Water Main Break

One morning, as I got off the el to go to school, a few of the priests who taught there were standing at the bottom of the stairways, telling the students, “Go back. Go home! Water main break! No school today!” My heart leaped. It was like a dream; too good to be true. One of the students tried to walk past the priests, toward the school. Father Sullivan grabbed him by the arm. “What did I just say?!” “I just wanna see!”, the little dirtbag replied. “We don’t want you to see! It’s a mess! The street’s full of water! Big deal. Get back on the train! Go Home! Get out of here!” I darted around the corner, just out of sight. I wanted to wait for Midgett. I suspected he was on the train behind mine. Five minutes later, he came down the stairs. “Dude! No school today!” I shouted in his face. “What!?!” He replied, surveying the scene; priests ushering students back onto the trains to get them away from the massively flooded street. “You want to play music today?”, he asked. That was exactly what I wanted to do.

Midgett and I had been toying with the idea of starting a new band for a while. It was to be a gothic punk band. Of this we were certain. By this point, we were deep into goth almost to the exclusion of everything else. We’d been listening to Bauhaus, The Cure, & Siouxie for a few years at this point, and now we were starting to get into Christian Death (Rozz’s AND Valor’s), The Sisters Of Mercy, Mission U.K., Psychic T.V., Fields Of The Nephilim, Alien Sex Fiend, The Virgin Prunes, and lots of other creature of the night type shit. There was a magazine called Propaganda that we would pick up at Skinz or Zipperhead or maybe even Blakk’s on South Street. The magazine was mostly about gothic and fetish inspired fashion, but it also profiled a bunch of bands we never would have heard of otherwise. There was also a lot of hype about a movie called ‘Begotten’, which was said to make Eraserhead look like The Sound Of Music. It featured God disembowling him(her?)self with a straight razor and giving birth to clay and crust covered characters who are then set upon by canabalistic rapists and tortured and burned and shit. I couldn’t WAIT to get my hands on a copy of that!! All of the artists I was into at this time seemed to be covered in dust or some whitish pancake material of some kind.

I was to be the guitarist and Midgett was to be the singer. He had long given up the idea of playing the bass. He had begun to adopt a tortured artist persona. I mean, we all had to some extent, but his was more dramatic than anybody else’s. I mean, he even knew how to paint. He would surely make a good front man. He had also been writing lots of lyrics. In addition to his many sketchbooks, he also had pages and pages of poems. By this time, I had several chord progressions that I’d been trying to make into something and for at least a few weeks, we’d been seriously talking about getting those items together and seeing if we had something. This was it. This was our perfect opportunity. An abrupt and unexpected day off from school with nobody else around. Finally, we could dig in and allow our vision to congeal.

We went straight to my house and grabbed my guitar and amp. I had just sold my Kramer heavy metal guitar and my D’Agostino, and gotten a black Squier Stratocaster. We took the gear to his house. He had the perfect spot to play. A few years prior, his dad had remodeled the basement into a bedroom and living room type of space that was nicely finished and carpeted and very comfortable. Before that, he was sharing a tiny bedroom with his younger brother and it was just too tight. His dad was a DJ on the weekends and kept a bunch of his gear in the bigger living room type room. Midgett grabbed his dad’s microphone and plugged it into my amp along with my guitar. We turned the reverb all the way up so that everything sounded gothic.

It was great! I started playing my chord progressions and he went through his lyrics to see what would work. By noon, we had four or five songs laid out. It was SO EASY! It just happened with what seemed like no effort. How could it be? I didn’t know it could be so simple. We were delighted.

“Yo we should get Erik G. to come over and play the drums”, he shouted. I had met Erik a few summers before and we jammed some hardcore briefly. “Yeah? You think he’d be into it? Won’t your parents get pissed if there’s drums down here?” He shrugged. “Jamie too! He got a bass!” “Jamie the punk?!” I asked. I had become mildly obsessed with Jamie since I’d met him at Jerky Josh’s house months before. In the meantime I’d seen him and his crew of punks at the neighborhood canival and at Frankford Terminal. He always had a kiler look goin’ and didn’t seem to give a fuck what anybody thought about his transgressions of personal style. Although I barely knew him, he was my official yardstick for measuring how “punk” something was. If I was getting ready to go out, I’d consult my inner, imaginary Jamie the punk about how my outfit was. “Yeah, Jamie the punk.” He answered. “I’m gonna call them”

Midgett went upstairs and got on the phone for a bit. When he came back, he told me they were coming. I couldn’t believe it. This day was shaping up to be a miracle. Within about an hour, The four of us were all in the Midgett basement working on the songs he and I had just put together. It sounded amazing to us with a full band. When Jamie arrived, he brought his ivory and white Fender P-Bass and a small amp. It was just loud enough to be heard over the drums. He also brought his copy of the brand new double concept album, All The Love/All The Hate by Christian Death. It ended up being the first of many bad albums by Valor Kand, but at the time, we were stoked. The drummer, Erik G. was mild and agreeable. He didn’t have a whole lot to say, but he was pleasant and played the drums great.

At some point, Midgett went upstairs again and the three of us were just bullshittin around in the basement. I turned on the chorus effect on my amp and started playing a rhythm guitar pattern that was on the upbeat. Recently, my guitar teacher taught me about reggae. He showed me that it mainly consisted of minor chords played on the upbeat of the measures as in 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 with the guitar being struck on the “ands”. He showed me this by teaching me Eric Clapton’s version of I Shot The Sherrif!

Erik and Jamie immediately joined me and we played this thing in A minor. We all intuitively followed the 12 bar blues structure and went to the changes dictated by that form without having to say anything to one another or signaling in any way. It was the most fun, energetic thing we’d played all day, and it just wrote itself magically. It sounded a little like ska, which I fucking hate, but it sounded more like reggae-rock like the Police or the Clash. I had never felt more alive. We must have played this bit for ten minutes or something. When it was done, we were all high on the experience. I looked up and Midgett was sitting on the steps looking distinctly unimpressed. It wasn’t very gothic sounding.

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