I missed the Steve Soto memorials this past weekend, instead riding my motorcycle across the fire-warmed trails of the Mendocino Forest.
Incredibly, the winds shifted in the morning, and there was no sign of smoke.
Just clear blue skies as we leaned deep into the corners of Highway 20, into the Alpine setting surrounding Clear Lake.
Standing on those hills, I thought Steve would approve of being on the road and far from home, his territory after all.
Kimm filled me in on the services and memorial, a proper tribute to Steve.
Once more filling the room with loved ones, friends and fans, packing the club over the guarantee and into backend bonus, just another sold out show for the man who finally missed the downbeat.
I heard Tony mentioned Rock Wives, that common trait of bands to have those two connected characters, usually on board since the start.
Together on stage always, graying through the years yet recognizable immediately within context to the other half.
Inseparable as California Condors, mated for life and destined to fly in formation til one falls tragically to the ground.
I dunno, maybe it’s because it gets so goddamned hard to keep a band rolling after the decades pass. Oh sure, when we were 19 it took only a suggestion of a gig in Nebraska for us to jump in the Blue and White and take off on a 3 week tour.
But you try to book just a simple Saturday gig at Alex’s these days, and you are suddenly in competition with the kids’ morning soccer tournament and the wife’s plan to spend the weekend at Cabazon to comb the outlet mall.
People naturally pass in and out of bands, but you have those two old fucks up front as the constants: grumpy landlords that see new tenants move in all smiles and unassembled IKEA furniture, only to evict them 3 months later for smoking meth in the courtyard.
Some Rock couples seem to truly dislike their mates, Joey suffering under Johnny’s commandeering of the van and guarding the radio dial to only Yankee games and right-wing call in shows.
Yet the awesome power of the music, of the house lights going down then DeeDee’s bark of 1-2-3-4! keeping them united for another night.
Perhaps in those precious moments on stage all the day’s miseries are forgiven, a glimpse into their hopeful teenage hearts just visible through the leather and pain.
I guess the Steve&Joes, your Mick&Keiths, they have the RocknRoll luxury of traveling on different buses, trading Twitter insults with each other from their private islands in Barbados between tours.
They know another tour is coming up, another 65 dates of putting up with that guy, financially connected in a strained ballet of spite and respect. We’re not gonna even touch those incestual couples, (think Ray&Dave, Liam&Noel), whose genetic bond authorizes physical war.
But maybe punkers value their mates more than those jaded millionaires, the bond built in the spit and blood that much stronger for the visceral glue that holds tight.
Tony&Steve, our beloved Jims of The Crowd. Tim&Lars, Stan&Leonard…what of the actual RockWives of Exene&John? How’s that working out for ya?
We used to joke with Tony and Steve that one night we should have a swinging key party, everyone swapping mates to see what kind of ungodly combinations we’d discover.
Tony: Better watch it, what happens when it’s us 2 singers that end up together for the night?
Me: Not a worry. You ever hear of WHAM, mate?
What a rare treat to actually like this person you are connected to then.
You knew Tony and Steve were more than band mates, just as Kimm and I are as likely to be having dinner together with the wives as we are playing to an empty basement in Frankfurt.
We didn’t know it, not at the start, but this thing has always been about the friendships.
I walk into the room and the first thing people ask (well, after, ya know who you look like?) is, where’s Kimm? And he gets the same when he loads in solo.
Sometimes I get annoyed. Hey, what are we, married?
But yeh, we signed up for something long ago, welded in something stronger than paper and law.
Far from home and in a new place, but standing on that black wood that is as familiar as a hometown Main Street.
Another night with that comforting silhouette to stage left.
Both of you perhaps a bit grayer, the right hands moving a little slower across the strings, but known, known.