In a stunning and practical alignment with the recent past, we arrived at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis where our truck, Truck #4, was just being unloaded. Relieving Stage Manager Saint Paul from his pointing duties, I stood in his place and extended the appropriate finger, gesturing toward the inexact vicinity in which certain cases were to be temporarily stored before their usefulness was needed. During some of that murky meantime, Dan and I aided Backstage Feng Shui Director Nicky by throwing some furniture around in the Green Room area, assisting in the pathways of chi and whatever else flows into a room full of musicians.
Upon leaving the venue momentarily to stow a piece of luggage in the bus bay, I found Wayne washing the wheeled jail-not-jail in the rain. Figuring it was just another day in the Twilight Zone, I returned inside and while waiting for the lights to rise into the air like a bucket of hammers on a rope I set to unpacking guitars, changing strings and getting some light maintenance out of the way while there was nothing else to do before laying carpets and building risers.
Despite a few stop-starts with with carpets, it seemed like an efficient setup. I first arrived in the building shortly after 9 and by 12 I was able to say all my equipment worked and excused myself for lunch and some form-filling. With the European dates approaching we need to plan accordingly. As a UK resident, I have to fill in a form that used to be called an E101, but is now known as an A1. I believe the spirit of this form is to declare to the UK government your intention to work within the rest of the EU and as a taxpayer, you will not be responsible to pay national insurance to a foreign country’s coffers while working in that country. I guess it’s a little like a tax treaty. While filling in said form, I noticed a peculiar anomaly that worries me as a taxpayer: if the guardians of the treasury can’t handle simple numeric sequences, I believe we are — what is that term? — oh yeah, screwed.
During soundcheck, Leonard experimented; using a capo on his guitar, he tried singing in various keys and found a deviation from the usual tuning to be more comfortable. If you’re musically savvy, look out for some slightly different sounding tunes soon. (It won’t be Earth shattering, but the technically interested might find it leisurely relevant.)
From 6pm until 7, there was a ‘dark stage’. For the hour, we down tools and leave the stage unpopulated. While working in a union house, we are obliged to have union department reps on hand at all working times — observing a break like this saves money on local crew costs. During the hour of thumb-twiddling, I sat in the green room and Hattie offered to make me a cup of tea, bless her. After she prepared it AND an empty glass with which to dump the tea bag, she left and I found myself alone with the snacks, drinks, and fresh fruit in the penultimate sacred space of LC backstage world. I flopped on one of the couches we threw around earlier and nodded off uninterrupted. Wait until New York: dark stage during the morning coffee break (from say 10-10.30) then dark again from 1pm-2, then dark a third time from 6pm-7.30. The union costs in NYC, IATSE Local 1, are astounding.
I’ve barely looked at audiences lately; from my position in the wing, I can’t really observe the crowd and when I’m out swapping guitars my eyes are on the stage. But tonight the ordered columns of seated people strike me, conjuring an image of a vast sheet of pinstripe cloth stretched over the theatre floor. There were no surprises during the first set, apart from some spirited singing in the audience, a few voices of patriotism touting their country of choice in the song Democracy. As first epiphanied in November 2012, the North American audiences are quiet compared to the Europeans who love a singalong, so this show of unity in song is a noticeable bend in our current road.
In the 2nd set, during Tower of Song, Leonard got freaky and let loose a little bit of beat-jammin’: the pre-programmed rhythm element of the song’s one and only instrument, a Technics keyboard, was altered ‘on the fly’ by the chop-master, tickling the audience with unexpected, uh, beats. During this crazy, insane, and downright unstable abnormality of the status quo, Mitch appeared in the wing, kicked me in the nuts before straightening his jacket and informed me we’re doing Heart With No Companion after Suzanne; ‘And you’re gonna like it, see?’ he sneered, dusting his hands. ‘What next,’ I asked myself, pitying me. LC then brandished a whip and launched into Devo’s Whip It while Mitch donned a pair of sunglasses and strutted on stage with a wireless microphone, pointing it at people and saying stuff like ‘Uh huh’, and ‘The real deal is in the house, biatch.’ I needed water, I couldn’t take all the excitement at once, it was like a hot day in Disneyland with bank robbers.
A trio of waltzers enjoyed the freedom of floor in front of the stage for the last song of the 2nd set, cutting a rug for the encores and enthusiastic individuals who simply loved First We Take Manhattan. Closing Time heralded the end and with it, the band left the stage, I gave a pleasant (sober) couple a set list, and whipped batteries and drumsticks at the drunks who cowered in retreat.
When the night was done and buses Camelot and The Black Pyramid hurtled toward New Orleans, Dan and I dealt with another 1,827 zombies. The grand total now stands at 18,624. Biatch.