Everyone was singing along…
To my cover of The Undisputed Heavyweights’ “Roll Your Windows Down.”
Which was great.
Game day started with a jolt. Abbi and I snoozed through the alarm. By the time we stirred from sleep, we had a 10k race to run in a half hour. We sprinted up to Central Park, and ran the Healthy Kidney 10k with 3000 runner. (The irony was not lost on me that my kidney was still prcessing three vodka tonics and a Harp from the evening prior.) We finished in 54:15 (8:45 minutes per mile).
We limped back the the East Side, pausing for coffee and bagels, then spent the afternoon watching “The English Patient.” I rode back to my apartment around five o’clock.
I sat on my deck and continued my fact finding mission. Two weeks ago, I ripped through Paul Reickhoff’s “Chasing Ghosts.” Last week I read “Raid On The Sun,” Rodger Claire’s recounting of Israel’s 1981 attack on Iraq’s nuclear missile building operation. This week, I’m reading Rick Atkinson’s “In The Company Of Soldiers.” (At this exact moment, I’m listening to a Times Talk podcast of Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor’s “Secrets Of The Iraq War.”)
The sun set, I stepped inside, shed my running gear, showered away the grime, and pulled on some rock clothes. Downstairs, I pulled together my guitar, tuner, capo, extra strings, three copies of each of “The Desert Star,” “Heartland,” and “Almost Home,” plus three hand written set lists, and headed out the door.
“Where to sir?” the cabbie asked.
“Avenue C and 7th Street, thanks,” I replied.
“Very well, sir,” he followed. “How are you tonight, sir?”
“Pretty well,” I said. “A little nervous, but well.”
“Yeah, I have a rock show to play.”
“Yeah, in about an hour.”
“Very much good luck, sir. You will do well, I am sure.”
Sensing, perhaps, that I was likely to talk his ear off for the next fifteen minutes, the cabbie turned up his radio. I pushed play on my iPod, setting my playlist, “New Hotness” (Fall Out Boy, The Damnwells, Pearl Jam) to full blast. I rolled down the window, and began breathing methodically, inhaling slowly through my nose, exhaling slowly through my mouth. For four miles and $17.60.
The Alphabet Lounge was near empty when I arrived. An off pitch singer/songwriter warbled on an empty stage. I set down my guitar, and took a short walk. By the time I got back, drummer Ryan Vaughn was unpacked and ready to rock. We were on in five minutes. Tony was nowehere to be found. So I called him.
“I can’t find a place to park,” Tony said, exhasperated. “I’ve been circling for half an hour.”
My pulse quickened. He double parked, dropped off his bass and amp, and continued on to find a parking spot… in the East Village… at ten o’clock on a Saturday. The mediocre singer/songwriter dude finished his set, and stumbled off stage. Ryan and I set everything up, and sound checked. No word from Tony. It’s was five after ten.
“You guys have until 10:45,” soundman Nick said. By my count, our set ran :40.
I called Tony.
“I just got a spot on 2d Street,” he said. “I’m on my way.”
I don’t blame Tony, or the East Village, or Saturday nights, but I was nervous. And this wasn’t helping. I stepped outside, and walked downtown to meet him on the street. We walked in at ten fifteen, stepped straight onto the stage and, with a minimum of fanfare, launched into “Flirting With Disaster.”
You’re flirting with disaster
And you’re always on the run
And your heart is beating faster
On and on and on
I relaxed and cracked a smile somewhere around “St. Anne (Of The Silence).” We sounded good. The audience was with us. But I was preoccupied with running out of time. I had an encore up my sleeve — two, really — that I didn’t want to skip.
“This next song is by an absolutely amazing band from right here in New York City. If you don’t know The Undisputed Heavyweights, you should, and you will,” I said. “And we’re lucky enough to have two fifths of The Heavyweights here tonight…”
“Jeff Jacobson’s on the phone!” Casey yelled from the back.
“Three fifths of The Undisputed Heavyweights!” I said. “So ladies and gentleman, let’s get some applause together for Casey Shea, Wes Verhoeve, and Jeff Jacobson who are gonna help me cover their song, “Roll Your Windows Down!”
I turned to Tony and told him the chords (“G, Bm, Am, C. Watch my fingers.”), then to Ryan to review the form (“Verse, chorus straight through. Follow me.”). And we were off.
I don’t think I’ve ever performed a song standing next to the guys who wrote it. I have a tendency to get creative with lyrics, including my own. And frankly, Casey’s falsetto is impecable on the song. But I gave it a go, and loved doing so. The song has a simple refrain (“Roll your windows down / It’s all behind you”) and typically generates rabid audience participation (in a town unknown for any demonstration of enthusiasm whatsoever). My audience didn’t fail. The band paused for the a capella section, and the audience obliged. As deafening as The Heavyweights’ Crash Mansion show? Not quiet. But I got goose bumps.