On the list of Arcati Crisis’s mutually favorite artists I don’t know that there’s a musician that debuted within our lifetimes ranked higher than Tracy Bonham.
Tracy’s was the second concert Gina and I saw together; the first was Presidents of the United States of America. Gina and I were possibly the first people into the TLA that night, because I remember standing almost directly in front of Tracy, pressed up against the barricade, Gina intently watching her fingers on every song.
At the end of that school year, Gina decided to audition for the school talent show, and the song she decided to play and sing was “Sharks Can’t Sleep.”
I had just starred in my first play, but at the time I didn’t play guitar. Or sing, for that matter. Yet, when Gina told me about the talent show, I had an unexpected reaction – I asked if I could sing with her.
Our friends were immediately skeptical about this – not only did I not sing, but I was at some point banned from singing entirely in the basement hallway where we all ate our lunch. Suffice to say, I was not experiencing widespread support for my sudden impetus to vocalize.
However, I did have one supporter: Gina. Gina brought in her guitar so I could practice, and gave me my own verse to sing.
As murky as some of the details of this story are, my memory of auditioning for the talent show committee is crystalline. We were seated in the corner of the band room, Gina and I and our friends Lucy and Joanna, who were singing harmony. When we got to my verse I shook like a leaf, but ever-so-carefully sang “Met a star today…”
Afterwards someone on the committee said, “I didn’t know he could sing.”
I don’t have any memory at all of being on stage at the talent show, although there are photos to prove that it occurred. What I do remember, and will always know, is that afterwards I – completely out of the blue – demanded that my mother buy my a guitar.
I’m sure I demanded a lot of things at the time, being a stubborn only-child teenager, but for some reason this particular demand was taken seriously. Within a week I had my clunky old Ashland guitar in my hands, and a guitar lesson once a week. I kept taking them until I learned the F sharp i needed for “Sharks Can’t Sleep” and never looked back.
Over ten years later it is both completely apropos and batshit crazy that I am playing guitar in a band with Gina, since I wouldn’t be playing or singing at all without that first nod of support.
This fall Tracy blogged about “Sharks Can’t Sleep.” (She also spent some time co-writing with Garrison Starr, which blows my mind, as Garrison is my #2 longest supported indie song-writer right after Tracy. Whatever song they wrote, it is surely the best song in the known universe.)
Happy birthday, Gina.