The writer from St. Louis drove us to the venue for soundcheck. On the way there Remo said to me, “You better explain about the lounge act.”
“Lounge act?” Will asked, sounding slightly alarmed, or maybe I imagined that.
I was in the back. I held onto the inner shoulders of their two seats to keep myself from being flung backward as Will gunned it onto the highway. “Oh yeah, him and me, we’re doing a bossa nova tribute album,” I said without missing a beat.
“Just kidding. The band does a thing every day, someone else has to get up in play a song. It’s kind of a tradition.”
“A new tradition,” Remo clarified.
“Sometimes silly, sometimes serious, keeps everybody on their toes,” I said.
“Your idea?” Will asked.
“Daron gets bored easily.”
“I do not. But it keeps everyone fresh in case anyone was starting to get bored,” I said.
“Does this mean you’ve given up the thing of letting each band member pick a cover to do on their birthday?” Will asked.
“Who’d you hear about that from?” I asked.
“Sources,” he said, which I suppose was the answer I deserved.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve given that up either, but no one mentioned any upcoming birthdays to me on this leg. Plus I can’t rehearse anything new while I’m on medical restrictions.” Dammit, I added silently. I was already starting to think about the Ziggy South America tour of course, and I really wanted to be rehearsing that set for myself. If the rest of the band was doing what they were supposed to be doing then all I had to worry about was that I’d be the one who had to come up to speed. And normally I wouldn’t really worry about myself except there were the nagging fears that my fingers/head/hand/whatever wouldn’t be able to cut it… which I couldn’t really let myself think about too much or I’d turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Better to be in denial and push through.
Remember this was not even 24 hours after my meltdown, so I was on eggshells mentally that day. Had I really told Carynne I didn’t want to do this anymore? That was a silly thing to say. A stupid thing. I knew I didn’t mean it and I was glad no one else had heard me say it. It was disturbing to hear that kind of thing and it was even more disturbing to realize that sane people–assuming I was sane–could say things that they really didn’t mean just because they were in pain.
So that was another thing not to think about.
We arrived at the venue and I went into my preshow routine. Flip brought me a Gatorade when it was time for my vitamin. Vocal exercises with the gals. Soundcheck. The day’s lounge act was the horns doing a duet cover they’d worked up of the Allman Brothers song “Jessica,” but I could never remember which woman’s name it was and so I thought it was “Melissa” and that they were playing with fire by picking it. Remo remarked after they were done that if we hadn’t been less than a week from getting off the road, he’d have wanted to work that into the set somewhere.
So in my mind everything was getting back to normal. I hadn’t seen Mel and Ford anywhere, so I wasn’t worrying about them at that moment, and my hand was doing okay, and Remo was calm, and everything seemed fine for a bit. I was looking into the future, two hours until showtime, and thinking about taking a nap.
I took that nap sitting up in an armchair backstage, not really asleep but just sitting there with my eyes closed, my mind drifting. Flexeril was good for that. It made it possible to relax so much that I almost didn’t feel my body at all anymore, like I was on the verge of having an out of body experience.
At one point George came up to me and said, “Daron, just checking, you’re sister’s cool, right?”
I opened my eyes and he was crouched in front of me on the balls of his feet, putting him right in my line of sight. “Courtney? Yeah, she’s cool,” I said, not having actually thought about what he was asking or why, just, of course Courtney’s cool. He nodded and went away. I closed my eyes again like some venerable Buddha having dispensed a koan. If I had been more with it I might have thought to wonder why he was asking. Or maybe what he was actually asking. The one half-thought I had I quashed before it really even formed which was that he was checking on whether it was okay for her to hit on guys in the crew or something, which of course it wasn’t, but she wouldn’t do that, or if she did it was best if we all pretended it wasn’t happening. La la la not listening.
A timeless moment later Flip came to tell me it was 45 minutes to curtain. There’s no actual curtain so of course it was the imaginary curtain that signified showtime he was referring to. A lot of things seemed imaginary to me at that moment. That’s how my preshow time had been ever since Vitamin F had come into my life.
Boy, Remo looked stressed out. I assumed something new had come up with Mel. I put a hand on his shoulder in a silently supportive, masculine manner–you know, almost a slap at the beginning but with a little squeeze at the end–since I couldn’t think of something to say.
He let out a half-laugh. “Boy, I better get some great songs outta this.”
“Don’t sweat the mama drama,” I said, trying to extend my bubble of Zen-like calm to him like some kind of Jedi mind trick.
Miraculously, it seemed to work. “If you can be this calm, so can I.”
“That’s the spirit. Come on.” I led him to the hallway where the band would line up to take the stage. And I stood there with an arm around him and the neck of my guitar in my hand until the rest of the band had taken the stage. I would be the second to last onto the stage and then Remo would come last and get the biggest applause. I had noticed the applause for me had seemed to get louder as the tour had gone on. I told myself not to get cocky about it. It was two things: one, that the venues were fuller than they were at the beginning, and two, it was post-injury and people knew about it. Remo’s applause was always the loudest.
The show proceeded along with me in Vitamin F autopilot. As they say at NASA, all systems nominal. But then as I was changing guitars and toweling my face at the edge of the stage I noticed Courtney waving “hello” to me from the security pit. Which was weird, because why would Court wave at me like that? There were a couple of other people in there, which was normal: Will, two photographers with big lenses on their cameras, two security people watching the crowd, Courtney, and a midwestern-plump woman wearing the same bright orange ear plugs as our road crew but a puffy-shouldered light-colored print dress just like she was somebody’s mom.