One Thing Right

“Americas Next Top Model” was the talk of the MTV News morning meeting. Sadly, there was no mention of the sonic pyrotechnics coming from The Rodeo Bar last night.

It was pretty overwhelming bringing The Smith Family and The Nadas together. If these two worlds collided at Monday’s Rockwood Music Hall show, they absolutely super collided last night. Radiation was spilling out the doors. It was, in short, a blast.

Not that the whole event didn’t come with some worry. The Smith Family hadn’t performed in six months. Heck, we’d barely seen each other since Kevin moved. Still, it was too sweet an opportunity to miss. My two favorite bands (REM and U2 notwithstanding) in the same room on the same night? I had to make it so.

Kevin flew in around noon. Scott, Nick, Roy and I met him at Funkadelic Rehearsal Studios at seven o’clock, at which point we had exactly an hour and a half ’til sound check, and two ’til we went on. Talk about pressure! The songs we play aren’t rocket science, still, a band’s gotta get starts, stops and breaks right, not to mention keys and progressions. At one point Kev said, “You might want to go to the E just a half a beat later.” I was like, “Dude, the likelihood of me re-learning it in the next half an hour’s pretty low.” That we would train wreck on stage was a distinct possibility.

I walked double-time to Rodeo, where I saw the familiar sight of The Nadas’ bus. I knocked on the door, and stepped into my old home. Charity, Justin, and Jon were almost exactly where I’d left them in August, except Justin’s hair is now red, and they’ve got a new sound guy: cute young fella named Luke.

Inside, Rodeo was already hoppin’. The place was packed. And — unlike Monday night — they’d come to see me! Well, me and The Smiths and The Nadas. There were all these excellent people from disparate corners of my world coming together. There’s Jason Walsmith talking to my brother. There’s Jeremy Doctor chatting up to Abbi. There’s Kevin hanging out with Jon Locker. It was kind of surreal. And kind of excellent.

I remember leaving summer camp when I was fifteen and feeling like I would never see those friends again. Same with high school graduation. It all seemed so finite. What is excellent, now, about being an adult, is seeing how these relationships ebb and flow, twist, turn, and snake back over themselves like an old river. In some spots, the water pools and deepens. That’s where we were last night, night swimming amongst great friends, old and new.

And great music! Miraculously — literally, it felt like magic — The Smith Family fell right into its groove. We didn’t miss a beat. And I was back to my sideshow self: standing on chairs, hoopin’ and hollerin’ like a state fair barker. I knew we were nailing it when I saw Mike standing at the back of the room smiling ear to ear. And I know now that we nailed it because in nearly every photo I’ve seen I too am smiling ear to ear.

When it all ended, we shook hands and hugged, half-stunned that, not only had we pulled it off, but we’d absolutely killed it.

Could it get better? It could. And it did. The bartender was servin’ me free Lone Stars. And I got to see my favorite rock bands rock my town. I sat front and center, singing along and generally acting like Nada Fan Numero Uno, aka One Big Nerd. But man, they sounded great! I flittered around the room, swillin’ beer, crackin’ peanuts, snappin’ photos, and braggin’ about my friends. Periodically, I’d return to the foot of the stage to remind the guys I was there. Yunno, in the event they wanted to tap me for a cameo. (No dice.)

The evening ended with a bleary-eyed Jason singing a blistering version of “Mi Corozon.” We retired to the back of the bus, like so many nights before, until one by one, the band disappeared into its bunks. Chris and Mark dropped me off somewhere around 3:30. My body was sore, my heart was full, and my face hurt from smiling.

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