Gates of the West

I got to the Roxy at 8:30. Traveling light with just a Telecaster in a gig bag and a Sugar Free Red Bull.

I took a swig then tossed the can.
The caffeine and taurine in the Austrian swill had no effect on my already over- stimulated being.
I’d been bouncing around the house all the day, trying on a dozen different shirts and shouting into the mirror: Needlessly memorizing a song that I knew by heart for decades

I rack the guitar and head up the backstage stairs, hoping to just find a quiet corner to stay out of the way until I’m called out.
Halfway up the stairs I look up and see Duff McKagan and Jakob Dylan.  They stop their conversation and look down at me.
I stop and turn back down, not wanting to interrupt them, and bump into  Fred Armisen.  He’s coming up with Clem Burke.

I am sandwiched, it seems, between celebrity.
And for a moment I wish for nothing more than to just be out front of house, where I really belong, a fan.

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Ya know me, you know our band, you know how much The Clash means to us.

We can trace it back to our very first songs:
That heartbeat guitar push in Got a Gun, the background Ahh-Ahhs in Manzanar?
Loving tribute or straight ripoff, those musical cues came straight from our heroes.
The Clash albums became our songwriting 101 handbook; they taught melody did not have to be sacrificed in the name of rage.

Hell, we relied so heavily on the background ooh and ahh it sounded like Mick Jones was being pushed off a distant cliff during almost every song we recorded.

And Joe being gone so soon, he has attained saint-like status.
Indeed, we’ve been guilty of spreading those dangerously sharp metal Strummer Stars around this country like tin knocker Johnny Appleseeds.

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Joe has luckily avoided seeing us huddled in our houses, isolated.
A quick look at the Socials find little of the brotherhood he always fought for.
You’d have to wonder what he’d be calling for now:  leading the charge to riot in the streets, or pleading for shelter and calm?
Willing his troops to stay healthy to fight the true enemy another day?

Duff shakes my hand as I remind him of a gig we played long ago in San Francisco, back when he was in The Fartz.
I really don’t want to take too much of his time, but he seems happy to chat there on the stairway.
It’s just another hang backstage it turns out, and though these people may be more used to the backstage now being the visiting team locker room of Madison Square Garden, they surely all remember the dim lighting and funky smell of the Hollywood clubs they put in their time.

Before Christmas Paul from Sheer Terror sent a message, asking if I’d be interested in doing a song for Jesse Malin’s Gates of The West show at the Roxy.

The week of the show I met up with Jesse and his amazing band at a North Hollywood rehearsal studio.  We exchanged a few pleasantries, tried to remember the last time we’d met up, if at all, in the decades past.
I knew Jesse mostly from the D-Generation glory days at Coney Island High club, but he has gone on to become a proper roots rocker and Lower East side champion in the last decade.

We strapped on guitars then and ran through the song: Wrong Em Boyo!

The band effortlessly hit the swing and groove of the song.
I realized this was new only to me, that they had of course played this song dozens of times all over the world already: just the lucky chump out front singing  the only variable.
We finished with the same heartbeat of a pause just before the tonic resolving chord, just like on the record.
It sounded so proper I half expected to hear the chiming chords of Death or Glory starting up after a proper 2.5 seconds pause.

I could not stop grinning then, to be acting in a movie that I’d watched so many times.  Jesse said it was all good, unless I wanted to run through it again?
Hell, I would’ve stayed there and played it a hundred more times, never wanting the day to end.

I keep looking at the set list taped to the wall, though I know this album by heart.
The track listing is embedded in me, deep as heartache.

I know that after Fred Armisen (!!) sings Lost in the Supermarket  Duff sings Clampdown.
 Then I am to go to side stage while Gregg Foreman does his heavy version of Guns of Brixton.

I go up and do it, starting out safe, playing the wrong chords on the guitar which I didn’t think was going to even be mic’d.
Just something hold in my shaking hands, really.

But then we start swinging, it sounds so great with the horns joining in.
I’m standing there, and I’m thinking it’s just like the record.
That record.
And it’s over too soon.

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I go backstage to pack up my guitar, Jakob Dylan actually walks past and gives me a good job.
I resist the urge to whip out my phone and take selfies with him and every other goddamn person back here.  Haven’t had a drop, but I am drunk.

I pack it up and towel off, and then hurry back out front of house to join the crowd on the packed dance floor.
To get back out where I belong, a fan.

 

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