I stand at the bar waiting for a Red Bull.
It’s past ten o’clock, you see, and I am unused to being up so late.
I stifle a yawn and try to snap back into nightclub mode, for we still have a set to play.
For the past glorious 18 months I would usually be tucked in bed by this ungodly hour, playing Golf Clash on my Ipad until it slips, finally, from my loosened grip.
Another day ends with a sigh and snore even before the tablet clatters to the ground..
The Daughter is suddenly at my elbow.
She has has migrated toward Dad With His Wallet Out, opportunistic as a hyena sidling up to a lioness chewing on the haunch of a downed wildebeest.
I sigh, ask the bartender to hold up, and ask what she’d like.
She is apparently fetching a round for her crew as well, and she recites an order of highballs and fruity seltzers that sounds like an incantation to summon fallen Indian warriors:
White Claw, Moscow Mule, Seabreeze, Ice Pick……Geronimo!
The bar space before me is suddenly cluttered with slim cans and cocktails concocted from cinnamon whiskey and fluorescent mixers.
I slide two twenties across the bar, and when the bartender looks down at my cash dubiously, surrender two more bills.
The Daughter has already danced back into the darkened depths of the club with her arms filled with drink, while I shell out my last cash for a suitable tip.
But I smile, for I am, at least for a single shining moment, a useful Dad.
Spider is up on stage, and it’s good to see our old pals once again.
The room is ruled by youngsters, dancing out of sheer joy and pent up energy.
Elbows fly, legs pump.
The club adopts the giddy vibe of a dog park, the butt sniffing attendees going crazy and off -leash.
It’s our old bandmate Alf up there on drums, slamming the skins and having a blast.
He plays with a renewed energy, and I have to admit it is bittersweet.
Like seeing an old flame now thirty pounds lighter and remarried, happily moved on from a hilarious yet doomed relationship.
It occurs to me that Alfie was the first to be a Father, though he is years younger than me or Kimm.
He started a family admirably young, and now counts Grandkids among his audience while he sips bronzed beers during his Sunday patio sessions.
I wander to the cordoned off backstage area, where Nick huddles with the other drummers.
They warm up their wrists and complain about singers.
Steven from Shattered Faith catches us up on his rockstar twins from The Garden, and their plans to play at vast halls on their upcoming Fall tour.
I wonder aloud if they perhaps need some aging punk rockers to open the show, or maybe even sell merch.
Bobby shows me photos of his own grandkids on his phone, unable to resist gushing while he talks of their crawling adventures.
Punk rockers reduced to big old softies, I tell ya.
I wonder about my own legacy.
“Now here’s a record your great grandpa made, waaaay back in the 1980’s,” I imagine a future offspring saying.
A toddler chews on the corner of a faded 12″ EP sleeve, my photo on the back: a long dead numbskull grin searches for a trace of dignity in the future
“Oh, here we go. Here’s a song grandpa wrote, it’s called Wetspots. It’s about pre cum.”
The Shattered boys hit the stage, and it is always wonderfully jarring to see Branden up there stage right.
He appears as if a hologram from their younger selves amongst their graying heads.
His slim Thunderesque guitar posing is a cruel reminder of what we all once were.
But he stands next to Pop, and Spencer looks over at him with fatherly pride.
As Anthony tunes his bass backstage, he eyes the cans of Modelo floating in the melting ice water.
I can tell he is tempted to grab a couple for stage, then hide the rest under seat cushions for after the show.
Usual backstage etiquette.
But tomorrow he and Amy will be hosting a party for baby Nova’s first birthday, so he grabs a Monster instead.
After taking a sip he makes a face as if he has just tasted the tears of a sad, sad clown.
It will be our first time meeting his kiddo as well, having watched her grow up these past twelve months by cell phone photos and emailed video clips, isolated safely while the world went about it’s deadly viral business.
I will watch his baby destroy a birthday cake with her bare hands, have her first astonishing taste of sugared icing.
And the world, it will suddenly open up to her, with all its sweet joys and bitter consequences.
I resist reminding Anthony that soon he will be Dad With Wallet, but by the time his daughter is drinking age a round of drinks will cost the same as a 12 volt Lithium car battery.
And he will pay it, and gladly, if just for the chance to stand next to his Daughter for a moment before she disappears into the night.
We play and it is one of those nights.
The bass drumhead breaks, I forget half the words to forty year old songs.
We are off by just that much, a millisecond of groove lost after the long layoff.
But Who cares? seems to be the theme of the night, as people are happy to just be out and together.
During our third attempt to play You Lie I look over and Alf is up onstage again with us, shouting along to the chorus.
He conducts us successfully to the end of it, and I hug him in grateful relief.
When we play Make Me Feel Cheap we bring up Max, Kimm’s son to join us onstage.
He stands next to Pop, and the eyes get a little weepy out there on the dancefloor.
Max, the spitting fucking image of Kimm at that age, straps on Kimm’s Gold Top and joins in with ease.
The crowd loves it, senses how much we love it, and we keep him up there for the set closer of Got a Gun.
With Max up there I have an unnerving sensation in my periphery, that jeweled corner to my left, where for the past forty years I have felt the reassuring presence of Kimm next to me on stage.
I see him as a young man, and imagine that I am young once again as well.
But we get to the final choruses, and I find that I am winded.
Out of practice, out of shape, I croak along to the final shouts, then finally just step back from the microphone.
And it does not matter.
The song blasts on, and young Max steps up to the mic and sings my part.
I watch as the pit boils and the crowd yells, while a new generation carries on.