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“Are you guys going to do that in the actual show?” Mickey asked. The run-through was over. I’d survived. I was sitting on the band riser with my hand in a bucket of ice water. Ziggy was sitting next to me with a cat-canary smile on his face.
“The kissing part? Do you think we should?” he teased.
Mickey just rolled his eyes. “Because it’d be a lot better if you did it over there,” he waved at the spot where the stools had been, “instead of over here.”
Thank goodness, because if he had said he wanted to cut Ziggy’s a capella song I might’ve punched him in the face with my icy fist. (Okay, not really, but I felt really strongly about it.)
“It’s probably not a good idea to try to move my effects over there,” I said. “But talk to Flip about getting a duplicate setup for Ziggy?”
Mickey nodded and then shot a warning look at Ziggy. “I’d appreciate it if you’re going to talk to the techs about changing anything if you would run it by me first.”
Ziggy’s self-satisfied expression didn’t change. “Sure thing, Mickey.” But after Mickey had walked away he added under his breath, “But it was better as a surprise.”
“It was,” I agreed.
He kissed me on the cheek. “How’s your hand?”
“When did you write that? Had you used loops before?”
He ignored the fact that I’d ignored his question. “A couple of snippets of the song idea had been floating around for a while, but it didn’t come together until I saw you looping the other night at the studio. I grilled Trav for information about doing it with vocals.” He shrugged like it was no big deal. “I figured what the fuck, I’ll try it and see how it goes.”
“It went,” I said, with enthusiasm. That song was a thousand times better than anything on the album. “I knew you couldn’t just do a show with every moment pre-scripted.”
“Yeah, well, the acoustic set was your idea to begin with. I figured we’d play around a little during it.” He looked at me then, and I wondered if he felt the twinge of pain I did that I couldn’t do what we’d planned. “This whole show wouldn’t be what it is without you.”
I was about to open my mouth to say that whoever he hired as music director would’ve made it a great show but I decided to take the compliment instead of arguing. “I wouldn’t do it for anyone but you.”
“I don’t tell Remo what key to sing in.”
“Point.” He kissed me on the lips then, a quick one as he got to his feet. It was mealtime–I have no idea if it was lunch or dinner or what–and he went toward where the food was set up.
I took my hand out of the ice and let it warm up on my thigh. My palm did look a little like something out of a religious painting. We have a show. Holy shit, we have a show.
Now I had to worry about getting the actual Star*Gaze stuff to be something other than just thirty minutes of trancey guitar looping, which me and the band might like just fine but wouldn’t make for much of an opening act. But right at that moment I was holding the worry at bay because I had Ziggy’s song about anxiety echoing in my ears. Funny, eh?
Mickey came back to me a few minutes later; I was still sitting in the same spot. “Can your hand stand up to another run through?”
“No,” I said, and saying it hurt like heartburn, but I knew it had to be said.
I was shocked to hear him say, “Good. Let’s run everyone else through without you. Come watch it with me and we’ll find out what falls apart if you’re not on the stage.”
The word was passed that everyone had twenty minutes to recover from eating and then another full run-through was in the offing. Except without me. The band clustered around me. “What do they mean, without you?” Chris asked.
“I think Mickey wants everyone to be prepared in case I fall off a riser and have to be carted away,” I said.
“It’s going to sound really weird without you, though,” Bart pointed out. “I know, because that’s how we rehearsed while you were on the road. We,” meaning the musicians, “are going to be just fine without you.”
He was right of course. For the most part the band had no problems working through the set list without needing me to direct them. Meanwhile, I got to see the show from a vantage point I didn’t usually have: the audience.
It was either understood that everyone was putting in half energy at this point or maybe the dancers had talked about it, but although they went through all the steps and costume changes, they weren’t putting full height on their leaps or ful intensity into their movements.
When that was done a few more glitches had been worked out, and then they released the dancers for the rest of the day. Last chance to pack for the trip or buy clean underwear or whatever. Mickey let most of the crew leave at that point, as well.
He looked at his watch. “We’ve got to get the final equipment load packed in a couple of hours. All right?”
I blinked at him. All right, what?
“Because I know you haven’t had a chance to rehearse on the main stage.”
Was he saying we had a couple of hours now?
“I’m gonna go do some last minute errands myself. Stage is all yours until I get back, and then that’s it.”
Yes, that was exactly what he was saying. “Awesome. Thanks.”
“I’ve assigned Colin to be your grunt, and of course you have Flip doing double-duty,” he added. “See you in a while.”
He had also left us a junior sound guy named Mario who would be at the monitor board during our set. Everyone but him, Colin, Flip and the actual members of Star*Gaze quickly left the building.
And Ziggy. Ziggy stayed. But he stayed out of the way. When we took to the stage, he was in the breakroom making himself a cup of throat tea.
As the opening band we weren’t doing anything really with lights or lighting effects. The light guys would play around a little but not do too much. Just a change of color or intensity here or there. Openers don’t usually get to dictate that much–recall that Megaton were unhappy with that. I couldn’t care less what the lights were like. All that I was concerned with was the music.
Or that’s all I should have been concerned with, here in my last chance to try to actually memorize the damn lyrics and figure out how this slot was going to go. I should have made myself sing through a couple of songs five or six times in a row to start nailing them in my brain. Instead, my eyes followed Colin all over the stage while Flip and I jammed.
Colin had his hair gelled straight down and was in roadie black–no logos on the shirt and no holes showing pale skin in his black jeans. No eyeliner. All taut muscle in a thoughtful slouch.
Desire throbbed unexpectedly through my skull and my skin, but it wasn’t half as painful as the burn of guilt or the prickle of fresh anxiety that I had wounded him deeply. I tamped it down. I tamped it all down. Colin was probably doing the same, I thought, because he just went about his businesses with the same calm professionalism I thought of as my hallmark.
Bart knew my mind was frozen in Vitamin F land, or at least it seemed like it, so he pushed me to focus on the lyrics to a song or two while he and Flip played at each other. I hung on the mic stand feeling like nothing was coming out right, like when I tried to sing passionately it just came out sounding hysterical, and when I tried to sing coolly it just came out flat. For the most part it came out flat–and I don’t mean flat as in flats and sharps, I mean flat as in lifeless.
When we were out of time I handed over my guitar and was soon in the limo with Ziggy, headed back to the apartment. At that point I was as lifeless as my voice had been. Tired, yes, drugged up, yes, but that didn’t tell the whole story.
We got stuck in traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. That time of night there shouldn’t have been any traffic but there must have been an accident messing things up. Halfway across the bridge, Ziggy kissed me on the cheek.
Apparently my reaction to this was unsatisfactory. Well, I guess I didn’t react much at all. Because Ziggy’s next reaction was to snarl, “Jeezus, Daron, have a feeling, why don’t you?”
But I couldn’t. I couldn’t.