Cut Me, Mick
Rock ‘n roll is like boxing.
This is not a terrifically original thesis, I realize. Aimee Mann has a whole concept album relating boxing to life, set to (duh) rock ‘n roll. The title, “The Forgotten Arm,” refers (as she told me in this 2002 interview), is derived from a boxing move in which one arm is used to hit the opponent, causing him to “forget” about the other arm, which is then used to deliver a harsher blow.
I have not taken up boxing, nor do I have a sucker punch in waiting for you, or anyone else. I do, however, have a rock show Wednesday night. You might recall my mentioning it, or you might have received an email reminding you about it. Yes, it’s that much ballyhooed CMJ showcase (8pm sharp!) at Alphabet Lounge (104 Avenue C at 7th Street). Anyway, preparing for said rock show, or any rock show, is a little bit like preparing for a boxing match. (Follow me on this one.)
I’ll be honest with you: I don’t play guitar, write songs, or rehearse with other musicians every day. I’d like to. For that matter, I’d like to play shows and do interviews and, while I’m at it, make movies and take long walks on the beach. But I don’t. And so, when, after a period of relative inactivity (in so much as performance is concerned; it has been nearly six months since my last full-band, non-living room performance — Buckeye notwithstanding), I come out of near retirement, I feel like R. Kelly (who himself utilized boxing imagery for his 2001 video, “The World’s Greatest”) or (brace yourself for this one), Rocky Balboa.
My team, that is, the guys in my corner (as it were), are fairly new. Chris Abad and I have been performing together since 2004 (that’s his excellent guitar work all over “Love & Other Indoor Games”). Drummer Ryan Vaughn, though, is a recent addition. Likewise bassist Jason Nichols. They’re excellent guys, no doubt. But when it comes to taking a razor to a swollen eye or smelling salts to a foggy noggin’ (more boxing references, people), well, we’re collectively untested.
And so it was tonight as we took our first, unsteady steps through rehearsal. The set is short, just thirty minutes. All CMJ sets are. Taken together and released on CD, my song choices might constitute a fine “Greatest Hits” EP, comprised of songs from “Heartland,” “Crash Site,” “Love,” plus a few covers thrown in for good measure. Our first run through “Harder To Believe,” though, was, well, rocky (not “Rocky,” but… you get the idea). For at least a half an hour or so, I was wondering whether we were going to train wreck on Wednesday night. I was mentally juggling my calendar to squeeze in another rehearsal. It wasn’t that we didn’t know our parts, we did. It was that we weren’t listening to each other. We were rushing. We didn’t sound like a band.
The momentum shifted, I think, when Chris — in his best Noel Gallagher accent — said, “Pick up the bass,” signalling the band to kick in on the second verse of “Go Let It Out.” Suddenly, bodies were swaying, heads were bobbing, and lighters were flickering all across Wembly Stadium. Suddenly, we were a band.
I can’t promise you a knock out punch Wednesday night. I’m not even sure we’ll win the fight. I can assure you, though, that Chris, Ryan, Jason and I will go the distance. And when the final bell sounds, and the ring clears, you will find us in our corner, arms stretched to the sky like champions.