THIS IS NOT SLANDER Chapter Ten

I have Tuesday off each week. After crawling out of bed after a night with very little sleep, I fire up the machine and check in on our digital presence. I opened up the green datebook in which I meticulously kept track of our schedule, picked up a black sharpie, and blacked out the 13th of May. Monday the 13th; it was a dark day, and today seemed even more bleak. In an effort to clear my mind, I head out into the gardens, but they offer no reprieve. I spend the day walking in circles, playing out the argument with Jocelyn in my mind; over and over. Was I fair? Did I give her enough room to make her point?

Intrinsically, I felt that I had been upfront, and the discourse was evenly balanced. And yet, there was a nagging sense of desolation, in the fact that my own fears were surfacing- and that I was the one who was most petrified these kids would fuck up this last opportunity and there  would be nothing I could do about it. The band was completely in their hands now, and I totally agreed to that reality in my mind. I had to, but there was no doubt that I was irreplaceable. If the maturity of the band relegated my presence even further into the background, that was fine with me. As long as we still were a band.

I call Jocelyn at exactly 8pm. Not surprisingly, she doesn’t pick up, and I leave a message on her voice mail.

“Hey, it’s Twining. I’m truly sorry about everything, and I’d really like to talk it out so we can move forward. I’ll be up most of the night, feel free to call me.”

The phone doesn’t ring, and I head up to bed at 1am.

I didn’t have to be at work on Wednesday until noon, so I enact my morning ritual, which begins with checking the band email again. The only thing going on is whether we should debut the “Decisive” video in New London, at our next Wishing Well show. It’s Tabitha’s idea. It seems to be the right move, but it essentially creates another long list of phone calls and details I was going to have to address to pull off the PR vehicle that would be attributed to the videos debut in a live setting. I let out a heavy sigh, and started to respond to Tabitha about the intricacies and the timing. The landline rang. I didn’t even wait for the answering machine to click on, which was our normal routine, in case my brother decided to call us drunk at 11am.

It was Jocelyn.

“Hey. It’s me….” she lets out a slight sigh.

“Hi, how are you?”

“I’m fine. I’m sorry I didn’t call last night, I was…  I was still dealing with it.”

“I understand. Look, I’m going to get straight to the point. I want you to make the video you want, the video you and Tabitha are capable of. And I’m not going to hand out any edicts or even suggestions. It’s totally in your hands.”

“Thank you. That’s exactly what I needed to hear.”

Once I hung up the phone, I allowed the tears to fall down. What was the point of investing all of the time, money, and energy into this band- and Jocelyn-  if they didn’t feel completely committed? I suppose I was still coming to terms that the band had matured so rapidly. There was also another layer to this episode- Jocelyn had defended her artistic view; and when she felt threatened that it would not come to fruition, she staunchly defined it’s necessity. She was becoming an artist, not just a singer. She had fought for her vision. My goal now had to be to maximize this new fervor; it was a different day, indeed. However, there was one recurring thought I couldn’t wrap my head around; Jocelyn’s reveal within the context of our argument about the video:

“I had the greatest weekend of my life…..”

We didn’t play three shows over the course of the weekend, sleeping five to a room in filthy motels just off the interstate. Nor did we ensconce ourselves in a sunlight deprived recording studio for three days. What we had done for three days was showcase Jocelyn as the central image of Piercing. It was the element we had all agreed was the proper methodology; and it was exemplified by Tabitha’s touch. But was her desire to be a singer rooted in a specific essence, which was coming into a slow focus over the last several months? Did Joss simply want to be an object of adoration? It didn’t make any sense within the accumulation of artistry that she was now experiencing. And yet, could the image be more important than the execution, to her? Photo shoots and video shoots were a grueling test of patience. But the realities of sweat stained clothes on the cold ride home from a show posed a far greater obstacle for the singer than the model, to be that object of adoration.

Jeremy had moved back to Mystic the previous week. His relationship with Tricia had run its course in Brooklyn after eighteen months. Unfortunately, they were also bandmates in Boyfriend; which now was in self- destruct mode as they fought over money before his departure. Their band had released one four song EP on their own, with spray painted covers that dripped gold streaks, which one could discern were due to their lack of preparation. Anne loved the record, and I grew to absolutely adore one of the tracks on the EP- “Wandering the Psychic Vortex”, a churning pop tune with an immaculate chorus.

Jeremy came to the Palace during my Friday shift, the first overlap since his arrival.

“Hey man- what’s good” he asked in his understated drawl, creating the perception that he had been in the shop just the day before, not the months long interregnum. “Are you getting the Daft Punk today?”

“Yeah, today is the day. I listened to “Get Lucky three times online and walked away. I wanted to hear this record as it was meant to be heard; on vinyl at top volume.”

“Hahahaha, yr killing me. You haven’t listened to one leak! None of the tracks?”

“Nope. And my wait is nearly over.”

It had been seven years since Anne and I took Jeremy to see Daft Punk perform live in New York City in He was fifteen years old at the time, but growing up at the Palace can be a cultural accelerator. Jeremy was intrinsically aware of the importance of the Daft Punk shows that summer; he had been feeding me downloaded bootlegs for months. As much as I despised file sharing and the mp3 disease, getting bootleg recordings on the web was an arcade version of the bootleg cassette tapes we procured at the Palace during the ‘80’s. U2 Werchter Fest Belgium 1984? No worries! $5.00” I wasn’t even sure that there was an extra ticket for him until 1pm the afternoon of the show.  Ezra called me at work and asked if anyone I knew could buy a ticket at this late hour. I immediately called Jeremy and said:

“We have a ticket and a spot for you in the van for Daft Punk tonight in New York. Can you make it?”

“Pick me up at the Palace whenever you are ready to leave! When is that? When are we leaving? I can totally go! Are you fucking kidding me? Daft Punk TONIGHT!!!!  Thank you! Thank You! THANK YOU!”

My first thought was to offer the ticket to Jocelyn, who was also an immense fan of Daft Punk. But I found myself struck by a paranoid episode; imagining she would sneak off to score Ecstasy before the gig, behind our backs. The idea that Joss would want to be up on Ecstasy for a live Daft Punk show was of no surprise, or worry to me. It was about the moment of procurement. This was something that defined the delineation between the kids ,myself, and my peers. When we needed to bend the rules, we were prepared. But I knew if I brought Joss to NYC for this show, she would slip away at some point, mostly because she would not have been prepared ahead of time. I couldn’t take the chance that a group of dealers would simply scoop her up and escort her out of the stadium to a new darkened future, where I would be held the most accountable. It was best to leave the assumption of that potential at home. So, instead we brought Jeremy. Our invitation didn’t create a single incident- and yet it would only be a mere nine months later that the scintillating memories of our night on Coney Island would be destroyed.

Cabinets booked us for another show that following Thursday. We had a fairly easy drive into the city, and everyone showed up at my house on time. Food continued to be an issue, as much as I broadcast my ‘musicians need to learn to live on one meal a day’ screed, Joss and Todd needed to eat before the show. I sighed silently, and thought to myself, it has still only been nine months since our first gig. I knew a few great old school pizza places on the LES from my Greenmanville days that would provide a decent, quick meal. As we took the sharp right hairpin turn onto the Hutchinson Parkway, Joss asked me if I was trying to book a return to the Huntington Grounds.

“Maurice put me in touch with the new booking agent while he’s away on tour. I’ve been in contact with her, but I haven’t found a date yet. I’m thinking late August- and then we could hopefully be in a position to play there once a month through the rest of the year.”

“That sounds well thought out.” she replied.

“Thank you.”

“Hey, I have an idea of a show you can pitch to the Grounds. How about a bill with all the bands from Mystic?” interjected Rudy with a sudden burst of PR inspiration.

I was intrigued. Had Rudy begun to make the leap; to truly understand what was possible and what was actually going on beyond the songs and the stage?  My mind began to race at the possibilities. Perhaps Whitney could get All in the Family to play that sort of show. Definitely Phoebe’s new band, Finito.  Boyfriend would have been the perfect act to round out the bill, but that wasn’t going to happen. Maybe Brock Carpenter and Adam Holstein could get their offshoot band in NYC to fill out the night. It seemed like a fantastic idea. My nerve endings were on edge, as this notion of totality seemed to materialize into a tangible reality, right now, in the van going 65 miles per hour.

“what bands are you thinking of Rudy?”

“Umm, well Geneva, of course. Then maybe Theo’s metal band Sculptor, and The Eyescans, and you guys …”

My first thought was “You Guys”? Did Rudy not consider himself a member of Piercing? Because he sure as shit considered himself a member of Geneva Holiday. How could he not have comprehended that, and at least let out a

“whoops, my bad, Freudian slip, hahaha!”

It was the mother of all Freudian slips; at least that was my take from his utterance. I had never been so insulted by a member of a band I was in. But there was no retraction from Rudy, not even a hint of impropriety. And the only sound we could hear in the van was the whirring grind of the radial tires on the Parkway. Jeremy had come along with us on this night, and he was able to see up close and personal the specific divide between Rudy, Todd, Jocelyn, and myself. He was silent as well. Fortunately, we were fast approaching the Bruckner, where I was prepared to blast Ciccone Youth’s “MacBeth” at top volume while speeding past the Bronx at 70 mph. The sound of their searing guitars as the Bronx rolled by was like being in a movie every time we passed through that corridor. It was a ritual that drove Rudy crazy, who was not even remotely a fan of indeterminate music. But now, it was payback time. I knew the kids would be behind me on this particular decision.

Having already played on the Cabinets stage, the band was far more at ease during our second appearance. They knew where to stash the gear, when to approach the stage to set up, where the bathroom was. In the blue glow of the club, I had to remind myself of how fortunate we were, how much of an opportunity we were being afforded. Each element was honing in on its own perfect pitch, and yet  I couldn’t help but feel weighted down by Rudy’s attitude on the drive into the City. There were now visible fissures in our foundation, and whether they were man made or incidental, they would have to be addressed. Building a rock band from scratch was very much akin to building a seawall, a hurricane barrier, a man made deterrent to offset the storm. The barrier for us was the music, the songs. The battering sea was the grind of the radial tire, ever present. If only we could incorporate that into our music. But we cannot. Sonic Youth had staked the flag on that terrestrial object, decades divided. It is why their sound is the soundtrack of our slipping into the city- untaxed.  It is the freedom we are engaged in pursuing. “How Different from the Sea is the Boat?”

Jeremy and Adrian get turned away at the door. Jeremy had lost his ID and entire wallet during his move from Brooklyn to Mystic. Adrian wasn’t yet 21, but he had played there two months earlier without an issue. I couldn’t protect Jeremy, who had no ID, but I had to get Adrian in the club for our set.

“Hey man, we played here in march and it wasn’t an issue. We won’t let him into the bar, I promise you.”

“Well, yeah, you can promise a lot of things. But unless he has proper ID, he is not getting in the club.”

Out of nowhere, Adrian’s father appears. He told Adrian that he was coming to the show, but I didn’t expect him to be there as we arrived; according to the lore that Adrian had clued me into.

“It’s cool, he’s my son, I’ll take responsibility for him.”

“Well, do you have ID?”

“Actually, no. I don’t”

“Hey man, this is really his father.” I suddenly interject, hoping this is an avenue I can pursue, and get Adrian on stage, which is all I am concerned with.

“Yeah, I’m sure it is. But I’m going to need ID.”

I asked him to bring out the manager, because I was down to the final option. If we were cancelled after driving all of the way to Manhattan, it would make it much more difficult to get the Piercing members to commit to theses excursions.  We had to play tonight. And we did. The owner of the club came down and spoke to me personally, and if we kept everything above board, he would let tonight slide. But we were not allowed to try and book shows at Cabinets until everyone was of age.  At that moment, I was as grateful as I had been in my entire performing career. More than when Brent told the Thames booking agent to “Fuck Off!” while we were lost in rural Virginia, trying to find the campus where we had a gig- and they didn’t drop us from the roster. Even more than when playing a private school in Rhode Island with Thames, and the kids asked us to play Grateful Dead covers in the fall of Brent and I decided to steal an oriental rug from the entryway, in response to that particular affront. Our act caught the eye of a school staff member before we placed it in the van, but she fortunately didn’t call the police. This show had better live up to the effort shown to pull it off.

It’s a fairly small crowd tonight, the headliners for the show haven’t played a gig in NYC for over a year; more evidence to keep swimming. Lionel makes it out, and as always, it’s great to see him. We discuss the Red Sox early season success over a pint, and pontificate on a title run.

“There is just no way they can go from worst to first this year, but I like the restructuring of the roster.”

“I agree. The pitching is in place, but they would have to get career years out of all the mid-level free agents they signed. That is a rarity in baseball.”

Tabitha arrived then. She wound her way through the tight knit crowd and I introduced her to Lionel. After pleasantries, Lionel stepped away, and I began to talk video with Tabitha.

”How’s it going? When I talked to you last weekend you sounded enthusiastic.” I began.

“I am. I’m thrilled at what we got. I also talked to Joss after your fight, is everything ok?”

“What did she tell you?”

“Just that you two worked it out.”

“Just that?” I asked with a sarcastic tone.

“Yes. You did work it out, didn’t you?”

We had worked it out. That part of the ascent was finished. Now, we were moving on to much more important details, such as ‘how can Tabitha blow up our image?’ this was why we agreed to work with her. And Jocelyn was the acolyte. These decisions were totally necessary, and the band was in a perfect rhythm to capitalize on it.

“I have the bulk of the editing finished. It works on every level we had discussed, but I think it needs one more visual to tie together the various threads.”

“Do you mean another day of shooting?”

“Yeah, but it’ll be very low key. I just need Joss for a few hours on her day off. I’m going to get shots of her haunting the bins at the Palace.”

I suppose it was a very good thing that we had done all of the work to keep the Palace open. But it was an interesting overlap with the images we shot, where the LP’s I had procured from my DJ collection made it into the frame during interiors of the previous Saturday. I was always a sucker for a slant rhyme.

“I emailed Earcandy about the upcoming video. They said they want to premiere it.”

“Are you kidding me?!?! That’s fantastic!”

“I told you I wasn’t kidding.”

Thomas had also made it out on this night. After the show, he and I ensconced ourselves in the far reaches of the bar, had a pint, and I listened to tonight’s critique of Piercing.

“Much better, especially with the small crowd. You may convince me after all Twining.”

“Hey, thanks man. Especially for coming out to all of the shows. I really appreciate it.”

“Of course man!”

“Earcandy has already agreed to premiere the Tabitha video.”

“That’s good news”

“Yeah, it is. But this thing just keeps on getting bigger. I had no idea any of this was going to happen, and I think it’s starting to put a strain on Anne.”

“I was wondering why she wasn’t here tonight. Well, fuck it then, there’s no need for you to keep chasing the dream of a record contract if it’s going to affect you and Anne. I’d just walk away.”

“I understand where you are coming from, but Piercing has gone according to plan. When does that ever fucking happen in real life”

“You are treading on serious terrain here. Are you up for it?”

“Of course I’m up for it, you know I won’t walk away from a commitment.”

That was only part of the truth. I was the one who pulled the plug on Thames. But I wasn’t going to walk away from Jocelyn now, I would simply have to find a way to engage each element of my life in equal measure. I turned away from Thomas and lost myself in a train of thought where I was trying to visualize the connectivity of all of these people in the Piercing sphere. Perhaps it was time to bring Anne into the fold in a way that did not necessitate her fulfilling our own targeted ambitions, but a way for her to utilize the Piercing world to further her own photographic agenda. I started to think about an Anne shoot with Joss, but unencumbered by what the band’s image needed, but rather, what other elements she could articulate to accentuate the totality of our image. As soon as I could see in my mind’s eye the black and white Anne interpretation of Jocelyn, Thomas grabbed me high on my left shoulder.

“Oh shit, what the fuck is going on……”

He rose from the stool in one quick procession, turned to me and said

“We gotta get him outta heahh”

Thomas was a Mystic kid, but he had been in the city long enough where in a crisis a Brooklyn accent leaked out. Adrian was being shoved into the far corner by security for the club. As I turned and gained focus, I could plainly see an empty Jack Daniels fifth in the bouncer’s hand, shaking it at Adrian in contempt. You could almost see his thoughts in a dialogue bubble over his head:

“Why do you kids gotta make me deal with this motherfucking shit?”

Thomas and I get up, run towards the front door, and grab Adrian with both hands and drag him out onto the street.

“They were going to have me arrested for having liquor in the club. I told those guys I was only twenty, what the fuck!!?!?!!?!?”

I had to admire Adrian’s courage. He always told the truth, even when he knew he was fucking up. We have a full band practice two nights later at Centraal. The TAZ awards are the next night, and we have been asked to play a song live, toward the end of the show. It’s traditional for the musical acts to bring something fresh to the stage on  that night, usually some form of collaboration between two nominated acts. Piercing had been nominated for two TAZZIES; “Best New Artist” and “Song of the Year” for “Massive”. We had decided to play the first half of “Massive”, and then during one of the quick drum changes, click off two beats and then I would execute the drum roll that begins our newest single “High Tide”. We begin by warming up on a short set, and take a break before taking on the task of finalizing this mini-medley.  After flubbing the change between songs a few times, Adrian asked us to stop mid-stream.

“Hey Ells, you have to hit the two quarter notes on the snare to set up the drum roll in Flood. Like this ‘crack crack bllllllwhack do da da duh’

Fortunately, I was fluent in snare roll-speak. I knew exactly what was needed, but couldn’t hone in on it.

“Ok, cool, let’s take it from the second chorus in magnets through the change.” I replied, encouragingly.

It was one of the essential reasons why I as so committed to the band; their individual musicality was exceptional, and you could make a case these kids were all better at their instrument than I was.  But I knew where we were at now. I clicked off four on my sticks, we rattled off the first half of “Massive”, and then I nailed the intro drum roll to “High Tide”, and we were off. We had a sublime musical moment for tomorrow night, and I was extremely happy. There was only one real nagging element- Rudy’s disinterest in the TAZ awards as a whole. He was openly pissed off that we were asked to play, and even worse, it was toward the end of the night, probably around 10pm. Coupled with his outrageous idea for a show in NYC, I was having some doubts that he was actually in it for the long haul. Geneva Holiday had continued to play every gig they were offered, and they were also nominated for a TAZZIE on Saturday night.

“It’s all bullshit man; the Holiday have never won a TAZ award and we get nominated for something every year. It’s all a sham, it’s all fixed.”

“Can you just get there a half hour before we play? You can leave as soon as you unplug your bass, I’ll even pack all your shit up if you just make it by 9.30.”

“Yeah, I’ll be there. But don’t expect me to have the happy face on or any of that shit.”

“Ok, Rudy. Deal.”

Joss, Todd, and Rudy head to Marcus’ house, to chill out before the long Saturday ahead of us. I grab a beer and send out last minute media regarding our medley for the TAZZIES. The next day while I’m at work, Jocelyn calls me. It’s 3 pm.

“I cannot be in a band with Rudy any longer.“

ellery twining

the talent

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *