YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET
So, the show already.
If Ziggy could be a moody bitch, so could I. The two of us were all business now with the bitchiness and bastardy, and people stayed out of our way. Bart didn’t try to lighten the mood–maybe he wanted to see what would happen. Zig and I worked ourselves into a fine stew not speaking but giving one another glances that were by turns angry, pitying, regretful, and immature, and once in a while making comments to bystanders that betrayed our state of mind like “We’re going to kick some ass tonight” and “God I hope they don’t throw stuffed animals.”
We’d both learned by then that whatever state of mind you’re in when you’re offstage changes the moment you step into the lights, and it does not always change the way you’d expect. Any images you have of what the show is going to be like are never the way it goes once you’re in the moment.
Once you get out there on the knife edge, everything’s real-time improvisation and whatever script you think you’re going to play from vanishes. It’s like sex that way, the give and take can still surprise you even if you’re following a well-known set list.
We opened with Welcome. Johnny Rotten was right, anger is an energy, and we launched into things hard. The song begins soft, but it can be done with intensity. I let loose with a little crying riff before the verse like a horse neighing in the starting gate, Chris picked up on the tension and gave the cymbal roll an extra push, and when the spotlights hit, Ziggy came in literally growling the words.
I had that feeling as I played, as I picked out a lead line and carried it up, that the notes were coming out of my throat even though I wasn’t singing, like the notes were pouring out of me as I breathed. That happens at the best of times, and usually takes me several songs before I can reach that kind of peak, before I can give myself over to the total that way. But here I was, ripping, my head thrown back, feet planted, two hands moving, and then the chorus came and time to really sing. One part of me did its job singing, while another part of me kept playing, and whatever part of me it is that does things like tries to come up with a script or thinks about what I look like up there got pushed to the back of the bus.
The crowd feels that kind of energy. They were out of their seats and we gave them no chance to sit down between songs. I like a smooth set, with only a few breaks for patter in between. We kicked right in to “Do It Up” –it’s a pretty simple tune, both musically and lyrically, a party song, or as close to one as we come to doing, and we’d put it second in the set to carry the tempo forward from Welcome’s ending and to give people a little good-time feeling before we start hitting them with the heavy stuff, the theatrical stuff. Ziggy was with me on this, we were at the edge of the stage side by side facing the audience, being as loud and steady as you can imagine. We exchanged looks, we kept going. I left him up there to step back and face Bart–we traded riffs like a game of catch and I could see Chris’s eyes when he looked up at us, bright, a little maniacal. He knew we were riding the wave, too.
I had a brief moment of pause as the song was coming to a close–it seemed impossible somehow that so much communication could be going on without us speaking to each other. But look what happens when we do speak to each other…
I pushed through the pause by deciding to test the envelope. As I threw out the notes of the closing riff, I changed it. I started the chug of Intensive Care’s hook; it’s an almost Hendrix-like bit of work with three string chords all over the lead.
They were with me. Ziggy’s mouth was all teeth as he turned to me before he began to sing.
We dropped the volume down so the grinding menace in his voice had a chance to build.
YOU ARE READING
Daron's Guitar Chronicles: Vols 1-3General Fiction
Daron’s Guitar Chronicles tells the story of Daron Marks, a young gay guitar player, from about the time he is eighteen onward. He arrives at RIMCon (Rhode Island Musical Conservatory) in the mid-1980s, desperate to leave behind a dysfunctional fami...