Saturday, July 09, 2011
By: Jesse Edwardson
Johnny Rock has never felt a groove as sweet as the groove he was digging tonight. He and his band, Johnny Rock and the Rollers, were only twenty minutes into their first set and they weren't missing a beat. Sydney the bass player, who Johnny thought looked a little like Bob Ross, that painter guy on TV, was playing with his eyes shut. A sure sign that he was in the zone. Robby the drummer, who was usually drunk before the gig and passed out after the gig, was playing sober and keeping things tight. Ziegler, on keyboards, was already breaking a sweat. They were all feeling the groove, and so was the crowd.
The dance floor was packed with sweaty bodies gyrating to the sounds of the band. Johnny could see everything that happened on the floor from his spot on stage. Girls dancing with only their friends and trying to ignore the guys, guys dancing with their empty beer glasses trying to look cool, and couples who seem to have it all figured out by dancing real close together, Johnny watched it all from behind the mic. He really got off on seeing people enjoy the music he and the band played. It made all the time spent learning to play the guitar worth while.
The band was reaching the end of the song they were playing. Johnny hoped the dance floor wouldn't clear out like it sometimes can at the end of a good song. Dancing people get thirsty and through all of the years playing in bars and nightclubs Johnny has always felt that the band and the bar were caught up in a kind of “tug-o-war” with each other, using the crowd as a rope. The funny thing was though, “last call” always came before the last song of the gig so in a way the band always won the fight.
“Alright, is everyone having a good time?” Johnny spoke into the mic as the last chord of American Band rang out. The crowd cheered back their answer. “Good, good, we are Johnny Rock and the Rollers and let's keep the groove going and the dance floor full with a great Rolling Stones song that's asking for a little Sympathy for the devil!” Johnny announced into the mic.
Robby started drumming the intro. Johnny began singing and Ziegler came in with the piano right on cue.
As Johnny finished the opening line “Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste.” he noticed a door in the back of the club open up. The door was at the top of some stairs. It must be the office of the club owner, Johnny thought. A tall, thin man stepped out onto the landing. He was wearing a pure white suit complete with a vest and a black silk tie. It looked very expensive. The man pulled the door shut and crossed his arms. He stood there on the landing and watched the band.
Johnny caught his eye. The owner gave Johnny a quick wink and slight nod of his head. He nodded back. The owner smiled. Johnny thought maybe the man was feeling the groove just the same as the band and the crowd were. There is just something sublime about a sweet groove.
“Whoo, Whoo, Whoo, Whoo, Whoo, Whoo, Whoo, Whoo,” Sydney and Ziegler came in with the backing vocals and for once they were singing in key. Johnny gave Ziegler a smile of approval, Ziegler winked back. He thought the night couldn't get any better. The dance floor stayed packed and the band was tight.
He glanced back up at the owner. He was still standing with his arms crossed and he was still smiling but the smile didn't reach his eyes. Johnny thought he looked a little creepy. His teeth were blazing white, just like his suit. His eyes looked black, just like his tie. Johnny didn't recall seeing this man earlier when they were setting up their equipment.
And that was when something in Johnny's head clicked. He couldn't remember setting up for the gig. He couldn't remember playing Johnny B. Goode, the song they always open with. He could, however, remember driving here. He remembered arguing with Robby about who was a better drummer, Keith Moon or John Bonham. Then he remembered swerving to miss a dog that was in the middle of the road. He could remember the sound of the tires screeching and finally he remembered seeing a big tree filling the windshield and that was it.
Johnny looked out into the crowd and could finally see, really see everything as it really was. The Glamour had been lifted. Everyone on the dance floor looked exhausted and miserable. He couldn't spot one bartender at the bar. Every glass, every bottle in the joint was empty. He looked over to Ziegler and saw his life long friend staring back at him with horrible fright. Ziegler had already realized what was happening. Sydney, with his Bob Ross beard, kept the backing vocals going like a man who couldn't help himself. “Whoo, Whoo, Whoo, Whoo, Whoo, Whoo, Whoo, Whoo,” he and Ziegler sang in unison. Johnny wasn't quite sure what was really going on but they needed to stop playing. He now felt as though he had been playing non-stop for days.
Johnny was at the climax of the solo and tried to stop playing his guitar. His hands wouldn't obey, they kept right on playing with well practiced skill. His arms ached and his throat felt like he had been breathing fire instead of air, but he could not stop playing or singing.
He looked back up the staircase at the owner. He was still smiling. In his head, Johnny heard the voice of the man at the top of the stairs. “Now you understand. You are mine and you will keep playing that song until I grow tired of it. But don't get your hopes up, it is my favorite.” The owner opened the office door and entered. The last of him that Johnny saw was a thin red tail coming out from under his suit coat. The tip of the tail was shaped like a barbed spear point.
The band played on.
“Whoo, Whoo, Whoo, Whoo, Whoo, Whoo, Whoo, Whoo,”