Rock-lag and the ghost of Tom Sheehan

Here’s what my day was like yesterday:

Viv and I hop out of bed around 5:45 am-ish. Viv hops in her car and heads west to get her boys and bring them home, ahead of the massive snowstorm bearing down on New England.

I prepare my things carefully, grab my laptop and bass guitar, and head on down to South Station, where I grab some brekkie and jump on the 8:20 Amtrak regional to NYC.

On the train, I get a port side window and an outlet. I con call in to work for an hour, and spend the rest of the ride writing and testing little code widgets that’ll come in useful real soon. I’ve been building these little ditties for weeks now, and the rubber’s hitting the road right about yesterday, at this rate. The blizzard is breathtaking as we whiz through it, each time I look out the window.

I haul in to Penn Station, grab a number 2 to Times Square, change to the N-R-W heading downtown, and find my way to 23 and Broadway. Sleety rain. Gigundo puddles. After a salad and a coffee, I head up to the 18th floor of 11 Madison Ave. and dig in and work some more. Look Dad, I made it to Madison Avenue. Hum. He sneers from beyond this world.

5:15 I hit the street and grab a number 6 to Bleeker Street, change to the F train, which takes me to the Lower East Side. It’s a little warmer for some reason, and New York is coated with slush. The older subway stations are dipping and dank. I’m still carting the laptop and the bass, my shoulders are hurting.

I find the club and join Chris W. at the bar. 5:50 – I’m 10 minutes early for sound check. No sign of Tom.

The club is not bad, in a post-surf-decor kind of way. Young trendy kids are drinking it up at happy hour, which I guess is still allowed in NY, happy hour being banned in Boston. Come on, none of these kids have cars in the city anyway. The room we’re playing in is actually kind of sonically sealed off from the front room, and it’s got a stage with good monitors and a kickass sound system. Our sound guy is named Ofer (hope I’m spelling it right) and he know his shit (as we say in the biz).

The band before us is finishing up their check, and as they’re leaving the stage the drummer tells me they’ve flown in from California just to do this show. He makes a point of introducing himself to us as “Country Bumpkin”. We immediately call him “C.B.” to his face, and he nicely asks us to stick around and hear their set, it’s unique and kind of unusual. They’re from “the high desert town of Joshua Tree”. OK. They all head back to their hotel to prepare for their hour of NYC stage time.

Our check goes well. The bass sounds good. I’m thinking of Tony Maimone and my pal Tom Sheehan who left us two years ago, making NYC that much emptier for me. I’m sure he would have made it down to see me, and maybe even heckle me for trying to play bass. I know that in his last few years in the city, he told me he was starting to play again in clubs, but then he got real sick, and I’m pretty sure he checked out without getting to play out much more.

We go hang out front while the opening act (Wounded Buffalo Theory) sets up to check and be ready to open. We’re number 2 in line, wheels up at 9 pm. The Buffalos’ lead player introduces himself to me as Lucas and we chat about guitarists, saxophone giants, and academia.

8 pm sharp, the Theory goes live, and man they are loud. I watch them for about half an hour, then my medulla needs a break, and I want to psych up for Rotary, so I bail to the front. The Buffaloes conclude, pack up and leave, and take their crowd with them. We’re now playing for maybe 12 people. But hey, Limey G and The Boy are in town, and they made it out to hear us. I’m thrilled! I brought some peeps!

Well, I manage to have my grisly moment pretty early on, playing a very convincing C# where a B was clearly required at the beginning of a new phrase. Tom just shook his head and gave me That Look. But hey, better get my clam out of the way up front, then relax and play the rest of the show. It went really well, but I would argue that Tom made a few ducks and turns that weren’t on the rehearsal mp3s.

Next up: Gram Rabbit, our pals from the high desert town of Joshua Tree. They’re all dressed up in outrageous costumes, kind of like the Village People performing a magic act in the High Chaparral quarter of Outer Space. Jess, their lead singer is wearing a very cute little white top hat ribboned on to her noggin at a cocky angle. They had a number of technical difficulties. Between the Korg Triton sending out digital barfing sounds at an SPL of 120 dB and their laptops firing off the wrong songs, they were fighting electronic chimera all night. But they didn’t let it rattle their studied cool. Except when the drummer jumped out of his seat and lunged at the bass player. We thought there would be blows. No such luck.

If you can imagine my pals Count Zero fronted by a Deadpan Cowgirl From Venus, that’s sort of what it was like. They had a song about being ready to die in the desert that made me really sad. I can’t find it online, but here’s one in the big old key of E. They were really loud too, but to Ofer’s credit, I could hear everything and understand the words and everything. The Rabbits had a VJ that sprayed them with ponderous images that coordinated with the songs. Quite an operation. They played – of course – White Rabbit for an encore. Jess, here’s my suggestion, should you ever see it: ditch the keyboard. The lines you’re playing don’t contribute that much. You’re trapped behind it. Get out there and front this band, dammit, and hire an old sod (like me) to play key lines in the back, if you really miss them. You’re trapped behind that keyboard. Free yourself.

Well, the Rotary posse split after the Rabbits, and we all went to a really trendy pizza place on Allen Street, where we dissected the show, the Rabbits, New York real estate, and about six pizzas. After that, Chris, Shannan and I chilled at Wee Molly’s over on Eighth Ave for an hour, watching rugby.

I made my way to Penn Station and caught the 3:15 (yes, AM) train to Boston. It was packed. I found a seat and fell asleep before I could give my ticket to the conductor. I managed to snooze all the way to Kingston RI.

I got home – laptop, bass and all – at 8:15, exactly 25 hours and fifteen minutes after I had left. That was my day yesterday. Today I have rock-lag. My meal schedule is off, the room feels kind of floaty to me, and my eyes hurt. I have wounded feelings about growing old in this young rock culture, but the feelings pass and are replaced with optimism.

Rock until you die.

February crow

Last night, New England watched in horror as Eli Manning executed a once-in-a-lifetime, win-one-for-the-Gipper comeback touchdown series to beat the invincible New England Patriots 17-14. For those watching, it was truly football history in the making.

Mind you, I was sitting on the Patriots side of the ball, eating my guts out, along with all of my friends and neighbors. The last series before The Downfall, Tom “Achilles” Brady finally began to look like his old self. He figured out the right rhythm: go for short yardage, unload the ball fast, and don’t even think of the run. It’s a pity it took him three quarters of the game to finally get his sea legs, but that last full-on possession, the Pats started behaving like the Pats once again.

Two problems though: despite cramming the Giants deep in to their own territory on the last Patriot kickoff of the night, there was an eternity left on the clock. And second: in one of the most amazing feats of skill and daring, Eli managed to avoid getting sacked in a blur of tug-on-the-jersey evasion and fancy footwork. You could hear all Massachusetts (and Rhode Island and New Hampshire, for that matter) screaming “SIT ON THAT GUY! DO HIM LIKE WAS DONE TO BRADY!” But no. Manning managed to fire off a completion to the 13 yard line that spelled doom for the Bluecoats.

All the palaver on the radio this morning restated the obvious: the Giants knew that the key to winning was to go after Tom Brady, and to go after Tom Brady, and when that was done, to still go after Tom Brady. Mr. Brady was looking haunted and desperate by the third quarter, and only after the Giants went ahead 10-7 he finally managed to settle in to his zone and marched the Pats upfield and down like the scoring machine they had been all year. If only he had shaved another minute off the clock…

If. If. Well, he didn’t and the two minutes and thirty game clock seconds that followed stunned New England into silence and, for the first time this season, humility. Despite the defeat, though, you have to admit: it was one hell of a football game. History in the making. Yeah. All that.