Friday, February 24, 2012

Earwig at Outland

Maybe it was fate that the snow would come. Earwig shows in January/February traditionally get snowed out. And tonight looked to be no different. The weatherman was predicting a wicked amount of Cinderella White, enough to put the capital city into lock down mode. Just our luck. It’s like the Pope is watching our every move. And he controls the weather. I loaded J & M (my personal body guards for the trip) into the transport, blacked out my fortress of solitude and headed for Columbus anyway. We had work to do.
My feeder key buzzed, it was Gatemouth texting me the new jump codes. I cleared them with the Hondroulis Brothers and we met up at Basement Underground to load our gear. George thought the better of bringing his Renaissance Doves G.O.N.G. Sometimes it’s really great for special shows like these, but he calculated that with that much heavy metal on stage it wouldn’t do us any good if a dimensional rift occurred. Costa told me that according to the Dyslexia Society report, the signals for tonight were indicating a strong chance of an inter-dimensional rip occurring on stage sometime after 1 am. Great. Now I had to make sure that Earwig went on as late as possible so we’d be on stage and playing if and when anything dark went down. We’re supposed to stop any new portals at all costs. We know the risks. I just hate to play so late. Can’t we ever save the world at a reasonable hour? But with these numbers I knew that we’d need extra cover to control any possible wow and flutter that might happen tonight. So we put in a call to Jess. She’s great when we need to play the V card. She handles the keys beautifully and deals with Earwig’s on-stage field protection with grace and aplomb. Plus, she just looks good. The only catch is that she hates portal gigs, and I knew that she’d probably set her box as cloaked so she wouldn’t show up on stage radar during the set. So be it, this wasn‘t a fashion show. I was just glad she agreed to be there and that she agreed to play. I knew she’d give us what we needed, when we needed it. The three of us finished loading the van and headed for Outland.

This part of Capital City spooked me. For the past several months, The Queen of Crosses and her minions had been working hard and making much progress for an all out take over of the inner city. They liked the night life. They liked to boogie. And the way things were looking south of I-70, a few more months of this and there’d be hardly a sector in downtown left where a real-born breather could show their face. So much for the living citizens of Capital City. But Zombies and Clones can vote too. With the elections coming up, the Mayor knew he couldn’t afford to lose any more control. He’d put in the call to the Dyslexia Society and Gatemouth gave us the gig. That’s how it works.

We pulled into the parking lot of the club, next to what looked like a 1/3 scale replica of the Eiffel tower. It seemed a little out of place, but George assured me that he had the coordinates right. Outland seems like a strange cross between a cheesy gothic nightmare and an overly social Action Sister/Cavern Club rip-off. Gigantic faux boulders, towering crosses and a now-you-see-me-now-you-don‘t light show dominated the huge, mostly vacant space. The place looked empty, but right away I noticed the abundance of dark corners. Perfect. The moon was full and any vampire in the club could be working for X Control. We loaded in our gear and when Costa and George rolled in they could tell immediately that something was up. The place was filled with dead celebrities. Tupac and Ed Cullen were sharing drinks at the bar. There was a huge Euro-Cross hanging above their heads and everybody looked like variations on a theme. I kept my eyes peeled for the Queen of Crosses. I prayed that she didn’t show up tonight. We’d have our hands full with just the locals. Wanda, the bathroom attendant, kept asking to hold M’s hand and telling her what “great friends” they were. Yeah Wanda, keep talking. She was lucky she didn’t get tazed. She had a heavy case of Benzo breath and there was another smell that I‘ve smelled before. Zombies. Genetic Zombies are the absolute worst. They think they’re special. But they really just stink to high heaven and they won‘t stop talking about themselves. But there were friendly faces too. Jess showed up with her male escort. He looked like he had skills. I was glad to see Jamie and Heather braved the weather and made it out to the show. You could always count on the die-hards to be there. To kill the time before our set, Erin, Jess and I 'got our picture took' at the Champagne Station. Oh the laughter. The Athens wrecking crew was there. The Wright sisters showed up. They all danced while the music played. If they had any hint of the big trouble that might go down at the show, they didn‘t let on. Sometimes I think the hard-core Earwig fans like it best when it gets dangerous. Maybe I liked it that way too.

I tracked down Mike, the local promoter and told him that we had to go on no earlier than 1 am. Didn’t seem like a problem. The opening band was already on stage and there was burlesque dancing in the front room, by the bar. I’ll bet you a nickel that the chick from Field Notes will end up playing for Action Sister. I could tell by the way she moved her Mustang that she was going places. I bumped into PJ and the YLM gang at the pool tables. They moonlight as an information collective. PJ gave me a nod and passed me a thumb drive. “This one’s on the house.”. The drive had intelligence on the X Control agent we were looking for tonight. I jacked in and scanned the new info. It said that she might be one of the dancers.

Around 1:10 am, Mike put his star burlesque girl on right before our set. She was just a kid, but she was good. The crowd loved it. It was quite an act, involving her skinny dipping in a tiny blow-tub exactly where I‘d set up my gear. I could tell it made the whole band very nervous. Electricity and water do not mix well. Was she trying to distort my tone settings and reset my pedals for ill gains, or was she just another baby-oil happy stripper who happened to want to take a bath on stage right in front of my amp. She climbed seductively into the pool and lubricated herself. As she undid her bikini top, I re-checked the thumb drive. She didn’t fit the profile. If she was working on the inside for the Queen and she recognized us, there could be trouble. Maybe she was just a Heat Daemon in disguise looking to trip open the portal with her gyrations. Either way, we wouldn’t be on stage yet and we’d be vulnerable. I headed back stage to get my guitar, just in case. Things ended a little “Slippery When Wet” for my taste, but nobody got hurt. Earwig took the stage around 1:20 to yelps, a clattering of applause and the feedback drones of our opening number, Dinosaur Song. Things went well. We played the hits and no portals opened up. In fact nothing strange happened at all. People danced, sang and drank blood. The usual. The crowd was having a good time. Finally we set the volume for stun and launched into our closer, Wounded Knee. This brought the voltage up a notch. As the last chords died out, I climbed atop the amps to finish and realized that I couldn’t make out Jess at all, she was so well cloaked. I couldn’t see her, but I could feel her. The room ‘verbed with our backing track and strange robot voices bounced up against the tall, black walls of the huge room. “I have waited such a long time...” I stole a look over to the Hondroulis Brothers as they synced up and took off with Rumplestiltskin. I heard Jess join in, we were all in a groove. And then the Zombies began to shake. Everybody knows that the Zombies love to dance. It’s like the groove just takes them over and they go even deeper into a trance. If there was one song to bring out the Zombies in the crowd, it was this one. A wave of famous dead people poured in from the other room causing a commotion. Suddenly a random zombie chick sprang over the stage, past Costa and down onto George, sinking her fangs into his left hand as he raised it for a snare hit. Without missing a beat, he gave her a crack with his big Red Right Hand that sent her limp body flying into the back wall and left her a crumpled rag doll on the floor. Half reflex, half skill, all rock. At that moment, an almost naked vampire chick decked out in a feather boa and not much else blew past the back stage security and right through Jess’s cover control. I could feel a disturbance in the force as soon as she came on the stage. It was Kitty Mystique, the headlining burlesque dancer from earlier in the night. “How’d she get up here so easily?”, I thought. Costa’s amp jumped back a good half a foot bouncing on it‘s casters, trying to compensate for the extra long waves he was throwing out. He braced himself and kept playing. That’s exactly what we needed. I realized that this was it. I checked over my shoulder for George and all that I could see were his flailing arms driving the beat and the smoke rising from his kit in slow motion. The band knew what to do. As is often reported from witnesses to portal openings, there was no sound. My dimensional perception fluttered and everything started to get dim. Maybe I was going deaf. Maybe it was just that Fender Twin right behind me cranking wide open at a full 100 watts. I was losing control. Kitty pulled up closer and I could hardly remember the next note to play. She shook her shoulders low, side to side and my confusion grew. Every inch of her white skin pulsated and throbbed as she bent down, grinding her thigh against mine. I stepped back and hit the pre-skip switch on my left shoulder. Everything settled down for a moment. As my vision got clearer, I could see what was happening. Things were phasing in and out with the rhythm. Her eyes went black. Kitty Mystique was shape-shifting, changing into a Heat Daemon. She wasn’t trying to open a portal at all. She was an accelerator. She was going to use our energy to flip the polarity and create a negative dimension. If that happened, everything would go haywire. Everyone inside the flip radius would have their allegiance turned over and it would be all out pandemonium. Her black eyes grew tense and locked onto mine. Her feather boa dropped to the ground. Now I knew her throbbing thighs meant destruction. I pulled desperately at my Whammy bar. Things looked bad. (I bet this never happens to Matthew Bellamy.) Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw my Z Vex Fuzz Factory with my pedals on the floor. I dropped to my knees and turned the STAB knob up to FULL. Jumped up and smashed the foot switch with my black Converse high tops. The extra boost created a volume bubble on stage and suddenly it was like she and I were dancing in a vacuum. She was changing form. Speeding up the tempo. As I closed the space between us, a throbbing white light pulsed with my every move. She dropped and was on her back. Trying to shield her eyes with her hands. I could tell from the look on her face that she was in pain. But strangely, she seemed to like it. 

In the fuzzy distance I saw Costa and George fortify themselves to address the new surge of volume. I felt Jess push harder, her tube glowing in the darkness. My legs bent to absorb the extra shock waves. I towered over her, the daemon between my legs as I sliced out the first notes of the solo. Her eyes began to fade from back to white and she smiled at me, relaxed. The white light grew, expanding into a small pulsar that enveloped her whole body and then began to shrink. It grew smaller. Smaller. As I held that last note, she winked out, forever off into another dimension. Yeah, that’s right, my name’s got a potion on it, baby.

I love this city. There was a gang fight after the set as we loaded out of the venue. Three different factions were ready to pound it out for control of the block. Butt crackers. It’s 2:30 am and they can find the energy to fight, but they can’t find the energy to pull their belts tight enough to keep their pants from falling down. I just had to laugh as I knew that they were completely un-aware of what had just transpired on stage that night. Venue security couldn’t help but get in on the action outside, chasing the mob around the corner as the red and blue lights arrived on the scene. We just kept our heads down and loaded the amps into the mini van. The last thing I saw was Erin. She was coming back down the street, in the direction of the club. All tired and mascara running, she looked a bit lost actually. She was wearing a shirt that said “I survived the 2012 Earwig Outland show and all I got was a t-shirt that says ‘Vaginas Are Forever’ ”. Nice. And appropriate. As she clutched at her bag a shiny piece of paper dropped from under her arm and gently landed in the street. She smiled, blinking her eyes. I just waved. Costa was already pulling out onto the fresh white snow that blanketed Front street and we were on our way back to Basement Underground. “See you next time.” I thought.
(George's vampire bites)

*Sorry, Jess' cloaking device kept her from showing up in any of the pictures!

*Photos by Ian C. Powell photography and Nancy Wright. Thank you!