Vail, CO – “First Headline” – The Double Diamond – December 6, 1998

Jeremy is predictably late, so even though I begged him to be on time for this, our first real headlining show, it was no surprise to anyone he wasn’t there for soundcheck at 5:00.   But when Jeremy wasn’t there at 6:00 or at 7:00 either, Greg (our sound man and Brian’s brother) checked his mic and guitar for him and we figured he’d make it to the venue before dinner.

But when he still wasn’t there by 8:00 and then 9:00, we started getting worried. It was Colorado’s first big snowfall of the season, and some roads were being closed for those without snow tires or 4-wheel drive.  “Mercury’s in Retrograde” explained the large busted hostess overhearing our predicament.   I checked the state police report for accidents but Kipp reassured me, “Jeremy has a four-wheel, brand-new Rodeo. He’ll be fine.”   

When Jeremy called at 9:30 we were just sitting down to dinner at an Asian fusion place in town.  

“I’ve been in an accident!” he reported, “I flipped my car twice!  My car is totally totaled, man.” He sounded a little high.

“Are you alright?!?!  Where are you?” I yelled over the dinner time din.  “Kipp is coming to get you,” I reassured him.

“No.  Oh, no, no.  Well, thank Kipp for me but, no I’m OK, but I’m an hour away and I ain’t gonna make the show.”

“Where are you, Jeremy?!” His story was beginning to sound a bit fishy.

“I’m in a uh, uh a town near Vail,” he said fishing for a name. 

“Where?!” I wanted to know.

“Uh, a Best Western?”

Did he think I was a complete moron?  He clearly never intended to make it to this gig.  There was no way he was in an accident, a Best Western or an hour away.  This was complete bullshit.

Kipp grabbed the phone out of my hand and told Jeremy in no uncertain terms he was coming to get him.  At this, Jeremy pitched a fit.

“You’re so selfish man,” I heard his defensiveness bleed through the receiver.  “You think I’d make it to the show after I got in an accident man?!?  Who are you man?!  If you showed up in a van right now to pick me up man, I swear man, I would NOT get in that car with you man!” The line went dead and Kipp hugged me.   I stared at a poster of a volcano erupting on a wall and then one of a rainforest scene.  Tears fell out of my face.  Kenny and Brian came to my rescue.  They hugged me and rested their foreheads on my shoulders.  Though Jeremy was absent, for the first time, I felt like I had a real band. 

“My brother Greg can play a little guitar Sal,” said Brian.  “I have an idea, meet us back at the Diamond.  We’ll borrow a guitar from Paul at Howlin’ Wolf and start teaching Greg how to play the songs.”  It was a real last resort but there was nothing left to lose.  When I returned to the club the boys were in the dressing room, instruments in hand. “Let’s do this!” I said.

Our green room was humid with our nervous energy.  The stench of late-night parties and other band’s B.O. haunted the room.  We drank red wine from clear plastic cups and wiped the mirrors down when they fogged up with our enthusiasm.  With 40 minutes till the show, we crammed the mandatory ingredients for 8 songs into a guy who only knew how to play guitar a little.  We laughed at the impossibility of the situation and cursed Jeremy between sips.  There wasn’t a spare second to change into stage clothes in private. Between lyrics, I’d simply holler “Boys, close your eyes!” whip off my shirt, exchange it with a blouse, and yell “OK, Open,” repeating this exercise until I was stage-ready.

Greg McRae

At 11:15 Greg was as ready as he would be.  He felt confident, at least with the first set, and I propped cheat sheets on a scarecrow-like music stand for him on stage.  I entered the spotlight, and explained we were a man down but had enlisted a guy who knew a little guitar, to play our songs “What’s your name again?” I joked at Greg who joined me from stage left.  The audience roared and cheered on our courage as we set off into the unknown. 

Perhaps it was our low expectations or the grace of Dr. Theater but we pulled it off.  We knew intuitively which bridges to cut and what solos to modify.  We were in sync.  During the set break, between signing CDs and taking pictures, I taught Greg the second set and the last 8 songs sounded even better than the first.  People danced and clapped and bought CDs and congratulated us on a great first show.  We loaded up Moby as the last flurries of the early morning fell across Aspen mountains. 

Hitting our crusty, curtesy band-room beds I felt grateful, not angry. Though I must admit, I did get a twinge of satisfaction when I turned off the light and Kenny uttered, “Take that, Jeremy!”

Reader interactions

3 Replies to “Vail, CO – “First Headline” – The Double Diamond – December 6, 1998”

  1. 👍😊. Way to go Sally!

  2. Yeah – take that Jeremy! Great tale Sally wow what a stand up guy that he is – did you ever talk to him again? Guess I need to keep reading! xo

    1. Ha… keep reading. You’ll find out.

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