Apollo is smiling down on us tonight. He’s gotten with the times and has traded his lyre for a plugged-in Strat. He’s playing through me, through all of us, pleasingly pounding the marrow in our bones. It’s that kind of night when even chaotic feedback is exploitable and my vibrating skeleton recycles that energy through my fingers. Maybe Apollo had a hand in helping Jimi Hendrix control and incorporate feedback. But he and perhaps all the gods are on our side tonight.
It’s going to be a good crowd, a barely-tamed beast hungering for hard rock, the music my band The Immortals and I play. Our front man Dave finally got us another gig with a sound board and he’s promised to record us off it, maybe send a demo to a record label.
Even our sound check is inspired. While our drummer Billy was taking a dump, Jo Jo decided to play “I Can Help” by Billy Swan. Dave put down his Les Paul and sat behind Billy’s kit. We’re loose and casual and, as a band, never felt better. This must be the way a baseball player feels during the National Anthem before he goes 5 for 5 with half a dozen RBIs and several brilliant defensive plays.
Most people don’t have days like this, ever, when their neurons fire in perfect sequence, as if touched by the finger of God or a god like Apollo, when talent and good fortune conspire on a night that will be fondly looked back on, a gem shining through the ash heap of the other 99.99% of our days that are better left forgotten.
Tonight’s such a night. There’s no way anything or anybody can ruin this.
Billy returns and we’re once again a complete unit. We launch into our first song, ZZ Top’s five year-old “LaGrange”, and from the opening bar I know my sense of infallibility is justified. Billy starts by tapping out light work with the sticks and Dave follows with an equally light lead guitar. Then I come in with a creditable impression of Billy Gibbons’ vocals. “Rumor spreadin' a-'round in that Texas town 'bout that shack outside La Grange...”
Then Billy sets me up with the drums and I come roaring in smooth as a panther with my muscular Strat. Big Rob’s fingers make his Fender bass burble like an East Texas crick. It’s harder and grittier than ZZ Top’s original or any cover by anyone and that’s the way we do things. Give the Immortals a chance and we’ll show you how hard your music can sound.
The usually diffident Jo Jo is not too fond of this song when it’s at the top of our set list because there’s no keyboard and he doesn’t like to sit idle at the beginning of a gig. But, like the rest of us, he’s willing to take one for the team. We’ve been together going on 11 months, now. We’ve been professionals long enough to know what needs to be done, what needs to be sacrificed, including musical ego. And after tonight, the rest of the world would be impatiently awaiting us.
Hell yes, Apollo speaks through us tonight and even feedback is made subservient to our needs. The drunks below us at the Rock Garden are our acolytes. We’re not blessed with impunity because we simply can do no wrong. There’s nothing that can stop us now.
And then a fat ass Cadillac crunches up unseen on the gravel parking lot, driven by an unctuous little man from Hollywood in a cheap suit, carrying a briefcase.