The bass player is pretending to be a bass player. He’s really a new music improvisational guitar player with recordings coveted by people in Japan. Or Denmark. He’s also the guy with the good recording studio and the long line of improvisers elbow to elbow with the teen punks from coco county waiting to be recorded in it. It’s complex. Like most people: he is so many things, none of them really specifically leading here.
Yet here is the good thing: he’s available and the real bass player is not. So the gig is on.
A few days ago, the new music improvisational trombone player returned from England to see him. She is out of her head. Mad for him. Crushes our stereotype of new music improvisational trombone players from England (and we had one, it was massive) with her roundness, her super sex soaker-ness, her willingness to talk about how great it was with the pretend bass player.
When she says: it.
It is the It that refers to the Big It.
The It we didn’t like to envision around the pretend bass player because he appears, to us, Out of It.
Nonetheless, I sit on the edge of the stage and bask in the little swirl of Life that seems to follow people who are in the first 72 hours of Unlikely Pairing. We’re shocked, or skeptical, or squeamish, yes, but I’m always secretly proud. I like it when hook ups defy reason. It broadens the possibilities for all of us, while softening the inevitable rejections (it’s not you, the universe is… random!).
These are the sorts of things that fill your head before you’re the first of three bands at the $5 show. The sound guy is so noticiably addicted to speed that I decide early on to agree with everything he says, but not too much, because that also might annoy. The guitarist-founders give eachother wide-eyed looks because the juju has already been broken: someone, and although there are only two of them, the someone shall still remain nameless, has forgotten to bring the back-up guitar. I offer my duct tape as A JuJu Repair Tool, but I have not been given (or earned) a vocal mic so only the pretend bass player hears me and laughs quietly at my dark dark… dark humor. For a second I imagine him laughing as I fall to the ground, my big and tall men’s pajama bottoms (which I thoughtfully selected for tonight’s show costume) snarled around my ankles, but I realize it would not, qualitatively, be the same laugh.
Then I shudder and try to catch my man friend’s eye, but he is at the back of the place, bent over the mackie, making sure he has a balanced sound board feed from the sound guy hopelessly, tragically, irrevocably addicted to speed. I silently apologize to my man friend’s hunched back. He never knows what hits him.
To this day.
The pregnant-drummer-now-vocalist is not in the house. We begin anyway, after making a general house call for any pregnant women to come forward and sing along. After the first song, which is so much fun to play, and, I say to you privately, remarkably like the Talking Heads Song You Never Heard (I have learned not to be so free in my associations with the songwriter), the first guitar string breaks, as planned. The pretend bass player provides his guitar while a member of the next band restrings on the foot of the stage. The founder-guitarist laments that the pretend bass player’s guitar is unusable due to its unusual tuning, and he coaches her into returning it to factory presets. I make a note of the fact that a major third on two strings qualifies as unusual, but quickly realize that I’ll never make use of the information. Once it becomes a useless fact, it visits me during every unattended moment since then… like just now. Only I had the good fortune to be writing at the time. Let’s hope that satisfies for a spell. Otherwise, I’ll have to grow (and you, at your option) concerned.
After the second song, the string breaks on the second founder-guitarist’s guitar. I long for a vocal mic, because I feel like filling the darkened, cricket-infested house with my thoughts as repairs are made. So much to share. My head has never been so chock full of ideas. Good ones. I kick my lager over, after foolishly placing it next to the hi-hat pedal. When I bend down to pick it up, my sinuses threaten to explode out the front of my face. Once upright, I realize the cold is now accompanied by a fever. I decide, from beneath my oversize blonde quaalude filled roadhouse girl in red slip wig, that I’m really glad to be alive.
Here’s the setlist:
Smoke Ring Day
Queen of Doom
Accidental Death & Dismemberment***
Why Do They Do It?****
*See string one, twanged, above.
**See string two, Note One, ibid.
***Exploratory sonic youthy section peppered with far flung improvisations from mad trombone player from england. Crowd goes wild.
****The only song you want to sing in an IRA bar: it’s about all your friends drinking way too much. If the regulars would only lift their heads from their bidness on the top of the bar, we could make a beautiful connection. They don’t, but I do the Roger Waters thing in my fever and my hands, now blown up like big balloons, reach over to them and stroke their surprisingly soft heads.
Outside on the corner the overflow from the revolutionary cafe and people’s performance space next door mingle with the now largish crowd of people who like women singing quirky post punk power pop and the regulars from across the street at the scariest likka sto in the world. If this is the future of the human race, we are in most excellent shape. Let the poseidon adventure begin. An air heavy with wet is caught in the one or two floodlights illuminating the vandalized signs that encourage us not to stand around annoying the neighbors as we are doing. I fall into a deep conversation with the trombone player about why Bill Hicks is a virtual unknown to American comedy audiences. She cannot believe it. It’s true. Not my fault.
Kirby Grips ends the show with our wigs on. Pretend bass player has long ago loaded trombone player into his mid-size japanese sedan (why does this strike me as further proof of his unpredictability?) for more of… It. Founder-guitarist No. 2 takes her baleful critic of a boyfriend home. He doesn’t recognize the Grips’ cover of the Nirvana song, not because it was an extremely tangential cover, but because he has never listened to Nirvana. I want to take founder guitarist no. 2 in my arms and carry her away to a happy place, far far away. Founder-guitarist No. 1 leads us back to the rehearsal space where we thanklessly unload everyone elses’ gear. The locks are complicated. We wonder if the pregnant-drummer-now-vocalist-now-no-show went into labor. We deflect her self-criticisms and misgivings. I make a note of how detached she is from the joy of the creative arts.
Not that I could use this information.
But at least now it comes into my head completely unbidden.
Driving that unusual guitar tuning out.