessible one at the end–and stood there with my head against the wall and my arms over my head sort of silently screaming. Listening to a roar in my ears and my thoughts crackling all inside my skull.
What was interesting was that at some point, though, all the crackling quieted down, and my thoughts started to make sense again, and I realized…I don’t “need” to feel better. No one likes feeling like shit but actually in the larger scheme of things does it ruin the show? No. There’s no correlation between how I feel before I step on the stage and how I feel after I get out there. I’ve known that for years. Anxiety sometimes disappears, while other times stage fright used to strike out of the blue, remember? (Thank goodness that hadn’t happened in a long long time.)
But anyway. The thought I had was I didn’t have to desperately try to escape from my crappy feelings like a rat in a cage filling up with shit. They were just feelings. And when those feelings were sourced from someone like Melissa, who clearly had her own issues to deal with, did they even matter? I didn’t have to give a shit whether Melissa liked me or approved of me or anything.
The feeling was liberating. I felt 200% lighter. I not only immediately stopped worrying about how I felt, but I actually felt better. It was almost like I told myself “if you feel bad, just stop” and I actually did. Huh.
Part of me assumed the relief would be temporary but, hey, I’d take it. And if my vocal pitch was off tonight, well, there was nothing I could do to reverse it at this moment, so there was no use stressing over it. I could beat myself up about it later, I decided. Right now the one thing that mattered was a good show.
When I got on the stage, this new level of not giving a shit transformed into a kind of euphoria. I was on fire. I kept it bottled up for a couple of songs and then I let it out.
I don’t have a lot of clear memories of the show in detail because, like I said, everyone else assumed I was drunk and that was why I was holding back nothing. In fact I was high on my own brain.
At one point I got on top of the Marshall stack–not the way Ziggy climbed up the face of the sound system that time at Roseland, but from the side, plus I knew these were real ones that weighed as much as I did, much sturdier overall. And I played a solo lying flat on my back, leading the band from up there, staring up into the light rig and doing it all by sound and feel…
Thank goodness they all stayed with me. I guess I had known they would or I wouldn’t have done it? Right? In hindsight I guess it all seems like it was fated to work. I didn’t know I could actually lead a band I couldn’t make eye contact with.
They stayed with me, though, letting me create a solo while just Alan and Martin put in hits of the rhythm section, on the one, on the one, on the one-two, on the one-two, on the one-two-three, on the one-two-three, and then back to the one again, the next time bringing the whole band in on the stingers…Somewhere out there in bootleg tape land there is audio of this show that Louis unofficially allowed some fan to dub straight off the sound board. I’ve never heard it but I know it exists. Once in a while someone will tell me they were there or that they heard it and wished they were there.
Basically I took the whole band out on a high wire act with no net and then brought them to the other side safely. And they loved it.
And they assumed I would never have done it if I hadn’t been drinking or possibly on drugs. Not because I was acting so drastically different from usual–though I admit I pushed the envelope. Because they’d gotten used to me drinking so heavily.
I didn’t much like that feeling when, after the show, I realized those were the assumptions people made. But again I was trying to let go of bad feelings, not let them get to me. So I brushed them off and decided the only way to work on repairing that impression was going to be by being responsible about my alcohol intake.
Which was why I had a brief moment of panic when Remo caught me in the green room as we were packing out to say, “I’m going ahead for a press day in Nashville and Cray’s got a gig tomorrow night at The Station Inn. You comin’ with?”
There’s a subtle difference between Remo asking “you wanna come with” and “you comin’ with.” The first one is a a request, the second one is an expectation of a yes, even if it sounds like a question. I didn’t resent that at this point–it had sunk in by then that I owed it to him to do more than the minimum of a hired hand–plus hell yes I wanted to see Cray in his native environment. But the moment of panic was a split second of trying to think how I was going to keep all the drinking under control. Do you remember how much I drank in Japan? A lot. Cray was no small part of that.
I had a flashback to the night we’d had an epic end-of-tour karaoke party and I’d gotten up and sang, and now I suddenly wondered if Clarice was right if I’d been flat and couldn’t tell. What a mortifying thought.
Remo saw my hesitation but didn’t overreact, just pressed on gently. “The van’s leaving in a couple of minutes. We’ve got room for a bunch of people to go.”
I seized on that. “Can Flip come along, too?”
“Sure. In fact I bet he wants to. Hey, Flip!” Remo shouted to him and it was quickly settled that Flip, the horn section, and Jam were all going to tag along for the ride.
I sat down to transfer some stuff from one bag to another and make sure I had the right crap with me for an overnight in Nashville before the rest of our gear caught up with us and realized my knees felt shaky. Whew–coming down from a performance high. I kind of wondered if I should try to do what you do after an acid trip, but I didn’t think it was likely I could find a can of tuna fish at eleven at night in Atlanta without serious effort. Unless maybe the van driver saw a 7-11 on our way to the highway?
“Hey, Flip,” I asked, as Flip crossed the room. “You don’t happen to have a stash of canned tuna, do you?”
Flip’s sunglasses were perched on top of his head and it looked like he had two pairs of eyes when he looked at me. “Why, you have a stray cat you want to feed?”
“Just asking,” I said. He chuckled and walked away from me and I’m pretty sure the whole band and crew had basically decided at that point I was certifiably insane.
(Final week to make a donation to Equality Florida, The Brady Campaign against Gun Violence, or Rock the Vote in order to get a new Ziggy bonus story! Deadline is July 31st. Relevant links and details are all back on this post: https://daron.ceciliatan.com/archives/5507)