Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.
(This Saturday chapter brought to you by generous donations to the Tip Jar! Thank you especially Frank and Bill and Wendy! -ctan)
The first time I saw Ziggy that day was when I arrived at the venue with Carynne, who brought me over separate from the rest of everyone. He had a gaggle of Spanish-speaking press around him so I didn’t approach.
The venue was another space-age wonder. On the day sheet it had been listed as “Estacionamiento del Poliedro de Caracas.” I was under the impression that “estacionamiento” meant parking garage but I thought maybe I was wrong, or maybe Venezuelan Spanish didn’t use the same words as the mishmash of Castilian and Puerto Rican that I could normally make out. “Poliedro” was a mystery until our driver used the English: The Polyhedron. The name made sense as soon as I saw the place. The roof was polyhedral, one shallow slice of a geodesic dome. Groovy. So to speak.
And I finally understood the “Estacionamiento” part of the name when inside the building there was no evidence of a stage. That was setup outside. In the parking lot. An outdoor show at an indoor arena. Sure. First time for everything.
I was feeling back to normal, which meant I looked at the freak-out of the night before as an aberration that I could stuff into the past, like an embarrassing T-shirt into the back of the closet. Everything was going to be fine now. One foot forward at a time, keep moving, yeah yeah. First night jitters. Get it over with. Right?
I never felt like the wait before a show was longer or more painful than that day, though. My stomach was unsettled. My head was unsettled. I just wanted it over with.
I got the band, I mean my band–I mean Star*Gaze–together at one point shortly after I arrived and said “am I the only one who doesn’t feel ready to do this?”
And Flip, who was the one who should have been having the most jitters of anyone, said, “Daron, it’s going to be fine. Let’s just have some fun up there.”
Oh. Fun. That wasn’t something I’d even thought of. It’ll probably be fun once we get on the stage, I thought. If I can Just. Stop. Worrying.
The worry was kind of like heartburn. A constant, noxious pain that I would do just about anything to make stop.
Meanwhile everyone else was having first night jitters about the main show, which really should have been where my head was, but it wasn’t. Let’s face it. My head was up my ass.
I gather there were various technical challenges with the stage set-up there, but if they didn’t affect me or the band directly, no one told me about them, and I didn’t add to my stress by trying to find out more details. I honestly don’t remember much about the place other than when it came time for main soundcheck getting up there and thinking okay, outdoor show. Weather’s not bad. Nothing seemed too out of the ordinary, you know? Their crew looked a lot like ours, wearing black, hair longer than the norm, etc. Everything was familiar enough. Except that all the house techs spoke Spanish.
We sensibly did “Parade,” the opening number, for soundcheck as a rehearsal with dancers, too, making it a stage, sound, and light check all at once. Well, okay, there was about a minute or two that was only the band where it was only about levels and monitors and then we did the whole opening shebang. I don’t know how they really checked the lights given that it was still full daylight out, but it wasn’t my job to know how they did that.
I think the theory was if we could nail the first song, then that would make everyone feel more confident about getting started and the whole show would be easier from that point on.
It’s true, after soundcheck I was feeling less anxious. Of course that was also when the prophylactic dose of Vitamin F was beginning to kick in, and that took the edge off everything. No kidding. But I really feel getting up there and seeing the place and going through the motions really did help. At least when it came to the Ziggy portion of the show.
Then came a small soundcheck for Star*Gaze. I checked with Mickey about how much time we could get. He gave me a kind of pursed lip and half-shrug that I took to mean I shouldn’t push my luck. The open sky made me feel very exposed all of a sudden.
I turned to the guys. “I guess we should do our opening number on the same theory as previous soundcheck. There’s only one problem.”
Bart. “You mean the fact that we don’t have a set list yet?”
Bart again. “Well, huddle up and let’s make one.”
Flip had a marker in his pocket–gee, you think he was used to being crew?–and getting some paper wasn’t too hard.
“Well, Skyward has the long jam, so probably not good for first,” Bart said as he sat on the stage with the Sharpie poised over the paper.
“True. Dawn, maybe? Since that has a kind of ‘everything starting’ theme?” I suggested.
“But it starts quiet,” Flip said. “Too quiet?”
“Possibly.” I thought it over. “Then again if we’re going to hit them with a quiet part, the intro might be the time, since if we do it later, we might lose them.”
“Or we might not grab them at all,” Bart pointed out. “Technically they’ve never heard of us and no one has ever heard any of our songs.”
My stomach felt like lead, but I guess that was an improvement over feeling like acid. “We can try it and if it doesn’t work, we switch it up tomorrow. ‘Dawn,’ and then what?”
“And then the one that sounds like a train,” Flip said.
He meant “Time Line” and I nodded, and Bart wrote it on the paper while chuckling. “‘Sounds like a train,'” he echoed.
“Well, it does,” Flip insisted. “It’s like if you took the backbeat to ‘Train Kept a Rollin’ but did it with cello.”
Which gave me an idea for a guitar solo, but I wasn’t playing guitar on that one.
Let me repeat that, because it sounded as weird in my head then as it did saying it just now: I. Wasn’t. Playing. Guitar.
“I think I need to write the lyrics on a sheet,” I said, my hands on my head.
“On it,” Bart said, like I had just said we needed to pick up groceries or something.
Maybe it was a bigger deal to me than it was to them. But I suppose it should be since I was the one who had to get up there and sing and not them. But I took it as a hint that I should not complain.
So we did the song, with only three or four (!) breakdowns or pauses while I struggled with the words and while Bart wrote them down. When we were done he re-copied the lyrics neatly onto a single sheet. His handwriting was more legible than mine would’ve been. He taped them to my wedge monitor on the opposite side from the set list.
We messed around with the repeater a bit after that but Mickey came past the stage and gave us the finger across the neck sign. And that was that.
Then I took sort of a nap where I went into a room–all the dressing rooms and stuff were inside the building–and put my head down on a table on my folded arms with my leather jacket over my head. And it was dark and quiet in there and I didn’t really sleep-sleep but I at least got some kind of downtime, you know? I hid under my jacket for at least an hour.
Fran’s hand on my back brought me back after a while. “You want to all warm up together before you go on?”
I had to take an extra second to figure out what she’d said, and then it made sense–by “you” she meant me and Star*Gaze and it would mean warming up a little earlier than usual for the gals and Ziggy but apparently they didn’t mind that. Or something. “That would be great.”
And then, finally, it was just them and me and Ziggy in a small room, standing in a circle, me with a guitar to give us the note. Ziggy’s stage hair had been done and he was in most of his opening costume with a light bathrobe on over it.
“How are you, love?” Ziggy asked, and leaned in to kiss my cheek.
“Better now,” I said, and I meant it.
A little kiss didn’t solve all my problems but it sure didn’t hurt.
(I told you guys about my crush on Stevie Nicks, right? So I’m conflicted about using this song which to me is really typical about everything wrong in the music biz in mid-1991. It’s like everyone was just doing crappy imitations of themselves by that point. This song is dull and let me tell you, Stevie Nicks is not dull. And it was a hit, it climbed the charts, but I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t remember it now. -daron)