854. Kickstart My Heart

(Happy September everyone. We’re back to posting twice a week, and by the way may I point out we are less that $50 from triggering a Saturday chapter as well? The Tip Jar can always use your contributions! -ctan)

The band launched into “Parade” like a locomotive shooting out of a tunnel at full momentum and speed. Which was great, except you know sometimes there’s a train wreck when somebody doesn’t apply the brake soon enough. The crowd was loving it, though. So much energy was coming from them we were of course pumped up by it.

Ziggy was in fine voice. I’d never heard him sound so clear in a huge venue like that before, and it wasn’t because the sound system was good. All that work with Priss was paying off.

Meanwhile you know who hadn’t done his vocal exercises in almost a week? Me. We hadn’t been on the road long enough for me to feel too guilty about it yet, but it was in the back of my mind. Along with other thoughts that were starting to crowd in.

The show chugged along pretty well. The first-night jitters were over and the parts of the show that were adequately rehearsed went smoothly. But man, dancers complicate life so much. You can’t just pull a Remo, fuck up the words, and make the band stop and start over again when you’ve got a dozen people trying to synchronize their movements to you.

There was a rocky moment when I thought we were going to crash, when Marvelle and Bradley got out of synch. They were off by two beats so it still kind of worked (the song was in 4/4) but I couldn’t figure out how to get them to fix it. It looked to me like Brad was in synch with the dancers and the dancers were in synch with Ziggy who was leading the melody, of course, so was Marvelle the one who fell behind? Bart was with Marvelle, the horns looked panicked, and I had no idea what to do. If we were just a band, they’d all look at me and I’d direct everyone together.

But Ziggy couldn’t look at me–he was fifty yards away, on the other side of a dozen dancers, in the middle of choreography. I kept my eye on him, which meant my back was mostly to the band, and I raised my guitar pick in the air and brought it down on the one, and again, on the one, and again on the one, and that was all it took to get everyone together. Marvelle had pumped out a string of bass drum beats in a row and the continued his regular riffs from where we picked up. The two dancers at the very back got off from the others for a few beats but then they were back on track.

For those of you wondering how bad or not bad that was, I guess it depends on your perspective. Part of me thought it was absolutely terrible because it exposed we were not as good as we could be, or as good as we should be. I wasn’t used to making mistakes. I don’t think this is perfectionism so much as if you’re an expert at what you do, you expect the fuckups to be very few and far between. It was our job to put out a seamless, perfect show for Ziggy every night. Did you ever hear a Broadway show band fuck up? No. Of course not.

But from another perspective–the perspective I can give you from twenty-plus years later–what’s a few missed beats? It’s not like, oh, someone left a live explosive on the stage. For example. You know, at least no one had to go to the emergency room. Except, well, I’m getting to that.

My heart had started to hammer extra hard during the fuckup. The whole thing had only lasted maybe 15 or 20 seconds but that was long enough I guess to give me a massive spike of adrenaline. And then my heart didn’t slow down again.

I plowed ahead anyway, but it was really annoying. I was short of breath and I wasn’t even singing this time. Maybe it was from overdoing it during the Star*Gaze set? I wondered if I had gotten dehydrated. Flip had me on a Gatorade regimen, though, remember.

So I just kept going. I guzzled the Gatorade as I got in place for the duet segment with me and Ziggy. I walked forward behind him, keeping my eye on him, but I was a little dizzy and the hit of booze and sugar did nothing to alleviate that. I felt like I was walking on a tightrope and Ziggy was the pole at the other end.

I was not in my best voice for that duet, and maybe that’s why it came out so good. I had to really concentrate and push to get every word right, all while concentrating on staying on my feet at the same time. I remember wondering whether Linn would be happy that I’d kept my jacket on like I was supposed to, this time.

When the transition back to the full band came, there was a moment when all the stage lights went down and I would switch from the Ovation back the the Strat. I remember handing the Ovation to Flip in the darkness, which seemed darker than I expected for an outdoor venue with lights all around.

When the lights came up, I was on one knee with my head spinning, trying to catch my breath. The more terrified I was that the Vitamin F and alcohol I was depending on to get through the show was causing me to black out, the more my heart raced and the closer to blacking out I got. It was really not good. It was highly upsetting.

That might have been why, after the show, I reacted the way I did. We made it through, and then we were corralled in a dimly lit locker room facility after final bows, some had showered. I hadn’t mostly because I was concerned I might fall and hit my head on the tile so I just sponged and toweled off and put on dry clothes. We were all waiting around for instructions on transport back to the hotel: me, the band, the dancers, some of the crew. Ziggy came in with a few handlers, still in his show clothes and makeup, obviously directly from having had to do something since he wasn’t changed yet. Meeting local dignitaries again, maybe? I wasn’t told.

Linn had apparently been waiting for him to come in. I missed exactly how it started but I twigged to the fact she was chewing out the two dancers in the back who had gotten off from the group when the band had our out-of-synch issues, and she was telling Ziggy all about it. You may recall I wasn’t feeling too charitable about Linn at that point.

“You’ve already been kicked to the back line,” she was saying to them: one very short woman–shorter than me, even–and a man who was maybe five-foot-seven. They had identical short haircuts. “Give me one good reason why the next mistake you shouldn’t just be put on a plane back to the States.”

Now, I know dancers aren’t my job and I don’t know anything about how to run a dance troupe, but I didn’t feel this was an appropriate way to talk to professionals. It seemed downright shitty to me, plus it wasn’t really their fault. I felt it was the band’s–and therefore my–fault. So I butted in. “What the fuck–is this some kind of Bolshoi Ballet bullshit? The band was off kilter. They were doing their best.”

Ziggy held up a hand to stop Linn from blasting back at me, though she took a deep breath preparing to do so, and asked, “What happened?”

“In ‘On The Line,’ the rhythm section got out of synch,” I said. It was so dimly lit in there it was like I was looking at Ziggy through murk.

Linn hopped back in. “Regardless, these two didn’t keep up when all the others did.”

“Because they’re all the way in the back, I bet,” I said. Why was I defending these two dancers when I didn’t really know what I was talking about? Because I felt like it was much more likely my fault than theirs, and I just couldn’t stand to see them scolded if they didn’t deserve it. Even if it was making my blood pressure spike. “Where they can hear us really well but not see Ziggy at all. Hell, I can barely see him and I’m up on a riser.”

Linn spoke directly to Ziggy. “You shouldn’t have to put up with that kind of performance.”

He looked at the two dancers, who were in sweatsuits now, standing very close together and looking as sheepish and put upon as junior high school truants. “Linn–”

“You deserve perfection. If they can’t deliver–”

“Perfection?” I cut her off. “Lady, I may be a perfectionist but I’m not an asshole.”

“The music is your job!” She pointed at me accusingly. “You’re saying the music is the problem and not them? Then maybe you should take the blame!”

“Yes, yes I should!” Wait, we were agreeing now? Then why were we screaming at each other? Fuck, I was confused, and upset, and angry. “You want perfect? You’re not going to get perfect! You’re going to get a guy with only one working hand!” And maybe zero working brain cells. “If you wanted perfect you should’ve hired someone else the second I got hurt! If you want perfect, just fire all of us and replace us with a tape and video dancers!”

Ziggy’s arms were around me and for a moment I thought it was because he was holding me back from attacking her or something. But actually it was that I wasn’t staying upright the way I should. “Daron,” he was saying. “Hang on.”

Hang on to what? Him? Him. I clung to him as I realized what was happening was I was blacking out. I clung to consciousness because I wanted to win the argument and make my point and NOT BLACK OUT DAMMIT but I had apparently reached my limit. I went down into the dark.


  • Bill Heath says:

    The fuck-up was two percussionists not following the director. The solution was an exaggerated downbeat, the same one I’ve used for more than fifty years. Your contribution to the mess had nothing to do with directing, but in taking the very high risk of using two percussionists. I experienced that once doing session work as a backup singer. The director stopped, fired one percussionist, and re-recorded the segment.

    I learned to ask how many full-set percussionists there were before accepting any work. Melodic percussion is fine, I did almost as much of that as backup singing. Chris is doing that, right? If he never lost the beat (and you didn’t say he did), that points squarely at Brad and Marvelle.

    Dancers in the back line can’t follow the director, so they follow the percussion. If everyone capable of following the director didn’t screw up, except the percussionists, they are the source of the problem.

    Rather than fire either of them, the best solution is to tell them to follow you on pain of public flogging. If they can’t, the sub-optimal solution is to make one prime. The catastrophic solution is to fire one of them, because the entire show was designed to include both. Easy to rejig in a studio, impossible on tour.

    • Bill Heath says:

      Sorry for the addition. The tachycardia is symptomatic of anxiety (what? Daron anxious?) The solution is three days in bed with Ziggy. Failing that, in 1991, Colombia had a cornucopia of chemicals to alleviate that. Find a legal one.

    • daron says:

      Uh, yeah, you’ve pretty much described the situation except for the bit that maybe if I were more on my game I would’ve been easier to follow.

  • s says:

    Daron, you are scaring me as much as Ziggy did at the end of the last M3 tour. I’ve been worried for a while, but now I’m downright scared for you.

    I’m glad you decided to piss on the perfectionism stance. Nobody is perfect. Everybody makes mistakes. That’s part of the fun of live performances, knowing at any moment something like that could happen but striving to prevent it, right? Good on you for telling Linn to piss off.

    Now, take care of yourself, hon. Remember, you are a gift. <3

    • daron says:

      Yeah, I’m scaring myself, but once you’ve gone halfway out on the tightrope with no net it’s more dangerous to go backward than forward, you know?

  • G says:

    I am so scared for you too. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. You have physical problems and internal struggles and you’re not handling either in a healthy way. But good on you for standing up to Linn; she needs to get over herself.

    Maybe this incident will force someone (you, maybe?) to find some real answers and real fixes instead of using band-aids and avoidance. As always, I’m rooting for you and want to give you the biggest hug.

    • daron says:

      I’d much rather break this dysfunctional management style than performer morale, and if I have to use a sledgehammer to do it, I will. I’m too fucked up for subtlety right now.

  • K says:

    What I find the most disturbing since this tour started, is the very apparent separation between you & Ziggy. You have spent very little real time together, period. Whether it’s physical contact or just being able to have a conversation with him. How did this happen? Why is it continuing to happen? How can this be fixed? I think that this might be a underlying problem that is adding to your overall anxiety.

    I’m also getting quite concerned about your dependence on the Vitamin F too. Plus you’re now adding alcohol back into your system too. Never mind the mixing of Pharmaceuticals & Alcohol together. Good things never come from this combo.

    • TJ says:

      Second your first paragraph. Remember when M3 was torn apart and D made a comment about not being able/willing to be Z’s backup band? Kind of what’s happening here, no?

    • s says:

      I agree the Ziggy-less-ness is contributing to his mindframe. We all know Daron’s reset button is in his testicles and he hasn’t pushed it since the tour began. We know how he gets when he hasn’t had sex in a while, especially when he’s playing. And his “I feel good about me and Ziggy” sounds more like he’s trying to convince himself, because we’re not buying it.

      With the last couple chapters my concern has shifted to his mix of drugs, and now he’s blacking out? He’ll end up at Betty Ford at the end of the tour if he’s not careful, and that’s a best-case scenario. He’s freaking me out.

      • K says:

        Didn’t Daron receive a BJ from Collin very early into the tour? If I’m remembering right, Daron was quite out of it during the event. Did I dream this happening or is it true? If so…how is this going to affect Daron & Ziggy’s monogamy?

        • daron says:

          Um, Colin did push my reset button a couple of nights ago, and I’ve so far avoided bringing up the fact that I kind of think we shouldn’t do that anymore, at least until I figure out the boundaries of my commitment to Ziggy. I should have brought it up sooner, and now I don’t want Colin to feel like shit for having done what he assumed was the right thing with me/for me. So I’m waiting for the right time to bring it up.

          • s says:

            He did? Shit, I forgot. Between rereading, once a week posts, and you scaring the ever-loving shit out of me, I’ve gotten the timeline for this tour all messed up apparently. I had almost forgotten you are supposed to be talking to Colin about this whole boundaries thing… *facepaMe,

            I guess the good news is 2 of those should be resolved soon. I’m on chapter 682 and we’re back to twice a week posts. Lol

            • s says:

              I have no idea why my *facepalm* did that. I hate technology sometimes. Lol

            • sanders says:

              Yeah, this is only the second show, I think. It seems like they should farther along when the posts for that span of under a week in Daron-time has been going since, what, the end of May or something for us? So he’s really not that far into the Vitamin F use on the tour, or into not spending nights with Ziggy, or into avoiding the conversation he should really have with Colin.

              • s says:

                Oh jeez, it took 4 months to get through a few days? No wonder I’m so messed up. It feels like forever. Lol. I read that line about being past first show jitters but it didn’t compute that this was only the second show. Still, Daron and Ziggy haven’t even been in the same room at night since they left the country and that has me worried almost as much as Daron blacking out.

                • daron says:

                  It feels to you guys like forever since I’ve seen Ziggy because it feels like forever to ME. So much can happen in four or five days, you know?

        • Bill Heath says:

          It was a handjob, which Colin took over from Daron, who wasn’t making progress. IMO, that was a good decision, one I probably would have made myself.

          A handjob is significantly less intimate than a blowjob, in my mind.

    • daron says:

      It’s 100 percent dependence in the truest sense of that word, physical, psychological, you name it. If I wasn’t admitting that clearly before, I am now.

      I think maybe Ziggy’s steering clear of getting sucked into the downward spiral with me, which I agree with wholeheartedly.

      • Bill Heath says:

        First paragraph, check. That can be fixed. And, mixing alcohol and Vitamin F is not recommended, but probably needed. If necessary, add Marvelle to the Colin and Flip monitoring team. I have no doubt Marvelle will tell you what he thinks, and, if necessary, beat you senseless to get your attention.

        Second paragraph, no. If that is what Ziggy is doing, he should be ashamed of himself. His default response when you are in trouble needs to be ‘help,’ not ‘avoid.’ I trust that Ziggy ISN’T avoiding you. As you’ve said before, he’s leading an enormous throng on an international tour.

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