This One Time, 54

This one time we were all on the stage pretending to be all musical and stuff, because that’s how we get paid. I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of us — pretty sure — but you’re about to hear some things that might contradict a few of our public statements here and there, and our PR guy works really hard at scripting those and making ’em sound like our own voices. He’s about the only member of the band that we all universally have any respect for, and also we pay him good money, so you’ll understand if I don’t want to be the one to undermine his good work.

So yeah, maybe I’m just a little bit in love with my body and spend a lot of time working on it and keeping it happy. And I’ll admit that gets me a frightening amount of attention — way more than I deserve and some of it truly, truly frightening. But singing and playing and keeping it moving onstage so the act is actually interesting to watch is an athlete’s job. Dancing for a couple of hours is hard enough work on its own, but try it when you can’t take a breath when you want because it would interrupt a phrase.

The lights and the smoke and the lack of sleep and the stupid things you do to try to make up for the missing sleep and the huge fights that come from the stupid nothings that a bunch of people who used to be best friends so they never hold back anyway and are now just sleep-deprived thirty- and forty-year-old toddlers in a six-month extended whingeing fit will age you pretty quickly. We can’t all be Tina Turner. And she paid for it with Ike, if you know what I’m saying. It gets harder all the time.

Do I sound a little defensive? Maybe I’m a little defensive. Maybe I know that I’m screaming sleep-deprived toddler number one, and I feel really guilty about the burden I put on the rest of the band. And it’s absolutely unfair that our bass player and his old high school ex-girlfriend write all of our best stuff and no one will ever remember his name — or that she even exists. And our lead guitar and our sound guy have been through some truly heinous shit in the past ten years that no one will ever get to know about, and all of it just because one’s gay and one’s of mixed racial heritage and that shit doesn’t die even in the twenty-first century.

I’m nothing without the band, and I knew that before I went solo for a couple of years. I did the solo thing to prove to them and the world that I needed them, and to let them figure out whether they really needed me, or wanted me despite everything. To give them the space. I did it as penance, to spiral down like a moth that got too close to a hot light, to show them, and all of our fans, that I really did know my place. And I did it even though no one will ever give me the credit for doing something like that on purpose. Because I’m just a dumb bimbo who flings her breasts and ass around onstage to keep the fans drooling and shelling out for tickets and a trickle of MP3s that they can close their eyes and masturbate to.

This is all beside the point, but this is the only place I could ever get something like that off my chest. Someplace anonymous. So it was either here or on that “Three Wolf Moon” t-shirt thread at And I really am so self-centered that I would waste your time with this when there’s an actually interesting story that needs telling. So be it.

So we were doing our job as a band, pulling together where we were supposed to and leaning on one another when it was time for someone else to shine, and you could see it by watching the crowd. It wasn’t a huge venue, but we weren’t in one of the huge population centers either, and it was all okay. Big gigs come with so much extra production and promotion that they’re three times as exhausting as the one-day shows in flyover country. I learned to love the smaller shows flying solo.

But the crowd was something else this time. It was an open-floor arena thing, a sold-out show and fairly-well packed, and the crowd had done that thing it does that gives me the willies, but it’s the thing you go for. It’s the goal. It had started to gel into a loose mass of bouncing heads and waving arms and everything it did passed through it in waves. You could see a ripple of identical motions bounce around like waves in a big boiling pot, with little nuggets of holdouts here and there, being excluded for a moment and then reabsorbed.

I learned a long time ago to look out for those little clumps where things don’t mesh. And there was one this time. And the closer I looked, the more I knew what was up. There was someone with a gun.

It’s amazing how the world shrinks to a tiny point and you can focus on something that’s no bigger than the head of a pin at arm’s length. When you’re numb from the sound and bounced around by the kick-drum and blinded by dripping sweat and flashing lights. But I knew if I froze, if I stopped singing, the crowd would fall apart.

I saw one flash, then another, but there was no way you could even hear a gunshot in this place over the band. I couldn’t look around to see what happened, but nothing happened to the music. I took it as a sign that the shots missed.

But then I saw the crowd react. The gap around the gun widened in a fast ripple, but when it hit the edge it rebounded twice as fast. I saw motion zoom toward him over the top of the crowd. I saw the circle around him close, cover him for a moment, pinch him to the top, and surf him to the edge nearest the stage on a sea of arms like cilia on a microbe — where he was dropped at the feet of security guards. Where his corpse was dropped at the feet of security guards.

Questions asked after the show brought me the news. Every rib had been broken. He had just been smashed where he stood, both lungs and his heart punctured by bone fragments. And yes, they had found powder burns on his hands. And a gun in a trashcan on the opposite side of the floor. And, eventually, two holes in the backdrop and the walls behind the stage, proving that he had actually been firing at me.

The show never stopped. They just assumed the guy got hurt in the mosh pit until, after the show, the rumor got around that someone might have been in the crowd with a gun. God forbid anyone do anything to stop the show just because someone was taking aim at the lead vocalist.

But the crowd is a beast. It has a survival urge, and it knows that it will die when the music stops. Who can blame it for wanting to live as long as it can?


February 23, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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