By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
So the New Times music editor calls up to inform me of a couple tribute bands playing at some horrible yuppie hellhole in Scottsdale. "Tributes" to Van Halen and Mötley Crüe called Atomic Punks and Shout at the Devil, respectively.
Like I care.
I hate tribute bands on principle. They offend me. For one thing, guys in these groups have figured a way to preen for babes simply by living vicariously through their worthless heroes. Not only is this uninventive energy, it's also utterly pathetic. They'll probably get laid, too. I'm sure their sycophant shtick gets them the chicks. The last thing I need or want is another sad reminder that horrible men get beautiful girls.
And worse, Mötley Crüe and Van Halen tributes? I hate the real bands; why would I want to see some low-rent knockoff? And it's not that I'm a snob. I just hate bad taste.
Of course my editor is well aware of my stance with trib bands.
"I want you to go and do a piece on these bands," he said. "Just go and goof on 'em, Blake. You can at least do that."
I held the phone away from my ear and fumed. The guy is into seeing me squirm. Worse, he sensed my, uh, hesitation. He's quick that way. So he threw me a bone. "New Times will even get your bar tab. You can't turn that down."
"New Times will pay my bar tab?" I asked, skeptically, eyebrows raised. "That smells like rotting fish."
In the past, I've been known to run New Times bar tabs well into the hundreds of dollars. Sometimes I would buy rounds for strippers. You don't know the wonderful bliss that occurs when you mix a company tab and glittering go-go girls. But that was before New Times caught wind of my game. Word passed down through the ranks that there were to be no more expenses paid to Blake. But I know that good things only come in glimpses. You must grasp them and milk them for all they're worth.
"I don't think so," I told him. "Bar tab or no, I ain't partaking in any Crüe/Halen circle jerk. And since fuckin' when has New Times agreed to pay my bar tabs?"
"Don't worry about the tabs, dude. I'll take care of those. But if you don't go to Scottsdale, if you don't write about these cock-knockers, you'll have to go peddle your shit elsewhere."
"Dude. Fuuuuuck yoooooou," I howled, enraged now. The gut full of beer gave me confidence. "I'll go above your head and take this to the real editor."
"Try it, pal," he said, snickering. His voice was low, curt and annoying. A voice of smugness. "That guy could care less. You haven't been getting any letters lately. You know how it is. Nobody cares about you around here once the letters stop coming."
I slammed down the receiver. I knew what I had to do. I had to go and withstand those intolerable cover bands. I had to, or else it was one less freelance check. One less way for me to survive. The writing gigs have been drying up lately, and I couldn't afford to lose another. My recent firing from a cushy position reviewing porn movies was a complete sucker punch. I had filed my reviews late every month until they fired me. The gig was a real cash cow, too -- 75 cents a word goes a long way in a life like mine. Now it's back to counting nickels for 40-ouncers. Back down to King Cobra from Bud. And friends, there's no going down from King Cobra.
Getting fired from a major adult magazine is one thing, but I'll be hellbound if a pissant music editor at some local dishrag weekly is gonna ruin my life.
He's always telling me to do shit like this. He once had me go listen to country music in a shit-kicker bar. I did, got drunk and wound up with a caved-in nose and a torn ear. He knew it would happen. He's a clever prick that way. A conversation with him is often burdened with underlying manipulation, subtle schemes and just plain weirdness. What's funny is how the guy gets the hot chicks. I don't how the hell he does it.
Anyway, only after a front-tire blowout traveling at a 75 mph clip in the old LTD -- damn near flipping the thing -- with an open 40 between my legs, a smug doorman and a randy stripper calling me "dork face" did I discover there was no Atomic Punks/Shout at the Devil show after all. No show, therefore, no story. What I did discover from the self-satisfied doorman was the concert was indeed scheduled to happen, only a week later than what I had been told.
My impish editor sent me knowing full well there was no show. He did that on purpose, to get me to squirm, to suffer. He gave me a date and time and place, wrong on purpose. He knows the horrible two-hour drive from my trailer to Scottsdale, through the searing hot sun and with no A/C. He knows this.