You heard me.
I was still totally new to playing rock. To gain experience I had decided to just say yes to everything that came my way and try out as many things as I could until my calendar just wouldn’t allow room. Thusly, when I got the phone call from Margrit saying this band needed a sub for an important show down in L.A. I said “sure, why not?”
Enter Sparrows Point.
The shows I was subbing for would be Sparrows Point opening for WASP two nights in a row. First at House of Blues on Sunset in Los Angeles, and then at DNA Lounge in San Francisco. You know, no biggie. I had never even subbed in a band before. I had no experience with having to learn a whole library, or how to make cheat-sheets or any of that stuff. But, why not? I’m a smart girl. I’ll figure it out.
My first rehearsal with them was in one of the big rooms at Secret Studios in San Francisco. There was a full stage and mirrors on the opposite wall so you could watch yourself as you performed. Being the newbie, I set up my gear and tried to simultaneously make friends while disappearing into the background at the same time. A technique I should mention, I have never, ever mastered. I was so nervous. I was afraid I would forget all the songs or forget the programming on the keyboard. I was scared that these new people wouldn’t think I was good enough.
And this wasn’t just heavy metal, either. It was THEATRICAL Heavy Metal. What the hell does that mean, Kat? Excellent question. That means full costume, face paint, lighting cues, pyrotechnics, suspension wires, and props. And stage blood. Lots of stage blood.
Oh, and also songs.
Mic (drums) turned to Carter (bass) and said “CARTER. You have to play ALL the notes, Carter. Not SOME of the notes. ALL of the notes.”
Carter looked at Mic. Mumbled something unintelligible, and collapsed onto the chair wedged in between his amp and the drum riser. At this, Cip and Kenny burst out laughing.
I would soon learn that Carter had a hard time standing up between songs. Not for any real reason other than he just did. Don’t look for logic. You’ll just get tired. (Possibly as tired as Carter)
This is what it’s like to walk in off the street into 900 years of inside jokes. Cip and Kenny have been friends since they were kids on the East Coast. Mic had joined the band a handful of years before me. These guys spoke their own language. Had their own traditions. What I loved about it was that no one bothered hitting the pause button to explain anything. They just picked you up and tossed you in the stream knowing if you went with the current eventually it would all just make sense.
And it did.
What no one told me was that they weren’t actually just looking for a sub for the WASP shows, they were looking for a full-time replacement. When this became clear my first reaction was ‘Oh, wait…’ a slight pause, and then ‘you know, why the hell not. Yeah. I’m in. ‘ As luck would have it, I would be the final member of Sparrows Point (to date, anyway).
The next few years are a blur.
This was My Spinal Tap.
Cip, the lead singer, breathed fire and hung upside-down from suspension wires. Kenny, the guitar player, was almost set on fire during every show that allowed pyro. Stage blood was sprayed all over. Sometimes on me and the keyboard. The costumes had a smell so specific that even to this day I only have to think of the name “Sparrows Point” and I can feel it in my nose like oil.
There was a prop guy. And a lighting guy. And typically someone to man the merch table.
At one show the lighting guy forgot to turn off the smoke machine and the whole room was whited out. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I remember hearing Cip in the microphone, “Robert! Turn off the smoke! Jesus! What the fuck?”
There was a song called “Gingerbread”. (To this day all we have to say is “Gingerbreaaaaaaaaad” and everyone starts laughing.)
Cip did Kenny and Carter’s makeup as well as his own.
“There’s no such thing as E minor on a guitar.”
I’m the only one who wore anything different from show to show.
Cip’s shoes were covered in/held together with duct tape.
“I’m going to grab chips. Is there anything you don’t like?” “Yes. The music of Rush.” (Kenny – pre 4th of July party)
I met fans who had been following them for years. I met fans who had the band’s logo tattooed on them.
“…and from somewhere in the darkness came a man. A man smelling of Jack Daniels and cheap pussy…”
Big shows. Crazy shows. Kenny almost falls off the stage. Cip is carried through the crowd on a cross. Straitjackets. Marshall stacks. Lighter fluid. Pleather. Dressing rooms. Waking Carter up so we could go on.
Time passed and we all moved on to other things, but every few years I would wake up to discover a voicemail left around 3am: “Kat! It’s Kenny (indistinguishable sounds… some background yelling – the phone is dropped on the floor) We’re putting the band back together! (background woo’s echoing followed by long pause) Call me, K? Miss you lots! (long pause) This is Kenny. Love you, sweetie. Bye.”
I cannot tell you how much I love these guys. Even if I only see them every few years. I don’t even have words for it. Each of them holds a very dear place in my heart. Cip for being EXACTLY who he is, fuck everyone else in the world, and for finding what makes him joyful and letting that shine through above all else. Even in, (perhaps especially in), the most ridiculous situations, ever. Kenny – who is this incredible kind spirit who somehow maintains a pure, light, innocent energy even though there is absolutely nothing pure, light or innocent about him. Mic, who is incredibly talented, unbelievably patient, and easily has the most infectious laugh I have ever heard in my life. And he laughs a LOT.
Being around them is just good for your heart. Being around them is just… well, sit back and enjoy the show.