grief deflates my ship.

What Under ACME used to look like.  The club itself was inside the doors, to the left, and down stairs.

What Under ACME used to look like. The club itself was inside the doors, to the left, and down stairs.

And thus it came time for the release party, which, if I remember, was at ACME.  I was pretty sure it would be the most awkward and uncomfortable experience of my young life.  I didn’t want to go, Sandy didn’t want to go, Rich didn’t want to go.  Matt wanted to go, but he said he didn’t, which was almost as good.

The place was an absolute mob scene.  Shoulder to shoulder people, and it was hot.  The Footstone guys were there, and so was Steve Bailey.  There were lots of Hoboken indie-types there.

I was just trying to hold it together, smile, and look like I was having a good time.  I knew that their new label owner could be anywhere; I had never met him, and had no idea what he looked like.  So there were no snarky comments, no snide remarks, as we had no idea who was around us.  We felt out of place, at a place that was our home.

Eventually, I saw Ray and Renee.  They both hugged us and thanked us for coming, told us how happy they were that we came.

“I wouldn’t have missed it,” I said. “I’m proud of you guys.  Congratulations.”

“Don’t let me forget to introduce you to Rick,” Ray said.  I smiled.

They smiled back, and were very gracious.  Then they moved on, mingling through the crowd.

I felt a hand on my shoulder, and turned around to look.  It was Max, the guitar player.  In all the time I had worked with the band, Max and I might have said two words to each other.  I shook his hand.

At one point I saw Ray talking to who could only have been their label owner, who was holding court at the bar.  I saw him glance at me a few times.

I don’t remember who they played with that night; common sense would tell me that it was Ditch Croaker and Ff, because those two bands were at a “higher level” than most of the other local bands.

What I do remember was that the band got onstage and played a blistering set.  With each song I was reminded of just how good they were; they were playing with an excitement and a joy that I’d never seen before.  It was as if they’d crossed some weird finish line, and were now taking their victory lap.  That’s what a release party should be like – it should be genuine, a celebration, and not just a marketing opportunity to kick off the promo blitz surrounding a new album.

I stood with Ralph and Sandy and a few others.  At one point, Renee hit a sour note in one of the songs.  Ralph looked at me and tilted his head to one side, the way a dog does when it hears a strange sound that bothers its ears.

It was, given the circumstances, one of the funniest things I’d ever seen, and I really appreciated him breaking the ice like that.

I never was introduced to the label owner.  After the set was over, they spent more time mingling, pressing hands with the people in the club, smiling and enjoying their success.  I sat in a corner for a while and waited while the club thinned out; eventually it was thin enough that I realized I wasn’t getting another handshake.  I was no longer in the picture. The night was over.

We went home.

And that was it.

~ by Al on April 26, 2009.

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