Out in the main rehearsal area I found Jordan with another friend in tow.
We exchanged our complicated handshake and my hand didn’t even cramp up while doing it.
Then he introduced the friend whose name and connection I promptly forgot. (Or maybe it took me a couple of years to forget but given that I’d taken a Vitamin F I probably forgot immediately. The only reason I remember the friend at all is he was the excuse for Jordan to drop by–to impress this guy by letting him tag along.
The encounter with Linn had pumped my adrenaline but Vitamin F made it a kind of thrillride instead of scary. “Come hear what we’ve been doing.”
I admit I was more interested in impressing Jordan than his tag-along. I’m not even sure why. Just something about him being there made me take things up a notch.
I set the timer for 30 minutes and we ran through the first five tunes in the set without too much of a glitch. Ziggy sang a lot of it while sitting on top of an amp and swinging his feet, and it was always amazing to me that he could project so much fierceness into his voice when all he was doing was just sitting there. I knew on the stage it would come out in his body language, too, but it was amazing to me that he could channel it that way.
At the end of five songs run-through like that without a break I was feeling it, but it felt solid, and that felt good. Now if we could just get the other three-quarters of the show to be in just as good shape…
One thing at a time. Jordan seemed to like what he heard and that encouraged me, too. I was still feeling like the music was pretty darn dull but I was way beyond being able to worry about it.
We moved on to working on the next block of songs and actually we almost nailed those, too. I made eye contact with Jordan a lot, like I couldn’t keep myself from wandering over to him and looking at him and then wandering back to the band.
Then it was time for a break. I was out of breath and high as a kite.
Ziggy nearly bit me on the ear as he said affectionately into it, “You play better with an audience.”
“So do you,” I said.
“You sure you don’t want to try a threesome with Trav? I’m sure I could arrange it.”
I shook my head. Yeah, I was still attracted to him, but Jordan and I had pretty much agreed that an edge of unsatisfied thirst between us was the best thing for both of us. I wasn’t coherent enough to explain that to Ziggy right now, though, so I put it on the list of things to talk about later.
Then it was Bart’s turn to get his hair worked on and the crew started moving all our equipment to the stage, since tomorrow we had to start the full run-throughs with the dancers. We were running out of time and yet maybe we were going to make it. I was full of optimism right then because my hand didn’t hurt and therefore I decided to feel like it would never hurt again. Optimism. Yeah.
While the equipment moving was taking place I offered Trav some coffee and he and I escaped to the loading dock to talk for a while. The coffee was being as intensified as every other thing I was feeling then, which I thought was weird, since normally Vitamin F made me feel everything less, not more. Maybe it was all in my head.
“You happy with the way this is going?” he asked.
“I wish we had two more weeks to rehearse, but we don’t,” I said. “We leave in some ungodly few number of days.” Five?
“I mean, last time we talked about it you were hating the songs.”
My answer stuck in my throat. I hate lying to my friends. To people who know me well. Trav knew me better than most. So I told him the truth. “I still hate them. I still think they’re some of the more formulaic bland pop there is.”
“But? I hear a but.” He blew on his coffee in a paper cup. “Or I hope I do.”
I had the brown chipped mug in my hand that I had adopted as “mine.” I’d already slugged back my coffee long since. Cream cools it, and so does stirring in the sugar. I tried to think it over, but thinking wasn’t going so well right then. “But I’ve come to accept that music isn’t the point here. Spectacle is. Entertainment. Ziggy’s the thing. Music is just one piece of the backdrop he’s dancing in front of. Music’s like the costumes or this.” I ran a hand through my hair.
“You’re okay with that?”
“It’s my job,” I said. Then I showed him my hand, in case he hadn’t noticed. “Then there’s this.”
“I was gonna ask about that.”
“I…guess you could say I proposed? And he said yes?”
“In other words, til death do you part.” He sipped, then blinked. “I mean, jeez–”
“I know what you mean,” I said. “He’s not suicidal and if I thought he was I don’t think I could have done this.”
“Getting hitched or the tour?”
“Either one.” I was saying a lot of things to Jordan that I hadn’t even really said to myself before that, not in such terms. But he was always able to get a lot out of me in a short period of time. “And then I’m going to make a record with Remo…I told you about that…?”
“You did. And then what?”
“And maybe someday we’ll finally have a solid taker for the Star*Gaze stuff. And that’s assuming I ever regain the dexterity to play like that again.” See how calm I was? Miracle of modern science.
“You will,” he said, in his usual Jordan deadpan way, that I took to be confidence, not indifference.
“Thing is, all this playing with the pick is reminding me what it’s like to really let it rip. I’m really going hard at some of these songs, trying to put some life into them, and the thing I’m reminded of most is all that Motley Crue and Bon Jovi I used to blast through when I thought Jersey Shore cover gigs were possibly the ceiling on my future.”
Jordan snorted coffee up his nose, the idea made him laugh so suddenly. “Bon Jovi.”
“You know what I mean, right? What the fuck ever happened to guitar-driven rock? Five years ago it was everything. Now you turn on the radio and it’s a wasteland.”
“So you’ve said to me before.”
“And I’ll say it again. You have to go to the classic rock stations or the metal stations, if you’re lucky enough to find one, but what happened, Jordan? Is it that they expect guitar rock people to just tune in to classic rock and so hit radio doesn’t have to cater to them anymore? Now that they can get everyone to re-buy all the same old records again on CD this time they don’t need new rock artists?”
“Punk is mating with rap right now,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s dead, just changing.”
“Now we’re back to the argument about ‘alternative.’ Which is mysteriously in the toilet.”
“Except for Lollapalooza, which is the only concert tour this summer that had universally strong sales everywhere. Which is proof that the alternative audience is out there and the mainstream record industry is failing to reach them.”
“Well, by definition mainstream isn’t alternative so maybe it’s a self-defeating system,” I said, feeling suddenly very smart.
He nodded but said, “Maybe it’s a cycle. Maybe the pendulum’ll swing back.”
“Maybe? Or maybe all that’s left are guys like those douchebags you gave one of my songs to.”
“Sold one of your songs to,” he corrected. He knew exactly who I meant. “If that’s what you really want more of, D, why’d you go in a prog direction for Star*Gaze? I mean, you’ve got plenty of ripping hot riffs in there, don’t get me wrong. But it’s closer to Rush than it is to Judas Priest.”
“I don’t know,” I said, staring at the scar in the palm of my hand. “That was the music that was in me at the time.”
I made a fist. Before I could answer, Bart found us and told us it was time to get back to it.
(Speaking of punk mating with rap, here’s a song that grazed the alternative charts in the summer of 1991…though I never heard it on the radio. -d)