A Story About One Musician’s Personal Space
by Xerxes Praetorius Horde
Years ago, a good friend of mine (who would go on to become an extremely accomplished musician, businessman and athlete – a true Renaissance man) was starstruck when he got the opportunity to meet one of his favourite bands backstage. He showed the security official his backstage pass and it was confirmed that he was to meet some of the band members outside their dressing room after the show. He was going to hang out with true rock n roll royalty – this was a band whose career spanned decades and was known the world over. He saw the band quickly and quietly file into their dressing room just ahead of him, and the door slammed shut. He approached the door and a member of the concert security team said to him – sorry, you’ll have to wait a little while. They’re not ready to see you.
Not ready to see me? He thought.
He waited, and waited, and waited…
What sort of ungrateful stuck up human beings were these? Didn’t their tour manager tell them one of their biggest fans of all time was here to meet them? Don’t they owe it people like me? After all, they wouldn’t be famous rockstars if it weren’t for us fans! What a bunch of dicks…
The band did eventually come out, invited him in to their dressing room, and offered him a drink. They were genuinely fine people, they listened to my friend tell them about himself, his band, the business he owned, and how much their music meant to him.
Shortly after this meeting of a lifetime, he told me how he still couldn’t understand why they made him wait so long to meet them.
At the time, I was also playing in a band with this fellow (…not the NJC). This band had not yet achieved any level of local fame or success, although that would eventually change. Once in a while I’d overhear the story again – about how he met that band after the show, and how he had to wait for them.
A short period of time passed…
At the end of the first decade of the new millenium I found myself on the road with largest traveling rock circus the New Jacobin Club had ever assembled. I could see that this show and ensemble were in constant danger of self-destruct, but while it was running at full force it was easily one of the most infamous concert experiences of its kind in Western Canada. It was a wild ride with no seatbelt, and it was the last time I would return from a tour without a little face looking out the living room window waiting for daddy to get home.
I was always surprised at the level of attention that touring with the Angry Teeth Freakshow (2008-2010) brought to the band on a social level. While some of our group thrived on the rock’ n roll chaos that ensued both on and off stage, a good number of us also wanted to hide away somewhere quiet after the show with only each other for company. And why not? Our post-stage activities included everything from disinfecting and treating wounds to the simple act of eating , and our hectic evening set-up/soundcheck/prepping props/costume routine sometimes caused us to skip supper.
Some aftershow activities are a private ritual of sorts, not necessarily ideal for sharing with the public. If you’ve ever visited Disneyland and been allowed “behind the scenes” where the workers store giant props and get in and out of costumes, you know that they are extremely aggressive with forbidding any sort of photography or filming. They say it’s because they don’t want to “ruin the magic” for anyone, a photo of an employee getting into his Mickey Mouse costume leaking out could be like telling thousands of children that there is no Santa Clause.
Well, we aren’t the Disney family hour, and I’m not Santa Clause. We aren’t trying to hide anything from anyone – but sometimes the social machine just gets turned off for the night. Make no mistakes – the ladies and gentlemen of the New Jacobin Club & entourage are some of the toughest and most resilient people you will ever meet, but sometimes a little alone time to apply some aloe vera to a burnt neck or a break for the vocal cords is needed. And that’s just what happened one night in the spring of 2012.
It was the first time we’d hit the road since the departure of two band members that had been key players in the Cannibal Circus/This Treason era of the New Jacobin Club. We were proudly promoting a 4 song ep (“Left Behind”) with a slightly smaller but extremely tight group, and I was feeling light as air. Mistress Nagini had taken over the reigns as theatrical head of the group after working closely with the original Angry Teeth. After those first few years of development and growing pains, the show was now a well oiled shock ‘n roll death machine. We played large venues in big cities, we played small venues in big cities….and we hit some small towns. The last date on this tour was in a town just big enough to have a gas station and a bar with a hotel above it. This was going to be really, really interesting.
As we were setting up in the afternoon, I ran into an old friend that had moved away from our hometown around the time NJC first started to pull in some big draw and headline larger clubs. Truth be told, I really never knew him that well, he was more of a friend-of-a-friend. We talked, laughed, had a couple beers. Then he blurted out,
“Man it’s so good to see you again. You know, I felt like you always used to ignore me and my friends at NJC shows back home. I used to think you were a dick – too important to have a beer with us after the show. I know that was sort of stupid, you and the others are such cool and easy going people. Anyway, just wanted to get that off my chest. You’re not a dick and I’m sorry that I may have told anyone that in the past.”
Just then I had a vision of my friend standing impatiently outside that dressing room door and I understood.
That night we hit the stage and the bar filled up with the most innocent and unsuspecting audience we’d ever played in front of. About 30 minutes into our usual 90 minute set I started to feel something very alarming in the back of my throat. It was like I swallowed a whole bunch of honey and my wind pipe was sticking together. At the end of “Dark Servant” (a pretty high vocal part for my range), I was only squeaking out air. No sound. I stalled after we finished the song and managed to get a bit of my voice back just in time to deal with a heckler who was impatient for us to continue. We did one more song and before the end my voice was completely gone.
I looked at Candi – “you’re singing now” I whispered, trying to over annunciate so she could read my lips. Then fate smiled on us in a very unusual fashion – the bar owner came running up to the side of the stage and said – “That was awesome! We have a full house! Do one more reaaaally crazy thing on stage and then end the show, cuz now I want the dj to go on.” I didn’t argue. I turned to RatKing, our drummer, and tried desperately to explain with no words what we were going to do. We ended the show with one of our instrumentals accompanied by Mistress Nagini wielding a noisy little angle grinder and dressed in a metal corset. The crowd howled with shock and awe. Then we left the stage.
All I wanted was to leave this noisy sweaty place and sit alone upstairs in our hotel room for a moment. I wanted to catch my breath and see if my voice would come back. I wanted a cold drink of water. I trudged through the crowd still holding my guitar where I was met by people slapping me on the back and grabbing my hand while drunken compliments of “that was aaaaaawesome dude!” were half spit, half shouted my way. I stomped through the hotel lobby and started up the stairs. Then I stopped and turned around. I looked at the door that led directly back into the bar. Shit. Am I a dick? I went back.
I saw at the back of the club where we had our merchandise set up on a table that a throng of teenage girls with armfuls of our t-shirts and cd’s were excitedly chatting with Candi and Luminous. I walked up and when they noticed me each one slapped down a tour poster and asked me to sign them. Everyone else in the band already had, they just needed my signature to complete the collection. I signed their cd’s and posters and tried to ask if they had a good time, but my voice was like an old rusty hinge with no tone. One of the girls said excitedly “This is the first band I’ve ever seen in a bar! I just turned 18 today (the legal age in the province we were touring) and this was the coolest birthday party EVER! You guys are soooo cool!” I rummaged through our merchandise container and gave her and her friends another fistful of stickers, buttons and a couple more cd’s. They bounced up and down and talked to Candi some more before saying they had to head home.
Had I sat in my hotel room like I wanted, they would not have gotten my autograph. They would have had everyone else’s….but not the singer’s…the singer is a dick…
Well..in the end this singer did indeed lose his voice for nearly a week, and took a long break from everything to recover from what was thankfully just incredibly inflamed vocal cords and not any actual permanent damage.
From that time onwards I have always tried to stop and talk or even sit down with as many of our good friends and fans as possible. We aren’t world renowned entertainers, but we aren’t the slightest bit ungrateful.
(Years later, my friend – the one who waited to meet his idols – did confide in me that after a few years of being in the spotlight himself he now completely understood wanting that hour of “down time” after getting off stage before having to deal with the social aspect of being a performer)
Thanks for reading! And if you want to get a free track from the “Left Behind” ep along with a couple others, click on the obnoxious looking banner below and enter your e-mail addy so we can send it to you.
(who will always talk with friends and fans – message me or any of the other band members, anytime!)