V

VI

The front entrance to the club is open; I go in. The arrangement is: I get in for free, in exchange for occasional odd jobs if I'm in town - running the sound board (despite my general sound-engineering semi-competence), helping with PC problems, letting the beer guy in, etc. It's an honor-system sort of thing - if it's a show I would have paid for (Sonic Youth, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Sun Ra, NRBQ...), then I go ahead and pay, even if it means I have to cross out "tempeh" or "pasta" from my grocery-shopping memorandum. I get in for free tonight anyway, since I'm playing (and I get paid!), but I still might have to handle the opening band's soundcheck.

Nothing going on yet, so I crawl into a booth and try to take a nap. My mind drifts to thoughts of Kayla (natch), but she gets crowded out by memories of the band's last gig, in Nashville, less than a week before... Rico, well-lubricated, in honor of our impending trip home ("hey, it's never too early to party, dudeski!"), is heavily into his Keef Thunders trip this night, and breaks a couple of strings on his Les Paul three songs into the set. He switches to the Tele, and breaks two more strings during the next song. Great.

He plugs the Tele into his tuner, rummages for strings in his Les Paul case, and Ogg starts absent-mindedly playing a slow shuffle on the drums. I haven't heard him play this quietly in all the years I've known him - normally he pounds the skins mercilessly, both out of sheer violence-lust and because it's the only way he can hear himself amidst the normal onstage or rehearsal-room din. I start trilling a pattern with my left hand, simultaneously holding my right hand's fingers in the shape of an "E" - Dewey somehow gets my message, and starts playing the chords for a blues in the key of E.

We get through a verse, and I start improvising a solo. I can hear the voices of my jazz mentors in my head, talking me through this: "tell a story with your solo" - I'm letting one idea flow coherently into the next one. "Don't play everything you know"; fine, just flow along, don't start throwing in gratuitous Hendrix or Mahavishnu licks. I'm listening to Ogg, he's listening to me, we're interacting. Dewey's playing seventh chords, something I thought was beyond his abilities. Fine, just flow...

This is great - the crowd is grooving along with us, clapping on the backbeat; I'm feeling relaxed onstage for the first time in months, free of the sick haywire runaway-train vibe that every song has become of late, where I'm hanging on for dear life as the loud, fast locomotive mercilessly careens through verse/chorus/verse...

Rico plugs his guitar back into the amp and proceeds to drown us out with a Chuck Berry riff in a key and tempo totally unrelated to what we're doing; he wasn't listening. Our little epiphany is over. We resume the set.

VII

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