January 6, 1981

Cigs with Melanie at the Bluebird.

I went looking for Melanie, for her poetry reading was to be tonight at the Bluebird, and I found her there with the Cigs, working out the last kinks in the programme. I was immediately drafted to stand on stage with the crew while Melanie, Tim and Emily chanted the poem, my duty being to bang on a metal drum resembling a hubcap at rhythmic intervals specified. We rehearsed five times with the sound crew, making sure we all knew our parts and the sound boys knew when to come in with the echo machine.

The Cigs, I thought, arranged their show rather badly at first, starting off with “Down to Hell We Go!” which is alienating to a crowd unfamiliar with their stuff. [—I still clearly recall two college girls going into the restroom during this song just as I was coming out, looks of disgust and incomprehension on their faces.—] I sweated for them, for they pulled themselves out of their slump by the end of the first set. They made the mistake of throwing half their good dance numbers in at first, when it was still too early for heavy-duty dancing. There would have been no dancing at all in the first set had not Melanie and I braved the stares of the crowd to shake our bodies to “These are Wild Times.”

Melanie’s poem-reading came at the commencement of the second set. I was scared for her, since it was a large crowd of college bar-hoppers and as such was probably not interested in poetry. I was especially frightened by a group of three drunk and obnoxious college guys, probably frat men, who kept shouting wise-cracks at the stage. When the band went on stage at the beginning of the second set, the three guys began yelling “Louie, Louie!” and my heart sank. How far can you get from primitive rock than surrealistic poems beginning “Walking denial / muttering rage / vanishing horses,” punctuated by echoes, space music and hubcap banging? Surprisingly, we seemed to go over well, and Melanie received polite applause and even a few half-hearted cheers from the crowd. I was vastly relieved. I went to the dance floor and soon it filled up. I removed my jacket and tucked my long skinny tie into the top of my pants, and danced.

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