Floyd's Music Store, May 3, 2003: The young opening band for socialburn just finished their set. They are elated. They high five each other, in front of a sold out crowd. They start wave to their friends and family. A loud, rude voice comes from behind:
"Hey what the fuck are you guys doing? Get your shit off the stage!"
The young guys scatter like recruits in boot camp. They are grabbing hand fulls of cables and guitars and pushing gear off the stage as fast as they can move. I look over at Neil Alday (the socialburn singer that I manage) who is laughing so hard, no sound is coming out of him.
Tallahassee, April 18, 2013: I am rolling an old road cases off of the red and blue rubber mats of my garage. This area was for bikes and a work stand for the last fourteen years. Since the day I gave up playing music full time. Since the days I stopped managing bands. This was the sanctuary where the arsenal was kept. The weapons that kept all my demons at bay. The desire to play music and sing was beaten back with sweat, bikes and tools. This shop was kept spotless, the vigil was never forsaken, the watchman never slept and the past was a distant dream.
Now the space was full of road cases. Cases that had been flown around the world, and dragged into every rock bar in Tallahassee. The old blue drum set inside was beaten and chipped. The cobalt piano finish was pale compared to the day they were new 1988. But they are cleaned, lubed and wearing fresh drum heads. A horn beeps from the van out front. I smile and roll the bass drum case down the driveway.
One year ago this week I had taken my first ride after breaking my right collarbone. A year and a half before that, I had heart surgery. One month before that, I'd had a stroke. I had trouble talking. I couldn't write my own name for a week. I thought I would end up on disability. Slowly it all came back, but no matter how hard I tried, I never felt right on the bike. I felt funny around my friends too. It wasn't anything they did or said, but my world had changed and nothing was the same color anymore. Some part of me never came back from the hospital. August twenty first, and that tiny blood clot changed me forever. The Bike Chain Crew were all different too. Life had caught us all unaware. The difference was, they could still ride. I still rode too, when I could, but it wasn't the same. I had to accept the fact that cycling was not the central thing in my life. I look at my BC jersey, hanging on the bike stand, as I load the last case and shut the garage door.
The light guy tells me to wait for the fog. I hear the intro music start. First the sound of flipping through radio stations, a few seconds of a socialburn song, then "You'll Have Time" by William Shatner starts to play with the opening lyric: "Live life like you're gonna die...cause your gonna!"
I say under my breath and walk out a little ahead of the rest of the band, to put in my in-ear monitors. I start playing the drum intro to "Save Me" the first song of our set. Eight hundred people stare up as we go from song to song. The applause increases after ever tune, and slowly the crowd warms up. I see the silhouette of Neil, my old friend. I watched him play for huge crowds from the side of the stage as his manager and now I am playing with him. Life is strange. I never saw any of this coming. I count off the last song and look over to see the drummer and bass player from Blackberry Smoke watching. Their arms are folded and they look tired and unimpressed. The drummer is tapping his foot. We finish the song. I give some drum sticks to a few people that ask for them. Blackberry Smoke's stage manager is screaming at us to get our gear off the stage. I start laughing.
"Calm down Sparky."
I say to the twenty something manager.
"This ain't our first rodeo."
I move him out of the way with my left hand and walk by with some cymbal stands.
The gear is all cased and in the van. I am drinking a beer outside the back stage door, soaked in sweat. I look up and see Charlie Starr from Blackberry Smoke.
"Y'all have a good time? The crowd treat you right?"
"Hell ya man. Thanks for letting us play the show. We are huge fans."
I stop talking because I know the drill. The singer was just being nice. Headliners hate talking before they walk on stage. They want to be left alone. I tell him to have a good show and walk over to our van, sitting in the shadow of a forty five foot Prevost Touring Coach. I change my shirt next to a dumpster and climb in the front seat.
I say to my old friend and sound man.
"Sometimes you are on the bus and sometimes you are in the van."
Eddy turns and laughs out a cloud of cigar smoke.
"Ain't that the fucking truth!"