Elysian Fields Part 1

Elysian Fields Pt. 1

I rolled over, checked my phone and found a text from Brian. I was lying on the bed in my jeans. Listening to the fan. The other guys were out at a movie, so I wasn't expecting to hear from anyone.
After spending the evening in the hotel watching TV, ordering pizza, sleeping, and listening to the rain I had collected this heavy jittery-ness in my chest like I needed to move. Like I had to get out. Like I had to get into something.

-you make it in yet?

Good guy. Musician. Sarcastic and smart. He was like the kid you looked up to in high school for being so cool, for being above the system. He seemed to have an answer for everything. Like he had just experienced it before you. Older than me but kind and encouraging to younger bands. I forgot he lived here, last I saw him he was going promotion work in Boston.

-got in last night... what's up?

I got out of bed slowly. Opened the heavy curtain up to the steel sky, the empty wet roads, and these heavy grey cube buildings. And for a second I felt like getting back in bed when my phone beeped again.

-playing an early show at Elysian Fields. Put you on if you want?

The road. The pillow. I ran my fingers across my chest exhaling a deep sigh feeling the movement under my fingers.

-give me 30

It really took me a couple of seconds to get moving. Working out the cracks in neck, hunting out the cleanest shirt in my duffel.

I washed my face with one of the little hotel soaps, moved my hair around into place, and fished out a pair of salmon red chucks from under the bed. 

Elevator. 

Lobby.

Once I was outside I was hit with the cool air, the clouded dissipated sun, the instantaneous rush of life. Walking in the full breath of the city I quickly paced seven blocks cutting through alley's and side-streets. Flocking among the buildings, the street lights, the clouds, a small herd of  wild urban calico's and the occasional car.

Finally I stood in the doorway. And for a second, I wondered if I was in the wrong place.

Music was playing. Lights were low. But no people. No one was even watching the door to even find out I was on the guest list. 

I checked the address Brian had given me again. 

- I'm here

The club was dressed in typical post-punk fashion.

There are a lot of clubs like this over the country. Black walls scattered with local art and posters. Heavy red curtains. Air like sweat and candles. A few small café tables. All trying to cover up years of graffiti and abuse. 

- Green room... left of stage

I walked myself over passing the bartender as he came out of the bathroom. And felt a little mixture of relived and guilty that I wasn't playing tonight.

"Just that time of year." "School just got out." "School just started." "Everyone's working." "Everyone's on vacation." "Bad night." "Games on." One of a million excuses for why people won't come out to a show. And they are all valid in their own way I guess, but at the end of the day if people don't come out it's cause they weren't motivated to. By the band, by the club, by the promotion, all of it combines into a tangled mess of blame failing to attract an audience. But those things don't need to be said to anyone there, not before the show, and especially when it isn't my night to fail.  Some people make a point to complain but all there is to do is roll with it.

"It's not so bad," I lied, while fighting to get comfortable at the edge of a maroon futon. Too dirty to lean back on, but the edge was wrecked by the metal support bar underneath. 

Brian dug through his backpack ignoring me.

"The night's young."

"Yeaaaah...." Brian dropped his voice an octave into a gravely roll of disappointment. "It's only a Saturday, can't expect too much."

I opened a couple PBR's from the cardboard box at my feet. Put one for Brian on the table. At least they were cold.

"I got this down the street," he lifted a vinyl I'd never see before. 

A faded psych, purple collage jumble of faces, shapes, and words looking like a b-level Axis Bold As LoveBrian always toured with a portable vinyl player set up in the corner of his dressing room. 

"Nice store. I used to go all the time when I was touring... ummm," He took a drink. Closed his eyes. Holding the moment.

"When I was in Philly... working this little shop. Half my pay was in cash. Half in vinyl... That's how bad I am," his mind wandered away as he pulled the vinyl out of the sleeve, set it on the table, "I have to stop myself from blowing all this... ya know... Won't eat tomorrow."

He gently placed the needle down, with more care than I've ever seen from him, "but... love is wax," and a smile broke under his long stringy fallen hair, narrow nose, and tired eyes.
"You doing alright Brian?"

Brian stayed looking at the record. Watching it turn a little too long, "Yeah. Just not sleeping much."

And I knew that. Sleep and touring just never mix, but this felt different. The way he hung his words. The way he seemed to be down.

"Yoooou READY?" A boomy voice shot out from the doorway.

Brian was too busy looking at the vinyl sleeve to care about the new guy.

Black shirt, black jeans, black boots. Big boxy shoulders, square chin that seemed to land right into his chest, short blonde hair, light blue eyes. 

"Gonna be a f*** all night, am I right?" he shouted over the twangs of a fuzzy tele and a poppy snare, grabbing a beer for himself.

This time Brian looked up nervously, and gave an un-assuring introduction.

"Rene this is... Hunter," his voice went up at the end like it was half a question, "His band is playing soon."

"Hey man," we shook hands before Hunter pulled out his key ring, and slid a key between his middle and ring finger. 

Hunter gave a blank stare at me as he lifted his fist in the air and punched open the can, throwing beer down onto the green room carpet, laughing as landed in big splatters around his boots.

"It's gonna be something," Brian mumbled. But Hunter didn't hear that, he was half way through finishing the can in one go.

Beer ran down his chin as he tried to crush the can in his left hand. Holding it out towards Brian, he dropped the beer, kicked it weakly with the toe of his boot, and sent the can into a spin across the room, spraying everything before it pinged off the wall and landed behind Brian's record player.

"S***!" Brian yelled as he raced to clean up his record. 

"Oh Man!" Hunter yelled, "Got the record."

He didn't care. Couldn't care. It was in his face. Smiling as Brian tried frustratingly to clean up. 

"Rock and Roll! Right!?" Hunter looked at me and maybe, just maybe, I saw a slight hint that he went too far falling over his face. But he didn't apologize. 

I'm not good at fake talk. And I'm definitely not good at confrontation either. So I just kinda gave this face in between 'that was not cool,' and ,'I don't even know what to say.' 

There's another side to the business that some people say is almost as important if not equal to talent. And that's just being able to hang. Being able to work in this ecosystem of artists, business people, and audiences and not alienating all of them. I struggle with that, but Hunter, all the Hunters, make me look so good. 

"Here you go Brian," I pulled a bandanna from my back pocket and wiped up the record cover. I
t really wasn't bad. A few drops of beer over the plastic sleeve. Nothing that would hurt it, but I could feel this raw hatred radiating off of Brian. His hand shaking as he grabbed the bandanna.

"Not too bad," I said.

Brian fumbled to clean up the edge of his player. He mumbled something I honestly didn't hear. 

Hunter quietly grabbed another beer. "See you after the set... We can keep this going... Right? Just gonna go find my boys."

He was standing half out the door, "Right," he said one more time. 

Brian nervously fumbled into his shirt pocket, and pulled out a cigarette.

"Let's go," he said holding it between his lips. "I'm... let's go."

He had barely made it out the backdoor to the back alley before he turned around at me.

"What an! Ahhh!" Brian was frantic. His eyes just madly darting around the night. "I don't even know what I'm doing here."


Brian turned in circles, trying to light the cigarette, but unable to hold his hand steady. The door slammed behind me in a clash of metal.

This was more. More than Hunter being a jerk. More than an empty club. There was a fierceness in Brian's eyes. A panic. An anger cracking the surface of who he is. I'd never seen a man break before. I'd never seen a person shatter. And it is exactly that. Everything I knew of Brian. His being. His calmness. It was gone. Slipped apart at the seams.

"What is this supposed..." he stammered, "What am I going to do... here... and all the," he pointed into the club.

"I," I struggled to come up with some words to help him but I was stuck, "I... Brian."

Shoulders shrunk low. He was breathing fast and shallow. Turning to the wall. Folding in on himself, the alley, the darkest corner he could find. Like he wanted to turn into brick, and disappear.

"It's alright," I reached out to him putting my hand on his shoulder. At first he flipped away from me. Turned in a circle like a lost animal but he had no where to go. His eyes feeble fighting tears. "Brian," I grabbed both his shoulders, "It's ok."

"I don't want to,"

"You don't have to. This place. This show doesn't matter. You don't have to play a note."

Brian looked at me. Every part of him was working on breathing.
"But.."

"You don't have to Brian. You don't."

His breathing started to slow down. "It get's so hard."


"It doesn't have to be man." My heart sank for him. It still does. Maybe now I think I would tell him something different. But at the time I was over my head. We were both fighting to get back to the ground. Maybe I was part of the problem. Maybe he needed a better friend. But I was the only one there. And I did what I always do. Get back to the show. Get back to the music. "You don't have to. But you can if you want. You can play all this out. Right? You can do this."


to be continued...

-rene