The day was running low on minutes. The guys were running low on energy. The El Presidente had just plain run out. And then she showed up.
The odds were stacked against us from the outset. By the time I showed up to Dough’s rehearsal space on Delancey Street, I’d put in an eleven hour day at The MTV (including a 45 minute, 35 block commute), an after-hours meeting on East 96th, and a three-subway sprint to the LES. In dress shoes. By the time I showed up to Dough’s rehearsal space on Delancey Street, they’d already rehearsed for three hours.
I plugged in the Marshall, cracked an El Presidente, and began. We had twelve songs to cover, six of which we’d never played, one of which has never been played, and one of which has been played six million times on the radio. But never by us.
By about the fourth tune — “Intent on St. Paul,” I think — I said to the guys, “Listen, it’s ok with me if we sound a little like a bar band on Friday night. The Replacements made a career out of it.”
We didn’t sound bad, we just sounded a little unsteady, a little shredded, like we were all four finding our way through a dark room and bumping into each other and knocking our heads on shit hanging from the ceiling. We struggled through “Shiver” (Friday will be the first time I’ve performed it with a band), “Radio” (pausing ten minutes to work out harmonies we’re likely to forget anyway), “Do It Again” (“This is the same progression for three minutes guys”), and “Harder To Believe.”
And then she showed up.
Walker sat up straighter in his seat. Chris started grinning, delicately arpegiating over the intro. Tony threw twin devil horns into the air. If I had a spare hand (you know how it goes, one was holding a pick the other was forming chords), I would have held a lighter aloft.
God bless her. God bless that dark November night six years ago when, out of the corner of my eye I saw a janitor sweeping a classroom in the high school across the street and said to myself, ‘I wonder what he’s thinking?’
He was thinking about the one that got away. He was thinking he had a lot left to say to her, if he could only find some useful words. He was thinking about regret, and remorse, and the burden of words unspoken. And then he got back to work.
When “Elizabeth” entered the room last night, we all felt it. We all knew Friday’s show was gonna’ go just fine. And then we got back to work.