The Church were playing on Monday and Tuesday in Manhattan. I have class on Monday, so that was out. Tuesday I just happen to be going into the city for orientation for my job, so this was perfect. Like Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men," while in town, I could knock off a couple of items all at once (obscure reference):
I woke up extra early to catch the train from Clarksville (yeah, I'm changing the name of the train station too so you don't know where I live). I get to my orientation and there are roughly seven tables set up with thematic placards set up on each table, so you can sit at the table with the category you fall into. Unfortunately, I fell into more than one category, so I only did what makes sense when faced with conflicting choices. I sat at the table with the category that was furthest away from the category I fell into - "traveled more than two hours to get here today."
This interactive orientation was quite enjoyable, with each table having to design some contraption that you put an egg into to prevent it from breaking when dropping from a ten-foot height. You know the deal; you've seen it done on all college campuses, or even on David Letterman (real name). Each team was given 25 straws, a paper bag and 35 inches of masking tape. We decided to build a triangular device and suspend the egg in the center. Being the creative mind that I am, I knew a sure-fire way to prevent our egg from cracking. Drain the egg, so the weight that would normally crack the egg would not be a factor. So, I poked a hole in each end of the egg with a safety pin and blew out the insides. It was quite a funny sight, and not easy at all.
As it turns out, I think only one group's egg actually broke, but when the vote came down, our team won. This was analogous to the Kobiashi Maru scenario from Star Trek II: Wrath Of Khan, where Kirk beat the computer simulation by rewriting the program. I just interpreted the rules in my own way. Nowhere did it say the egg had to be in its original form. Let me also say, we were provided a nice spread for lunch and were to eat while more speeches went on, so I never did get to see Woodrow.
Ok, let's skip the rest of this. The orientation was supposed to go until about 4:30, but we got out at 3pm. Well, I'm not supposed to meet up with the Church people until at least 6pm, so now what do I do? There is the possibility I'll just go home, because the Yankees start the playoffs tonight and I'd really like to see the game. After all, I've seen the Church so many times, they don't alter their setlist, so I already know what to expect. I also had bought a ticket for Lulu over a month ago but never heard from her to claim her ticket, so I was bummed out about that. But hey, I still have this association with The Church and I really should go. So I call Erol, a friend who lives in the city and see if he's free. I figure I'll go to his apartment and hang out with him for awhile. He's not there, so I leave him a message telling him to call me on my cellular phone. I decide to head towards his apartment anyway, because I could just go to the Heartland Brewery and get a burger and dark beer. On my way there, my phone rang and it was Erol. I headed over to his place and skipped the Heartland. I logged on the internet to see if there were any messages from the people I was supposed to meet at the restaurant. Martalen said she would be there for sure (ok, now I know that Martalen is a girl). She would be wearing a Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galazy shirt. Ok, now I'm more excited about the show than I was before. I left his place around 5:30 and headed for the Spring Street Natural Restaurant, with my egg contraption in my knapsack. Would it survive the subway at rush-hour?
Got to the restaurant, sat at the bar and got a Bass Ale. Of course, I realized I don't know what anyone from the list looks like, so I suspiciously eyeball everyone in the place and everyone who walks in. I do this over and over again hoping someone may come up to me thinking I was looking for someone. A little while later, Martalen enters. I order a vegetarian delight with black seaweed. Yum! While we were talking, a guy and girl overheard us talking about The Church and came over to join us. They were from the Seance list too.
My phone rang.
It was Sonjia, a girl from the Jill Sobule mailing list who couldn't make it to the private Jill Sobule gig at my Hamptons house over the summer, but who I know I'd link up with one day. She said she'd come down and meet me at the restaurant. At this point, to my total surprise, Lulu walks in and I think asked directions to the Bowery Ballroom from the hostess. I call her over and exchange greetings and she says she'll see me at the show because she doesn't have her tickets yet. I forgot to tell her that I still had her ticket and she could have just paid me for it instead of going to buy one at the door. My paranoia led me to believe I wouldn't get any niceties at all, but that's a story for a therapist.
Sonjia arrived and we chatted for a while. She seemed nice, but we all know that she'll just turn out to be just as disturbed as everyone else I have met over the internet ;-) Just as we were ready to leave, The Church come in for a meal and food (beer). I am not the one to fawn over rock starts (at least not male ones), so I just take a few glances and head out with Martalen to the Bowery Ballroom, as Sonjia heads out to do her thing. We arrive and hang around the lounge area for a few minutes before heading upstairs to the stage. It's quite empty, no surprise. I have almost no tolerance for warm-up bands these days, and I guess the feeling is widespread. A few minutes later, Echinacea walks in. He's the guy I penned as Marty II back during my 1988 Church Tour Story. I knew he would be here as he emailed me just a few days prior saying he was so psyched that the Church were touring again. He also informed me that after all these years, he finally found my web page and was quite amused when he read about himself. I also run into Brooke, one of the Seance list people I met at a pre-show gathering organized by myself last year.
The schedule for the show was warm-up band on at 9pm, Church on at 10pm. This fits in with my schedule. If the Church play for 1.5 hours, I can catch a midnight train home, with a 12:14am train as a backup. After that, it's 1:15, and that isn't feasible. The warm-up band comes on, and although their music was satisfying, the lead singer's voice sounded like the incredibly nauseatingly pathetic Counting Fucking Crows. They finally leave (they don't get their name mentioned because I don't want you buying their CD). I'm hanging out with Echinacea catching up on old times when Marty comes over and has a chat with him. I'm not into the meeting rock stars scene anymore, so I just amuse myself by trying to find all the prime numbers between 1000 and 2000. Marty comes back a few minutes later and gives after-show passes to Echinacea and his female companion (who I can't recall her name, but should just use any name, as I am using fake names anyway).
10:00 comes and I wait. 10:15; no change. 10:25, same deal. Now I start calculating how I'm going to catch my train. I'll have to leave early. I'm not happy about it, but what am I going to miss; another 15-minute wall of sound that "You Took" will inevitably turn into? Then I notice a peculiar event. The roadie comes out and moves the rightmost microphone stand (facing the stage) all the way to the left side. Hmmm, are The Church going to do some acapella to start the show? Marty comes out a few minutes later, looking sullen but at the same time looking like some cool dude with the cigarette in hand, unlit. He announces, "We have a little bit of a problem." (small pause to light cigarette) "Steve is missing. He's not here and will not be joining us tonight." My first thought is that he overdosed on drugs and is passed out in the bathroom, or worse (but I won't mention that). People were shouting out, "Where's Steve," when one person took it a step further and asked, "Where the fuck is Steve?" Marty responded to that one by asking, "Where's the bastard with no compassion who said that?" Marty asked if anyone had $20 so this chap could get his money back and asked to come up on stage so he can explain the situation, in a very serious tone. Angry Marty. The only time I have ever seen him temperamental like that was when back in 1988 when the sound wasn't quite right on his guitar and then- roadie John (real name) became quite frustrated trying to please him.
Marty tells us that he is going to try and play a few songs for us acoustically and that it's quite unnerving that something like this has happened in New York, rather than a small club in the middle of nowhere, like Albuquerque. He played a Church song, "10,000 Miles", and a few of his own solo material, explaining that he hadn't practiced, so we would have to forgive mistakes. He even had to lean over to Echinacea and ask him the lyrics to "You Whisper." He then told us that he'd play one more and then go back and have a chat with Peter and Tim about how to proceed. I still thought that this was some publicity stunt and Steve was going to come out and say, "Just kidding!"
Of course, my whole schedule was now in a tizzy. I should cut my losses and go home now. After all, what could I possibly gain out of this? Nah, I'll stick around a little while longer. I see Lulu over towards the left. She comes over and starts talking to Echinacea. I stick my head in and ask Echinacea, "You know Lulu???" He says to her, "You know Gary? Have you been to his webpage?" Lulu acknowledges that I'm not just another of the concert-goers who met before the show, but that we actually know each other. She then disappears. She comes back a few minutes later asking me if I have my mini-disc player/recorder on me. I explain that I don't bring it to "electric" shows because it is not good at recording those types of shows, not that I would ever record a show illegally. She leaves again. Odd.
A few minutes later Marty comes out with Peter and Tim. Marty again explains that this is not easy, and without a bass, they are limited as to what they can play. Someone yelled, "Freebird" to which Peter says, "Free Steve." It got a laugh. This is more emotion out of Peter than I have ever seen. He's usually so quiet. The group did a few songs, the first one being something completely unknown to me, which Peter sang, and very well I must add.
Then they brought out Ward, their current roadie. They did a great rendition of "Day Of The Dead", complete with Marty playing e-bow guitar and singing at the same time with transcribed lyrics on the floor. After all, Steve sings the songs. Marty then had to do both singing parts on "Two Places At Once". And I wanted to go home early? At this point it was too late anyway; I missed all the trains. I asked Martalen if she could drop me off at the Clarksville train station on her way back to Springfield (hey, there's one in every state!).
Tim and Peter walked off again and Marty once again did a few more acoustic ditties.
He commented that he was waiting for Peter and Tim to come back out on stage. of which they
finally do for one final song. "Silver Machine" from "Box Of Birds", which was a
true ass-kicking song to end the night on. The last elevendy-nine Church shows over 11
years I went to, ended in "You Took," so this was not only a bonus, but truly a miracle.
After they walked off, the lights and house music came on. There would be no
encore, but to me, the whole show was an encore. I said my goodbyes to the few people I
know and made my way outside.
For those of you who are interested in what happened to Steve, I'll give you a brief
summary. To prevent being sued by some news organization for plagiarizing their article,
I can say that yes, it is true, Steve was arrested for buying Heroin in Alphabet City. He
took a flight out the next day and caught up with his bandmates and performed in North
Carolina. That would have been an interesting event to be at. He's due back in NYC to
clean a subway train and appear before the judge again.
What is below is a version made especially for Jessica.
Went to see The Church. Met up with people I pre-arranged to meet through the internet. Lead singer was arrested. Rest of band improvised.