Friday, February 16, 2007

Hitting The Road With Keno (Part Three)

The crowd had now come in closer to see with their own eyes what was the cause of all the aural carnage that is the Rollins Band. I could not stop smiling. Every note was so familiar to me from all the plays the albums got while I worked out in the garage. Back when I got my Mp3 player, I loaded it up and hit the pavement, running farther than ever before with Rollins screaming in my ears like a Drill Sergeant. When I joined a local gym, I quickly became almost physically sickened by the techno/dance/club songs that they played on their satellite radio. What made me sad was that there were so many cool choices and they picked a station that plays music with a backbeat that sounds like you're driving down the highway doing ninety with a flat and someone's playing a kazoo through a bullhorn. With Rollins Band tunes being volleyed across my brain through my headphones, I was sure that I was getting more inspiration that anyone else in there. The only problem was when a Rollins Band song would end and in the black hole between songs, I'd hear a smidgen of something like "I'm A Barbie Girl" or some other shit over the gym's speakers. Then, Rollins would slap me back into the workout as if I'd walked into a screen door.

As I'm wont to do, I stole glances around the Warfield to gauge the crowd's reaction, being careful not to miss too much at once of what was going down on stage. Not knowing what to expect, I was pleased to see the crowd really into it. I took another glance to my left to see the soccer mom grinning as stupidly as I was. She noticed that my head was turned in her direction, smiled, and screamed "yeaaahhh!!" at me loud enough for the people directly below our rail look up at us. I smiled wide at her and nodded. I wished that I'd talked to her before the show. I was fascinated that someone as normal as she seemed, not to mention female and even a little cute, was here and so into Rollins that she knew the lyrics better than I did. But then again, I probably looked like a Rotarian accountant that got lost on his way to the indoor driving range, so I felt like I'd found sort of a kindred spirit. I imagined that she felt the same way.

Rollins Band moved into the track Burned Beyond Recognition and the crowd shifted gears right along with the band. I was beside myself as I rotated my gaze from Rollins to Melvin Gibbs on bass, to Sim Cain on drums, to Chris Haskett on guitar, and helplessly back to Rollins. I say helplessly because, like a house on fire, he draws your gaze and you can almost feel the radiant heat of the onstage combustion. Keno was now fully engaged, smiling, nodding, and generally whooping it up. "This guy's a maniac!", he yelled into my ear. "It's like he's electrified or something!"

Two songs in and Henry Rollins was literally dripping with sweat, streams pouring off of his jawline and elbows. He was dressed in his usual stage garb of just a pair of black shorts and, at age 45, looked as muscular and imposing as ever under the stage lights. As he tore through the set, the stances he took and held seemed almost like those of a martial artist or even some sort of ancient warrior. It struck me once that he looked like a rock and roll Atlas, his shoulders bearing the crushing weight of a world filled with the musically ignorant and uninformed; those that buy Jimi Hendrix t-shirts at Target, but don't own Are You Experienced?, those that only consider the new releases in the Best Buy or Target Sunday ads, those that stop listening to anything released after the year they graduated high school, and those guys with the Faux-hawks.

The soccer mom and I sang (should read: yelled, shouted, or howled) along with abandon. A Rollins Band show almost seems like an aerobics class for degenerate rockers, so even though we were respectful of our personal space, she and I bumped from time to time in our enthusiastic bobbing and weaving. I didn't think much of it, especially since her husband was standing directly behind her, but then we had a Lady and the Tramp moment.

As I stated before, Keno and I were standing right at a waist high rail and I leaned my hip against it with a beer in my right hand and my left resting on the rail. The soccer mom brushed me again with her whipping hair and then slightly bumped me with her hip. I glanced at her briefly and she smiled. I gave her a closed-mouth smile with raised eyebrows in return, so as to convey a "what was that?" message. I leaned over to Keno and told him that there might be a problem. He grinned and said, "Uh, yeah, she's into you pal". I squinted at him in disbelief. "And her man is not having a good time with this", he continued with a nod towards the husband. Keno was right. When I pretended to look over my shoulder for a waitress, I saw the husband with a face that could easily have been a model for the monuments on Easter Island.

A few moments later, as the Warfield crowd was driven into a frenzy by Rollins Band's Starve, Soccer Mom and I bumped shoulders and then I felt her hand fall on my mine on the rail. I didn't move right away. Like I said about the hot desk clerk at the hotel in Part One, I'm bad at this sort of thing. I tried to keep my head bobbing and knee bending routine in check, but I was consumed with the thought of Stonefaced Husband clubbing me over the head with a pint glass. I subtly (at least I think I was subtle) started to move my hand away when I felt her squeeze it slightly.

Like the seconds during a car crash, a hundred thoughts went through my mind. The top five are listed here:

5. Does this chick need glasses? Can she not see (or now surely feel?) my wedding ring?
4. Hmm, is she hot?
3. Her husband's about my size; I think I can take him should he attack.
2. Where's that waitress?
1. Goddamit, she's fucking up my Rollins show!

I couldn't look as I pulled my hand from under her light grasp to scratch the imaginary itch on my left temple. It took me a few seconds to refocus on the show, but I was perplexed; she wasn't drunk or high that I could tell so I could not fathom what she was doing. I guess I was flattered a little, but mostly confused. I wasn't sure if Keno had seen her little gesture, but he was smiling at me when I looked over my right shoulder to flag down that damn waitress. Another round will help me shake the cobwebs from my head, I thought.

The set was flying by at a high rate of speed and as much as I was enjoying it, I was almost getting sad that it was going to end soon. Rollins Band was only allotted an hour to play and I had to fight like a junkie to not look at my watch. It reminds me of the times that I put a book down with a chapter or two to go because I didn't want it to end. Becoming self-aware, thinking about books and the crazy suburban wife next to me flirting like she was at a sock hop had me completely distracted for a moment before the crashing halt of You Didn't Need shook me awake. The opening notes of the band's hit Liar got the crowd cheering. What would have been an expected late set tune for the casual observer--like the average Aerosmith fan expecting Walk This Way as an encore--had me surprised. Rollins hadn't played Liar in years, in what I assumed as his reluctance to use it as a crutch or perhaps even as a defiant stand against the music industry that would have him (or any artist) wring every ounce of play out of a song's potential.

As for myself, I was thrilled to hear the song live for the first time. I leaned over to Stonefaced Husband, so as to make peace in case he'd witnessed the "hand incident".

"He hasn't played this in a looong time", I said with a big smile.

He recoiled a bit, but smiled. "Uhh...yeeaahhh. Cool."

I then realized that he didn't know who the fuck Rollins was, moreover he didn't care. He looked like he wanted either for X to start up soon or more likely just go home and watch SportsCenter. Before I could spin back to the rail, the soccer mom grabbed my forearm.

"Fuck, I know! It's been forever! Yeaaahh!!", she screamed as she spun back towards the stage, bouncing on her toes.

I "yeaaahhed" her back and took my position at the rail without looking back at the husband. Rollins took us all through the paces of his hit and the obscure Also Ran before letting go his grip on our collective throats. When the lights came up, I looked at Keno and he looked like a teenager that just got his cherry popped, his face a mix of disbelief and satisfaction. I shook my head, laughed, and asked him if he was ready to roll.

"Goddamn man, you tried to tell me what Rollins was all about, but......fuck", Keno blurted. I loved it. I knew he'd enjoy the music enough, but the look on his face told me that he enjoyed the spectacle as well.

We made our way past the milling crowd as they wandered towards the restrooms, merch table, or the bar. If we didn't have to hit the road to get across town, I might have been interested to chat with the soccer mom with the house lights on and without 120 decibels of rock and roll blasting away, if anything to just to get a read on her. I was curious to find out how long she'd been a fan, where they were from, and maybe silently try to guess her age. But, it was probably for the best that we jammed and just let her and her actions remain a mystery. We hit the passageway from the main floor to the lobby and because we were near the entrance and the crowd was moving further into the venue, we made our escape quickly. As we strode towards the doors, a bouncer said loudly, "No ins and outs, guys!"

"No problem. We saw what we came to see", I replied without looking back. We were a dozen steps up Market Street when Keno hailed a cab. We hopped in and told the man to make haste to the Fillmore. Robin Trower was waiting.

My theory about the time and money needed to traverse the city was correct. In just minutes, the cabbie had us across the street from the famed ballroom and at seven bucks, the ride had cost us a buck less than the cheapest parking lot I saw in the neighborhood. I handed him a ten and we scooted across the street to the Fillmore's doorway. There was no one hanging around so it was clear that the show had started a while ago. A man and woman were working the door as we walked up.

I'd seen online that the tickets would cost us $35, but we rationalized that even a partial show would be worth the experience of hitting two venues in one night, so we weren't deterred at all that the show was underway without us. I said hi to the man at the door, a young guy about thirty.

"Are there still tickets left?", I asked.

He smile-frowned and said, "No, sorry guys. It sold out just earlier tonight".

We froze in our tracks and both exhaled an "awww" like little boys being told that it was bedtime. The young door man said sorry again, but then looked like he was examining something about us. He then looked up at our faces and spoke.

"Hey", he said. "Were you guys at the Warfield tonight?"

Next: The conclusion to Hitting The Road With Keno-Part 4