Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.
(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.