New York City, NY – “A Musical Reunion” -The Mercury Lounge – June 11, 1999

The venue wore vampire black…Typical of New York, so I wore red.

Our trip into my hometown earlier in the day was chaotic, to say the least. Cabs and trucks with signs that read “Caution: Toxic Material” darted in and out of our lane, expecting our extend-o-van, chock full of heavy musical equipment, to be able to stop on a dime. Brian, cursed behind his teeth, behind the wheel as he navigated the congested highways. It was a maddening cycle of stopping, accelerating (to avoid being cut off), and slamming on the brakes, all while backseat drivers yelled conflicting directions: “Not this exit,” “Get off now, turn left… Left!,” “Do not go over this bridge! Whatever you do, avoid the bridge! Oh no!” The heat was oppressive. We bit our nails to the quick and with every jolt, engaged in an impromptu, all-afternoon, abs workout. But eventually, we made it to the Mercury Lounge and somehow, despite the chaos, managed to call all our old friends to invite them, last minute, to tonight’s show.

We were two hours “fashionably” late for our sound check and asked to leave the stage almost as soon as we arrived so the staff could set up for the first event of the night; a fancy private party we clearly were not invited to.

If I were generous, I’d describe The Mercury Lounge’s greenroom as a dungeon designed for a play about Hades. We corkscrewed down so many castiron flights of stairs I lost count. The underground landscape was illuminated by yellow bulbs that flickered and jittered to the beat of the traffic above. We were escorted through a maze of insulated pipes painted black, down below the subway system, down deep into the hot belly of the dark city.

Huge mutant black flies buzzed threateningly passed us like knives swimming in shark-like patterns. How did they get down here? I wondered. They looked like part of some lost dinosaur lineage or a gruesome subset of the fly mafia. Our escort unfurled a spool of keys and ushered us inside a cell-like closet. Inside was a bench on a cement floor, and we took turns sitting on it, swatting away meaty mob boss flies and waiting for midnight for our set to begin.

When we were released from our jail-like greenroom and took the stage, the black box of a joint was full of friendly faces. I recognized people in the audience from 3rd grade, 6th grade, Tabor Academy, Brown University, and summer camp. I saw family friends, friends of family friends, friends I’d met on vacations, and even friends who insisted they were friends who I swear I’ve never seen before in my life.

My glorious brother Ben showed up with his girlfriend, Bridge to surprise me. I didn’t even know he was in the city. He sneakily jigged in front of the stage mid-set. His face shone out of the darkness like a Francisco Goya painting. I thought he might have shaved his head bald but when I instinctively called him up to sing with me, I saw he had, in fact, dyed his hair white blond; a style I hadn’t seen on him since grade school. He looked great and it was beyond glorious to have him with me on stage.

Wired after an inebriating gig, my brother, a crew of old friends, and a handful of new acquaintances who insisted they were old friends, cabbed it to Tribeca for dinner at Walker’s. Somehow I got stiffed with a $300-dollar bar tab. So much for new old friends.

Back across town, we limped, through the slow strobe of lamp-lit streets, to our pal Ian’s pad. The last surviving soldiers of our group hiked a steep flight of marble stairs to find our beret-wearing host at his door wearing a guitar and little else. Inside, the party raged on. With a hodge podge of Ian’s instrument-wielding friends, we played until 4:00 a.m.

An air-conditionless apartment made near nudity a necessity and we stripped and nessled into a pile of Moroccan rugs. A dozen candles guttered in the early morning air. An assortment of comfy sofas cupped out tired bones. Incense billowed through stained glass bay windows, and a tall arched ceiling offered the perfect amount of reverb to our well-spent voices. The music and incense eventually lullabied me and tucked me into colorful dreams. I fell asleep on a velvet maroon sea of a sofa, my head propped against a stranger’s shoulder, my feet rolled up like a splif, in a sheepskin rug.

Reader interactions

4 Replies to “New York City, NY – “A Musical Reunion” -The Mercury Lounge – June 11, 1999”

  1. LOVE the description of the Hades- like greenroom with the prehistoric shark flies! You have an incredible gift for painting images with your words.


    1. nancy lynn brewerton May 17, 2024 at 5:38 am

      Yes! I thought the same❣️


      1. Why thank you miss you! Ms. Nancy!


    2. Thank you sister. I like to think art is just one thing so painting with words or yarn or sound or paint are all just one thing coming out through different gestures. I love you and feel so blessed to have you on this journey with me.


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