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By the time all the video bullshit was over with and the roadies began hauling our setup onto the stage it was six. It became clear at that point that this stage was smaller than what they’d anticipated as they looked at our gear piled in the middle of it and MNB’s gear set up around the edges. “What’s the problem, guys?” I said from the bottom of the stage where I was shifting from foot to foot as if it might help them hurry.

The stage manager, who I had learned to identify by his baseball cap with some band’s logo on it, crouched down by me. (I knew neither the name of the band, nor his.) “The original spec called for Hurricane Flats, and well, they got a real minimal set up. We’re going to have to take the keyboard rig off the lower riser to make room for your drum kit.”

I held up my hands. “So do it.”

“I want to clear it with John first.”

John, who was on his way back to the hotel with our junk right now. Ten million and one details. “Look, we want to get some practice time in. I’m sure he’ll say yes. I mean, what else can you do?”

The guy shrugged. “I’m going to page him anyway.”

Fine. The doors were set to open at 7:30. I had too many knots in my stomach to eat. Whatever happens, I thought, good or bad, it’ll all be over by 9pm.

I went back to our backstage room and filled the others in. “We’ll get maybe one song practice in.”

Bart put an arm around my shoulder. “Don’t stress, Daron. We’ll deal. I mean, come on, this is us we’re talking about.”

The other two nodded. So be it. I went back to twiddling old riffs to keep my mind busy.

As it turned out, we got to do about up to the first chorus of “Fire” and about sixteen bars of “Candlelight” before the stagehands shooed us off. I changed the strings on the Ibanez and spent the next hour pacing with it, flipping back through my inventory like a perpetual jukebox, playing bits of one song, then another, then another.

At one point Christian came up to me. “I figured it out,” he said.

I had no idea what he was talking about. “Figured what out?”

“Your guitar teacher. What was his name?”

I didn’t remember his name. Richardson, Robertson, something. Had I done too many drugs or what? “What about him?”

“I figured out why he went weird on you.”


“Because you got better than him, that’s why.”

A roadie slipped between us. “Five minutes guys. Enter from stage left.”

“Right,” I said. “You been listening to Bart? That’s the kind of pop psych thing he’d come up with.” We called them Grand Bart Theories.

“No, man, I think it’s probably true. Stupid fucker’s probably kicking himself now.” Chris had a huge grin on his face.

In five minutes we’d be flying without a net. Then it was four, and then three, and then two, and then we got the signal to go ahead.

As we started in to the first song and I heard Ziggy’s voice mix with the sound of the crowd, and he turned toward me with a feral look, I felt like I was seeing him for the first time all day. I gave him a half smile and he snaked around behind me, his eyes bright. If I normally felt detached from reality during a show, the days of not playing only intensified the distance, but this was one place where I couldn’t let fear rule me. I was flying blind, so nothing could hold me back. Ziggy and I locked eyes and exchanged notes in an upward spiral into the instrumental bridge of “Fire” and with a cymbal wash from Chris it all dissolved into a sweet acoustic rain. By then, I was in the music and there was no room left for worry. Bart was right, this was us we were talking about. I don’t know why I’d worried.

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