Friday, Feb. 13, 2004 - 1:33 p.m.
I think I had a rock and roll breakthrough last night. It doesnít feel as tangible as the times Iíve left various musical plateaus, like those days my right hand has suddenly found a new motion or the first time a singing part and a guitar part came to mind simultaneously. This is a much more general change, and it gets a little freaky, so bear with me.
We played what should have been a terrible show last night. The sound guy was several hours late and quite drunk, and though we were headlining, almost everyone was there to see the opening band. The stage sound was terrible. We went on late, cutting songs from the set as we struggled through. Twice during the show we screwed up dramatically, to a point I havenít experienced since my first show ever back when I was eighteen: nobody knew who to follow. We were all lost, stupidly, and we came within musical centimeters of stopping the song. This is not the kind of fuckup that the band agonizes over and nobody else notices Ė people donít notice 95% of the errors bands make on stage, but this was noticeable. I know, because I asked. Yuck. And it derailed us: we played shittily, slaughtering the last song.
But somehow we made it through, and when we finished I turned my back and immediately began packing up, really not wanting to hear people say polite things about our worst performance ever. But eventually I had to step off stage and talk to people, and I was shocked by how many said, seemingly honestly, that it had been an amazing show. They said it was energetic, sort of brazen, and sounded fresh somehow. Yes, they could tell weíd messed up a few songs, yes, the sound was inconsistent, but we sounded really good. Could this be true?
But I think now that they were right. We all had this fuck-you attitude because of the late hour, that drunk fucker behind the sound board, our poor preparation, the cold Thursday night, and the way the audience of high school emo-pop girls streamed out the door right when we went on stage. All I could hear was drums. The sound guy had made L turn his amp down so much that it wasnít breaking up at all, and he stomped around next to me pulling at the silent frets Ė his guitar might as well have been unplugged. People were going to hate us. Fuck it; Iíll just play, I thought.
I always have that attitude to a degree on stage. I no longer get nervous, and I manage the impassive bassist routine pretty well. My hands and mouth move by instinct, but my head is still in charge no matter how much Iíve had to drink. But last night my gut took over in a way it never has. Because of the stage lights, I could see only one audience member, an overweight, indie-bespectacled boy with wild hair, and without ever rationally deciding to do so, I played for him. It was like I had no choice. It wasnít revelatory or anything Ė because I wasnít thinking, I wasnít noticing that I wasnít thinking.
In fact, the only reason I know now that we were playing from a different place is because of those two times we messed up. During those few seconds I could feel this sort of intuitive groping, like something in each of our stomachs was reaching out and grabbing the hands emerging from the stomachs of the others. Iím not kidding. I was not drunk. Our stomachs were holding hands. It was some Carlos Castaneda-type shit. We were channeling Rock, and Rock was both the hands of white light coming from our stomachs and the physical medium in the air through which the hands moved. I saw Rock, and I also touched it.
In seven years of playing shows I have never felt the way I did last night. My head stepped back in at times, enough for my conscious mind to write the show off as a disaster, but there was something else under there.
I donít know what effects this will have, save one. I donít think I can ever decide to quit playing, no matter how lame I sometimes feel. If something else besides my head was in charge last night, it is also in charge of my relationship with music on a larger scale. Iím not talking about god here, and I am going to get neither religious nor mystical. Maybe Iím just talking about people, and the fact that we can have contact with each other using something besides heads and eyes and hands. As long as there are people to play with and for, I think I have to keep playing. Itís nice to know that for sure.
So this morning I struggled sleepily through a quick shower and rushed out to my car to head to workÖand the car did not start. The lights and other battery operations seemed fine, but the engine did not turn over. I called work, telling them Iíd be a few minutes late, and they insisted on coming to pick me up. This made me grumpy Ė yes, itís ungrateful, but Iíd gotten it into my head that Iíd just walk, and it would have taken just as long for someone to go to their car and come find my house. But they would have none of it. No matter how much you mean it, sometimes honest insistence just sounds like a polite excuse: ďNo, really, Iíll walk. I WANT to walk. Itís a beautiful day. I walk this route all the time. Iíll see you in forty minutes.Ē No, they said, of course weíll come get you; donít be silly. They got my address.
But they called back a few minutes later to say theyíd cancelled my appointments and I could just have the day off. Holy shit! But do some work on the webpage today, they said; youíre behind schedule. So now I guess I sort of have the day off. There are conditions on my freedom, but Iím okay with that.
I called a garage and tow truck, and when the guy showed up he decided the problem was indeed with the battery. ďIíll boost you upĒ, he said. Eh? Onto what? Do I get to ride the pretty horsey? I donít know if itís a regionalism or just automotive jargon, but Iíd never heard jumping a battery referred to as Ďboostingí. But the boost worked, and I sheepishly drove my car to the service place.
At the garage, another effect of last night became apparent. Auto guys speak in low mumbles anyway, and after a night of rock, I couldnít hear anything they said. "What year is the car?" theyíd say. WHAT? "I see he boosted you up," they whispered.
They found nothing wrong with the battery, and they scratched their heads over how it could have run down. I left the car there for an oil change and the power steering hose Iíve needed for over a year now, and have agreed to keep an eye on the battery but do nothing for now. Now, a secret: I think I maybe remember sort of a little vaguely that the seatbelt may have maybe been caught in the door when I unlocked the car this morning, and just maybe that could possibly have had something to do with this. But did I tell the quiet men this? No, I did not. I donít know why.
So far I have spent my day off typing this and fending off the cat, who is both extra-affectionate and extra-pointy today. I think I will go for a walk now.
Weíll keep the stomach-hand thing between us, okay? I donít want to scare my band.