I felt so old walking into the beat-up venue in the middle of nowhere. I stretched my wrist out to be wrapped with that awful tacky neon wristband which would prove to the suspicious security guards I had in fact paid for a ticket. The music started playing. I heard crashing and hi-frequency splashes of noise. In fact, there wasn't much of a difference between the sound of the band on stage through that horrendous sound system and the 80 mph winds mixed with "tornado warning" sirens that took place the night before.
The loud crowd, full of energy, scurried about the room like a new litter of pups rolling over and under each other, fighting ruthlessly for their mother's limited supply of milk. I saw young girls walking around hiding behind their bangs with the same harsh haircut I used to wear only a few years ago: shoulder length, side bangs, choppy-dramatic layers. The hairstyle of the rebellious young female.
The lead singer danced about on stage, theatrically using tense hand gestures to accentuate her punchy vocal phrases. The band released a steady explosion of discordant movements and sound, crashing into each other both sonically and physically.
Out of place. Slightly irritated. I desperately wanted to be back in our corny hotel room (which I recently just found out is basically vacant. Hmmm… I wonder why?), watching comedy central, and eating one of Nick's vegan cookies that I'm pretty sure I could snag without him noticing.
And then I realized that…the girl on stage used to be me! That band used to be us! We used to look like that, and believe it or not, we used to sound like that.
While watching their performance, I found myself transported back to the time when we didn't use fancy "in-ear monitors", when we loaded and set up our own gear and toured around in a stinky van.
Nick's voice brought me back from "la la land". "The drummer plays so loose. I used to play like that. What happened?"
We escaped the loudness and found a warm, cozy coffee house down the street. Over a cup of joe we discussed the change in our recent musical circumstances.
"Well, maybe it's just nerves?" I offered. "The stakes are up. We are playing in arenas now." "Yeah, maybe you're right. I just feel so rigid. I haven't had a good show in awhile. There are so many thousands of people sitting in the audience. What if I mess up? I feel like I am letting everyone down…" I've never seen Nick so serious and so deep in thought. He continued, "I feel as though I have to…"
"Earn it." I replied. I knew where he was coming from.
Uncomfortable thoughts started to creep up in the silence that followed, thoughts that we haven't allowed to show their ugly faces until now that we have time to let them: " Are we still on the right track? Are we still doing what we started out trying to do? Are we Making a difference? Are we being true to our musician's hearts?"
Back in the hotel room, Jonathan, Nick, and I continued to discuss our concerns and growing excitement about the new whirlwind of a tour we are part of compared to the journey we have been on over the past 6 years, and our humble beginnings.
I shared, to counter the worry swirling about the room, that for some reason, once we started playing these giant arenas, I found (surprisingly) that I love the energy of being in front of that many people! I love performing. I haven't always felt like that. In fact, when we started rehearsing for the "Blake" tour, my skin would crawl whenever Dia mentioned moving around stage, and dancing, and moving. My comfort zone has always been standing still on stage. The whole "professionalism" of the tour set off a fire in me. Hopefully if these guys could see that even a person as reserved as myself has embraced our new situation, that they too can find a comfortable and joyful place in it as well.
All throughout the conversation Carlo sat silently in a corner with peaceful monk-like expression on his face as he listened to the conversation come to a decrescendo. Then he spoke, and in his way of offering to a conversation words that don't have much to do with the topic at hand, but at the same time words that tie together everything we have been trying to say:
"I don't play music for the fame or the glory. I am a musician. It's my career, my responsibility."
He stuck a cigarette in between his lips, and stepped out into the night to light it.