After The Last Note




After the last note, I took a breath.

Two big lights came on above the audience pointing in on us: the band, the full stage, our gear, the interview chairs, the desk with the famous blue late-night coffee mug positioned at the edge. 

A camera swung between me and the audience. It had only been one song. A few minutes. A few heartbeats. Not even long enough to get nervous.

It's so much easier for me to take any big performance, show, festival, TV, if I can focus on one spot. One person. One object. My Drishti. Play there and only there. Let the crowd disappear. Let the room disappear. Let my focus disappear, till there's only me and the song. I had found my spot early that morning during rehearsals. The camera to my left. One singular mirrored eye. I watched it watching me. Sang to it. Ignored it. Came back to it. Tried to win its affections. But that was over now. 

After the last note, I had one breath before the world returned; a brief respite. I looked through the audience for anyone I knew, but they were too far away and those two bright lights came on right at my eyes. I remember hearing a good applause. And the cold. The studio was so cold my left hand hurt. I have an old injury that makes my middle finger cramp up in the cold. I tried to take this all in, holding it as long as I could. But once David Letterman was walking over to me with his hand extended out to my cold, knotted joint, I had to exhale. I had to come back.

"Take Me Back To Texas!" David laughed and the band played. Quick as it began, it was over and the camera swung away. Dave was off talking to Jaime. The stage crew began moving our gear off stage, the audience was funneling out, and I was led to the exit to meet our label guy Grover and publicist Mary who were waiting for us.


"You did it!" she yelled, "Your first TV appearance... and you were dancing and everything!"

"I did dance... didn't I?" I look back at the little stage, it is very little, that sacred ground, that space between the house band and the interview chairs for David Letterman is unexpectedly small and immediately powerful, and all evidence of our band was gone: our amps, drums, the cables and microphones all gone.

"Get your stuff, and we can meet outside," Grover said quickly.

I opened the door leading out of the studio floor... or was it open already? No, Abe was ahead of me, and I'm holding my bass slung over my right shoulder as we get ready to go to a narrow hallway back to the dressing room... and at the door is Bruce Willis. Unexpected as that.

Smiling like he is saying, "Yes it's Bruce Willis."

Just as I'm thinking, "Is it really? It really is Bruce Willis," and "man he is way more handsome than I could have imagined.

The guy seriously looks flawless and is I-don't-know how old... but instantly captivating and tall or was he standing on something... I remember him being tall... it's no wonder he's a movie star. He might have said 'great job' in a low-mumble-action hero way, but by the time I get past by him careful not to hit John McClane with my bass, I don't know how well I was paying attention. Maybe I just made it up.  Maybe it was just a grunt. I never tell people Bruce Willis said 'great job' cause I'm not sure, but I will tell you absolutely without a doubt, that I want to think he said it.

It's two flights up a metal grate staircase to get back to the dressing room. 

One flight above the studio was make-up, where I'd stopped before our performance. Each of us was sent down from our dressing room one at a time. The lady was talking to her friend when I arrived and sat me down on her barber chair without stopping her conversation. She immediately started across my face with a brush, doing her thing. She didn't ask me what I wanted, but that's probably best. I wouldn't have known what to say other than make me look good? 

The make-up room was incredibly bright and small. Spartan. Not even close to what I imagined from seeing movies. A chair, a small vanity shelf with her tools, bright lights, and one of those awful magnifying mirrors designed to show how much more sleep I needed but didn't get. But after a few minutes of her magic I'm looking better than I'd ever seen myself. She was packing up her brushes as I made my way past again. 

"Thanks again," I shouted as I made my way up.

The next flight, and the top of the staircase, are four dressing rooms. 

The first one was for Amy Adams; I only saw her in passing, I almost wish I had a cool Amy Adams story where I was charming or clever and made her laugh, or she was charming and clever to me and made me laugh, or how great would it be if she were not only beautiful and smart but also viciously mean? That would be a great story... but I don't have any idea what I would've said to her other than 'hello.' So it's alright with me we didn't talk.

The second room was for a film crew that followed, Paul Jr. and Sr. for American Chopper who were occupying the third room.

They'd briefly come into the fourth room, our room, before our performance. They said something like "Rock it guys!"

I think our room was a little disappointing for them, maybe they heard a rock band was next door and expected a rock star party going on, but we were just a couple kids in a mostly empty room. I had a bag with a change of clothes.

When I came back to the fourth room to get my bag everyone else had long cleared out. Just a few members from the film crew packing up gear as I snuck over cables, grabbed my stuff, and went back down the stairs. With the heave of the exit door. Out of the cold of the Ed Sullivan, I jumped down into the humidity of the loading alley.

And then I was alone.

On the same street we'd loaded-in from just a few hours before and feeling desperately indescribable. I had energy enough to run and no where to go. I had the feeling of accomplishment and change. But to what? Why? This big moment in my life. A fantasy, and it all seemed to have slipped out of my life already. Like it had left with that last breath, after the last note. Now there was only an echo. This alley. Leaving me with only a profoundly microscopic shift I felt in my heart. A wonderful anxiety. That I had only begun. That this was only a start. 

There was a me before and after.

The morning to afternoon. You could superimpose a photo of then and now and see I still looked the same. The day was as grey and clouded, though only a little hotter. Waves of people still moved busily along Broadway, though you could count more of them. And a musician still waiting outside the Ed Sullivan theater, though this morning he'd never played on this stage before.


-rene