Ziggy got up on the stage and clapped his hands for attention–a move that by then I realized he’d picked up from Josie, who’d no doubt learned it from some other dance teacher or choreographer or theater person, carrying on back through generations. Anyway, it worked.
“Let’s not waste everyone’s time with the acoustic break right now. The main thing is the transitions in and out of that.” He shot Linn a look who passed the look to the lighting guys.
The head of lighting was a guy I was calling Mr. Ponytail in my head because I hadn’t learned his name. Now, a ponytail is a pretty standard thing for stage and tech guys, but this guy had impressively red hair, both fine and wavy, and he was tall and ropy, so as he loped from place to place his tail would wave behind him like an actual horse’s tail. His eyebrows were such a light color that it looked like his face was in sunlight all the time.
“Jonah,” Linn barked at him, which answered that question. A technical discussion ensued about foregrounding and follow spots and so on. It boiled down to whether they wanted it to be visible that someone had to put two stools out there or not.
Ziggy jumped in at that point. “This is the break point where I have my little chat with the audience,” he said. “Put a follow spot on me and I’ll walk the edge of the stage while I blather. You guys could be building an elephant out of Cheese Doodles and no one is going to notice because all eyes will be on me.”
“True,” Jonah said. His voice was a lot higher than I expected for a guy that tall.
“Daron can be sitting on the stools already when I walk back to him to start that part of the program.”
“We’ll need a stand for the wireless mic you’re carrying, then,” Mickey said. “Or have you pass it off and then use the mic we’re setting.”
They assigned who was going to carry the stools, set up the mics, and take Ziggy’s microphone. This is what I mean about how this was a rehearsal not just for the people on the stage but all the people around us. Everyone had to know their part, where to be when and what to do next.
“And when the segment is over?” Ziggy asked. “How are we getting the band back on stage?”
Linn indicated the band riser with her hand. “They should take their places during your last song.”
“No, I don’t want the movement distracting from the moment,” Ziggy said. “This is important to me.”
I saw a moment of doubt flicker between Linn and Mickey but Ziggy’s will won out. That he came right out and said the words “this is important to me” had a lot of impact, I think.
“The applause tail should be good and long,” he added. “And I’ll get up and bow and milk it if necessary. Daron, too.”
“I’ll need to change guitars,” I added. I was wishing I had a stool right then. All this talk was taking place with the band standing around with our instruments.
“I’ll be right there,” Flip pointed to the far side of the band riser, “with the Strat. You just come get it when the bows are done.”
“You don’t even play in the intro to ‘On the Line,'” Bart pointed out. “We can kick into that while you’re getting plugged in.”
This time it was Linn who clapped her hands. “All right. Let’s run it.”
Yes, we practiced going on and off the stage and all that. The only thing we didn’t practice was the actual song(s) in the set. Ziggy promised we’d run that again in the afternoon.
Then we did the final segment and the encore, which had undergone some last minute rearrangement the other day, moving one song from the main set into the encore.
I can’t remember if I already described how one strategy to lengthen the show was to turn the last number in the encore into an improvisational dance party. Which honestly I thought was corny as hell, doubly so when we rehearsed the dancers being “improvisational,” but I knew it would feel and look different when there was a crowd out there than it did when it was just us. We discussed it among the band: if it felt like the energy of the crowd was really up and they were into it, there was no reason not to make it longer.
In fact, we had every reason to make it longer. Mickey came up to me and Ziggy in the reset break before we ran it all again with a stopwatch in his hand. “Hour and five,” he said with a skeptical look on his face.
“Length of the show?” I said, my stomach plummeting. Having just come off the road with Nomad, whose main set was 90 minutes plus two longish encores, meaning nearly two and a half hours of stage time, one-oh-five was about as embarrassingly inadequate as… basically… Look. This was like Mickey had just told me my dick was only two inches long.
“That doesn’t include the acoustic set,” Ziggy said, his eyes looking huge in his stage makeup. “Right?”
“Right. But didn’t you just tell me you were only gonna do one song?”
“One four minute song but also two full minutes of blather.”
“You better not go over two minutes or you’ll bore them to death,” Mickey warned.
“Still. That’s six minutes. So, one-eleven. And the final number right now we have clocked in for five minutes but you know it could be longer. Call it an hour and fifteen. That’s really not bad considering our target was ninety minutes.”
Ziggy sounded so reasonable. So so reasonable. I still felt like my dick was only two inches long. “Is this one of those situations where if we don’t play long enough promoters are going to refuse to pay us?”
Mickey laughed. “Doubtful. We’d be in bigger trouble for going overtime than undertime.”
“I just don’t want people to feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth,” I told him.
Ziggy kissed me on the cheek, leaving a cool, damp spot. “You know it’s not the length that matters,” he said. “It’s what you do with it.”
It wasn’t the comment that made me blush crazyhot so much as the fact he kissed me like that right in front of Mickey, right like that, just… I still can’t quite explain why that made my head explode. It wasn’t like anyone in our crew didn’t know about us, and it wasn’t like Mickey had any kind of problem with it. And it wasn’t like I didn’t have a million other things to worry about.
But there it was. My entire Vitamin F induced calm was shattered inside. I watched him walking away then. Apparently he and Mickey had finished the discussion while I’d been spacing out about getting kissed on the cheek. I put my hand over the cool spot and concentrated on breathing for a little while.
I wanted something at that moment but I couldn’t name what it was. So I went through a list in my head of the things I had that I wanted. Ziggy. Music. More specifically: a functioning relationship with Ziggy and a job playing music. Check and check. So what was this thing I couldn’t figure out now?
Probably you just want to be healthy again and stop worrying so damn much, I told myself, and it sounded pretty reasonable. But that’s not as easy to grasp as a concrete goal you can do something about. Right?
Also, I realized, maybe I had a lot more performance adrenaline running around in my system than I realized because the Vitamin F dampened it. But maybe it broke through suddenly when his mouth touched my face. That makes sense, right? So, calm down. Don’t freak out about freaking out. You’ll just make it worse.
So I went to change guitars.
Here’s the thing, of course. To people around me nothing seemed different. I hope by now I’ve been pretty clear how things were going with me personally. The show was nowhere near as much of a mess as I feared, but the only way I was keeping my hand and brain both functioning was with the meticulously planned application of substances. When Flip had arrived, keeping track of my intake had pretty much automatically become his job again. And the thing about being on Vitamin F at all times was that, at least according to Bart, I didn’t really seem any different from my usual demeanor.
On the inside I mostly didn’t feel that different either–except for the constant worry about whether I was going to make it. And then something like this would happen and my placid interior would suddenly be bouncing like a trampolene. Same thing the other night when I melted down about Colin.
Who, by the way, had been present but in the background this whole time. More about Colin later.
Anyway. What was I saying? Colin is a distracting thought even at the best of times.
Right. Rehearsal. Ziggy. My brain.
Mickey. Clap-clap. “Places, people. Full run-through, no stops, no breaks, starts in two.” He held the stopwatch up in his hand.
Remind me, I told myself, to write a song called “No Way Out But Through.”
(And we’re in full swing accepting fanworks and guest posts for summer Thursdays! Send your fanworks to email@example.com. Fan posts start next week while I’m in Atlanta! If you’ll be at the RT Giant Book Fair on Saturday May 6 (at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta), come see me and I’ll give you some DGC swag!! -ctan)