I was excited about this show to begin with. I was playing with a southern rocker who has been around for a long time and written some great grits boogie stuff. His music really showcased some of the things I do best. Swooping and snotty slide guitar licks, fatback rhythm guitar. Even some times in there for me to turn it all up and soar. We were the second of three acts, our job was to get the crowd ready for the headliners. We were given free rein to go out and kill. The blowoff band didn't care, they were perfectly willing to wait until the crowd quit yelling for us and started yelling for them, no matter how long it took.
We were also playing the Murph (the football stadium in San Diego). It was very close to a hometown gig for me. I had spent heavily on making sure I had a lot of my friends in the audience, and they were throwing a full on beach party for us after the show. It was stacking up to be one of those peak performance nights. Everything was looking great.
Usually before a show I've very quiet and contained. I keep to myself saving it for the stage. This time though I was almost jumping outside my skin. It was all starting to climb up my ass. I left the green room and went around the back of the stage to take in the crowd and check out the first band.
They were doing alright. Not shining but not sucking either. I was looking out over the folks in the standing room area and I saw HER. Everything you would dream about on a California afternoon in the early summer. Blonde, no wait, that really can't explain this girl's look. Beach Blonde, California Blonde, Look at this girl and Jan and Dean songs start playing in your head blonde. Tanned, together, totally drop dead gorgeous. If this girl was carnival food she'd be babe on a stick.
Normally I don't get noticed much in situations like this. I'm nobody's poster boy anything. One of the reasons I started playing was that I took an honest assesment of myself in the mirror one day and said "Dude, if you don't learn to play an electric guitar, you're never going to get any." Most of my assignation and even first contact stuff comes after the show. After they've seen me in action.
Out of somewhere in serendipity she noticed me. She smiled and beamed. Maybe it was the backstage pass thing hanging off my neck, maybe it was that I was flanked by a couple of security guys, who knows? Something made her look at me and smile. I beckoned her to come over and talk to me. She asked if I was with a band and I told her my band was on next. I told her that I would get her up closer and that I would get her a pass for backstage if she would like one. She explained that she was with a friend and before I saw that the friend was just as beautiful I said that there woudl be no problem with that told the muscle head in the tight tee shirt to rustle up two backstage passes and then I asked his running mate to please clear the two ladies a path to the lip of the stage.
Once everything was all arranged, names (now long forgotten) were exchanged, and an invitation for the beach party that was expected to go late into the night and deep into the weekend was issued I excused myself and told her I needed to get ready for my set.
Backstage I deal with my stage fright with a lot of ritual and routine. Going through the same things night after night gets me ready for the action to come. Having a familiar pattern focuses me in the ever changing world of performance. I sit by myself and go over the proposed set list, making sure I have each guitar voicing and tuning all ready to go. I go over the cues and licks of each song. This was long before I sobered up so I also got my dope ritual happening. A shitload of coke and an equal dose of heroin. Then it's time to throw up. I can't blame that on the dope, most of the time I still throw up before a show at fifteen years clean and sober. It's more a stage fright thing. I throw up, brush my teeth and feel better.
This time, I threw up, brushed my teeth and threw up again. There was plenty of time for another tooth brushing, but I figured I might have mixed a little too heavy on the coke end so I hit half a joint and down a couple valium with a double shot of irish whiskey. Things settled down a little bit and I chased it with a club soda and started feeling ready to go.
Right before I went on I did one more little booster shot. Not the monster I did a half an hour ago, just a little booster. I always felt that heroin and coke together was a perfect performing dose. I could ride the coke rush out onto the stage and then the heroin would even things out and let me play. Fuck it, it worked for me. Being the professional that I am I made sure to wipe the blood off my arm and roll down my sleeve. Appearances must be kept up don't you know. . .all about the presentation baby.
Our set was going great. Halfway through the first song I look over the front of the crowd and see the California Blonde and her buddy the Other California Blonde right there at the front of the stage, right in front of me. I smile, they smile back. I spend the rest of the song paying attention to my performance enough to keep things rolling. I also spend my spare moments working the Blondes.
We get into one of my favorite songs. I really get to do some totally rude slide guitar licks. Tonight, I'm on. Even the singer is amazed. Normally I'm a real lunch pail kind of guy. Get the job done is what I do. Tonight though I'm all over it. I'm roiling in between the phrases, growling and threatening musical violence, sounding like I'm ready to explode at any moment. When my solo comes I'm all over the first few notes like Mike Tyson on Michael Spinks, it's out there full bore from the starting gun and halfway through the first verse I'm showing no signs of letting up. By the time the chorus rolls by the singer is jumping up and down pointing at me to take another. I take another phrase and it's even better. I'm all over this, I look at the Blondes and they are beaming at me, glowing and stuff. Usually I don't get much looks, even when I'm soloing, a lot of the time I play with my back to audience or I'm focusing on the rest of the band. Not this time, I start moving over to the girls, slinging my hips and my licks all over the stage. I lean into the girls who reach for me. I lean a little closer, wailing away on the guitar the whole time, leaning closer and closer, almost touching.
Then I threw up again.
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