Saturday, March 4, 2017

Sentimental Lady

Last night I went to see the reunion show of a band called Creeper Lagoon. Most people probably never heard of them, unless they lived in San Francisco or worked in the music industry, as I did, a couple of decades ago.

But as I was getting to go out on a Friday night—something I rarely do anymore—I couldn't help but remember the first time I saw that band, 20 years ago.

Or, rather, the first time I tried to see them.

The only reason I knew who they were was because the guy who sat two or three desks up from me while I was working as an assistant at Atlantic Records would play their CD over and over again at work. That's the advantage (or disadvantage) of working in the music industry: There's always music blasting.

And that was before everyone was in their own little world, wearing earbuds and headphones as they type and swipe. We used to share music, shouting over it when we answered our bosses' phones.

So, hearing this album day in and day out, I'd become a bit obsessed with it. And because I wasn't making much money, I was seeing as many free and cheap concerts as possible—and taking advantage of as many free meals and drinks as possible.

That, of course, ended up being my downfall when it came to seeing Creeper Lagoon for the first time at the Bowery Ballroom on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I'd somehow managed to get myself an invite to some classical music-related reception at a fancy restaurant in the Flatiron District—and, since I'd been desperately trying to fit in at my new job in the two-person classical department surrounded by staffers from the pop and rock department, I went and whooped it up.

As I was apt to do back in those days, I drank too much and couldn't get enough tiny hors d'oeuvres to eat. And worse yet, I lost track of time a bit. I was still new to New York City, and I hadn't mastered the subway quite yet. I had a penchant for running late anyway (as I still do), but my plan to get to the Bowery Ballroom on time for the Creeper Lagoon show became sabotaged when, just before leaving, I realized that I'd left my cardigan sweater on the hook on the back of the stall door in the ladies' room at the restaurant.

I returned to the stall, but nothing. And I freaked out. The sweater had only cost me $12 at Strawberry on the first floor of the building I worked in, but I'd been wearing it every day. I loved it. And, at the time, $12 was a lot of money to lose in a public restroom.

I interrogated the bathroom attendant, who claimed ignorance. And, as I was also apt to do back then, I burst into tears.

But I couldn't waste any more time on the sweater, because I had to go see Creeper Lagoon.

I got on the subway but, per usual, it wasn't running as quickly as I needed it to. I knew I was running late, but I didn't think it was SO bad, since shows never seemed to start on time anyway.

But as I walked through the door after showing my ID, climbing down into the bar they make you pass through and then up into the main concert hall, I recognized the tune of "Wonderful Love," and I was crestfallen that I'd missed part of the show.

Rather than fighting through the crowd, I stood right there, far stage left, to catch as much as I could without distraction. And then the wrecking ball hit me: That was their last song.

I'd missed the entire show.

I was still a bit weepy from the loss of my sweater—and just general drunkenness and exhaustion of going out after a full day of work—so I completely crumpled into a stormy sea of sobs.

It didn't take long to draw a lot of attention to myself, particularly from the security guard who was standing right there at the end of the stage. He asked me what was wrong and I spilled the story out on him, probably somewhat incoherently, and he was so struck with how upset I was about not getting to see this band that he'd probably never heard of that he invited me backstage.

He kept telling me that it was OK and that I'd get to meet them.

And as the band members filed off the stage—right there, where we were, which happened to also be right by the stage door—they were quickly filled in on what was going on and what had led up to this moment of this terribly upset girl inconsolably crying on their doorstep.

They all introduced themselves and patted me comfortingly. The lead singer hugged me as I sobbed into his chest.

Those guys set the standard for me in terms of how musicians—or, really, any celebrity—should treat their fans. When I subsequently got the brush-off from other artists, it stung more, knowing how kind and generous they could've been.

I knew it was a choice, because a bunch of guys from across the country gave the royal treatment to a crazy, crying girl who ambushed them at the close of their set.

After that, I had the chance to see them in concert a couple of other times, though I was too embarrassed to try to say "hi" and introduce myself as the basket case from the Bowery Ballroom.

But now 20 years have gone by.

And I kind of wonder if they remember me. I kind of wanted to remind them of the story when I saw them last night.

But, you know, we've all moved on from those days. I haven't worked at a record label in four years, and I hope I never do again. The band members all have their own careers and companies, having broken up 15 years ago and giving up their rock star dreams.

They sure made a big impression on me, though—both in terms of music and humanity.

Now, I feel really happy when I listen to their music, even the sad songs. Maybe I'm just being sentimental, but now officially in "middle age," I've earned the right to sentimentality.

Related Posts:
My Rock Star Relapse
On Nostalgia
The End of an Era
Putting Pop Music on Pause
Pacific Standards