Points On A Line
If Only the Walls Could Talk
by Lee Abraham
Amy is excited. The look in her sky blue eyes say that something's happening tonight. Sure, now in her early twenties, Amy's seen lots of shows. Smoky bars with graffiti covered bathrooms and the distinctive rock-and-roll aroma of overlooked spillage from last night's draft beer special have been familiar to her for quite some time. She loves to dance... loud music and sweaty, wiggling bodies mingling in sync with the pulsing sexual undercurrent of the drumbeat are a welcome break from her otherwise mundane work week. But that's not why she's here tonight.
A pounding at the rear door snaps Amy from her thoughts. Scanning the bar, she sees that there's nobody else around. The boss said he'd be right back. Just had to go to the bank. Now someone's pounding at the door. "Hey, let us in! We're the band!" Without hesitation she opens the door. Normally when six complete strangers, all in need shaves and showers come pounding at the back door, a friendly little game of twenty questions ensues. But when it's the band, well, what's there to think about?
Surprised that the band arrived so early, after all the show doesn't start until 10:30, she watches from behind the bar as the band members lug box after box from their van and trailer into the club. It's only 6pm and these guys already look tired. A few are ready for beers right now. A couple of others disappear for awhile. Within a half hour though, they're all working again, spending an hour or so setting up the drums, microphones, cables and all sorts of electronics.
The house sound guy showed up a few minutes ago and now he's talking with the band. One by one, the band members play their instrument until the -engineer-, as the sound guy likes to call himself, gives 'em the OK. Seems like the damn drums take forever. After an eternity of individual noise, each with its own degree of unpleasant, headache generating qualities, the band forms on stage. The drummer barks a 1-2-3 count and music fills the air. "Odd how they come together like that," Amy muses.
The song only lasts about halfway through. Satisfied with the sound, there's no point for the band to continue. The tune that they were playing during the sound check was a Phish cover, and one of Amy's favorites. As the band blazed through the song, full of emotion as if it were their own, she started to get lost in the music. Floating with the melody and moving to the rhythm, she thrilled from her front row spot at her own little concert... but when the singer started laughing in the middle of the chorus and the rest of the band fell out to a dissonant stop, she felt incomplete. Teased. Disoriented. Shocked that the band wasn't grooving as hard as she was.
A voice tapped Amy on the shoulder. Realizing that her boss was talking to her, Amy was again forced to focus on the fact that she was here to work, not dance. "The band gets free beer as long as they use these coupons, don't let 'em try to get one over on ya tonight," he was saying. With a few more instructions, bossman strolls over to the band, exchanges a few laughs and heads out the door.
Within ten minutes, the band takes off. Amy's alone again in the bar. Sweeping, cleaning, answering the phone and questions about who's playing and how much for cover charge, she keeps herself busy. The bartender and doormen show up and soon after the doors open, people begin to file in. It looks like it's going to be crowded tonight. Normally that'd mean a wild party, an energized communal gathering of friends and music, a celebration of the moment and all its possibilities, but oddly, Amy found herself thinking about how many drink orders she'd take tonight, and more importantly, carrying trays full of glass and liquor without dropping any. "Hopefully there'll be a lot of tips too," she thought smiling. Funny thing, up to now she was stoked about just -being there-, already she's counting tips.
By ten o'clock the place is raging. Amy's already spilled one drink all over some girl and realized that she gave some guy $10 too much in change. Now the guy is nowhere to be found. One by one the band floats in from the back door. Their mood has changed as much as their appearance. No longer tired and weary, they're all shits-and-grins, obviously pumped to play. Friends of the band walk up to say hello, lots of hugs are exchanged. Amy sets the band up with their coupons and tries to keep pace with the torrent of drink orders. Things are getting crazy. Soon the band is onstage and the magic kicks in.
People that were sitting quietly just a moment ago are on the dance floor shaking it with abandon. Things are different now. The room has been transformed from a dingy, sticky floored neighborhood dive bar to a living and breathing thing... a scene... a place where reality bends and music articulates the unspoken thoughts of the human experience. Amy finds herself amused at the way people react to the music. She's always been one of those people on the dance floor, yet tonight she's traded places. Outside looking in, she finds the view a little different.
Time flies while the band's on. Between sets the house music comes up and it seems like forever before the band comes back. In the mean time it's work, work, work. Amy makes sure to get the band their drinks and let them know how much she enjoyed the first set. It makes her feel good that they know her name and that she's working hard for them. There's a camaraderie in the band and at least for tonight, she's part of it.
After the band blows out the 2nd set and the house lights come up. Amy realizes how tired she is. The bartender and bouncers are trying to get the last stragglers out so they can shut the place down. It's not easy, some people just don't wanna leave. It takes some hollering and yelling to get the job done. After the doors are locked, the band and staff hang out for a little party of their own. For everyone that worked their ass off tonight, this is the payoff.
One of the guys in the band had been flirting with Amy all night. He knew it was her first night, and he told her she did a great job. He gave her a hug. By 3am the band had loaded the last amp and exchanged the final round of good-byes and see-ya-next-times. Amy waved as the van drove off. Locking the rear door deadbolt, she sighed. It had been a long night and she was ready to dream.