THIS IS NOT SLANDER Chapter Seventeen

On the Saturday between the Royal Park show and the practice with Wall in Brooklyn, Todd had his solo photo shoot with Anne. She styled him as if he were a Victorian poet; all in white, cast against the deep green within one of the local hiking trails. Stone foundations littered the property, and they were able to create a series of defining images of Todd; material I was going to need to keep the band’s profile visible during the next few months.  As we waited for Wall to heal, it would still be another month or possibly two that we wouldn’t be playing any new shows, finalizing any new songs, or heading back to the studio.  My plan to bridge that gap was to try and get the Todd photo shoot published, and then hopefully repeat the same scenario with Adrian. I also still had to get Adrian to talk to Marcella at Gezellig! , which would give us another outlet for exposure. I don’t think the Gezillig folks even knew Rudy was out of the band. The final detail would be securing Brent for our show with Heirlume in New Haven the following week.  I go to text him as soon as I realize, for some stupid reason, I hadn’t booked him yet. Once I open the thread, I see that I had asked him the night before. He had already said yes.

What was I thinking?  I had a pang of grief haunt me from years earlier: that moment when you realize this thing is getting bigger than you can handle alone. I remember distinctly when that happened to Brent and me; when we were responsible for the Thames business operations.  Our inability to commit to serious management at that point doomed Thames; I wasn’t going to let it happen here.

Todd and I head into New Haven to do a mass flier campaign for the Heirlume show. I had always felt that if you were opening for a national or regional headliner in your town, or close to you, that it’s quite an amazing thing to arrive in some town, usually for the first time, and see their band name splashed as far as the eye could see. That was my goal tonight with Todd; not so much to fulfill my bargain with Myopic Insight of always going the extra distance; but for Heirlume to see the flier they had to approve on the streets. We were proving to live up to our obligations. Todd arrives five minutes early to Centraal.

I take it as a good sign, that he is excited by this night of somewhat heavy lifting. Maybe one day the entire group will head out on some PR adventure, but we continue to exist in a somewhat fractious state. As we headed over the bridge at New London, I notice an eighteen wheeler in front of us, with what looks like “JOCELYN TRUCKS” written along the top of the trailer. As we get closer, I can see that is exactly the name of the trucking company.

“Have you ever see one of those?” I ask Todd

“What?”

“A trucking company named “Jocelyn Trucks. See it, over there, to the right of us?”

“Hahahaha. That’s nuts!”

I fumble for my phone, as a photo of this should make an interesting addition to the Piercing Instagram account. Joss had an Instagram, but she didn’t really know how, or want to use it. Todd didn’t even have texting on his phone; Adrian had no camera on his. So, the bulk of the social media was left up to me; a late arrival to the phone culture. As we inched closer, I was able to grab the photo I was looking for.  Once we were safely in park in New Haven, I would load it up, hoping that wouldn’t be the only opportunity tonight to engage in the Piercing social media.

We start at BRICKS, where our show will be. Myopic Insights had been booking free shows at BRICKS for years on Wednesday nights. It was a brilliant move; having national touring bands, who were normally between New York City and Boston on opposing weekends, play an intimate free gig in New Haven to bridge the tour gap. As such, the nights were almost always packed; a handful of great up and coming bands with free admission and craft beer brewed on site. We arrive at the club by 7pm; the sun still hanging on in the mid-summer sky, amongst a quiet crowd. We order a beer each, and place three dozen fliers for our show on the tables.  The rest of the night is the two of us circling the downtown area, and between the college campuses, which ends up taking us three hours to execute. My genius plan of getting in and out of town and home by 11pm is slowly evaporating. By the time we hang another four dozen fliers, it’s 12.30am, and we hit the road north to Mystic.

“Hey man, can we stop at the first McDonalds after the city?”

“Sure, I need to go as well.”

The Death McDonald’s. Even though it had been totally rebuilt in the past year, I couldn’t associate the building with anything but that description. When Thames first started to record with Russell Johnson in East Haven, it was the first rest stop on our way home. After a particularly late session, we had no choice but to wait an hour to eat, or stop at the first McDonald’s on the highway. I have never seen, nor tasted, such repulsive food in my life. The fries were frozen, and instead of actually cooking them, the staff threw hot grease over the top and put them in the shiny red boxes which they were synonymous with. The burgers were dried to a crisp, having been on the grill for hours past their prime. Three months later, as we were heading back to the studio for mixes, we passed the Death McDonald’s, and saw a car blazing away. The fire  department had yet to arrive, and a curling black smoke kept climbing higher and higher in the heat of a summer afternoon. That moment clinched it; and I have yet to order food there in my many stop-overs since.

“I got some fries, want some?”

“No thanks. This is the Death McDonalds.”

“Wha ???? Come on now Twining, don’t play old New England shopkeeper guy…”

“Hahahhaha. No, it’s an old story from the Thames days.”

“Do tell.”

As I finish my spiel about burning automobiles and terrible fries, he laughs and offers me some of his fries, again. I accept.

“Are you happy with the progress we’re making? Is this still working for you? I only ask because I think we can really cook once January arrives, once you have finished school.”

I knew Todd still had one more semester at school this fall until he was free and clear from his responsibility to higher education. My new vision of managing the band was to simply make it to January; by then Todd would be done with school, Wall will have learned the entire set and written a handful of new songs with us from the start, and Adrian would have a solid partner on the ground with him in the city. I was worried about Todd, however. There was no way he could prioritize Piercing for the next four months- no matter how much he enjoyed the band and it’s possibilities. If his work load created a period of survival at any cost, the band may be the one area he could sacrifice.

“I am, I am. I do have a crazy workload this semester; two French lit classes where I have to read the French; and the English translation, as well as a social lab, and one more Psych class. But the band has pretty much been everything I had signed up for. I’m still digging it.”

“That’s good to hear.”

“Thanks man. Why are you still here, still driving to New Haven just to hang fliers, only to have to go to work in the morning? I mean, I know the history, but what is really making you drive this van right now?”

“Applause.”

“That’s a dangerous proposition.”

“Yeah, I know. But if you are entertaining, the audience will let you know, am I right?”

“Oh yeah.”

“For me, I realized early on that the applause did something for me; as if it was a solution that filled in the cracks.”

“What cracks?”

“Well, you know my parents divorced when I was a pretty young kid, 7 years old, right?”

“Yeah, I know that part of the Ells story.”

“Many years later, during the Thames peak, when we would get that great applause, I realized it was filling the hole. And it worked.”

“So, that’s it? Applause?

“Well, it’s kind of like “quality” from “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, have you read it?”

“No, no, I haven’t yet. I want to.”

“Well, Pirsig is able to distill life down to one single essence- quality. It is the value from which all meaning is derived. Applause works the same way for musicians and other performers, I would imagine. Applause recognizes Quality.”

“I can see that. Normally, I just want to make it through the next song without fucking up something.”

“You’re doing fine, kid. And I love the applause that we’re getting.”

We have to pick up Adrian at the New Haven train station at 7pm for tonight’s show at BRICKS. Brent is arriving by car from the city, and I can only pray that we do not have a repeat episode of the Royal Park gig. To everyone’s relief, Adrian is already outside of Union Station waiting for us to pick him up.

“Dudes, what’s up!!!”

And there are beaks all around. Before I pull out of the parking lot, Brent has texted me:

“Here at bricks.”

“Cool, at train. Be there in 5 mins”

We play a rough version of our “good show”, and a few of the locals who have seen us before tonight seem to notice. Applause is muted throughout the majority of the set, and I secretly wonder if I blew it with my projection about the value of applause. And then, as if feeling the same emotions herself, Jocelyn calls off the four count for “Massive”, and absolutely tears the cover off the pitch. It was as if she was finally pushed into a corner, and realized people came to see her perform, they did not come out to see her. It was the balancing point between the desires of the audience and the reserve of the performer. The balance was delicate, and precious. But there was always a duality, no matter how much actual talent you could muster. Joss didn’t like the half-hearted applause after our so-so performances. We were all a bit wiped out, and Brent had barely a single practice with the group- and here he was executing another gig within the same two week period. She was now singing from the gut, not just the throat. You could sense a sea change in the room; people who were on their way out stopped, people on their way in pushed forward. She had finally done it. She did it for the next two songs as well, and Piercing exited to a rash of applause. My heart was buoyant with the accolades that I desired, but the more important development was Joss taking charge. This is why you play so many repeat shows in cities you can reach, for this night, this moment. As we started packing up the gear, Jocelyn walked by. I tapped her on the wrist, as I was bent over stuffing cymbal stands into a road case.

“Hey. That’s who you are. That’s you, those final three songs……..”

“I know.”

“Can you believe in it?”

“I’ll let you know in the morning….”

I had scheduled Adrian’s interview with Gezillig! for the following Tuesday.  I get an email from Marcella to confirm she has the correct phone number for him. I reply that, yes- she does; and to let me know how it went when she gets a chance. Two hours later I receive another email from the Netherlands:

“Have yet to hear back from Adrian. Have to call it a night.”

I wondered if Adrian realized the time change between New York and Amsterdam. He would never enter into a conversation about Piercing with Marcella. Or Ferry.

I have to cancel our scheduled practice for the next Thursday night, as one of the regulars at the Palace died suddenly on a camping trip with his college roommates. GaryU2 was a long serving city representative in Norwich, Connecticut’s local government. He changed the lives of so many people through his compassionate politics, that it was hilarious to reconcile his love of heavy metal, as well as his fastidious commitment to U2. Anne and I went to the wake; and you could sense how hard this sudden shock had wounded his kids. I knew the three of them empirically from the Palace; but this was new territory. They were in a place I had been many times before.

“Long day, huh?” I said quietly to his oldest son, a teenager.

“Oh, yeah…” he replied. But there was a sense of relief, that maybe I had lessened his burden by recognizing it.

“Your dad was a great man, always remember that.”

“Thanks for coming.”

Our rescheduled practice is for the following Saturday. Jocelyn cancels that an hour before the start time. Her diagnosis of Lyme disease had just been confirmed with an email. I decide to give everyone the next week off. There wasn’t much we could accomplish now; and it wasn’t as if songs were pouring out of Todd, or Adrian, at this point. Todd is obsessed with getting in two more weeks of his childhood in before his final semester. I have less of an idea where Adrian is at, and it seems to be diminishing daily.

Tuesday the 20th of August. This is the day we have all been waiting for. Wall will be cleared by his doctors to resume playing bass and other normal activities after his checkup at 2pm. I text him after getting out of work:

“Hey man, how do you feel?”

“Great! A huge weight lifted. Can’t wait to start practicing for real.”

Wednesday the 21st of August. I had always held an affinity for Wednesdays. I think it was the resonance of a day when there was full concert band practice, while I was in junior high. Sectional practices were held throughout the week, but Wednesday was the day when we had full capacity. Those afternoons were part of a complex weave which had brought me here, to Piercing. I was simply trying to make sense of the entire endeavor. From the garage bands of my childhood neighborhood, to the intoxicating reception of the early Thames, through all of the fantastic music I had contributed to over these decades; perhaps the best was saved for last. I was reveling in the purity of this train of thought, when my phone rang; the landline. Since I had acquired a smart phone, the only calls on the landline were of veterinary appointments for the cats, or bad news. It was Adrian.

“Hey man, how are you?” his voice had a static tone to it.

“I’m dealing. This month has been kicking my ass in ways I was unaware of.”

“Heh heh, me too. I know what you mean.”

“What’s up? Did you know Wall is being cleared by his doctor today to begin playing bass? We can probably start practices in the next week. And we can now come down to Brooklyn and work almost anytime. Shit, I’ve driven to New York City and back for practices plenty of times, doing it for us would be a blessing.”

“That’s cool man. Thanks. But I gotta tell you something. I’m moving to Portland Maine next week. I couldn’t find an apartment I could afford here and my lease is up at the end of the month. I just gotta get out of here.”

“You’re leaving the city in a week? That kind of flies in the face of waiting for Wall to heal, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah. I’m sorry man. I think I can still make Piercing work from Portland though, listen to me, I have some ideas on how we could pull it off.”

I immediately call Jocelyn.

“Did you know Adrian is moving to Portland Maine next week?”

“No, I didn’t. How do you know that?

“I just got off the phone with him. He called me.”

“Shit…..”

Todd, Joss, and I schedule an emergency meeting at Centraal for the following night; a Thursday.

Todd shows up at 8pm, right on time.

“Hey man, what’s going on?” Todd reaches out for a beak.

“I can’t fucking believe this is happening. I thought Wall was the answer to all of our problems. Well, musically, that is…”

“I know I know. He’s really moving?”

“Yeah. And there is just no way we can make it work with him in Portland. I did some research this afternoon; taking the NYC>NH>NL/MYS method of transportation we have been relying on since he moved to Brooklyn, and flipped it- POR>BOS>PVD>NL/MYS.”

“And what did you find?”

“It will take him 6 hours to get to Mystic utilizing the available public transportation.”

“Yikes….”

“I mean, when he was in the city, it was a bit grueling to get back and forth, but it was doable. He’d have to get on a bus in downtown Portland at 2pm to get here for an 8pm practice. And he wouldn’t be able to get back until 2pm the next day. “

“He’d have to work in a restaurant to make that happen.”

“But what about a Tuesday gig in Brooklyn?”

He gave me a look of complete resignation, but not of loss. If I could read his mind, I would garner that he was thinking what a relief it would be to finish school without the added burden of this career.

I briefly thought about laying into him about this intuition, but decided it was not the time for conflict. Otherwise, why try to hold the band together at all? Was it vanity; the fact that if I ran into a friends mother at the grocery store, and the inevitable question that would arise:

“Are you still doing your music?”

Which I always heard as “Are you still eating dirt?”

Piercing gave me an answer.

No. my foundation was still built on the belief that these kids had the talent needed.  And it was then I realized it was 8.30, and Jocelyn had yet to arrive.

“Do you want me to call her?” asked Todd. I think he had yet to adjust to the reality that I now possessed a cell phone.

“No, I got it. I’ll text her now.”

hey- Todd’s here. are you still coming over?

No.

Why?

Can’t you tell?

Umm, no. what do you mean?

you have no clue. You can’t tell?

What are you on about?

He’s high. Right now. In your house.

Silence.

I’m not coming over tonight. I don’t know what we should do.

I’ll call you tomorrow.

Ok

“Well, she’s not coming tonight, isn’t that fucking convenient.” I tried not to betray what I had become aware of.

“Sheesh…  Why? Marcus? I wish they could just stop fighting all of the time….”

“She didn’t say…. ”

I leave three messages on Jocelyn’s phone the next day. Friday. I don’t hear back from her before I pack it in for the night.

She calls me at the Palace at 2pm on Saturday afternoon.

“I’m ready to talk.”

“Ok, cool. this shouldn’t be seen as some kind of intervention, a Yalta conference, Yadda, yadda, yadda”

“Yeah, I know.”

“How about Sunday at 3pm?”

“Sounds good. I’ll see you then.”

Anne is out of town on Sunday; headed north to Leominster for a family baby shower. She wakes me before leaving with a gentle kiss on the cheek.

“Hey babe, drive carefully.”

“You know I will.”

I lay in bed, awake for the next hour. One thought keeps finding its way to the forefront of my attention. Do I really need to chase The Dream anymore? And then I realized, without the band, I’d be headed to Leominster right now, for a baby shower. Was I afraid of growing up? Is that what being a musician meant; an extended adolescence?  The thoughts seemed real, was the issue actually at hand? No, this music was meant to be made. But it seemed the idea of Piercing had run its course; how was I trust Todd would be in top shape as we moved forward, into the most pertinent portion of our career? We didn’t have a bass player. We didn’t have a second guitar player.  I decided my presentation to Joss would be based around us rebuilding the band; and starting over as an electronic duo. We could bring Malthus in for programming; strictly as a studio member; he was in no position to tour. The two of us could capitalize on the Piercing publicity, with a completely new group. If handled properly, we could catapult ourselves further up the line; the rock band who refused to give in to circumstance, and re-invented themselves. I get out of bed and cook myself a Mothertrucker. It’s probably going to be a long day.

I take our front porch furniture; a tasteful table and set of two wrought iron chairs, and relocate them to the center of the gardens for my meeting with Jocelyn.  I grab the exquisite pair of teacups Anne had brought back from a Scotland trip visiting one of her early childhood friends at school, twenty years earlier. I stoke a full teapot with boiling water, and set it on the table. Jocelyn arrives at the same moment, exactly on time.  3pm.

“Wow, nice set up.”

“I thought I should do something to commensurate the gravity of the moment.”

“Hahahah. Have you started writing poetry again?”

“Hahahaha. No. But grandiosity is my most favorable trait.”

“I know.” She replies with teeth closed.

“Thanks” I offer sarcastically.

“I just don’t think I can be in a band with Todd anymore. I mean, that’s the entire reason I brought it up in the very first meeting we had. I wasn’t kidding about that; and I have acquiesced to the situation twice against my better beliefs. But that’s what some success will do, eh?”

“That wouldn’t leave us with too many options going forward.”

“I think we should rebrand, use as many contacts that we have built up over the last two years, and become an electro duo.”

“Well, that certainly sounds exciting. And I’m sure you could pull it off…  put it together.”

“Thank you”

“But, I still don’t want to be a Diva Front Person. I just want to be part of a band.”

“We could get Malthus in to help us flesh out the songs, and make sure we have our tech tight to play live. He’ll never want to do live gigs, but you could sing live, I could play live drums, and the machines can do the rest.”

“I don’t know. I don’t want to be in Borealis.”

“But it would be the two of us, with some help from Malthus. No stops in New Haven, no Rudy body odor, no Adrian moving to Portland. ”

“It’s just not me, Ells….”

“Who are you Joss?”

A bitter smile crept into place on her face. She took a hearty sip of tea.

“I’m a singer, Ells. That’s who I am.”

“So, what do you want to do.”

“I want to keep the band together. I want to keep Todd in the band. I understand where you are coming from, but you didn’t even know he was high at your house three days ago. I had his issues under control. You didn’t even know. There is another thing you have no idea about.”

“What’s that?”

“Remember when I asked Wall for some pills at his apartment?”

“Yeah. I thought it was out of character for you.”

“Well, it normally is. But I had an emergency appendectomy after the Royal Park show.”

“What?!?!?”  I responded, in shock.

“ I had been feeling bad all day, and then at about 3am Saturday morning after the show, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even turn over onto my side. So, I had Marcus drive me to the hospital, because I was really freaked out. it was only my appendix, but they decided to take it out right then and there, thirty six hours later I was in Brooklyn practicing with Wall, and I was in so much pain. That’s why I asked him for some pills. It wasn’t an opportunistic moment like Todd had; so embarrassing.”

“Is that why you laid out on the floor of the van the entire trip home from Brooklyn after playing with Wall?”

“Yes. And the memories of Boston and Jackson came from that place. It was an awful drive home for me.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t notice. I guess I was so enthralled with the idea that we had found Wall, and that he was our answer, I didn’t look beyond that. I’m sorry.”

“But I made it to New York and back, didn’t i? I didn’t cancel that practice, knowing how important it was…. was supposed to be.”

She was undeniably tough. I thought to myself, if some other musicians I had been in bands with were as tough as Jocelyn….

“Ok, ok. So we keep Todd, and sweep his issues under the carpet. Fine. Do you want to add Jeremy on guitar?”

“Yes.”

“And we find a bass player from town, or somewhere around here?”

“Yes.”

We were going to become The Infectious Reality.

THIS IS NOT SLANDER Chapter Sixteen

Adrian calls my new phone at 7.05pm

“We’ve just cleared New Haven.”

“Ok, cool. Just keep on trucking. I have all of your gear set up; Todd is tuning the guitars, so you just have to walk on stage.”

“Alright, man. I’m trucking!”

I get a text from Brent moments later:

“Old Saybrook, on express to NL”

I gather a huge breath, and exhale slowly. Brent should be here with moments to spare at the worst, or at least have a few minutes to catch his breath. Adrian will only make it on time if there are no accidents on the stretch between New Haven and New London; a dicey proposition even in the best of conditions. I felt we had to come up with a contingency plan if one, or both of them, didn’t make it on stage by the time we had to start.

Ross Coscialetti was the manager of Royal Park, and he had booked the gig with Caron Morris. Together, they worked in tandem to bring the bigger shows in town to the Park, and were also the chief architects of the TAZZIES. We had also spent four years together in Bold Schwa; as he was the band’s bassist. Ross sidled up to me as we began to prep our gear backstage; the second band would  finish in about a half hour.

“Hey man, you look frazzled. What’s up?”

“Brent and Adrian are both coming in from the city right now, and they’re both delayed. I’m praying they get here in the next twenty minutes.”

“Do you need some time? With the drizzle, I could easily back it up ten, fifteen minutes.”

“Thanks. Ten minutes would be great. If they are not here by then, well…  the show will go on.”

“Alright, I’ll come back with a start cue.”

“Thanks.”

I was quite fortunate to have friends stretching back decades, who also were striving to live up to their responsibility in this creation of our own world. We had both been working in ways to build something that didn’t yet exist; secretly hoping for accumulation. I return to Jocelyn and Todd, reassure them that Ross has stretched out our start time by at least ten minutes. They both looked relieved, and simultaneously petrified. I decided to throw out a few scenarios where we could pull off a three person version of Piercing.

“Let’s do “Mind over Body”, but slowly. Lean on the country underpinnings, and stretch out the vocal. That could be about 5 minutes, and if it’s still the three of us at that point, I suggest we do “Spirit” as a slow, jazzy number, something I’ll use rimshots on instead of flush snare hits.”

“And what if we have to do a third number?” asked Todd. He’s worried.

“We’ll play that cover tune you love so much.”

“The Mac.”

The Mac.” I reply, heavy on the The. It was about confidence at this point; nothing else was going to salvage this situation unless we went out and were Entertainers.

I spot Brent strolling through the ornate wrought iron gates at the front of the Park. He is wearing his sheepish grin; usually reserved for when he had one too many and was caught at the fridge grabbing one more. I was delighted to see that wry smile, as I climbed down the steps at the front of the stage to exchange beaks with him.

“That was tight” he offered

“No worries. Ross gave us an extra ten minutes, we go on in fifteen.”

“Is Adrian here?”

“Last time he called he was in East Lyme. That was ten minutes ago.”

“Do we have a plan as a four piece?”

“Yeah.”

I went over the details of our backup plan with Brent, and he sounds confident.

“We can make that work.”

Ross comes up to the edge of the stage; Todd is getting in one last tuning of Adrian’s guitar.

“We have to start in two minutes.”

“No problem, we have a backup plan in place.”

“Cool”

“Hi, we’re Piercing, and as of now, we are missing…… one of our members…… Adrian is coming in from the city and he’s in a bit of traffic…… so…… we’re going to start with “Mind over Body”. And hopefully, you will see him come running down the center aisle between you all in a few moments. This is “Mind over Body”…..

I was impressed. She nailed the static electricity of the moment and did so completely unprompted- a perfect delivery. For a second I had hoped Adrian wouldn’t make it so she had to address the crowd through the whole set in that manner. As I raise my hands up to begin to click off the tempo for our first song, Adrian runs on to the stage through the open backstage door. He almost stumbles over his amp; as if he were a sprinter leaning forward to catch the finish line. The crowd began clapping in unison immediately. Perhaps this would be a victory after all.

Following our set, I grab a beer and find Ross to thank him for accommodating our hectic commute.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spot Maurice coming in the front gates, and excuse myself from Ross.

“Hey man, good to see you!”

“Good to see you as well. You guys were fantastic, much better than when I saw you in March.”

I take it as a compliment.

“Thanks man, thanks for making it out.”

“It was nice to come to a venue and just be able to chill, yaknow?”

“How long have you guys been out on the road?”

“About three months straight.”

The two of us talk through the next two acts, occasionally pausing to catch the general vibe of the songs,and the crowd. The Park is wall to wall by the time the headliner comes on, and I can sense Maurice yearing for participation in the scene that was unfolding in front of him. Tonight wasn’t about the “music business” which was obviously draining him of some of the spirit of performing; of making music. This was a large group of people who simply loved music, and loved seeing it performed live. It was the bedrock upon which Piercing existed, and Maurice was seeing it in full effect. When he was living here and coming of age, the Royal Park was a gravel parking lot. Now it was a first class outdoor venue, snuggled into the heart of a small city, and providing moments like tonight.

“Do you think you could book us a gig here in New London? It seems like people really love music here right now.”

“Of course!” When do you want to play? I can walk over to Caron right now and tell him you guys want to play and he would most likely book it and find the perfect venue.”

“Well, I’d have to go through all of our channels, but yeah, I think it would be an awesome time. Piercing should open for us.”

“Maurice, I would be more than happy to bring that to fruition for you.”

 

“Hey man, are you going to come down to the show?”

Adrian finds me talking with Maurice. Class Ring have booked a show at another club in town for later in the evening. He wasn’t going to be arriving at the last minute for that gig. I bit my tongue.

“Nah, I’m going home. We still have a long weekend ahead of us; Todd is shooting with Anne on Saturday afternoon, and we are heading back to Brooklyn to practice with Wall on Sunday morning, remember?”

“Of course I remember. Well, I just wanted to let you know- I gotta head down there now.”

“Cool, have a good show, text me tomorrow night so we can finalize travel plans for Sunday.”

“You got it. See you guys.”

Adrian leaned over and gave me the beak; I was thrilled to see Maurice reach out to Adrian with the closed fingers of our secret handshake. He beaked Adrian, and gave me a sly grin.

Wall called that Friday night- he eventually will need surgery on his broken collarbone; the initial set was completely botched.  And once that event took place, he wouldn’t be able to even pick up a bass for a month; much less practice or continue to learn the songs. He suggested we head into Brooklyn to practice one time before his surgery, so we could meet in person and at least begin the process. I thought it was a sure sign of his commitment, and the definition of why we were waiting it out for him to heal. Wall was going to be the New Bassist.

“I’m at Ellen’s house, across from the post office W Mystic”

Adrian’s first text of the day. Jocelyn and Todd were already at Centraal; I was plying them with tea.

“Cool. be there in ten mins”

When we arrive, the front couple of Class Ring are taking guitar amps from a Jeep and bringing them into the house, of which neither of them lived, or practiced in. It was a strange sight, as if we were seeing the film being rewound, not the forward expanse in present time. Adrian came running out of the same door the amps were being loaded into- he almost tripped over the second one on the porch. With bounding leaps, he made his way across the lawn and into the side door of the van.

“What’s up, people! My dudes!”

Beaks were exchanged all around. This wasn’t unusual for Adrian to minimize the emotional content of a moment with a quite masculine bond attempt. It didn’t work on that level, but it did clear the air.

“Hey, what’s up with those guys and the amps going into Ellen’s mom’s house?”

“We had a gig in New Haven last night.”

“What?” gasped Joss, Todd, and myself simultaneously.

“Yeah, I didn’t tell you guys before I came up, but they booked a gig in New Haven, a sort of “pay to play” gig. I didn’t book it, those guys did. They thought it would be a good opportunity to play since I was going to be here this weekend anyway.”

“You played two gigs with Class Ring this weekend?” posited Jocelyn. She had never expressed this kind of anger towards a band member outside of our own relationship.

“Hey, hey hey…” responded Adrian.

“Don’t get worked up about it, c’mon guys ….” offered Todd, playing the role of the referee.

I resisted commenting.

“Well, it didn’t fucking go so great, if you want to know!!!!” Adrian leaned on the van headrest to make his point to Jocelyn.

“Hey, take it easy” she responded.

I was proud. She had the high ground, I wanted to see her actually defend it- defend everything we had been building since she sat cross legged upon the Thames sound system in 2005; recording the first TIR EP surrounded by equipment from another age. That progress would corrode without enhancing its intention, it’s meaning. It was all at stake now.

“Me, and Sawyer and Heide (the Class Ring front couple) headed down there about three hours before the gig. The two brothers called us an hour later, said they were in bridge traffic, and couldn’t make the gig. He fucking booked a gig he ditched on two hours before show time. What a dick. Bridge traffic? Fucking bridge traffic? The fucking bridge goes up and down up and down every fucking hour. Did they think I was that stupid?  I’ll never play with those guys again.”

Jocelyn turned and looked right at me. I knew immediately what was on her mind:

‘See, I told you these things can’t be put back together again.’

I didn’t mind her being right at all.

In an unexpected turn, the palette was cleared. There would be no more interference from Class Ring. Rudy was gone, and Wall was playing with us today. The relief was palpable; it was the first time I had let myself truly exhale in ten months, since our first recording session at Stormy Harbor. The extraneous pressure had been removed, and we could rebuild the band with Wall without distractions.

We also now had someone in the city to help bond with Adrian; to bring him closer to the fold. The sky was cloudless, and the Sunday traffic was minimal. We should arrive in Brooklyn a full half hour before the start of practice, which should give Joss time to get another coffee, and walk the streets of Brooklyn. She often talked of moving there.

“But I actually want to be able to afford it, not just couch crash and beg for work. I don’t have that in me. I couldn’t do what Adrian has done since he moved here.”

Adrian asks me to pull over as we pass his apartment.

“I just wanna go in and grab some money; I’ll be right out.”

Ten minutes later, he emerges. I resist probing my thoughts for clues; we need to get to the Foundry. Unfortunately, my directions took us from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Foundry; now we were in a slightly different neighborhood, and I wasn’t sure how to get there from Adrian’s apartment.

“So, do I take a left up here at this light?”

“Yeah, yeah. Take that left, and then go three blocks and take a right.” Replied Adrian

Twenty minutes later, we pull up to the door at the Foundry. One thing I learned that I had never known before this afternoon, in all my time driving around the city: never ask directions from someone who only walks in the borough- they have no clue about the vagaries of one way streets. But we are there. As I begin unloading gear with Todd, Jocelyn tells me she wants to still get a coffee before we start.

“Ok, cool. but why don’t you get Adrian to go with you, we’ll load up the rest of the gear between the two of us.”

“Nah, that’s just wasting more time. I’ll be fine, I’ll be right back.”

“Do you know where you are headed?”

“Yeah, I saw a shop a few blocks back while Adrian was navigating.”

“Ok, cool. Be careful.”

She laughed her insouciant laugh and turned on the toe of her right, booted foot. The sidewalk was dry, mid-July, and I could sense the specific frequency of that small imprint on the surface of the city. I let her walk away with trepidation, because if something should actually befall her while we were here, or any of the other many cities we may find ourselves in shortly, it will be my fault. I will be responsible. I feel the same with all of the kids, but much more so with Joss. There are people in this world who might take the chance of getting their hands on her- I had seen the same reaction to her since the TIR gigs. I watched her fade into the heat blur of the sidewalk, and thought a silent prayer:

“Not today, Lord. Not today.”

Wall is already there, sitting in a deep recess of the entryway, on a tattered couch. He stands up as we pass him, and out of the corner of my eye I catch his movement and stop myself.

“Wall?”

“Hey, Ellery, how was the drive down.”

“Easy. Sunday morning. Drove in circles a bit trying to find this place, but we’re here. Thanks for making it.”

“Thank you man. I’m the one putting some limitations on us.”

“Ha, no worries man.”

The practice space is surprisingly nice; baffles suspended from the ceiling, heavy red velvet curtains hung ceiling to floor on three sides- a Lynchian vibe in the depths of industrial Brooklyn. The Foundry was in the same neighborhood as Huntington Grounds, which made me a bit upset when we lost our extra half hour trying to locate the space. By the time we get all of the gear set up, prepare ourselves to play, and wait out Jocelyn’s coffee run, it’s 3pm. I recalled, for the first time in years: you are always going to pay for “unused” time at a practice space. The fantasy I had of us getting going at the of the two o’clock hour were always ludicrous; even if they were subconscious. Let’s just jam and see what happens.

And that is exactly what we do. Wall is locked in to about half of each song; but when he finds the groove and grabs it, you can sense a widening of our sound. It doesn’t become more intense, or louder, but more succinctly stated; wider. Wall was working in frequency ranges that allowed the main guitar riffs to have more bite, while also adding Tabitha’s promise- a funky underpinning that didn’t exist with Rudy. After an hour of working on six songs that he had somewhat of a familiarity with, we took a quick break and then began working on a new Adrian song; his first in months. It was trademark Pearson- a quick stuttering rhythm with melodies that turned on a dime. Wall found the core groove after two run-throughs, which was the most encouraging sign so far. If he could write this quickly in real time, the distance between Mystic and the two of them would seem to be an illusion. The constant effort to balance the band these last six months has been akin to standing on a tree trunk in the water of a cool lake. With the Class Ring dissolution, and Wall’s obvious integrity, I felt as if the current had begun to change course. It was as if I realized I had been wearing a lifejacket the entire time.

We pack the gear, load the van, and I wipe the sweat from my brow as I ask Wall to give me directions to his apartment from the Foundry.

“Take a left three blocks down, and then go four blocks on Humboldt- take a right on Siegel.”

I put the transmission into drive and hit the signal for the left blinker. As I stepped on the gas, I realized we hadn’t paid for the time at the Foundry. I hurriedly put the van in park, and told everyone

“I’ll be right back, I forgot to pay.”

This was met with catcalls and jeers, in a playful way. I had become so caught up in what the possibilities were now that the lineup was sorted, I was just going to head to Wall’s. I walked into the office and handed the Foundry founders the cash. They laughed.

“We thought you were going to ditch on us!”

“No no no , I wouldn’t do that. I ran a space like this in Connecticut for years, I know what it’s like. We just auditioned a new bass player, and he seems like a perfect fit. I lost track of my shit for a moment.”

“No worries. We’ll be telling this story to people for years to come.”

“Well, I’m glad I could contribute to the folklore of your fine establishment.”

They laughed. It was all good.

“We’ll be back.” I offered, turning toward the exit.

“We’ll be here.”

Once we settle into Wall’s apartment, everyone breaks out a bit of their stash before we head out and get something to eat. At one point Wall reaches into a canvas bag, and pulls out a prescription pill bottle, undoes the lid, and pops two pills with no water. He’s dealing with a broken bone, so I don’t give it a thought. All of the sudden, Jocelyn pipes up:

“Hey can I get two of those?”

“Umm, yeah, sure” replies Wall. It’s obvious that this isn’t the first time he has been asked that question.

“Hey, I’ll pay you for five right now, if you can spare them?”

It’s Todd. How could he not know that I knew what had been going on behind closed doors? If that was the case, why would you ask to buy scripts in front of me? I had bought into my own theory of progress, but now it was  being threatened. Was Todd still stuck in a cycle of using pills? Why else would he bargain for them in front of me? And how hard was Jocelyn’s day? Was she so comfortable in our burgeoning reality that this hidden realm would now come to light? In all the time I had known Joss, using pills was never part of her milieu. So, why now?

“Hey, guys, Wall probably needs them more than you. He just broke a bone, umm and you guys broke….. what exactly?” I decided to say something to turn the direction away from more drug use.

“Ohh, sorry, man. Old habit. You probably used to do the same thing if you found out there was LSD to buy on a Sunday afternoon in July…  of 1990 ….  unexpectedly …” Replied Todd.

“That’s true, you got me.”

“I’m just feeling really cramped up, like my stomach is shrinking. Can I still get two from you Wall?”

“Yeah, sure.”

That was totally unbecoming of Jocelyn. Not so much that she might like to take some pills once in a while, but that she would be so public about it. I had known her for seven years and knew nothing more of her extracurricular activity than smoking pot. I decided to file it away and see if pattern recognition would reveal itself.

“Didn’t Squish and English spend a summer putting pills up there asses? So they could get off more?” Adrian throws in a story from the old days.

“Hahahaha, yeah, I remember that. Those guys were really reaching…” replies Jocelyn.

“I mean, how high can you get? How high do you need to get? I understand the whole ‘there’s more out there’ argument, but really….  You can’t put the pills in your fucking mouth? Really?” risking that I was sounding like Dad. I didn’t give a fuck.

“I agree” replied Jocelyn “you should never put something up your ass that doesn’t belong there. I thought I had something wrong with me a few years ago; something digestive. So I did some research, and decided that a salt water enema was the solution to all of my problems. Again, you should never put something in your ass that doesn’t belong there.”

The only sound after that was the air conditioner, working perfectly.

We walked the four blocks to the coffee shop on Bushwick Avenue. I would imagine the denizens of this Burgh were in the presence of musicians all of the time, but something in the way the passersby’s double takes made me think:

‘We must look like a real band to them.’

And we did; without a coded, uniformed presence. We were separate from that presence, and did not have to adhere to its rigidity. We were free; and the music could be our sole focus.  Our image was like settling concrete. When Joss asked Wall what his latest musical interests were, he responded in a way that gave her the wrinkled, upturned smile that she reserved for moments of clarity.

“I love the new Daft Punk.”

“So do I” she replied, deliberately.

On the ride home, it was just the three of us; Todd, Joss and me. There was a new privacy between us that hadn’t existed in the period when Rudy was in the band. We always had to acquiesce to Rudy; to make him feel comfortable. When it worked, it was more than worth it. But those days are behind us now. We are driving north on the Hutchinson Parkway blasting Saint Etienne.

“Every time I hear this song, I think about living with Jackson in Boston. “

It was “Carn’t Sleep” from Foxbase Alpha, their debut album.

“I can’t sleep, wishing you were here with me…”

Jocelyn started to sing along with the main vocal; a wistful gaze out the mid seat window.

When i get home from work,

Sit down and watch tv,

The night falls

Just like a bad dream.         

 

“Why does that remind you of Boston?” I offered, quietly- inferring we could leave the topic off limits if she wished to.

“Jackson was always out late, and then I found out he was cheating on me the whole time.”

“Ouch, that’s a brutal reminder. We can skip the track when we listen to it.”

“Hahaha, no, it’s really not that big a deal. And I love this record, why would I let him ruin it for me?”

“Just offering.”

Jocelyn stood up, and lay down on the floor between the two front captain chairs.

“Are you feeling alright? Do you want a pillow?”

“Yeah I’m ok, my stomach is a bit grouchy. Where is the pillow?”

“It’s behind that seat, in the back pocket.” I pointed; my left hand on the steering wheel.

Joss finds the pillow, lays it on the van floor, and slowly lowers the back of head. She’s staring straight up at the ceiling.

“It absolutely sucked to deal with him cheating on me. We broke up over it after a few weeks of screaming at each other, but I would still sleep with him when I wanted to. And when that got tiring; I decided to just go back home.”

“Wha? You did?” asks Todd. “I didn’t know that.”

“You did the same thing Todd.” her voice trailed off into a resigned sigh, with the emphasis on same.

“Too true. I guess that’s why I’m feeling for you.”

I also didn’t know. I decided to look at it as a moment where she felt free to reveal more about herself than I had ever anticipated. This was a new level of trust; something that had been acquired navigating our way through the madness. Or was it that I didn’t really know Joss as well as I thought?

Show Other Posts Also Tagged With:

THIS IS NOT SLANDER Chapter Fifteen

As soon as the door closes on the mother-in-law apartment, I turn on the computer and log into my Facebook account. I immediately search out Tabitha, to find out if she’s online. Bingo. There she is. I open up the message box and type the following words:

“Hey- do you know any cool bass players looking for a gig in the city?”
“As a matter of fact, I do! My good friend Wall, who I went to school with at Sussex, is a great bass player. And his band just broke up two months ago.”
“How long has he been in the city?”
“Three years, same as me. He’s been playing with this band that just broke up for the past two years.”
“Oh yeah? what was their name?”
“Cause:Effect”
“Cool name.”
“Yeah, they were really great; slinky funk grooves. Wall could add quite a bit to the Piercing sound.”
“That’s what I was hoping to hear. Do you have his phone number?”
“Yeah, hold on a sec…”

It had only taken me five minutes to find the replacement for Rudy. I was well chuffed. I immediately start searching for the online presence of Cause:Effect.

I phone Wall two nights later, and he picks up on the first ring. Tabitha had given him a heads up on my inquiry, and he is very much interested in joining theband; he had even done research on where we were at, referencing several non-Earcandy reviews that we had gotten over the past year.

“I’m all in, unless we play together and it just doesn’t work.”
“No, no, no. I feel totally comfortable with you. Tabitha speaks highly of you, and we trust her intuition, not simply as someone who likes the band.”
“Cool, can you guys come down on Sunday the 30th?”
“Sure. What time works for you?”
“What time works for you guys, I’m just getting into the thing.”
“Wahahahhaa. No worries. How about 2pm, we’ll book a space at the Foundry; 2-5pm?”
“Great. I’ll meet you guys there.”

Earcandy finally debuts the Decisive video on the following Tuesday. It had been a three week grind to get them to run it, and now I was free to spread PR about the video as far as I could reach. Tabitha became an essential ally that I had not counted on before this moment. Over the course of the next few days, her PR acumen opened up a whole new avenue for Piercing; one that I was barely aware of. She was simultaneously shopping the Earcandy link to her contacts, and suddenly fashion/style blogs were running the link. Music was only a small part of their overall focus, so there was more of an impact of being noticed with the lower content ratio. In light of the fact that we were going to be spending at least the next two months rebuilding the band with Wall, I thought the best way to maximize our PR reach was to capitalize on this new found avenue. I envisioned Jocelyn, Todd, and Adrian in a classic Anne black and white photo shoot. But instead of a group shot, have each of them pose solo. I would then shop those photos to these various culture blogs that had at least run a review or linked the “Decisive” video. I had seen some fantastic photo shoots that both Whitney and Phoebe had participated in, but they had the rapt attention of an audience they had established, while we were still building one. But the exposure to the culture blogs gave me the opportunity to showcase each one of
them in that style. Anne is in complete agreement, and immediately schedules a shoot with Joss at 6pm on Saturday.

They shoot within massive Victorian columns; the front of one of the local mansions built on money from the seas in centuries past. Jocelyn is styled by Anne in layer after layer of lace, taffeta, and spangle. The resonance of the photos lies singularly within Jocelyn’s gaze toward the lens- a physical articulation of her insouciance. She nails the shoot, and both Anne and I are bowled over checking the contact sheets later that night.

I kept coming back to the dilemma that seems to exist within Jocelyn. When she arrives two days later to proof the final shots with Anne, I overhear the two of them making plans for a completely new spread, involving June, and Joss; as women re-enacting a Greek myth.

“I was quite impressed with how you approached the solo shoot. You were totally there.” Anne said to Jocelyn upon her arrival. “So, I’d like to schedule something with you and June, say, maybe in the next two weeks, wherever you have a break in your schedule?”
“Oh, I would so love to work with June. She was fascinating to watch making the Spirits video; creating that entire character in the moment. It was inspiring.”
“Is that ok with you, boss?” Anne asked me sarcastically.
“Oh, yeah….. as if you two need my approval.” I replied, just as sarcastic.
“You know how much I love the videos, and the photo shoots. Branching out into modelling is a good thing for the band.” opined Joss.
“I agree.”

Did she want to be a Rock and Roll Star? Or an object of adoration? I couldn’t figure it out. Perhaps she wanted both? If she wanted both, why wasn’t she able to fuse those two elements on stage; the person whom all eyes are upon? They seemed to me to be one and the same- you needed a specific, innate confidence to actualize either. But Jocelyn had the voice. She had the missing talent that most other people would never possess.

The next day is the beautiful summer we had been dreaming of as we endured the worst winter of my lifetime. June 30th, the day of our first band practice with Wall. It had been quite an exhausting twenty-seven days since we let Rudy go, and today would prove to be just as telling toward the definition of Piercing. The phone rings at 9.30, and I hurry down two flights of stairs to Centraal, already thinking the worst.

“TWIIIIIIningggggggg! Wake up my man, pick up the-“
“Hey man, what’s up” it was Adrian. He sounded exhausted. I took a deep breath and was silently hoping the two of them had hung out until the wee Brooklyn hours; wanting to push back our start time. I could pay for an hour we didn’t use, as long as we got in some work, and met Wall in person.
“Wall, me, and Tabitha were having some drinks last night at a bar near Wall’s place.”

Easy.
Rock and Roll.
No worries.

“And he just called me. He got hit by a car last night riding his bike home. We weren’t even drunk, it was like 11.30”
“Yikes. Is he okay? Is he really hurt?”
“He broke his left collarbone.”
“ …… that’s the strap side…… ” I sighed.
“Yep….”
“I suppose that means we won’t be practicing in Brooklyn today?”
“No, that’s why I wanted to get ahold of you, so you weren’t getting ready, and maybe there is some time to let the Foundry know, and maybe they won’t charge us for the time.”
“Maybe.” I knew I was going to have to cover that bill out of my own pocket.
“Okay, cool. I’ll get in touch with Joss and Todd. I’ll call Wall later this afternoon and check in to see where we are at with him. Do you think he still wants to be in the band?”
“Oh, yeah, very much so. He was cussing up a storm this morning when I talked to him; wishes he broke a leg.”
“I’ll talk to you tomorrow once everything is sorted.”
“Cooooool. Thanks dude.”

There is a saying among the artists I know who write for grant money, and they all profess the same thing- it doesn’t matter how many you apply for, as long as you get what you need. Pushing a band through the modern grinder of PR was exactly the same thing; I began to refer to it as the Inherent Internet Resign:

All efforts are a 1 in 10 success rate. If you have 400 fans on your Instagram, you’ll more than likely get no more than 40 likes on a post. If you have 40,000 followers, you can bank on 4000 each post out. So, when I opened the email Monday morning from BATTLECATS, a fashion oriented blog that had both reviewed the “Decisive” single and linked the video, I found they wanted to run the photo shoot of Jocelyn by Anne. And in a stroke of good fortune, because that’s the fortune of consistent hard work, they wanted to run an interview with the other members of the band, in and around seven photos they had selected of Joss.

The very next email was from the Dutch magazine that had gotten in touch with us earlier in the year. They had linked the “Decisive” video as well, and now wanted to do a full page interview with an accompanying photo for their September issue. I immediately replied to Ferry at Gezellig! And told him we would love to talk, and the best time to get all of us in the same room with the time change is about 2pm, our time. Any weekday. Jocelyn had lost her job at the Senior Housing complex due to budgetary constraints, and Todd was off for the summer from school. Both of them had gotten retail jobs in downtown in early June, so It would be easy for all of us to sneak out of work for a half hour in the middle of an afternoon. Adrian would do a separate phone interview once the three Mystic folk were on the record.

The BATTLECATS interview arrived in the email box Tuesday morning; my day off. I dutifully sent out Word documents that they could add their answers to, and pleaded for a speedy return of their replies. The questions were straightforward-

“Describe your music for our readers who may not be familiar with you.”
“You worked with Tabitha Williams for your new video, “Decisive.” What was the shoot like? Who came up with the ideas used in the video? What was your favorite part of the shoot and final video?”

To my utter surprise, all three of them had sent me their meticulous answers by the next morning. I collated the photos into a Dropbox file, and emailed the Word doc to BC’s, as we began to affectionately refer to them as. Two hours later, they would email me back with hearty congratulations and thank yous, and that the interview would run next week. I was taken aback, again, at the speed of the new world. What took months when I began playing music now took hours, if you were paying attention. I couldn’t stop thinking about Thames. If only we had the internet in 1992…..

Ferry’s assistant editor Marcella calls us promptly at 2pm EDT on my landline.

“Hi, how is Piercing feeling today?”
“We’re fantastic!” I reply with the proper muted enthusiasm.
“Ok, I’m going to ask questions to each of you. one at a time, but the questions will all be the same. Is that fine?”
“Sure, Marcella. Anything that works for you.”
“Ok, I’m going in alphabetical order, so Ellery, you speak to me first.”
“Ok, I’m here.”

Her questions are genuine, and I try to keep my responses clipped and to the point. I have a tendency to wax rhapsodic at the most inappropriate time, so I decided to adhere to the new reality- that the kids were the ones responsible for shaping our identity. The last question was interesting, something I couldn’t remember being asked before-

“If you could turn success of your band into something else, what would it be?”

There was only one answer to that question for me.

“Make more music.”

Todd said the exact same thing.

Jocelyn and Todd were eloquent during their time on the phone with Marcella. I could tell they were embracing this world of having conversations with people you had never met, at a time of day you hardly even speak to your closest friends. Over the course of the interview, I could see clearly that i was not the Dad figure making the Kids realize some long lost dream; the entire subtext of the Dad reality seemed to dissolve over the length of that one phone call. That, in and of itself, was indelible progress. I had lost myself in that train of thought, not really hearing every word that Jocelyn was saying to Marcella, but when I heard this answer, I knew what the question had been:

“I’d love to be in a David Lynch film. Anything… An extra, a delivery person, a clerk. But, yeah, that would be a real dream come true.”

We had a show in New London in eleven days, with no bass player to speak of. Jeremy was obviously out as an option, and I couldn’t think of anyone I had approached the previous month that could pull it off with so little time left. And then it dawned on me; there was a way out of this. Brent Davis had told me he would love to fill in with Piercing if the need arose. Well, now was the time.

“Hey man, Twining here.”
“Hey what’s going on? How are you and Anne?”
“We’re doing great. she has been shooting a bunch of new work; the Piercing shoots have really gotten her back on track artistically.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen all of her new work with you guys; as fantastic as she ever was. Tell her I said so, please?”
“I will. Hey, remember when I asked you to fill in for Piercing last month when you were in Carolina?”
“Hahahahaha! Of course I do. Why? Do you still not have a bassist?” I loved his possessive wording of “bassist” rather than “bass player.”
“Yeah, umm, no. We have a gig at Royal Park a week from Saturday. The 12th. Do you think you could do it?”

I knew Brent could do it; as in learn the songs in a few nights and practice once with us while totally nailing the live set. But would he be able to make it?

“Oh yeah! I’d love to do it. I can practice this Saturday, easily. Other than that, it would be hard to get to Mystic before the gig.”
“I totally understand. Let me get in touch with everyone and see if we can schedule a Saturday night, say…. 8pm?”
“I can do 8pm, no problem.”
“Ok, I’ll get back to you by tomorrow at the latest.”
“Cool, I can’t wait to play live with you on drums again!”
“We’re going to rock, kid!”

Jocelyn and Todd get back to me first; they can make practice with Brent on Saturday. Adrian is stuck in the city.

“I have like, no money, and I’m not working this week because the building we occupy is being sprayed for bugs, yaknow; exterminators and shit.”
“A whole week?”
“I think the owners just wanted a blow, yaknow? But I’m still wicked low on cash.”
“I’ll tell you what, I’ll pick you up in New Haven Saturday afternoon, and drive you back on Sunday afternoon. You don’t need to give me any gas money.”
“Ok, that’s cool. I can do that.”
“We really need to practice at least once with Brent.”
“I agree.”
“It’s kind of a big gig.”
“It is kinda a big gig. I want to play as much as you do.”
“Thanks, man.”
“Thanks to you!”

We have a spirited practice that Saturday night at Centraal. Brent is completely within the songs, and the few moments where he misses a spot, we correct in two or three passages of the segment. For the time being, we are still alive and moving forward. In a scant few weeks, Wall will be the new permanent bass player, and we will be set up to make our next strides in NYC, and begin stretching our boundaries, to include other cities for the first time- Boston, Hartford, Providence, Portland. And if we can solidify those routes, we can then expand into Philadelphia, and Baltimore. That was the tried and true method toward building an audience on the East coast. After brunch on Sunday morning, I drive to the Palace to pick up Adrian for his return trip to NYC; I was transporting him on the Town-to-New Haven leg of the trip.

Sunday was the 7th of July, but what I had not anticipated was that this particular weekend was the unofficial Independence Day Celebration within the GSECAZ. With the 4th of July falling on the Thursday before this weekend, I should have known the highway would be jammed with travelers; their power drive is to get home before sunset on Sunday night. As we descend the last mile of the Gold Star Bridge, I can see the traffic stalled across all three lanes a mile ahead. I exit on the local service road, to gauge whether or not this was a momentary backup, or something that could last for miles. As I approached the last exit on the frontage road, it seemed the highway was clogged for miles; as far as we could discern. I took a hard right onto the exit; knowing I had one last secret tool in the box to avoid a day long commute. I would tap into my father’s driving knowledge. When I was a teenager, I could navigate the entire GSECAZ effortlessly. The same tactic served me well while on the road all of these years. I knew every back road from Mystic to NYC. We didn’t need a highway to get Adrian to the train on time.

When I merged onto State Road 80, I asked Adrian what he thought the role of the musician was in today’s world.

“I think it’s the same as it has always been- provide an outlet for the people, for the audience.”
“I agree”
“Why do you ask?”
“Do you think we provide that thing for our audience?”
“Almost.”
“What are we missing?”
“I think we have everything. The songs; they matter the most. Without songs you ain’t got shit. We got songs. We just need to own that shit, you know what I mean?”
“I agree”

After a slight silence, I allowed myself to let Adrian know what I had been thinking since the Spirit video was linked all over the musical net.

“I don’t have years to pursue these goals. I’m kind of on a tight schedule.”
“I know. I think everyone knows. It’s why we’re waiting for Wall, right?”
“Yes.”

Monday
Record a demo of Detainee on 8 Track for Brent / Soundcloud
Schedule Anne photo shoot with Todd
PR BC’s interview
Check train times / NYC to NL for Brent and Adrian
Print flier FFR for New Haven show in two weeks (Heirlume) / weds trip

Jocelyn and I head to New Haven to hand out fliers for our show there in two weeks. We’ll be opening up for Heirlume on the night of our show, but tonight they are opening for a band with a huge cult following. Marc at Myopic Insights had booked us for the show largely because Piercing is starting to get a serious local buzz; but he also remarked that he remembered me making it to the WESU radio interview to promote the Scare Tactic show back in March. You have to be willing to play the game. The flier I made had to be sent into the Heirlume people for approval, before they would let Marc use it as the main show image. Fortunately, the very first submission was accepted by the band- a relief and a sense that we were calibrating the details as they arose. Tonight was the very first time, in all the years I had known Joss, that we went to the same show together- outside of the local gigs, that is. I was curious to see her take on what Heirlume singer/guitar player Lora Leigh had to endure across the long night of music. After every gig we played, Piercing went home to their beds- the road musicians were sleeping in vans, or maybe bunks in busses; perhaps some shitty motel room off the highway. I implored Joss to watch and pay attention to Lora at every chance.

“that’s what you are signing up for.”

We hand out about 50 fliers to folks as they begin to arrive, and I notice we need to stop , so we’d have enough to ply the leaving crowd with a second wave. The two of us head into the bar, and I get a beer. Joss has a glass of wine. After a tip of a fiver; because it’s always a good idea to overtip the bar staff, we head back toward the front of the room, but I stop us about halfway in.

“Let’s watch from here.” I say to Jocelyn.
“Ok. Why here?”
“Can you see Lora? Sitting over there on the folding chair?”
“Yes.”
“She has to wait out this interminable local opening act every single night, everywhere she goes.. And notice, she’s dealing with it; not hiding in the bus, or walking around the club. She’s participating. Every night.”

Following the headliners set, we camp out on the front steps of the cinder block industrial building that houses the FFR. It’s a gorgeous Connecticut summer night, with the fog rolling in, creating a field of streetlight cones across the parking lot; a line of cars are disappearing onto the woodsy backroads. As the members of Heirlume make their way out front, Marc grabs me by the arm to introduce Joss and I to Lora.

“Hey Lora, Tim, this is Jocelyn and Ellery from Piercing, they’re opening for you in two weeks at BRICKS.”
“Nice to meet you both” as Lora extends her right hand toward us. Jocelyn reaches out and shakes it.
“You were spectacular tonight, I loved watching you rock out like that. Totally refreshing!” Joss offers.
“Thanks, glad you enjoyed it.”
“Yeah, at times it was like we were living in an Eddie Van Halen reality- you would rip off this sick riff out of nowhere and slide right back into the groove, effortlessly. And you sing lead as well!!! Incredible!” I hopefully offer with a blend of modesty and awe struck fandom.
“Thanks, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”
“Hey, who does your PR?” asks Tim, who played bass in their three piece. These were the folks who had to approve my design for MI on the flier for BRICKS.
“Umm, I do.” I replied, looking down at my shoes. Why did I look down? I suppose I was trying to be accommodating; humble.
“You do? You don’t have an independent PR company doing all that work?”
“No, I pretty much do it all. But, I have been doing this for a long time.”

I turned to see what Jocelyn’s reaction was. Her mouth was slightly open, as if she just remembered he had left the stove on while driving to work; and then took a deep, cool breath to calm the initial wave. But her eyes remained fixed on a point somewhere beyond the small group of us, on the horizon. Could she see the future coming to fruition?

I finally give in and buy myself a smart phone- the last luddite. The final hurdle was learning how to text Wall, during our recruitment effort. I had figured out how to text him on our primitive Tracphone- something that was an annual Holiday gift from Anne’s family- so they could keep track of us when we were travelling. Wall thought it was cute; my attempts to learn while he was acting as a guidance counselor on the finer tips within the societal norms of “texting”. I plied him with paragraphs of wishful text, and he let me know that I was abusing the forum.

“Hey, like, I have to pay for these things…”

I had no idea. I had made a joke sign at the Palace, years earlier, and placed it next to the most visible electrical outlet: “CELL PHONE CHARGE $1.00 P/MINUTE”
I had no idea how long a cell phone needed to charge.

We have a show later tonight, which is why we needed Brent to fill in, at Royal Park in New London; a small festival with six bands to raise money to offset events like the TAZZIES. The show had now become an annual tradition, and it was a marked move up locally for the band. However, we have yet to hear from Adrian since he called me and said he on the West Side Highway at 5pm, in gridlocked traffic. I almost began to tell him to get off at 34th and head east, across town, to the FDR, but I internally debate whether that would make them even more lost.

“Ok, man- do you think you can get here in the next 2 hours or so?”
“We’re going to try.”
“Ok, keep me posted.”

As I am turning the door handle to leave, the landline rings again. This time it’s Brent, who is leaving Manhattan at the same time as Adrian, only taking the train. We had talked over the past few days that he was getting on an express to New Haven, and then the commuter rail into New London. Brent was a pro, I had no worries about him being there. Adrian was driving with his father, and you could never tell what was going to happen out on the racetrack that is I-95 in the corridor.

“Hey man. Bad news. The schedule for the train was all fucked up. I’m on a local stopping at every bedroom community outside of the city.”
“Well, can’t you get off the train? Flag the next one, hope it’s the express?”
“Hahaha, very funny, country boy.” A sly reference to one of my favorite Miracle Legion songs.
“I might be able to switch out at Stamford, I’ll call and let you know.”
“Ok. We’ll be fine.”

I head to the venue and meet up with joss and Todd, huddling under the backstage awning avoiding the slight drizzle in the air. It’s an unseasonably cool summer night.

“Did you hear from Adrian and Brent?” asks Jocelyn, in a whisper. I can tell she’s actually thinking there is no way those guys are going to make it on time.
“Yes, I did. Brent is on the local out of Grand Central, by accident. Adrian and his Dad are stuck in traffic
on the West Side Highway.”

I tried to sound as if this were the normal state of operations. This show was too big for us to fuck up, and I didn’t want them to think I was worried. I was plenty worried, but showing any outward emotion of that wasn’t going to bring the two of them into town any quicker.
And if the three of us had to pull off this show by ourselves, there was certainly no need to create a negative environment before we made an unscripted, unrehearsed debut as a three piece. I shook my head at the thought, realizing again how we always seem to exist in some fragmented form. Jocelyn caught this deviation from my outward cool.

“What is it?”
“Ahh, nothing. It’s not like the old days anymore, eh?” I mutter
“Which old days?”
“Good point.”

Show Other Posts Also Tagged With:

THIS IS NOT SLANDER Chapter Fourteen

I awake on Thursday morning. Adrian has rejoined his old band, Rudy has been fired, Jeremy is in the band and has no idea it is strictly temporary, and I’m spending day after day trying to get Earcandy to premiere the “Decisive” video. They have now proposed three different run dates, but major releases keep bumping us back. Tabitha is shopping it to bigger cultural sites that cover film and fashion, as well as music; to no avail. The band inbox is disheartening. I log in to Facebook and see if there is any buzz about our Saturday show with Finito.

“Friday Night / Velvet Hall / Mystic / 8pm / $5 / Class Ring / Geneva Holiday / Finito”

Gut Punch.

I felt as if I had seen an Instagram photo of a girlfriend at the club, without me. Adrian had reassured me during our conversation that this was a one shot deal- either something came of the new recordings or they would mothball the Ring.

“We’re not going to try and recreate our local audience.” he had told me.

But this was genius level PR from the Geneva camp. With Finito coming up for the Saturday show, it was brilliant to have them arrive a day early and play the alternative to a Saturday club night: an all-ages show in Mystic. Coupling that with the close bond that Rudy shared with Phoebe, it was the smart move. Having Class Ring open as they played their first show in over a year, with their original lineup, was a booking coup.

Thames had built their audience playing all-ages shows at the Auditorium, in Stonington; which half of Mystic was within the border of. The Aud, as it was known in local parlance, was a privately run community center that was repurposed from an old 1920’s movie theatre. Several varieties of craftmaking and artisanship were taught in the former office spaces, but the main stage area was kept intact; a place for local theatre groups to present new work, visiting authors to give readings, and where Thames played their most important shows while developing a local audience. When the neighbors began to become weary of 200 people attending the all-ages rock shows; their 100 cars in the parking lot, the sound of the crowds as they came and went within twenty feet of a residential neighborhood, and  the volume of the shows, – it was hard to blame them. One night, while I was struggling to come up with a replacement venue to keep pushing the local scene forward, a couple of young guitar players found me at work, and pitched a new venue idea.

“What about the Velvet Mill?”

I shuddered, hoping I didn’t visibly appear to. I had only been to the Mill one time in my life; and it was harrowing. Following the dawn of the twentieth century, enterprising Americans built specific mills in the Mystic valley to capitalize on a new global market. These mills housed some of the most important velvet production in the world. Germans were the purveyors of the most intimate knowledge of the velvet trade, and hundreds of them came to Mystic to work in these new  mills. “Society Hall”, which was the original name of the Mill, was built by these German immigrants, to recreate some of the spirit of their homeland. By the 1970’s, it had become a private “club”, operating outside the bounds that legal drinking establishments had to adhere to. To gain access the Mill, you had to be a card carrying member of the club, or give a written recommendation for the guests you asked  to enter the establishment. My only experience at the Mill up to that point was on a cool August night in 1979- when my mother’s boyfriend brought my brother and I there, while he was charged to watch us while she worked an overtime shift.

Russell was an alcoholic, who had recently gone through the first real period of clarity in his life. Instead Of pounding beers all day at his job as a weld grinder at the local submarine  manufacturing plant; he was behaving more like the neighborhood fathers we had grown up with- they waited until after work to intake their initial libation. My mother’s relationship with Russell began to take on a kind of normalcy, and I couldn’t blame her for harboring a borderline maniac to help from having to sell the house. But something about the Mill made him lose control that night. I had always equated the strange behavior I witnessed in Mysticites to some kind of weird, psychic vortex that must reside deep in the valley. Whether the vortex is real or not, something got to Russell that night. At 10.30 pm, he piled us into my mom’s 1972 VW Bug, and headed up the valley side the mile to our house. Of course, my mom would be waiting for us; or rather, him, on the front steps.

“Where the fuck have you been?” she hissed at him

He stumbled forward a few steps and gave the whole charade away. I had seen my father fuck up like this many times in front of my Mother. She would never miss that sign.

“AAAAANNNNNNNND  you’ve been drinking! With my fucking kids, you’ve been drinking?!?!? I ask you to watch them for two fucking hours and you dragged them where? Franks? The Mill? Where the fuck did you take these kids? Isn’t it bad enough I have to hear them tell me all of the time they spend in the bar with their asshole father twice a month? Jesus Fucking Christ, you are a one-of-a-kind fucking prick!!!!”

Then, the right hand punch.  Bang. It caught my Mom flush on the left side of her face.

“AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

YOU MOTHERFUCKER!!!!!!” she screamed in response.

She stormed forward and slammed him with all the force she could muster into the back door of the house. I raced toward her, and tried to open the door, desperately grasping at the knob. As my mother had him pinned against the door, he noticed me reaching, and clenched his left hand into a fist and swung it toward me, as a direct punch was impossible. He landed that swing perfectly, as drunk as he was. I fell backward onto my ass against the refrigerator. I looked up and saw my brother was standing absolutely still, with both arms slack at his sides. I was as shocked by his non-reaction as I was to the entirety of the moment.  Russell, in a moment of weakness, stopped his struggle with my mom when he saw the blood seeping from the side of my head. She corralled him and opened the door, pushing him outside; the resulting fall down the concrete stairs left him momentarily immobilized. And then, his scream. I saw my mother quickly lock the door, but his fist burst through a lower pane of glass. He was grabbing at the door handle, desperately trying to unlock it and gain entry, but the blood was flowing from his wrist like hot, watery ketchup packets that you get with a hot dog at the Little League Snack Stand, or an amusement park.  He passed out from the loss of blood moments later, and the ambulance whisked him out of my life forever. That was the emotional level that the Mill brought up in me. That had been my first time there.

Over the years, I had played dozens of shows at the Mill; and other than glancing at a faded scar, the night with Russell never plagued me while I performed there. Perhaps I was locking the lid on that experience, in an effort to not be influenced by it. But going to this show brought back wave upon wave of bad mojo. As I walked across the parking lot between my house and the Mill, I simply put one foot in front of the other, knowing that this repetition would eventually bring me to the hall. Adrian had called me earlier that afternoon, asking to use Steven’s amp for the show that night. Our deal lasted all of five minutes. What was I supposed to do, deny him access while the same piece of equipment sat unused 500 yards away? I acquiesced.

“Yes, you can use the amp, just pick it up before you head over to the Mill.”

“Thanks man! Yr the best!”

Tabitha was in town for the weekend, so she joined Joss ,Todd and me as we trudged toward the club. As we walk, Tabitha brings up the progress with Earcandy.

“Anything look promising?”

“Well, they reassured me this week that we’re in the pipeline, but we did submit two weeks ago. I suppose the question is, how long until we shop it elsewhere?

“I say one more week.” replied Tabitha. “If they won’t run it next week let’s take it to Schwag, and see if they’ll premiere it.”

That caught Jocelyn’s ear. She stopped right then and there and turned to face Tabitha.

“Do you think you can get Schwag to run it? That would be a fantastic place to debut the video!”

Schwag had the corner on an “edgier” presentation of the alternative culture; and the edge-pushing

“Decisive” video fit perfectly into their milieu. I could see Jocelyn’s excitement about that possibility, but I thought there was a remote chance of them highlighting an unsigned band in that fashion. Earcandy built their reputation on finding unsigned, or unknown groups. I felt it best if we wait it out, but I knew Tabitha’s career was a factor in the project.

“I agree- one more week and then we will begin to actively shop it to other outlets.”

“Cool. Thanks. I still feel confident that Earcandy is going to run it.”

“Me too.”

We walk into the hall as Class Ring begin their first song. The crowd is nearing 200 people; it’s evident the band has been missed. A great night tonight could easily propel them into a concise   commitment, the likes of which they may have never imagined before. And yet, Piercing had passed this same point months earlier. It was hard to watch Adrian enjoying himself when our band was so close to capitalizing on the hard work we had all put in. and after the removal of Rudy, further fissures would be difficult to cauterize.  But as their set continued, the audience began to lose interest. As they finished their final number, they were playing to a room with fifty people.

Nostalgia is a fickle bedfellow.

Geneva Holiday earn a reprieve, as the audience reassembles; and they provide their staple of the local musical diet.  But by the time Geneva wrap up their set, it’s 11.30pm. Class Ring delayed the start of their set until 9.30, as the audience hadn’t swelled to their projection until then. That left Finito taking the stage for an all-ages show at twelve midnight. A scant ten people were in the hall to witness them.

After three songs, I decided to walk home, not even exchanging goodbyes with anyone involved with the night. Everything that had been built in this small riverside town over the previous two decades crashed and burned upon itself tonight. I almost felt singlehandedly responsible, but as the steps accumulated on my walk back to Centraal, those worries faded. Once, maybe twice in a generation a small town like Mystic has a returning star. Phoebe had accomplished things in her life that many of her generation of friends in town could not even dream of. And ten people stayed to see her perform.

Maybe the genius move that was centered around what Finito could do for Geneva and Class Ring should have been seen the other way around. Our show Saturday night would define its knife edge.

I arrive at the Wishing Well at 9pm, with a van full of gear. The kids are all arriving separately, so as to not be beholden to my schedule. After two trips through the steep alley to the club with amps and heavy gear, the rest of Piercing shows up to help. They grab the snare drum, and carry that and the guitars into the room; better to rest before their expectant expose of entertainment. We are the second band on the bill, so I stack our gear as close to the stage as possible- as Finito is using our equipment, this leaves a bit more standing room on the floor. After the load in, I head up to the bar and order a Sierra Nevada, which happened to be on tap. The Well was constantly rotating their 65 beer choices, so one didn’t have to travel to NYC for an equal experience. And that is what truly defined the Well- there may be only one world class club in the neighborhood, but we would hold up our neighborhood music joint to anyone else. It was as garrulous a claim as it was the totality of a specific truth. And after getting all of our equipment into the room, I find myself sitting alone on Steven’s old JC120 amp that Todd was using. I had been sitting on this amp before gigs for almost thirty years. But now I was alone. Jocelyn and Todd were at the bar holding court with Caron and Jeremy, while I tried to blend in with the dark wall that showcased local art- a residue of neon light resonated against the opposite brick wall.  It was now evident every success would define how alone I actually was in this endeavor.

Rudy is at the bar by 9.30pm. He would be at the front of the stage when we begin our set in an hour; a curious gaze settling over his face.  I couldn’t help but think of the dichotomy between Piercing and Thames; where everything seemed to be defined by the import of ‘life or death’. That prioritization did not exist within the parameters of Piercing. Phoebe was a long-time friend of Rudy’s, so it wasn’t out of the ordinary for him to greet her at the earliest possible opportunity. By the time we take the stage, there is a near capacity crowd- certainly due to the curiosity of what Finito is all about- Piercing were the lucky recipients of the overflow crowd. And even with a handful of practices with Jeremy, the set is punctual, and it’s conscription evident. The sound is more bouncy, more pop than with Rudy, who provided a more visceral bottom end, but the songs were not hindered in any way by the distinction between Rudy and Jeremy.

Finito are completely mesmerizing. One of my favorite things about live music is seeing a great band almost instantaneously connect with an audience who probably hadn’t seen them before. Jeremy and I end up standing mere meters apart, about halfway through the set. We reach out between people in the crowd, and exchange beaks. During their next song, Finito guitarist Matthew lays down an incendiary solo over a lilting, noir rock. As he reaches down the fretboard and hits one final searing note, there is an audible gasp in the room, followed by immense applause as the band gently eases away from the moment; a slow decrescendo. As I turn around to gauge the reaction in the room as they finish the song, I notice Whitney is standing against the opposite wall. I make a mental note to head over to say hello as soon as the last song was complete. But that train of thought became interrupted when Jocelyn sidles up to me and announces that she is going to head home for the night.

“You should go over and say hey! to Whitney before you leave.” I opine to Joss

“Yeah, your right. I haven’t spoken to her in a few months.”

“No worries. Joss, Whitney wants to see us succeed.”

“Yeah….”

I was surprised at her resistance at embracing Whitney.  And as soon as that thought passed through my mind, I realized I should simply walk Jocelyn over to Whitney right then, before Joss entertained the idea of ghosting it.

“Hey, let’s go see her together.”

“Ok.”

We make our way through the thick crowd, and Whitney immediately brightens when she sees us approach. I was encouraged.

“Hey, you guys are getting so good! I am so psyched for you!”

“Thanks for coming out, it really means a lot to have you see us.”

“You’re welcome! I’m sorry I haven’t seen you guys in the city yet, my schedule has been so hectic, but I will!”

“Thanks, kid.” I reply with complete gratitude.

“Jocelyn, you are looking so hot, girl!”

“Awwww.. thank you Whit.”

I recede into the crowd, to give the two of them some time without me.  But as Jocelyn turns to leave, I lean in and tell Whitney

“Keep posting the Vines from Mystic, I love it!”

“Hahahaha! Every time I’m home- You know I will!”

The moment was disconcerting- why did Jocelyn need me to prompt her to “work the room”? Surely, she must have been aware that greeting Whitney was a total necessity;  but I still had to drag her over there to enact a conversation. And of course, she wanted to leave the club before the last band had finished their set. I could understand wanting to get out a bit early, but she lived the closest of any of us to the Well; I couldn’t tell if she was feeling run down, or if it was simply social anxiety. Whatever the issue, it was only going to move to a more intense reality than tonight’s episode. Joss and I were like two kids at the school playground, one of us pushing the other farther and farther up on the swingset. She kept insisting on more autonomy within our artistic definition, but was at the same time asking me to not push the swing so fast, so high. I could feel my hands falling by my sides.

Monday morning. I open up the email and right away I see that Tabitha is getting in touch about whether or not Earcandy is actually going to debut the video for “Decisive”. It has been over two weeks since I submitted it at Claire’s request, and several email exchanges between the two of us have yet to result in the magazine running the new video. It was vital for Tabitha to get this work published in the widest possible forum. She was still shopping her short film, with no success; but a highly regarded video could provide her extra ballast in the rough seas of getting a film distributed. The next email was from Jocelyn, asking me about the timeframe of informing Jeremy that he is not part of the long term plans for Piercing. I knew it. There was not even a sliver of belief that anyone other than me would have to make that particular call to Jeremy. I chalk it up to the benefit of age- if I was 25 and was tasked with terminating a musician who did us a massive favor, I would bitch and moan until they were sick of hearing it from me. I decided to remain silent about my own internal dialogue, and call Jeremy and tell him the truth. It wasn’t me who didn’t want him to join Piercing; it was Adrian backed by Joss. They were calling the shots now, I was just dialing the phone. No pressure.

I spend my Tuesday day off in the gardens at our house. Anne is in fine spirits; the Iris are in peak bloom, and we have totally caught up on weeding and mulching the beds before the height of their color. I’m dealing with internal disarray; knowing full well before the sun sets that I was going to have to make the call to Jeremy. At 5pm, I decide to dial his number. I am standing in the full sun of our front yard, which is bordered by beach roses; their fragrance wafting in the air amongst a hint of freshly cut grass.

“Hey man, it’s Twining.”

“I know. I have caller ID on my cell phone. You should get one.”

“Thanks for the tip, I was just trying to be polite. You kids are always fantasizing about what the 80’s were like- well, that was a part of it. There was no caller ID. You had to actually pick up the phone to find out who was calling. You should embrace it.”

“Yeah, whatever. How about that set Saturday night? Pretty tight, wouldn’t you agree?”

“It was tight, especially considering how quickly we had to piece it together.”

“I know, I know. Who else could you have called?” a hint of actual sarcasm within his tone.

“Well. I tried to get Brent, but he was in South Carolina visiting his Dad. He could have pulled it off.”

“Yeah, but he didn’t. I did.”

“I know, and I truly appreciate it, I imagine everyone does.”

“You imagine?”

“Hey- take it easy.” That was a go to phrase at the Palace when someone was beginning to cross the line.

“You take it easy! Hahahahaha!”

“Jeremy, I’m going to just get to the point. You are not part of the long term plans for Piercing. We are grateful you could fill in for us at such a desperate time, but we’re going to look for someone else as the permanent bassist.”

Silence.

“I can’t talk to you right now.”

And he hung up the phone.

I immediately send out a group message on Facebook to Joss, Todd and Adrian.

“jeremy is out. we need to find a replacement asap.”

Jocelyn was the first to respond.

“Let’s get together on Thursday and discuss this in person. We have practice that night usually, so let’s think hard about what we need to do over the next few days.”

“Yeah, I think that’s the smart approach” replied Todd.

“Ok, cool. I’ll see you guys at 8pm, Centraal. Yes?” was my contribution to the thread.

I spend a few hours cleaning up the mother-in-law apartment, as well as Centraal proper, before the two of them arrive. Todd gets there exactly at 8pm; we exchange beaks on arrival, and Jocelyn skips up the driveway in an effort to look as if she arrived at the same time as Todd. I saw it as an endearing moment; she truly seemed to want to see this through, regardless of the obstacles. As we enter the studio, Jocelyn camps out on the upright futon bed, which serves as a “guestbed” for some of Anne’s family members while they are in town. Or Rudy. Todd stands upright in front of Steven’s amp- the JC120 which enables Todd to tell his tale.

“And how was your day, Twining?” offered Jocelyn.

“Hahahahahaa! It has been fantastic! Do you know the past two nights, between midnight and 1AM, I’ve been getting vicious phone calls from Jeremy?”

“No, I didn’t. I haven’t talked to him. Todd, have you talked to him?”

“No, no, no…. I haven’t…”

“Well, I’ve had five different phone calls over the last two nights; I had to just let them go to voicemail. But he is eviscerating me on these messages. Here, have a listen…..”

“YOU ARE TOTALLY FUCKING THIS THING UP! YOU HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!!”

“YOU ARE TOTALLY FUCKING THIS THING UP! YOU HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!!”

“YOU ARE TOTALLY FUCKING THIS THING UP! YOU HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!!”

It wasn’t that difficult to reconcile what we had actually achieved versus Jeremy’s wounded take on the same topic. But I intrinsically trusted him, as he was the most prescient of the Palace kids. That carried a specific weight with me-  what if he was right? What if I caved to the wrong vision? I had convincingly built the band into its present state; where they had artistic choices to make regarding their image, and their future. Was it a gift? Surely. There was no other way for me to frame my commitment to Piercing and this particular Mystic generation en masse. That realization also defined an endgame; the first time it had cropped up in regard to them. There would soon be a time when it would be too late to rebuild the possibilities. Of that we could be one hundred percent sure.

“Yikes, I’m sorry to hear that.” Offered Jocelyn.

“Yeah, man. That’s fucked up. But it doesn’t surprise me.” Added Todd.

“I’m just over making these phone calls to kick people out of the band. I have had enough.”

We began to discuss how we could possible find a suitable bass player. There wasn’t anyone in town who we collectively felt was the right fit, but I had my own idea about where we should look. But first, I wanted to let them speak, and untangle all of the thoughts they had about solving the situation.  After twenty minutes of

“how about …..?”

“I don’t think that’s a good fit…..”

“How about we think on a larger scale? We’re in New York all the time; it’s where we record and play the bulk of our shows. Adrian is there. What if we found someone in New York to play bass?”

“Hmmn. That’s a good idea.” Replied Jocelyn with purring interest

“I think that’s brilliant, if we can actually find somebody.” added Todd.

“But how are we going to find someone there? Do you think Adrian can find someone?”

“We could ask Michael at Stormy Harbor. He might know some people.” I offered, actually thinking on my feet because as much as I believed in our next bassist would be based in NYC, I had no idea how we could make that happen.

“I hadn’t even thought of that. We know plenty of people in the city.” Said Jocelyn.

“That’s true. I guess this is what happens when you keep working at it, eh Twining?” surmised Todd slyly.

“That’s right. We’ll find someone in New York, I guarantee it. Why don’t you guys head home and get an early night in. it’s been a hectic month, and if we find someone in New York to join the band- it will get even more hectic.”

“That’s totally cool with me.” Said Todd

“Another Piercing musician in NYC is only going to help us. I’m totally on board.” Added Jocelyn.

“Cool. I’ll start making phone calls and emails in the morning.”

“Beaks!” they reply in unison. I take that as a very good sign.

Show Other Posts Also Tagged With:

THIS IS NOT SLANDER Chapter Eleven

Jocelyn continued her train of thought:

“I know we have a show tonight…..”

“What the hell happened? Was this last night when you guys went to hang at Marcus’?”

“Yeah, Rudy came with us, and everything was fine for the first hour or so. Jeremy showed up at about 11.30, and then you could sense a noticeable shift in Rudy’s comportment.”

Hmmmn. Comportment. I liked that word. I was silently impressed.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know if Rudy still has some residual angst about Jeremy moving to Brooklyn and throwing Geneva into rebuild mode, but he was such an asshole after Jeremy arrived. He started berating Todd and Jeremy about their taste in music, which is of no real news in the context of things. But still, the night before we play at the TAZZIES? You think he could hold it together, but oh no, not Rudy. It was simply awful. And then when I started to defend their right to like whatever music they liked, and that Rainbow was no great shakes as a band, he starts going down the misogynist avenue he loves to pretend isn’t real. But it is fucking very real, and I cannot be in a band with him anymore! I will not be treated like that!”

It was of no surprise to me. I had reached out to Rudy in every way I knew how, to get him to move beyond his anger and paranoia. I kept imploring him to look at the big picture, and that this very band could provide him with the creative outlet he was so desperately seeking. Or was I misreading it? Maybe he was satisfied within the cult of Geneva Holiday; their uniformed visage morphing from one iteration to another- not so much a costume but a cloak. There were no cloaks in the world of Piercing.

“Ok, ok, ok….. Don’t worry about it. We will simply show up and play tonight as if nothing is wrong. Don’t betray your feelings tonight, and relay that to Todd. I’ll talk to Adrian about it privately. I agree with you, because he delineated me as a faceless facilitator during the whole thing that went down on the trip to Cabinets last Thursday.”

“Yeah, what was that all about? We barely have a draw in Brooklyn and he suggests we headline a show with bands from town who have never even played in the city? Delusional”

“I know. And that is where we can define the reason why he needs to go. I don’t want to publically expose him as a misogynist asshole; that is for other people to decide. But we can remove him because his commitment isn’t there.”

“And you are willing to handle that?”

“Of course. Let’s just get through the weekend. We’re still going to have to practice with the five of us on Sunday before Adrian heads back to the city. We all agreed to it.”

I leave work at five on Saturday to give myself enough time to load the van and prepare my outfit for the night. I loved getting dressed up for the Awards Show, and I had found my outfit for the night months earlier. I had come across a waist cropped black wool jacket, adorned with square silver buttons, which ran the length of the front and were graciously placed in rows of three on the lower sleeve cuff. It was unseasonably cold on this night, hovering around 48 degrees in a weird, late winter echo. I decided to add a layer of thermal underwear to my outfit, sensing that the cold temperatures and the frigid wind off the river would be more than enough reason to sacrifice fashion for comfort. As I took one last look in the mirror before exiting our walk-in closet, I felt as if I would be able to pull off the multi-layered look. I turned the doorknob, and entered the kitchen, where Anne sat silently going over the mail. It was six o’clock.

“Are you going to get dressed?” I asked, quietly.

“What did you say?” was her reply.

My hearing was definitely going, to some degree. The most noticeable effect was that people couldn’t hear me talk, because I spoke so quietly due to the fact that my ears were so shot every sound was loud and present to me. I had to wear ear protection just to vacuum the floors. A clanging ping of colliding glasses in a restaurant would make me flinch. So, perhaps, she had not heard me.

“Are you going to the show tonight?”

“No, I’m not going to go. It’s business for you, right? You have to go, but I certainly don’t.”

“Wait, we always go to this show, and this year I’m actually playing the show, and my band is actually nominated. The night I actually play the TAZZIES is the night you are not going to go?”

“I didn’t get an outfit together…  You have to go already because you’re playing. its just a timing issue, and really….. I’ll help you in the ways I can, like shooting photos, but I don’t want to have to be put in the role of den mother, you know what I mean? It’s hard enough taking care of you, much less the kids.”

I was shocked. I had always agreed that they were my responsibility, not hers. Each time they were scheduled to be at the house for a practice, or a gig, or a video shoot, I cleaned every room of the house. I tried to make our daily life as invisible to the band as possible. The idea of getting into a huge argument about this didn’t sit well; I had a long night ahead of me and didn’t need the extra layer of tension.

“Ok, then. I gotta go.”

“Ok, I’ll see you later tonight.”

She stood up from the stool in the cold kitchen and gave me a kiss on the lips.

I parked the van two blocks from the outdoor theatre at Royal Park, where the TAZZIES were annually held. By the time I make it to the entrance, you can sense the weather was already wreaking havoc upon the event. The promoters were total pros, so I had no fear of a cancellation, but they were constructing an awning at this very last minute, to shelter the red carpet from what seemed to be inherent rain on top of the frigid temperature. Joss, Todd, and Adrian all met me at the front gate, when I pointed out the awning being hastily assembled.

“That’s not a good sign. Let me go find Caron and see what the deal is.”

After wedging myself in to ask Caron this question, who was answering questions to what seemed like half the attendees and musicians, I find out they are running an hour late. The event is set to go according to the schedule, once they open up the red carpet at 8pm. I head back out to the sidewalk to inform everyone just as Tabitha arrives to meet us. We had regaled her with tales of how much fun the event was, and she was curious and excited by the idea of a night out in town on this scale. She was decked out in a cool, spangly dress, and I reached out and gave her a beak.

“How’s it going? Pretty cold, huh? What are their plans?” Tabitha asked me, obviously looking to frame the evening where some time getting warm could be factored in.

“8pm is go time.”

“Hey, can we chill in the van for the time being?” asked Jocelyn; shivering.

“Yeah. It’s down on South Pier.”

As we walk away from the Park, Rudy is backed up into a deep shop window at a store next to the Park. He’s wearing the trademark Geneva uniform. A voice swelled up inside me a blurted out something I had not intended to actually say.

“You’re here early……”

“Uh- huhhhn………..”

I turn away in contempt. I had to listen to all of the whining and cajoling about even getting to the stage by 9.30 and here he was in the deep cold at 6.45? It was as if he knew he had stepped over the line, and was now taunting me to do something about it. That time would come. And before this night was through, there would be even more damning evidence to allow us to walk away from Rudy without fear of reprisal.

An hour later we depart the van and its confines, and brace against the chilling wind coming off of the river. When we make it to the gates of the Park, the night is under way, and we get ourselves into the formed line. There is a cadre of eight photographers, in some senses “playing” the role of the paparazzi, but the photos of yourself do matter to some degree on this night. Not so much in a way to further your career, that would be a faux pas at the TAZZIES. Rather, you wanted to contribute to the magic. As we made our way toward the front of the line, and the parallel sets of four photographers gracing the carpet, I noticed that I was standing between Jocelyn and Tabitha. There was no way, after our tet a tet earlier tonight, that I could let Anne see pictures of me flanked by Joss and Tabitha the night she stayed home. Right as we were being given the cue to walk the carpet, I reached back and grabbed Todd by the sleeve:

“Hey! Come up and be in the pics with Joss and Tabitha!”

Todd eased his way past the few people ahead of him, and he held each of them in an elbow lock he exaggerated by raising his hands for the last few steps. Cute, perfect; I thought to myself. And then something very nice happened, something I needed to stop and recognize as it was happening. A few rows behind me were James and Charlize Affeldt, the husband and wife duo I had spent five years in Bold Schwa with. They had left New London and relocated to western Massachusetts after the band had collapsed six years earlier, but with so many friends in the GSECAZ musical community, they made it a point to come down for the TAZZIES. I excused myself as I cut the line in reverse, so I could talk to them. And yet, even more so, I wanted Anne to see TAZZIE photos of me walking in with the Affeldt’s, and not anyone from Piercing. I suppose it was a conscious ploy to convince Anne I was serious about the music, and not the social possibilities of success. I was grounded as a musician; and desperately trying to allow none of this to be a detriment in my life with her.

“Hey man! Can I talk to you for a second?”

It was Tim Jones, who was stage managing the night. He was a fantastic drummer who played in several different groups at the same time. I turned to meet him as he handed me a copy of the itinerary.

“Hey Tim, how’s it going? Smoothly, I hope.”

“Well, the time is an issue, so were trying to get everybody on the same page regarding load in and set times. Do you guys have all the gear you need?”

“Yeah, I only brought one guitar amp because they said there would be backline guitar and bass.”

“Yes, we have one guitar amp, so you should be all set. Now, you guys go on at 10.15. I need all of your stuff set in the backstage area by 9.30. can you do that?”

“Of course, no worries from us man. We’ll be totally ready.”

“Cool, thanks. If you need me I’ll be in the backstage area or that front bar over there.”

He finished with a laugh, and then peeled away on a single heel turn. I knew what the staff was going through; hopefully it wouldn’t be a long night.I took another glance at the schedule and noticed that the award for “Best New Artist” was the second envelope of the night. The show was due to begin in about five minutes, so I began searching the Park for the other Piercing members. I finish three complete laps without setting eyes on a single one of them. Starting to feel a bit worried, I made my way out onto the street and began walking the few blocks around the Park; perhaps they were keeping warm in one of the bars, but I didn’t catch a glimpse of anyone. I head back to the park, a brisk wind settling between the classic brick architecture of the side streets of downtown New London.  I remind myself to feel good about preparing for the cold and having the extra layer of thermal underwear. Hoping to see them on the street parallel to the backstage of the Park, it suddenly dawns on me that if I had a cell phone, I  would simply text them and they would materialize out of thin air. And then I became possessed with an opposite, angry thought:

“I’m supposed to text these damn kids to let them know their career is going on?!?!?!?!?!”

“Fuck that” I thought to myself, as I rounded the corner to the entrance of the park, blasted with another strong dose of brutal wind. “Now I’m never going to get a cell phone.”

I wind my way through the encouragingly large crowd to stake out a spot among the beautiful, thin limbed trees that are the demarcation between the lawn caressing the stage, and the pebble gravel walkway further back. Once I was comfortable, I took a sip of beer, and the show began. The first act was a hip hop collaboration between several of the area DJ’s and four MC’s. it was a brilliant performance, sculpted just for this night, and truly established the depth of the possible. There was a full frequency, a pure spectrum of music being celebrated tonight, and it was exciting to be an integral part of it. The first award followed their performance- “Best Hip Hop Album”. One of the guest MCs from the opening act took home the TAZZIE, and the crowd roared in appreciation, especially after his dazzling freestyle moments earlier. I took that as a very good sign- in the cold and near sunset, the crowd still wanted to create the TAZZIE magic.

We were up for the second award, “Best New Band”. This was the one award I truly wanted to garner, mostly because you can only win it once, but moreso for Adrian. When Piercing attended the TAZ Awards a year earlier, the band had written about five songs and had yet to play its first show. But Class Ring were nominated in 2013 for “Best New Artist”, four months after they had replaced Adrian, and I couldn’t possibly forget the look on Adrian’s face as I stood next to him when the award was revealed. His face was scrunched up in a cyclonic fold, as if a sudden tension in his skull had wound his facial features into a pinwheel. He turned to me, looked me straight in the eye, the depth of his blue irises increasing with his frustration. Adrian reached out for his longtime girlfriend Elizabeth’s hand, and walked out. The image of his contorted face was the well I went to over the long winter doing PR for the singles. Winning a TAZZIE was not a “goal”, that’s not what they were about to begin with. But to see Adrian have the opposite reaction once Piercing took home the prize- I used that as fuel to keep pushing forward when there were no reciprocal emails coming in. when there were no gig offers. When the latest email blast to bloggers produced not a single review. We were making so much progress, that it was easy to play this game in my mind, to motivate me to keep moving forward. The shark that never sleeps. It’s was the joy on Adrian’s face when he finally had payback. Class Ring had basically won on the merit  of songs he had written. But I had still not heard or seen from anyone in the band.

“And the winner is ……. “PIERCING!!!!!”

Applause. Tangible excitement. But I was petrified, because I actually wasn’t one hundred percent sure they had said Piercing. I leaned over to the person standing next to me; I had no idea who he was, and said:

“Did they say Piercing?”

“Yeah, man! That’s you! Go go go!”

I could feel the nightmare beginning. I would be onstage, alone. In of itself, that was of no worry to I had begun my “career” in show business playing Moses in the Ten Commandments, at a Christian summer camp I attended for a week each summer during my junior high school years.  The program I signed up for during the summer before 9th grade was a theatre/musical  conference. Basically, hippie Christians from around Connecticut that had worked in musical theatre volunteered to spend a week in northwestpart of the state crafting a musical for the attendees to perform within that limited time frame.

At the final group rehearsal for the overture, I had let myself get a little too into the music. The entire conference was seated in a great hall, and the live band was cranking out the song. The band was made up of professional musicians, who were committed Christians, hoping to spread the good word through their art. I absolutely loved the environment, and committed myself wholly. On this day, perhaps a bit too much.

“With all your Heart, with all your SOUL

You can love the Lord

with all your HEART“

It was a catchy tune, something you might hear on side two of a cool country-rock LP from 1975. And I was dancing while seated, singing out loud, gesticulating with both hands, lost in the music. The director suddenly stopped everything, and said aloud, waving his hand palm down toward me:

“Ellery, you seem to be really into this song.”

“Yeah….”  I didn’t want attract this kind of attention, and had unwittingly done so.

“Why don’t you come up here and lead the whole group?”

“Do you mean, like, conduct the group?”

“No, no, no. just come up here and stand up and sing; like you just were.”

Hmmn. I wasn’t so sure about that. Why me? I thought, I was just, you know ‘giving energy’; that’s what the counselors were constantly asking for. I could feel two hundred eyes upon me. And I remember thinking to myself, right before I stood up to walk to the front of the hall:

“ok, ok. That’s what you want? I’m going to give it to you.”

My biggest obsession during the whole week was to be able to get a few minutes and play the house drum kit, which was gleaming in 1970’s red flake sparkle. It had hydraulic drum heads, a recent definition of the “serious drummer”, and the oil between the two plasticine layers produced subtle rainbows of color. I figured, if I went up there and did Sammy Davis Jr on their ass, I might parlay that into a few minutes playing that beautiful drum kit. I would eventually be right about that. But I had to pull it off first. I stood up, and walked slowly, to the front of the room. I remember looking completely left and right, across the entire assembled group. And then the drummer clicked off the beat.

“with all your HEART

with all your SOUL

you can find,

you can love the lord!

WITH ALL YOUR HEART!!!!!”

And I started doing Vegas leg kicks-first to the left, then to the right. I began racing down the length of the assembly, shaking hands, high fiving people; imploring them to SING! I had the most limited idea of what Vegas even was, other than Elvis died after being there. That was all I could discern from the front page of the New York Daily News, driving to see my paternal Grandmother in New Bedford, Massachusetts on August 16th, 1977. My father had always bought The News and The Post each morning; I didn’t know at the time that it was due to his gambling addiction. But Elvis’ death was on the front page of both papers that sat casually between my mother and my father on the front seat. I kept peeking over the headrests, trying to understand its importance. Who was Elvis? And why was Las Vegas so bad?  I was empirically drawing from a well of Jerry Lewis Telethons, and lonely Labor Days spent on the couch while the adults sedated themselves on the workers holiday.

“We’d like you to play Moses, are you up for it?”

I promised myself not to do the Vegas leg kick while I walked to the stage to accept the TAZZIE; alone. I even had a speech prepared just in case I might have to speak on this night. But as I took yet another step toward the stairs, and no other Piercing members were with me, I felt the old shudder of unfulfilled expectation. There was not a single person in attendance that wanted to see me give an “acceptance speech” for “Best New Artist” when I had been playing shows in New London since before the members of Piercing were born. The crowd, and the organizers wanted to see Jocelyn, and Todd, and Rudy, and Adrian bask in the delight of this fleeting moment. You could almost feel the deflation in the crowd when they realized I was the sole representative.

“I tell the kids at the Palace all the time- ‘there is no world out there waiting to validate you. You have to build your own world. Thanks you for letting us contribute to this world that you have built.”

I turned to my left, to make my way down the stairs, when I catch a glimpse of Jocelyn hurrying down the red carpet, toward the stairs. It’s the recurring nightmare- walking off the TAZZIE stage as she walks on to it. I reach out, give her a beak, and keep walking down the main aisle. If I had any balls, I would have walked all the way to South Pier, put the key in the vans ignition, and drove the fuck home. But I didn’t. We had to play tonight, and I didn’t walk out on a gig, no matter how incongruous the circumstance. I doubted whether anyone would even talk to me afterwards, so I simply took up residence in the same spot among the trees. Other than seeing Joss as I exited the stage, there was still no visible evidence of the Piercing members. The next award was an online vote by the music community for “Best Rock Band”. As much as Rudy poo-poohed the TAZZIES, Geneva was up for the award in this category. Suddenly, the next announcement caught my full attention.

“And the winner for Best Rock Band is ……………… Geneva Holiday!!!!!!!”

They had finally won a TAZZIE. I hadn’t seen Rudy for hours, and I was rather curious what their response to winning would be. Would they take a hardline punk stance? Or would they play the game?

“This is the happiest moment of my fucking life!!!” roared Rudy into the microphone, setting off an interesting feedback the sound engineers culled immediately.

When their name was called as this year’s recipient, I caught a glimpse of Rudy, sprinting toward the stage, his uniform black tie cascading back and forth across his chest. Peter Meeks was right on his tail, as Geneva was his brainchild. They were ecstatic about winning, which is exactly what the night derives its energy from; a willing consecration towards fun. And Geneva delivered, making self-deprecating remarks about how they had never won before and “Now we’re being recognized!” it was genius instant theatre, and I was supremely proud that they were Mystic kids. I was clutching our “Best New Artist” TAZZIE when Joss tapped me on the shoulder; one tap, quietly.

“We won!!!’

“Yeah. We did…” was my sullen reply

I didn’t even ask where they were, I didn’t want to know. Part of me just wanted the night to end in a cataclysmic rainstorm, but I knew that wasn’t a fair thought on any level. Anne wasn’t here. The kids seemed to have their own agenda that did not include me. I watched as Rudy and Peter raced down the stairs back into the crowd to make way for the next award. Somehow, Rudy had edged up against me in the row of trees where I was trying to remain invisible.

“Can you believe it??!?!?! I fucking won something! We won something! This is the first time in my life I have actually won anything!!!!”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that, actually, the first thing you ever won in your life was “Best New Artist” for Piercing about five minutes ago. I chose not to say anything, other than a perfunctory “Congrats.” So he knew I was actually paying attention.

“I can’t be in a band with Rudy anymore”

And neither could I.

It didn’t even matter what Adrian or Todd thought. We had to take advantage of the out clause that defined our internal agenda regarding Rudy. He had brought this on himself.

Show Other Posts Also Tagged With:

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.“

THIS IS NOT SLANDER Chapter Nine

The filming went as smoothly as it had on Saturday. By 3 PM we were unplugging the gear and hauling it back to the van in the rotary driveway. The lawn had yet to be mowed this season, and the spring wildflowers were in full bloom. We sidestepped the patches of color as best as we could, leaving a snaking line embedded from the back to the front of the property. After getting the PA broken down, I began winding up the borrowed extension cords and placing them in an organized row on a wall of pegboard in the garage; I then returned the sump pump and several boat pumps to their rightful place. I head back out to the yard to find all of my drums still there, so I began the three hundred yard crawl with each piece. By the second round trip, I noticed that the rest of the gear was piled up high outside the van, with no one taking the initiative to begin loading the shit in.

We were due to practice for a few hours once we returned to Centraal, and being that it was coincidentally Mother’s Day, Jocelyn had to make a late lunch date.  I find Todd and Adrian trying out skateboard moves with Tabitha on the wide side of the driveway. Rudy is enraptured by a game on his cell while laying feet up in the back of his sedan. Jocelyn is near the front garden, close but somewhat distant, on her phone texting away.  My bright mood from a few hours earlier has been completely derailed. After my third and final trip back and forth with the last of the drums, none of the gear was in the van.

 

After I loaded all of the PA and the guitar amps into the van, not one of them had curtailed their proprietary moment to come over and help me. I could sense my good intentions being washed away like silt off the hood in a car wash, only I didn’t find any sensation of cleanliness, just a brewing anger. I thought

“No one wants to be in a band with Dad?” Hadn’t I been acquiescing to that concept?

But today, I’m supposed to be Dad, and pack up all the gear while the kids have one last fling on their skateboards; before the end of a three day vacation? I threw the last two drums into the back of the van like a suburban kid tossing a basketball into the garage after Mom called for dinner…..

 

Clang

Clang

 

It was the asshole move, but I didn’t care. It certainly got everyone’s attention, as Jocelyn and Todd exchanged quick hugs with Tabitha; Rudy and Adrian gave her long distance beaks as they lowered their heads into Rudy’s car.  I took a glance back at Tabitha before getting in the van. She was looking straight into my eyes, with both arms out in front of her, with the palm side down. She was mouthing these words:

“Go Easy, Go Easy….”

I knew what she meant, but it made me even more furious. I started the van and rolled slowly out onto the causeway. Not ten seconds later did I give in to my anger; selfishly. I turned around to get the attention of both Todd and Jocelyn, and then stared straight down the road. After a pregnant pause, I turned to them and said:

“You guys are never going to make any money in this band. “

“Why do you say that?” opined Joss

“Because after I get 10% for being the drummer, and 10% for booking all the shows, and 10% for managing, and 10% for being the roadie, there won’t be anything left for you guys……”

Jocelyn could sense my slow burning rage.

“You would deserve that.” she answered.

 

That wasn’t the answer I was looking for at all. These guys knew me well enough to know I wouldn’t hinder them with that kind of unrealistic contractual agreement. I hadn’t even taken action against my own brother when he squandered the entirety of my inheritance on some grand investment scheme he never clued me into. So, it wasn’t about the money- it was about going the whole way. If they thought I could magically create some kind of career on my own accord, because of my experience, I would have already been making records and touring. And more than likely would have been retired by now. But none of my previous bands made it. It takes the total commitment of each member, and I thought we had that within our grasp in regard to Piercing. To me, it was measured within my own thought process where I couldn’t imagine the group existing as anything other than the five of us. That would eventually illustrate another lack of intuition on my part, as Rudy wouldn’t be our bass player within three weeks of the final day of shooting for “Decisive”.

 

When we arrived at my house too set up for practice, which we had always committed to if Adrian was in town during the weekend, Jocelyn began barking orders at the rest of the band.

“C’mon guys, let’s get the stuff into the house, Let’s Move…..”

 

It was a brilliant mixture of sarcasm for my benefit, and a chastising for the other guys. Joss had perfected a unique blend of getting what she wanted out of everyone with a statement that was interpreted in many different ways, even though she only spoke it once. It was similar to the way she held out the information about Todd edging off the bandwagon until the first Earcandy review went live. A specific precision. This was the drive that I knew was at the root of her talent, but I started to question what her intentions were. Did she want to be the singer in a rock band? It had always been the most apparent evidence of her work ethic. Why else would you put so much effort into something if the endgame was nowhere near here? The van can be a lonely place.

 

We coast through a listless practice, with distraction as the undercurrent. But this was part of the pact, to maximize musical opportunities when Adrian was in town- it didn’t matter when or how. Did that practice give us greater traction in the world we were trying to enter? Probably not. The smart thing to do would have been to take the afternoon off; after all it was a holiday of a certain importance.  But, we were set upon a peculiar balancing point. By being stringent in our scheduling, we completed the shoot, practiced as much as possible, and still were able to squeeze in social obligations and travel. It was a tricky juncture, and for the most part, we pulled it off. Adrian made it back to Brooklyn at a decent hour, Jocelyn had a splendid late lunch with her mother. The band had been together for fourteen months.

Before he left Centraal, Adrian pulled me over to the side and asked me something:

 

“What is wrong? It doesn’t seem like you are enjoying this as much as you should?”

“I’m sorry, man. I’m just under a tremendous amount of pressure right now, and I’m trying to hold the threads together. I’m sure we made a fantastic video this weekend. Thanks for making the extra effort.”

“No problem, man. I just think you should be happy.”

“I am.”

 

 

I took the next day off from work, trying to be prepared ahead of time for the eventual collapse of energy following the tightly wound weekend. After Anne left at 9 AM, I was stirred awake. I went downstairs and checked the band email, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, MySpace, and The Stoup. Nothing was going on. Not a Tabitha film still, not a Jocelyn update, not a Todd exclamation, nor a grungy photo of Adrian. Rudy was completely absent from social media, deeming it “beneath me” even as I explained the positive process of inclusion. In a certain sense, I couldn’t blame Rudy for his aversion to the internet. When MySpace first became telecratic, I was in the second year of playing drums for Bold Schwa. I remember Ross campaigning for each of us to create a profile “to help further the band’s PR reach”. It seemed like a good idea. Every few weeks, I would get some anonymous user commenting on my profile page:

 

“hey, you’re a hottie!!!!!”

 

This did not sit well with Anne. And not truly understanding the implication of the burgeoning social media reality, I deleted my MySpace account one night.

 

When I arrived at the Schwa practice two days later, it was as if I had lesions on my skin; hissing greeted my entrance.

“You deleted your Myspace account! What the Fuck?!?!?!?!?”

“It was causing me problems at home…” I replied, meekly.

“What?!!!??! Do you realize this is the FUTURE?!?!?!?!!”

 

 You never know. I was now more entrenched in the internet than I had ever been.  Following the fruitless morning search of the web, I went back to the kitchen to recreate a famous breakfast dish I had in Minneapolis on the road with the Schwa. The band had wrapped up the last show of a 2,900 mile tour, and we were  staring down a 16 hour drive back to Connecticut. The morning after the gig, we met for brunch with the other bands who shared our bill from the night before. I ordered the MotherTrucker- the Minneapolis version of the traditional Italian frittata. I had to takehalf of the meal to go, even though I got into an eating contest with another drummer to try and finish it in front of the collected musicians. A show off failure on my part, and yet everyone laughed aloud at the effort. Our guitarist, James finished the rest of it at 2 in the morning, near the New Jersey border. This was the dish I was channeling to meet the criteria of this day.

 

After finishing my version of the Trucker, I went back downstairs and loaded up the band email. Tabitha had just sent a new one, which said she had posted two still images from the Friday shoot to her Tumblr.

“Check it out, let me know what you think!!!!!”

There are two photos, stills from the Friday night shoot. The first is a shot from low to the ground, pointing skyward- a cheap motel is in the background. Joss is wearing short shorts and the leopard print top. She is hugging Sean Murphy around the neck- her back to the camera. I thought to myself ‘ it’s a bit racy for us; but it fits in Tabitha’s style’, and that’s why we decided to work with her.  The second photo is inside the motel. Shot from above looking downward, Joss is still in short shorts, and a simple blue bra. Her back is again to the camera, but here she is pointing a toy pistol at Sean’s forehead. It’s a department store cowboy gun, with the orange cap on the end of the barrel. This was an ubiquitous toy during my 70’s childhood; usually sold with a Lone Ranger mask, or a belt with bullets in tiny vinyl pouches. As much as I was concerned that Tabitha would take her view on feminine sexual power to a place Joss wasn’t prepared to deal with, the gun was a new low I had not anticipated. I would rather the results had Tabitha ask Joss to parade nude than have her wielding a weapon; I could spin nudity as a constructive reveal toward our artistic growth. But how was I going to spin a gun?

I sent the first of many emails to Tabitha.

 

“Hey, not really feeling the gun. What did you guys do on Friday night?”

“Oh, don’t worry. We used the gun in a real playful way, you’ll see.”

“How is a gun used playfully?”

 

The only thing I could think was we now had a video for a song called “Decisive” with a gun in it. Was this an empowering image for women? To be seen as the aggressor? Maybe I was getting too old for this. Gun violence had touched us even in the far away riverside town of Mystic, certainly the vast majority of the audience we were hoping to cultivate would have been affected by it as well. I was having trouble seeing it play out in our favor. I asked Tabitha if she could salvage a video without using any of the gun footage.

 

“Yeah, I could do that. It will strip away some of the anxiety that defines their relationship, but I think I can find a way. I’m going to email Joss and get her in on this conversation.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Please, don’t do that. Let me talk to her directly about this. After she gets off from work at four, I’ll give her a call. Once we’ve discussed this internally, I’ll get back to you. I want to hear what she has to say before we decide on anything. It’s her image.”

“k, cool. I’ll be up late editing so get in touch whenever.”

“Cool, thanks.”

 

I wouldn’t find out what happened next for five hours, but after I finished my email exchange with Tabitha, she contacted Jocelyn.  When I later found out from Joss that Tabitha had contacted her immediately, I began to think that the entire time I was emailing Tabitha she had a window open to Jocelyn, in real time. Either that, or it was a scene right out of Goodfellas:

“And what does she do? She phones from the house.”

 

Mistakes are made when you are managing a rock band of twenty year olds. But one mistake I had made with Piercing was allowing myself to become too reliant on Tabitha. Tabitha was a pro, always quick to answer an email, or reply to a phone call; I could not say the same for the other four members of the band. Sometimes, it would take two days to get everyone on the same page for a show, or a studio session, and practices had to be scheduled every week because no one could commit to a regular schedule. It was quite hectic for me, and gave the others more fodder in their pleas for me to buy a cell phone (I was still clinging to the idea that I had never needed one before now). I had told everyone at our very first meeting that certain things were off limits for me to stay in the band. I had already folded on several of them, when Tabitha let it slip that Adrian was getting into a bit of nose candy.

 

“It’s really no big deal, he’s just a kid, trying out kid things. A late night line at the bar. With a cig. I wouldn’t be worried about it.”

“Have you ever been on tour with someone who can’t get their fix?”

 

This was in late March, and once I found out, I emailed Adrian right away.

 

“Hey man- I was talking to Tab and she let it out that you’ve been getting into some lines recently, is that true?”

“What the FUCK?!?!?! What the fuck are you on about now?”

“I just want to know if it’s true, because that has to be factored into the equation”

“Fuck you man, I can’t just live my fucking life down here?!?!?!!?” I’m not fucking shit up!”

 

He was correct about that. Adrian easily logged the most miles of any of us, traveling to and from the city. He never missed a practice and was never late for anything, despite his long commute. But I had made a deal with everyone, and as long as my responsibilities consisted of all of our communication, transportation, the majority of our equipment, and our practice space, I think the balance of leaving out the hard stuff was worth it. I also did not want to have Adrian experience a repeat episode from Class Ring- he wasn’t getting in the way of our long term success, but I wanted all of us to be stable if we were to arrive at that juncture. And then things took a turn for the worst.

 

“You had better pick up the fucking phone when I call you in a minute” wrote Adrian in his final missive.

 

I loathed the phone. Too many bad calls over the years, like the time my Dad called to arrange a reconciliatory meeting with me when I was 10 years old. He had to apologize and explain why he had recently told me stories of his tour in Vietnam. When my mother found out, she informed me he was a motor pool sergeant in the National Guard and never left the state. Or the afternoon my step-father passed away, and I was desperately trying to get my brother on the phone at his school in South Carolina. I wanted to be the first person to tell him, but after 4 hours of fruitless calls, I gave up. He found out from a friend of a friend on campus. The phone rang at The Palace:

 

“Why the fuck are you using our video director to manage the fucking band?!?!?!?!”

“I wasn’t prying, she let it slip out. I wasn’t looking for anything, but you know how I feel about this shit.”

“Well fuck her, and fuck you too!”

 

He was screaming like a young child who was being called out by a parent. And there it was again; the Dad element. I let him curse me out for another minute, and after a while, I couldn’t even make out the meaning of his words, just the tenor of his wail. Anne and I had no children, so I had never been put in this exact situation before, but I was sensing a mirror image of myself; screaming at my Mom during an argument at the top of my lungs, as if sheer volume would win me favor. This is what I sounded like to my mother. It was payback time.

 

“Don’t start fucking freaking out ok? I’m trying to help you, I’ve been through this before and I’m just trying to fucking help…..”

“Yeah, you’ve been through EVERYTHING before, yeah yeah yeah. Have you been through this?        FUCK YOU! ……………..”

 

And he hung up. Payback time, indeed. Later that evening I did call my mother and tell her the whole tale in intricate detail. She was thrilled.

 

“Hahahahahaha!!! NOW you know how I feel! Hahahahahahaha!!!!!”

 

She had been waiting twenty years for that moment to pounce. I laughed it off. After dinner, Anne and I settled in to watch Live Aid performances from 1985. She had been at the Philadelphia portion of the show, and it was like time travel for her to see the concert footage, which we would break out every once in a while after a singularly taxing day, like the Warehouse Blizzard. As Dire Straits began to kick off their massive 1985 single “Money for Nothing “ with guest vocalist Sting, the landline rang. It was Adrian.

 

“Hey man, I’m really sorry I blew up today.”

“Don’t worry about it, I need you to know that you can blow up at me like that. Blow up at me before something else overflows with someone else in the band. I can always be your out clause.”

“Thanks, man.”

“Look I know how much you have committed to this, I understand the travel and the schedule. Just please stay away from the bad juju.”

“You’re right. I don’t need fireworks at the end of every night out.”

 

Jocelyn calls me at 4.08 pm.

 

“Goddamn it Twining!!!! This is the same fucking shit you promised not to pull after the whole Adrian/Tabitha episode. “

“No, it is not! Why the fuck did I spend hour after hour after hour discussing the video with Tabitha when she just went and did whatever she wanted to anyway?”

“Why do you think you control our image? We agreed months ago that I would dictate how we appeared.”

“Yeah, and I agreed to that, and I have done nothing but support you the entire time! But when did any of us ever discuss a gun as part of our image? When?!?!?!”

“Look it’s much bigger than just that.”

“Ok, please enlighten me.”

“I had the greatest weekend of my life, from the incredible filming with Sean on Friday, to the warmth I felt with all of us tucked inside an island house, during a storm….  creating together, which is something you always say is sooo important. The beauty of Sunday. And then you have to fucking shit all over it immediately with your comments about how much of a percentage you are going to take from our “future profits”. Are you so sure there are going to be these “future profits” you so diligently defined? You ruined it, and I just wanted to quit the band the entire time I was having lunch with my mom. ON MOTHERS DAY!!!!”

“Oh, really, you wanted to quit because I facilitated an entire weekend of filming your second video? And that I think using a gun to forward the bands image is off base? I should have just fucking walked away when you cancelled our goddamn SECOND recording session! But did I quit, or even cancel the session? No. I went forward, and it cost me another $200 out of my pocket to cover the third night. And another thing you don’t know, because you guys don’t want to hear about it, but I had to spend $800 last week on tires for the van because we have been doing so many shows, and the recordings. But did I ask any of you to help cover that expense? No, I didn’t!”

“NOOOOOO! It’s not about that! You went behind my back! Just like with Adrian!”

“Was I taking to Tabitha about the content? Yes, I was.  But did she tell you I explicitly told her to not talk to you about it until I had the chance to talk to you first, because it was YOUR image??!?! And that I didn’t want to make the Adrian mistake again? Sheesh, Joss, if I make that same mistake again, how am I ever going to get you guys to believe me on anything?”

“No, she didn’t mention that. She just told me you knew, and you were pissed off.”

“I simply want the trajectory of our image to make sense. Is that unrealistic?”

“No.”

“Ok, I’m incredibly proud of the work you did this weekend- from my vantage point you finally exuded the essence we have been waiting for you to attain. I believe in you, I just have an overwhelming sense that I need to protect you.”

“I can fucking take care of myself!”

“I know that, I’m talking artistically.”

“You’ve put all this faith in me these many years and now you are having doubts?”

“No, not at all. I just didn’t think that we would have to use sex to sell the band until the third album.”

“You need to catch up Twining. It’s the third single.”

 

And with that, she hung up the phone. I momentarily thought that was it, the band must be over. But the more I thought about it, the more I could see that Jocelyn was right. It had nothing to do with my age, our difference in age, or the differing values we assigned to cultural touchstones. It was their band now. I had built it; framed out the structure, planned for the delivery of the roof shingles, made each appointment for the electric, water,  and sewer hookups. But that part of building was over. My argument with Jocelyn was the final port of call. I was again, just the drummer. Sit down, shut up, and play the drums.

1893 Chicago’s Columbian Exposition

If we are connected on Twitter, you are probably aware of my year and a half long obsession with the Columbian Exposition. Well, it goes back even further in time but has recently percolated into a new media project.

This year I released a book on the topic via Amazon. Say what you will about their management practices, they allow small-market authors to release indie books in physical and digital formats. I am also preparing to publish it in audiobook format through Audible as well.

If you’d like to get a look at the book, which is full of commentary, images from the event, as well as my own photography from around modern-day Chicago, here is the link to it. It is available in paperback and for Kindle.

I think it’s important to publish your work – as someone once said “real artists ship”.

Show Other Posts Also Tagged With:

Skullcrusher

Found an old file with all the lyrics I wrote with the band Seratonin.
Not for the first time, I was volunteered for good reason out of the band, and they blossomed into Low Beam —

Seratonin Band HistoryLow Beam Band History

I treasure the lyrics and songs from that early 2000 era.
First up is the most poptastic track on the LP:


Skullcrusher

She turns hypnotic trancelike
He wants the sonic dreamlife
She hits that disco jukebox
She turns him round so latenight

Chorus:
yeah, it’s a fine time
yes, it’s the finest on top
yeah, it’s a fine time
so why did you mess It all up?

She gets so cardinal baby
He gets that blast so crazy
She gets all sonik trancelike
She turns him right round round round

Chorus

He wakes up cold and lonesome
She isn’t there to hold him
He scrapes them bits of nothing
He prays and hopes for something

Chorus plus

You’re my skullcrusher

crush it up….