I was accustomed to asking myself the question “what the fuck is wrong with you?” In the past that had been because I’d swallowed a lot of society’s bullshit that made me think that there was something wrong with me. It was a pretty recent thing for me to have decided that the answer to the question “what the fuck is wrong with you” was “nothing.” Nothing was wrong with being gay or being artistic or any of the other things society–or Digger or whoever–wanted to judge me for.
But bursting into tears because of a near-hallucination? What the fuck was wrong with me?
Nothing, I decided. There was nothing wrong with crying, right? Digger would have called me a sissy and Digger would have been wrong.
I wiped my eyes and decided I should try to look on the bright side. So few people got the chance to do what I was doing. I was being a dick if I didn’t try to appreciate what was going on. I got down from the stage onto the grass and made my way around a barrier and climbed my way up into the empty stands. I went up and up and up.
My chest twitched like my heart still hurt, though, like a sob was trying to get out. I ignored it. It made the climb to the top slow going.
Hah. Great metaphor.
When I was up high enough I turned around and looked. It was a sight worth seeing. The sky was streaked with post-sunset purple, the soccer field was green, and the stage set was a black structure in the center of a multicolored bowl. I sat there for a little while appreciating the sight. And then I felt better.
I took my time going back down. I felt cold–the temperature was dropping as night came on–but I didn’t want to rush. My feet were not very steady, probably from the mix of Vitamin F plus being shaky after an emotional outburst. I wanted to pretend if no one else had seen it, it hadn’t happened, but it had.
Eventually I made it back to the dressing room. I decided keeping my leather jacket on during the Star*Gaze set was a wise idea.
What I would have normally done during a time interval like this in the past, of course, was sit around and play the guitar. That was not a good idea if I wanted my hand to last through the main set. So I sat down to try to memorize my own lyrics again.
Fear of forgetting them was worse than opening night. And you know what sucks? I was more likely to forget the words when I was nervous, so if I was afraid of forgetting them it became a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Ouch.
I went to Flip in the green room, who had a guitar in his lap and was, I think, obsessively working on one of tonight’s songs, but still looked cool as a cucumber about it. “I’m wound so tight I’m like a watch about to break,” I said.
“Fortunately the cure for that is legal and on hand,” he eplied. He set the guitar in a stand and then got up. He produced a flask from his guitar case and then I followed him to another set of road cases. He cracked open a Gatorade from a stash he’d brought with him. “Drink a mouthful of this.”
I did and then he took the bottle back, poured a splash of alcohol into it and another splash into a plastic cup. He put the cap back on the bottle and handed me the cup. I watched him write my name on the bottle in black sharpie. That would become my usual mid-show Gatorade.
By the way, if you think we discovered a new and exciting cocktail mixer… we didn’t. Gatorade and whiskey is not delicious at all. When I say it’s purely medicinal it’s because there’s no recreational reason you’d drink it that way. It was Flip’s way of making sure I’d drink both later.
I knocked back the straight whiskey from the cup, then exhaled like a dragon breathing fire. That solved the problem of me being cold, too.
I put my own eyeliner on. Dawn, Skyward, Time Line, Shape of Space, Shock Diamonds. I knew that the set list, along with the lyric sheet Bart had written out, would be taped to the wedge in front of my microphone, but I repeated the song order to myself anyway.
Hm. I took the eyeliner pencil and wrote some of the words to “Shock Diamonds” on the backs of my hands. Just a few of them as mnemonics.
And then suddenly it was time to go on stage.
The nickname for booze is “liquid courage,” right? It felt more like “liquid stop giving a fuck.” As I went up the stairs from the grass level onto the stage, I could feel it pumping through my bloodstream.
“Dawn” starts slow and quiet, you might remember. I hung to the side and just watched the others touching their instruments, making the sounds that were music. They were looking at each other and not me and I felt like there was an invisible ice wall forming between us.
I had to shatter that ice before it got too thick or I’d be trapped in it. I grabbed the microphone and walked to the edge of the stage. Maybe walked isn’t the right word. Strutted? I stepped in time with the electric drum heartbeat that was kicking in and I started talking to the crowd. In Spanish. Simple stuff. To a guy hanging on the barrier in front: hey, how are you. To a woman a few feet over from him: nice night, yeah?
Because I wasn’t worrying about forgetting the words–or getting the grammar wrong–I did fine. Really simple stuff since that was what my Spanish was good for. You like Ziggy? I like Ziggy, too.
Interestingly enough, people seemed to be paying attention to what I was saying. Even though I was–in my mind, anyway–talking to individual faces I could make out along the barrier, I could hear the smattering of cheers on each thing I said. Approving-sounding cheers. That felt really weird.
Like I was winning them over or something.
I started to think about that a little and almost missed where the first lyrics were supposed to come in, but I turned around to face the band in time.
My pitch was off and I could tell, but that just made me more determined to break through that ice. Words that should have been sung were shouted, and when I came to the high note that opens the chorus I let out something I suppose should be described as a primal scream. Who the fuck cared about the lyrics? The crowd didn’t know the songs and I guess you could say neither did I. They’d poured out one night when Jordan had squeezed me like a toothpaste tube to see what came out.
I might have been channeling a lot of anger during those recordings. I’m not sure. I was definitely channeling a lot of anger on the stage that night in Bogota.
As we moved into the faster-paced songs I tossed my hair and screamed and banged the mic stand against the stage–which probably wasn’t a good idea, by the way, but live and learn. And by the time we got to “Shock Diamonds” I had winded myself for the first time ever. So there was no way to really sing it anyway, and I ended up just shouting the words on the backs of my hands to get the crowd to shout them back. This wasn’t even an English-speaking crowd but it was obvious enough when I wanted them to answer.
One of the words was “Jet.” I know because I’ve seen a photo of me, sweat plastering a lock of my hair to my forehead, my fist clamped around the microphone as I’m screaming into to it. And the word is visible on the back of my fist. The first time I saw the photo I barely recognized myself, honestly.
What you can’t see in the photo is that I’m on my knees because I’m too winded to stand up. My heart is beating so hard it feels like it’s going to crack my sternum. In the back of my mind I’m thinking, you know, maybe this much screaming isn’t a good idea because I feel like I’m about to pass out.
The crowd liked it, though.
(Thank you so much to sanders and s–aka as stef–for organizing the DGC meetup in Louisville! Four of us got tattoos including me, many cupcakes were eaten, I made everyone take a few trivia quizzes about 80s music and DGC itself, and a grand time was had by all. I’ll post a full recap and photos later this week! -ctan)