55 Fall On Me

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Fall On Me

A van was waiting for us at LAX along with two guys to collect our luggage. With some reluctance I handed over the Ovation’s case. The majority of our gear had been shipped already, including the Strat and my newer electric, an Ibanez, but this one I didn’t trust to anyone, yet. Funny how I was less worried about the Strat these days and, expensive though it was, I wasn’t attached to the Ibanez yet. I’m not the type to get all cutesy about my instruments, like naming them or something. They were more like extensions of myself and that’d be like, I don’t know, giving nicknames to my hands. (Okay, let’s just drop that line of thought right now.) I watched the man in a BNC T-shirt place the Ovation in the back of the van and shut the door.

We spent the next two days in and around the hotel. I’d heard the term “media circus” before and this fit it, with all manner of photographers and movie producers and MTV news folks and so on marching in and out of MNB’s suite at the end of the hallway. We had rooms on the same floor, just the other side of the elevator bank from them, and so I got to see it like a parade. I took to leaving my door open sometimes, propped with a washcloth, and once or twice, when they had downtime but couldn’t leave, the guys from MNB would saunter in, Pepsi in hand, and we’d chat or maybe jam a little. It was always Pepsi or some Pepsi-brand soda like Slice, because MNB had just done a Pepsi commercial and I was never sure if they were required to carry around ice chests full of the stuff all the time or if they automatically got a lifetime supply or what. Honestly, I’m a Coke person, myself, but when it’s free, who’s arguing? I drank a lot of fucking Pepsi that trip.

I was having trouble remembering all the names of all the people we met, between the other band, crew members, record company folks, and so on. MNB’s bass player’s name was Tread, and he hung out with us the most, so his name stuck first.

The show in San Diego finally arrived, my first outdoor gig unless you count busking in the street, and I found the feeling of the wind on my face while we played disconcerting. It reminded me of hanging my head out of a car window as a kid, going down a night time highway, slightly dangerous. This was good, too, in its way, and we played sharp and tight. The lights were so bright there was no seeing the stars or anything like that, but the other difference between this and the little clubs we’d been playing was that I could actually see the audience. It was a general admission crowd, pressed tight against the stage–I even saw two women in the front singing along to Candlelight. Watt’s master plan was at work, clearly. I wanted to point the two of them out to the other guys, but there was no way that deep in the song to tell them. Not when the stage was that huge and there was so much else going on, with light cues and everything. I decided to save it for later.

Afterward there was a small party at the hotel, just bands and crew–the real party would be tomorrow night, after the LA show. We turned in early, remembering that 2am LA time was 5am for us, and knowing I had to be up at the crack of noon to meet some reporters that Charles River had set us up with. I noticed the discrepancy, of course, between the way it was with MNB and the way it was with us. It seemed like there were two levels of fame. At the lower level, you do all the work, begging and scraping to get mentioned in the media and so on. At the higher level, everything reverses, and the media come begging to you to get your picture, your life story, what have you, and then you have to resist. MNB were at the higher level and we weren’t, and I lay there in my room that night wondering for a while what kind of strings Watt had had to pull and why it was us that was opening for them and not someone more famous than us. But then I thought about it more, and what Watt had said privately to me sank in; although MNB were shit hot at the moment, they only had two hit singles and could be gone by the end of the year. They needed someone not as famous to be their opening act, or they could get upstaged. There was something petty and sad about that. I thought about the Pepsi sponsorship and the small army of execs in and out of their suite and began to doubt my two-levels of fame theory. That kind of fame didn’t just happen to MNB, it was… manufactured. I suppose this was something I knew already, but it felt like I was realizing it for the first time, and I felt cold and paranoid about it for a while. I wanted to talk to Remo about it, he’d probably have something really down to earth and sensible to say about it. Then I thought about Watt, and his staff of two, at Charles River, who were doing their darndest to manufacture exactly that kind of fame for me, and I felt better, and slept.

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