They stopped before entering Rockwood 2 to chat with Kevin. Kevin had been one of the bouncers at Rockwood for several years now. He was a big man, intimidating at first glance, dressed all in black and wearing a skull-cap; exactly what a bouncer should look like. It was only after becoming a regular she realized that he was as soft as a teddy bear, a giant with a heart to match his size. She’d never been good at remembering names and faces; that’s what her husband was known for. It was only after they’d become regulars that they’d started to call each other by name, a ritual routinely started by her husband wherever they went.
“Alright Jen, this is your home baby doll you know where to go.” Kevin said as he wrapped up the small talk in a bow and handed it to them like a gift. He turned his eyes from them to focus on the couple behind them.
“ID’s?” they heard him say as faintly as they passed through the door.
Through another glass door and down 4 steps into the main room they went. Stage 2, as it was called, was double the size of its parent, inheriting all its father’s features but growing 60 feet, both taller and wider.
“Hey Ann, How’s things?”
Ann greeted them from behind the bar with her usual warm, red lipstick and perfect white teeth- smile. She was a dead ringer for Louise Brooks with her hairstyle casually tamed into a brunette bob. Ann was a musician as most people were around there. Her band “Mother Feather” was really starting to get off the ground. They’d watched her slowly climb up that enormous ladder for years and knew sadly she wouldn’t be there for much longer to greet them, that it was just a matter of time before she’d take the leap to becoming a full time singer.
“Whatcha havin?” she asked
“The usual Ann thanks” she replied.
Ann turned away to grab a fresh bottle of red. Jen wondered what it would be like to work there. She imagined meeting all sorts of people, hearing great music: an exciting life being able to chat with people from all over the world. Then she began to think of the constant crowd, the noise, and that she tended to be in bed by 10:30 most nights. She quickly dismissed the idea.
“Who’s playing tonight? She asked Ann.
“I’m not sure Jen, I just got in, “ she said
Ann pulled two cocktail napkins from the caddy at the bar and set down the drinks. She glided on to the next patron. It was a busy night but Ann was a smooth operator. Nothing rattled her. Jen liked that about her: her constant calm, the ways she put everyone at ease. Jen’s husband turned to her.
“Let’s sit in the balcony”
Jen followed her husband up the stairs and they took the box seats at the end right above the stage. It was a perfect view. The band was setting up. It looked as though there would be a few guitars, a ukelele, a piano, bass; a great line up. She wondered who would be singing. As Jen surveyed the tops of heads roaming about below, she saw several other locals.
Patrick, a Jersey born Irishman, father of four who would make the trip in from his home in Jersey on a nightly basis if he knew something good was on. Pete. Of course, Pete was at every gig, or at least the ones worth going to. One always knew which shows to attend based on his calendar. He was the local entertainment guide for the neighborhood. They would chat with them both after the show.
Just then the lights started to dim. The show was about to begin. The crowd quieted to a hush, all but a few glasses in the background clicking from behind the bar and a few whispers. Suddenly from the stage, the guitar player, a sandy blond with a beard, started playing a bluesy slide on the National Steel. A bass line followed tripping slowly behind. The drums kicked into a mellow groove pushing the bass forward, now both of them rolling along under the razor steel of the guitar. A spot-light fell on the female lead singer encircling her like a halo amidst a smokey sea of black.
They were playing the intro to a tune that propelled her back to the 1950’s. To a time when Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison were the monarchs of the airwaves; before things got commercial, when days could stretch on like endless rivers and no one need to rush them along. When listening to an album, the full album, was an event, and not just a 5 second click on a screen. She relaxed back into the cradle of the theater seat and closed her eyes. When she reopened them, she wasn’t in Rockwood Stage 2 anymore. It was gone. She was alone.
To be continued.
Jenna will be performing with her band on Monday Dec 30 8pm – Rockwood Stage 2