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My Time at the 35 Conferette

17 Mar

This past weekend was the SXSW-like 35 Conferette. 35 Conferette is a musical festival of sorts–kind of like an ACL or Lollapalooza if you spread out some of the smaller stages into a dozen small clubs. I play guitar/bass/synth/shaker and sometimes sing for singer/songwriter Roy Robertson. Here is my story:

“Tell me what you are going to wear,” Roy says to me from across the room. He’s wearing sunglasses that cost more than my entire outfit–than his entire outfit. He’s limply swirly his index finger in a circle, as if attempting to point at some rotating object. Roy’s hair is long and wavy and hangs over his eyes just a bit.

“I’m going to wear this.” I motion to my body (Sexy). I’m wearing a pearl-snap shirt and jeans and some old boots. I think I look pretty good.

“No, no that won’t do,” Roy says softly, and whip cracks himself onto his feet. He moves like a raised cobra toward me. He is inches from my face. I can smell his breath. It smells like vegan things. “You’ll wear what I have for you.” Roy takes off his sunglasses for what I suppose is emphasis, but his eyes are closed, creating an effect that is more chilling than intimidating. “Kyle, do you know why I wear shades all the time?” Roy whips his hair in my face, spinning his thin frame on strangely nimble feet. His arms flail about wildly. He sits back down, one leg jutting out, the other bent under his chair in mock-leisure. “I wear sunglasses because my future’s so bright, I need shades.

I take a second to mull this over.

“It’s so fuckin’ bright, man!” Roy screams, taking his sunglasses off again. This time, he’s doing that thing where his eyes point in two different directions. “You think it’s easy for me havin’ such a bright future?” He stands up again and resumes his position immediately in front of my face. I can smell his breath again. It smells like raw, abysmal hate. “People said Bob Dylan had a bright future, too, and look what happened to him.” Roy points to a drawing of Bob Dylan that’s been tacked to the wall. It’s done in purple marker and looks like it’s been drawn by a child, but Roy has signed and dated it at the bottom as well as writing the time of completion. The drawing had been completed thirty minutes before I arrived at his house for practice.

“Bob Dylan did have a bright future, Roy. He’s incredibly successful.”

“Yea! But look at him now.”

Lacking the real Bob to look at, I just look at the picture again.

“He’s all old.

“Well, Roy, I–”

“I’m never gonna be old. Nah man, not for me.” Roy lays down on top of his amp, curling into himself like a cat. “Now get out.”

I turn for the door.

“Oh, and Kyle? Be there at 4:30.”

He’s talking about the venue we’re playing at. We play on the Square Stage in downtown Denton–the only free stage at the 35 Conferette.

–Time passes–

At 4:30, I arrive downtown. I check my phone. A text from Roy. It’s just a picture of himself that he’s taken, making a pouty face at the camera. He sends me at least four or five of these a day. Sometimes with little messages like “What do u think?” or “Pain is beauty” or “Am I a 10?”

This time, it just says “I’m here.”

Moments later I get a call from Roy, telling me it’s time to unload the equipment. He tells me where he’s parked and that I can meet him at his car because he doesn’t go anywhere alone because only losers and homeless people walk places alone and then he says but aren’t all homeless people losers and laughs loudly into the phone in a way that I know he isn’t really laughing but just screaming into the receiver.

When I reach his car, he’s still sitting in the driver seat. His car is parked in a small parking lot behind one of the square’s buildings. A pit opens in my stomach and my face contorts to reflect this. Roy is looking straight at me and I can’t tell how long he’s been looking at me. Sometimes, it feels like he’s always been looking at me–since the day I was born. I approach the car and look into the window, my partially transparent reflection laid over, Roy, who gazes up at me.

“Please no,” I say.

“Unload, Kyle,” Roy says.

I open the door and Roy holds his arms out. I reach down and pull the lever to open the trunk. I then pick Roy up and manage to get him onto my back. I walk to the back of the car and pick up the bass amp and a few other things and begin the march back to the stage. The emotional anguish of something like this always makes me wonder about my life choices. Roy bobs along on my back like a child. He whispers “Weee” into my ear the whole time.

We get sound checked.

“Okay, I need the main vocal mic,” the sound guy says.

“Check,” Roy says, then turns away from the mic. The sound guy looks at the stage expectantly.

“I think he needs more,” I say.

“No he doesn’t.” Roy turns to the sound guy. “That’s all you need. Make it work. Lots of reverb.”

The sound guy half-chuckles “You want to sound like God out here?”

“I already sound like God, man! I just want some fucking reverb!” Roy screams into the microphone, punching the air three times in rapid-fire succession.

We finish the sound check and play the show. Roy almost calls off the set three times because “Can someone turn down the fucking wind?” No one could turn down the wind.

The final chord rings out and I feel a swell of relief.

I put my guitar away and carry Roy and the amps back to his car.

I return to the square and enjoy the cool breeze and the smell of food and the sounds of people talking and laughing. I remember how this was. I remember what it is to love music. I go to a local tavern and drink until it doesn’t hurt anymore.


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