The Wandering Jews' Show Last Night
We pretty much rocked.
I am hyper-critical of the music I play these days, after years of listening to crappy recordings I thought were the shit, mentally mapping out my measurements for my one-day inclusion in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame (somewhere between the Boss and the Replacements, I figured [and I know the 'Mats aren't actually in the Hall of Fame. Then again, neither am I]), and trying to shove my music down everyone's collective throat. Or ear canal. Or whatever. But I was obnoxious about it, and delusional, which is how one hides the insecurity, right?
When you're young and defensive, it comes off offensive... ($1 to whomever can name the lyric without the aid of Google).
So, yeah, I try not to do that these days, reverting to my normal baseline of focusing on the negative.
But last night we were good. Really, really good.
We played the new EP, Down on the Farm, start to finish, and even what I consider the weaker songs on the record, "Paul Westerberg" and "The Crash," had an undeniable kick to them. We closed with Bowie's "Moonage Daydream." And we fucking rocked. And it's not me. It's the fucking band, man.
I've had a lot of bands, good musicians, accomplished, and even not so accomplished, but the band (SLP) itself was good. A band is weird, though, sums and parts and all that. This lineup is solid, with Pete on drums, Tom on bass, Jarret on keys, and the double-headed monster JoeandRaviv on guitar. It was only Raviv on guitar last night, and he's got such a pristine '80's sound, which really lends itself well to the music I write.
And for my part, I think I did OK. I was in key. I kept the line moving. I had pretty girls dancing in front, calling my name. And, really, can you ask for any more than that?
I knew I'd write about this show today. I've been talking about it on the blog, and the Red Devil is a pretty big venue (I love that the original drummer from Guns 'n' Roses, Steven Adler, is playing there next week. Someone said they saw him on some reality show about addiction and that he could barely speak following a stroke. Can't speak. Can still rock). It was just a matter of which angle, arc to take...
Following the show (never call it a "gig," especially if you're older than 40), we were all feeling good. Someone overheard in the crowd, "Yeah, these guys are great. I think they've been around a while." And we have. Sort of. I played with Pete and Tom back in the drug-addled '90s, but nothing like this.
The actual playing of the show isn't that much fun for me. I have such a goddamn anxiety condition that it's really hard for me to just relax and enjoy. It's only afterwards, when I can gauge the reaction that I am able to go back and recreate the experience, and if it's a good reaction, enjoy myself. If that makes any sense. You can tell when people truly dig something. Last year when we played the Red Devil, we had a nice, polite reaction. We were OK, competent. But we weren't anything special. Last night, we hinted strongly at the special.
So we're all feeling good. I'm sweaty, going around saying my thank-you-for-comings, and Justine looks fetching, and she's brought her pretty friends, and Tom is there with his mom and lovely girlfriend, Zenaida, and we had a decent turnout for being the opening band, and then the headliner, Recliner, started to play, and they opened with the Babys' "Head First," which is one of Pete's favorites, and he's trying to get me to dance with him, and we're all having a good time in that post-coital glow. Recliner, which is older guys like we, were awesome, taut rocking songs, hewn and lean, with a strong (early) 80's echo.
Then Jarret loads out, as does Raviv, and by now Justine and her friends are gone, and most of the crowd had thinned, because it's closing in on midnight on a Thursday. But the guys from Recliner are still there, and so are Pete, Tom, and I, when the last band Citabria gets up there and starts to play. And at first, they are just four young guys, maybe 25, tops. The drummer plays without a shirt. That kind of band.
But slowly through their set they start to really make an impression. It's not my kind of music, but there is something undeniably...special...about them. The drummer is like a punk Alex Van Halen, and the two guitars are all over the board, noddling in a way that shouldn't work, but does. They remind me of what would happen if Tool fucked Jeff Buckley, if you can imagine that marriage. They are loud and, I hate to say it, funky, but tight, and I don't mean "tight" as in the usual brush off ("How'd you like the band?" "Oh, you guys were...tight."). I mean they sounded like a band, and they did things I could never do, and even though, like I said, it wasn't my style of music, I admit I was getting into it.
When the last band had finished playing, I asked Pete to help me load my car up with all my gear. As we walked down the street, I asked him what he thought of that last band, and in particular, the drummer. It was then he told me the "Alex Van Halen" line that I just stole. Pete raved about Citabria, and I knew he would, because it is his type of music.
After we loaded the last of the gear in, Pete said, "Tonight's a weird night. I'm elated, but depressed. I don't get it."
Then Pete turned slowly and walked back to the club, alone, and I head home to the East Bay hills and my wife and son, thinking about what Pete said.
And I think I get it.
Because I felt it too.
All the bands were good last night. Recliner was polished and professional, and I think, objectively, we, too, were solid. Pete was elated because his band, the Wandering Jews, just played a kick-ass show. And we did what we do well well, Americana mixed with a little 'Mats and '70's glam. We were high energy, raw and loose. I sang as well as I can.
But we weren't young.
There is a trade-off that occurs in this life. I can't say for sure what those last kids do, what their story is; this is purely self-serving conjecture. But before the show yesterday, I had to go to Guitar Center to pick up some cords. I had Holden with me. So, yeah, I was "that guy," as if just going to GC didn't make you feel dirty enough. 40-Year-Old Rocker Picks Up Cords with Son before "Big Gig." Could be a headline from the fucking Onion.
As good as we sounded last night--as good as we'll ever sound--we are past the days of dreaming of being rock stars. Not just that we'll "never be"--most won't--we are past the even dreaming of it. So we play now because we like to, even have to, maybe. But some kids aren't past the dreaming part, and that infuses an element you cannot fake, cannot manufacture. And when the band is as talented as Citabria, yeah, Pete, it makes you a little depressed. Because we missed that boat, and can't ever catch it again. No matter how long we live or how right we get. It's gone. Sailed. Sayonara.
The highway was quiet, the stars big and bright, air cold. I listened to sports' talk radio.