I used to think about what life would be like after the band. Maybe that was sacrilege, to even consider that there would be an end to the entity that was the band. It's like planning for a spouse's death. But like everything here on earth, the band was temporary. Even Keith Richards will die someday, and Mick will just have to think of something else to do. I thought that there would be no more nights closing down the bar, packing up the drums, weaving my way through a crowd, carrying an amplifier as men tell me I shouldn't have to do that but don't bother to open the door for me. We might still go to shows, but we wouldn't have to show up early for sound check, and we wouldn't have to wait around to make sure that the band got paid and everyone had a ride.
Usually, when I thought about this, I was in the midst of one of the less glamorous aspects. The waiting, the carrying, etc. I thought about this to make myself appreciate the moment, because who knows when the last time I'd have to take apart the drum kit might be? And I thought about my children, who would hear about this part of their parents' lives and not be able to reconcile it with the geezers they knew. I thought about this, sitting at the bar at the Farmhouse, waiting to go home.
Did I tell you? The band outlived the Farmhouse. We were out yard saling one morning when we happened to drive by and see a bulldozer razing it to the ground. Josh took a video.
Last year, Dave, the drummer, moved to Asheville. It was sudden. I never know about these things the way I would like to, which is early and completely. I get told offhandedly by Josh, who never has additional information, no matter how many different ways I ask the same questions. But it happened, and the only difference was that band only practiced every other weekend.
Then this year, Dave got an opportunity to go to grad school for free in Illinois. And four years after getting his bachelor's degree, I think he was tired of working at the kind of places where you can leave your job for two months to go on tour with your rock band. To be honest, I had expected Dave to be the catalyst years ago when he graduated from college. Josh and Trevor are both college drop-outs, and they've never really expressed any long-term career plans besides rock superstardom. But I thought that Dave would go get a career after college. I might as well say that I was hoping for that. The band thing was fun for a while, but I always knew the odds. I was tired of the late nights and the drunk people.
I never told Josh that I wouldn't mind it being over, though I've never been very good at masking my feelings. There have been people in his life who thought the whole thing was a phase and he should just get over it and go back to school. People told him that in so many words, and it really, really hurt him. What I knew was that it was the most important thing in his life, and no matter what, I could not set myself up as being in opposition to the band. I had to give him time and room for this one thing, because it was important to him. Whether it ever paid the bills was beside the point.
And really, it was never a problem. I treated the band like he treated my job. There were temporary conflicts, where I wanted him to do something but he couldn't because he had band stuff. But there was never a conflict of existence. It would only be a problem if I made it one, and I decided not to do that.
So that was my brand of support. I have never been the screaming number one fan kind of girlfriend. I felt a little bad about that sometimes, like one New Years when a couple of other friends were saying that this was definitely going to be the year they made it. And they looked at me expectantly, and I shrugged. "I'll be here either way," I said. It's not in my temperament to make those kinds of statements, which are meant as support but can't possibly be known to be true.
I said something like that exactly once. We were walking back from a place called Riot House, where the band had played a house party (a special annual party, called Riot Fest, not to be confused with the house parties that occurred there every other weekend). I said, "You know, you guys just might make it. You're really good."
Josh laughed and said, "You're drunk."
I guess Josh understood that I was not that kind of person. I went to all the shows that I could, and I helped with the equipment. I knew the words to the songs, and I sang and danced in the crowd sometimes. I was supportive, if not rabid, and more importantly, I respected it as a valid use of his time and energy and money. That's what he needed from me.
After Dave did not end the band, I accepted that the band's future was open-ended. Before, I wanted to know when it would end, because if a thing has firm beginning and end points, you can mentally prepare yourself for the duration. Open-ended things are harder. So when Dave finally did end the band, I had gotten so used to it being ongoing that I was unprepared. Whereas once I might have breathed a sigh of relief, finally it's over and we can get on with our lives, I didn't feel that way anymore. Because I had accepted that our lives were going on, and the band was part of it.
Josh was willing to keep going as long as Trevor wanted to, but then Trevor told us that he was moving to Las Vegas. And I thought, well, I guess that's it. That lasted about two days, before Josh started talking about a new band. He said he wanted to keep playing music. I told him that anytime he wanted to play music, all he had to do was get out the guitar. Or that he could go over to the house where the band had practiced in the basement and find two or three people to play with on any given night. But he said, no, he wanted to perform.
The funny thing is, Josh had a hard time with the performing at the beginning. He never used to eat before shows, because it made him sick. He used to play with his back to the audience because of stage fright. And now he didn't want to give it up.
At first, he was talking about a cover band. I thought that was a little odd, since before Josh was ever a performer, he was a songwriter. In any case, it was clear to me that he was not thinking about being famous, because cover bands don't get famous. And that was a change, too. From the early days of the band there had been a dream that they would someday make a living at it. But this was less a career plan and more of an outlet. It's possible that he'd made that change in his mind a while back. It's true that if your only goal is fame, you'll give up quickly, because for most people, it's is a long road, 10,000 hours long.
So he started talking to people. Musicians all know each other and pretty soon he had a sax player and a drummer. When he told me that his new bandmates had children, I knew it would be fine. That means no touring. I can deal with that.
The band played their last show earlier this month, and the only weird thing about it was that it wasn't weird. It was a completely normal show. There were a lot of people there, but not everybody, because fans have come and gone in the life of the band. The guys were really on point. They played some new songs, because they hadn't quit writing material. Trevor told a hilarious story about Big Mike and a fridge falling through the floor.
During a break, Josh and his sax player got on stage and played a couple of their new songs. They borrowed a drummer they knew, because their drummer's kid was sick and he couldn't make it. Josh sang. His powers as a vocalist are limited, so he writes raps. He'd been practicing playing the bass and singing at the same time, every day in the little nook at home that he's set up with his recording equipment. It went really well, and he came down from the stage beaming. But then right back up to finish out the show. And the band played on.
The next day, Dave and Trevor both left for their lives after the band. And we started our lives after the band, which turns out to be pretty much the same.