Playing Seattle is a big deal for us. The West coast equivalent of NYC. We were playing the El Corazon, which used to be the Off Ramp back in the day. It’s mostly a metal club now and in a bit of a sketchy neighborhood, but once inside the club was not scuzzy at all. I liked it. As we loaded onto the stage I wondered how in the hell Pearl Jam ever fit on it. It was one of those slightly awkward triangular stages born out of a corner. Then when they told us to take our cases through this big sliding door we walked into the big room. Still not huge, maybe 250-300 people, but it was then that the videos and pictures I’d seen fell into place. John and I just stood on stage and felt kind of awed.
I got some delicious healing vegetarian Pho from a place called Pho Bac up the street, which I recommend. Just don’t engage the ramblers with their dogs under the bridge, ignore the crack vials and you’ll be all right.
There were two bands before us so Joe and I went up the street to a cool little bar lit only in red and playing “The Night of the Living Dead,” on the wall, to kill some time. I went back to the club by myself with the aim of heading up to the green room. The only path up there was through the darkened main stage room. I decided to have a quiet moment sitting on that storied stage. The day before my son had asked me how long until I came home and I had to tell him it would be awhile. I had really been struggling with missing them. I’ve only got a few years before my they leave to be on their own and even fewer before their friends and life take precedence, and I was choosing to give that away like it was nothing. So I lay my back down on the stage and asked the ghosts in the room what they thought.* Are the not inconsiderable gifts of rocknroll fair trade for giving up real time on the tail end of the best thing I’ve ever done? Which of course is raising my kids.
I felt the ghosts of a thousand shows and a thousand more audiences rise up like a physical thing and their answer was an inchoate scream of yes and no simultaneously. The audiences whose lives were saved by a band on a given night, and the people desperate for a home and the love and family they could only dream of. The bands who gave pretty much their whole lives and realized it was all for nothing, and the ones who found the one place they felt peace on that stage. And I just started crying. Not and Indian who sees someone littering tears, but air gulping sobs. After a few minutes when it became clear no answer was forthcoming I decided I would give everything I had in my being to the audience that night and just dearly hope that we could make them feel that thing that rock gives better than anything else. Defiance, joy, catharsis, love and lust, a temporary community of outsiders for whom an ink stamp is the secret handshake.
And we tried like hell. The show had sold out and the place was packed to the back. We played like a charge into battle. I’m not sure we were ever completely locked in together, but whether it was individual or collective I think we roared ok. It was so hot the sweat came off us in sheets. The next day my leather guitar strap was still wet. We sold more merch than we ever had and it was sweet talking to people afterwards.
We went back to the house exhausted and I went to sleep in another man’s kids bed.**
Tomorrow is Portland.
*Not the ghost of Kurt Cobain – that’d be stupid.
** When our friend told his kids that we would be staying at the house one of them said, “Please tell me Chuck’s not sleeping in my bed.”