The Light That Leads Us There

The night began with half a Xanax and a shot of vodka, and concluded with a beautiful blonde passed out in the back of a cab.

It’s been thirteen years since we broke up, but when the original lineup of Buckeye reunited on stage at New York’s famed Knitting Factory last night to launch our “European Thunder” Tour, it was all water under the bridge. (You can click here to see photos from the show, or check out Gawker, The Voice, The Times — whichever, they were all there).

It’s been a long time coming. Many predicted it would never happen. Shucks, just three years ago, Ryan Vaughn was living on an ashram in Northern India. And Jason was hooked on Robitussin. And I never thought I’d leave Maine (lobestering had long since replaced rock ‘n roll for me).

All credit goes to Deke, really. Flaming Cochlea’s sole intern is the one who walked the length of the planet to find us, and talk us all into it. Not that it took much discussion, really. When I heard how much we stood to make on merchandising alone (forget that Wendy’s commercial we just landed), well, I hung up my lobster pots.

It all came together last night, though. Sure, we had that one gig in August, but that was just to see if we could stand each other. And we still hadn’t tracked Jason down. (Robitussin had taken him to some dark places, like that stint he pulled in a Pella, Iowa sweatshop testing Serta mattresses for eighteen hours a day — brutal.) And yes, we’ve been recording in Edison, New Jersey (Alexander Graham Bell’s old house — holla!).

But it all came together last night, really. I mean, you can’t even count that side project of Chris and Ryan’s. Jazz standards on sitar and tabla? That’s not Buckeye. Not without Jason and me, anyway.

So it all came together last night. We tore up The Knitting Factory. The place will never be the same. You know: figuratively.

The venue was throbbing with excitement by the time our limo pulled up. It was one of those stretch Hummers with neon green running lights and a hot tub. It wasn’t much of a hot tub, really. And the water swished out of it every time our friver, Kirby, hit a red light. But I was impressed with the ice machine. And the XM satellite radio. Have you heard that XM channel, Lucy? We wrote, like, half of that shit.

Anyway, we pulled up, and it all came rushing back to me: the groupies, the crowds, the surge, the flashbulbs, the bodyguards. In my head, I mean. Cuz it was pretty empty outside. We did oblige a few young fans waiting outside the back door. Jason autographed some fifteen-year-old’s hip. She swore up and down she was going to get it tattooed after the show. (We figure she was about four months old when we started playing together at SUNY Purchase, but whatever.)

I gotta’ say, though, that The Knitting Factory’s catering really leaves something to be desired. My rider is simple: a six pack of Harp in an aluminum basin filled with chipped ice (for Heaven’s sake: not ice cubes!), two bags of Happy Herbert Oat Bran Pretzels, one box of Fruit Roll-Ups, two eighteen-year-old college co-eds, and a can of castor oil. Suzie and Janette were nice enough, and the Fruit Roll-Ups were right on (variety pack — score!), but the castor oil was generic (not my preferred brand, Technocolor Yawn), and the beer was a six pack of Bass and stuck it in a refrigerator. Amateurs.

The show, well, showed no sign of our aging. (Ryan did throw out his back, but that was much later and involved strange yoga positions and an NYU student named Pat.) I don’t think any of the hundreds in attendance would have known that it’s been over thirteen years since our last show. Nah, it came right back to us.

Oddly enough, so did the anger. It’s a well known fact that Buckeye wrote, like, half of the Nineties best pop hits only to be ripped off by everyone from Evan Dando to Dave Pirner to Jesse Valenzuela. But the four of us have had plenty of therapy to get over all of that. You’d never have guessed it last night. Nichols got a little delusional, all night pointing into the lights and whispering, “Is that Grant Lee Buffalo up there? Is that him? Is it?” Chris reminded us all for the six thousandth time that he dated Winona first. What. Ever.

I wasn’t much better, though. We’re playing the Hammerstein Odeon in Manchester on New Year’s Eve, and — like I said last night — if I see either of those Gallagher brothers, well, teeth will be knocked out, or at least chipped a little bit.

But the show sounded good. I think. Our longtime sound guy, Jimmy “The Pits” Steven, quit on us. Again. Last time he quit on us was during a torrential downpour on the Isle of White. We insisted on playing despite the threat of sixteen thousand gigawatts popping us like corn. So he left. This time he got an offer he couldn’t refuse: Heather Nova’s hitting the road, and asked him to man the monitors. So Deke manned the board. I think the last time he had his hand on a mixer he was DJing an Alpha Tau Omega kegger at Dickenson College.

The kids were eatin’ ’em up like it was 1993. Though by kids I mean our thirty-year-old friends, most of who were there in 1993 and have had so much Boone’s Farm Strawberry in the interim that it still hasn’t registered that a decade has passed.

I know everyone keeps talking about hip hop culture and all that, but I still think this alternative rock music has a chance. And judging by how the audience responded to “Girlfriend In A Coma” (written by Chris in 1989 for his then-girfriend, Francine, who wasn’t so much in a coma but had just had too much to eat one night and wasn’t talking so much), and “Wonderwall” (written by me backstage at Glastonbury in 1992, the year we co-headlined with Oasis who later ripped me off and made it a worldwide smash hit), well, this “European Thunder” Tour might just get off the ground.

Flaming Cochlea CEO, Sir Dennis Eaton Hogg, wasn’t as optimistic, though. He reports that ticket sales have been soft, especially in Europe. But we’re hopeful. We have to be. It’s this or lobstering. And now that I’m back onto the Fruit Roll-Ups, well, it’s a hard habit to shake.

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