Thursday, September 16, 2010. 28 years, 51 weeks, 2 days.
When I packed meticulously for our gig I wasn’t considering the half mile walk up slight hill to the trolley.
Well, I was considering it pretty hard when I set foot out the door with my guitar, a canvas beach bag of clothing, a display box of free discs, and a boombox loaded with my voice exercises.
That’s my life. I mused it as I dragged my belongings uphill to the trolley line, and I mused it again nine hours later while singing my vocal warmups in an empty office while rain started to obscure my view of the city.It felt a little odd to be singing my silly warmups at the office – they aren’t meant to sound good, and I was nervous that some late-working colleague would think I was actually a horrible singer despite all my crowing about voice lessons. By the end of the tape my voice felt good and sure – a welcome relief after being allergy-ravaged the day before.
Maybe the gig wouldn’t be so bad afterall.
Being me, I timed it perfectly – my voice tape would end and I’d have five minutes to pack up and catch a cab to our sound check at the Tin Angel.
So, of course, literally the second the tape finished our building’s fire alarm began to sound its klaxon. Between ear-splitting rings, a calm voice intoned, “Stand by for instructions. Do not use elevators.”
Do not use elevators. I was carrying 40+ pounds of personal belongings 38 stories above the ground. Stairs were not so much an option.
I sat on the ground in our elevator lobby, festooned with guitar, beach bag, display case, and boom box, as the klaxon rang on. Three minutes. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Surely if it wasn’t a drill I’d be dead by now.Eventually the ringing paused, and for whatever that was worth I took the opportunity to hammer the “down” call button in the elevator bay. I made it down to the lobby before the klaxon began sounding again. From the nonplussed look of our security guards, I’m fairly sure it was a drill.
Several minutes of rain-soaked cab-hailing later I was at the Tin Angel, dry and not aflame, both Gina and I donning our wardrobes for the night. I tentatively brought up the topic of the missing song in our setlist. Would she reconsider doing the new one?
We ran it once backstage facing a myriad of mirrors in the larger of the dressing rooms, and it sounded okay. Gina agreed to give it a try. We walked out and met the middle act playing between us and our friend Dante, and then retired to the back room to listen to Dante’s band jam unplugged on a tricky second of music in 15/8.
We were the last band of the night, and Gina was restless in the green room. I had hoped to crank out some more freelance writing, but it didn’t feel right to shut down my connection with Gina right before taking the stage. We chatted about Dante, about the Tin Angel, and about life.
The gig was my fifth time on the Tin Angel stage, and fourth with Gina. Where all the prior times felt surreal and were full of missteps, this one was different. I was feeling sure about it by halfway through the set when it came time to delivery the new one, “Dumbest Thing I Could Do.”
I told an irreverent story while Gina tuned her guitar. She and I exchanged a nervous glance, and I launched into it.
It was, by far, the best run through the song we’ve had so far. That’s when I knew this gig was something different. This was the real us.
After our set we emerged to a small group of ecstatic fans. We pulled in a fair amount of people, but not enough to earn a profit for the night. It was our first no-profit show after quite a streak of money makers, and I could sense Gina was a little disappointed. I was too – maybe if my priorities had been in a different order I could have reminded another five or ten people to attend. That’s my life.
As I packed up I noticed our brand new display box had several brown bag CDs left over. At least I had made the right call in not spending my fleeting time making a new fleet of them.
I felt a little more confident in myself at that moment, but Friday held a freelance deadline I was still a few thousand words short on plus a Filmstar rehearsal, the former after the latter, and there would be no latter if I didn’t snag my bass from the guitar shop before 6pm.
That’s my life.