That night we went to what I was told was a legendary hole-in-the-wall to see Cray’s new band play. I guess you would describe the venue as a honky tonk. It was a club so no-frills that the stage was backed with wood paneling like a suburban TV room and only had two different colors of lights. Like in some of the jazz clubs I’d been to, you didn’t go there for a “show,” you went there for the music. The audience sat in plastic chairs at formica tables and could get pizza from the bar. The ceiling was low and so was the stage itself, which was maybe twelve inches at best. I’d say the capacity topped out at 200 and that would be if they pushed it to the absolute max.
Cray’s band were going to play two sets. Before the first set he came over to say hello. Flip gave him a bear hug just to make him uncomfortable but it didn’t really work because Cray either wasn’t as uptight as he had been in Japan or he he’d gotten better at hiding that he was. We introduced him and Jam, who looked about as out of place in there as a circus clown on a submarine, and they shook hands and then mostly ignored one another.
I didn’t fit in perfectly either, since just about every man there was in a long sleeve shirt with collar and buttons–with the buttons done up, I might add. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d actually buttoned a flannel shirt, which were the only shirts with buttons I owned, but if I did it was probably because I was cold in the winter. Also my hair was too long for this crowd. But I didn’t feel out of place partly because Jam was much farther out than I was, and partly because one of the first people we ran into was the fiddle-playing radio deejay who immediately began singing my praises to some of the other regulars.
Remo got dragged in at the end of their first set. It was a Monday night, usually the worst night to draw, but I think Cray had told people Remo might be there and so the place was packed by then.
In the intermission between sets, Cray took me aside. “You want to do ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps?'”
“The question is, do you want to,” I said. “It’s your show.”
He blinked. “I mean, I’m asking you if you would.”
“If you want me to, sure. I haven’t played it since that duet we cooked up in Japan.”
“Let’s run through it.”
We went out back and stood there leaning against the building working out how it went again. When it seemed like I had a handle on it, I asked, “You want to try to do that thing on ‘Tracks’ you played on? ‘Moonroad’?”
“Man, that was a while ago.”
“I know, but it’s a great setup for a solo. Let me see if I can remember how it went myself.” Had I played a rendition of it with Bart while promo-ing the record? Yes. It still took a minute of fucking around to get it to come out of my fingers. And then there it was. Still got it. “What do you think?”
“Yeah, that’ll work. Jared can probably even have a go on fiddle.”
Someone came out and corralled us inside. They played a couple of songs and then Cray brought me onto the stage. It was another of those you had to be there performances. Not quite at the level of bringing the house down that Ziggy and Sarah managed at The Cat Club, but a real solid, fresh, special performance that could never be duplicated. I was once again glad that Cray had turned out not to be a total and complete asshole and that I hadn’t been a dick to him, either.
After the set he actually smiled, and let people congratulate him, and he brought me a beer and I felt it would be rude not to drink it. My first of the night, it was after the show, and by my rules that was okay.
Then we ended up going back to Cray’s house, all four of us from the Nomad entourage, most of his band and hangers on, and a couple of other musicians that he and Remo knew, and a more or less nonstop jam session ensued where the alcohol and music flowed freely. A couple of times Flip would say to me, “I’m getting something to drink. You want anything?” And I’d say yes. And sometimes he brought me water or club soda and sometimes he brought me something stronger.
I think he was basically giving me one drink for every two of his. This strategy, if it was meant to keep my intoxication level to half of Flip’s, didn’t exactly work, though, because I’m also half Flip’s size. Okay, not quite, since I’d put on all that muscle I was probably up to 145, but Flip was probably 260. So not far off.
I wasn’t what I would call blitzed, though. I was playing music, after all, so I was trying to keep my wits about me, and for the most part I succeeded. The same couldn’t be said for the rest of them.
The music went on until about four in the morning. Remo played more than I did, because he was more of a legend than I was, and each time a new group of musicians showed up–straight from whatever gig they had just finished playing–the jam would get revitalized. At four was when the local constabulary of some kind, who I take it was the cousin or brother of the girl Cray was then involved with, basically asked everyone to voluntarily stop so they wouldn’t have to make us stop.
All told a fairly epic night.
Me and Remo and Cray sat on his front porch saying goodbye to people as they sobered up enough to leave. The light was starting to show on the horizon. I would’ve liked to be in bed before full on dawn hit but I wasn’t in any hurry, really.
“How’s married life working out?” Cray said to Remo.
“It’s work,” Remo said.
“How old’s the kid now?”
“About to turn eight months.”
“Craziest eight months of my life.”
Cray shook his head. “Peg and I had a scare last month. Thought she was pregnant, got all worked up about it, what are we going to do, that kind of thing. But then it turned out it was nothing.”
I thought he was going to stop there, but after taking another swig of his drink, he went on in a bit of a monotone: “She missed, then she bled real heavy, and I worried about her but she said it was just that’s what happens when it’s two month’s worth at a time.” Then he looked at Remo questioningly.
“I’m no doctor,” Remo said.
“Still. That sound right to you?”
Remo scratched at the stubble on his chin. “A woman knows better than anybody. You be careful with what you say about that.”
Cray nodded. “Yeah.” He stood and stretched. “I better go join her. If there’s anyone else crashed out here, they can stay.”
“You coming to the show tomorr–tonight, I mean?” Remo asked.
I spoke for the first time in an hour. “You gonna do an encore with us? Hell, you know almost the whole set.”
Cray cracked a smile, but I could see him winding up inside even with all the alcohol inside him. “Sure.”
“Come to soundcheck if you want a little run through,” I said. Give him the best chance to be his best, that was my job. “Probably two or three o’clock? Not sure.”
“I’ll come down soon as I’m awake,” he said, and shook my hand.
(By the way, we’re getting close to another bonus chapter, you might have noticed… Meanwhile, if you have any extra dough waiting to be spent, I should mention that the latest of my heterosexual kinky rock star romances went on sale a few days ago! WILD LICKS is about the guitar player from The Rough, a band known for its kinky public image, but Mal is probably the kinkiest of them all. -ctan)