Arts & Culturethe athens of georgia

Chapter 11: Rock and Roll Heaven

Things did not seem to bode well for the Caledonia show, when Midnight Jesus was scheduled to play second-to-last—their most prominent billing yet—and they’d be debuting a set of completely new and substantially revised songs that suddenly seemed half-baked and ill-chosen. The days leading up to it were terrible—Tim was having daily panic attacks and obsessing about his “stage moves,” introducing increasingly spastic new ones at every practice; Chad Dickel was AWOL for the entire Thursday before the Saturday show, and their hearts were in their throats for the 36 hours before he finally texted them and asked when they were practicing; Jesse sprained his ankle stepping in a pothole on the way home from work and had to play his bass sitting in a chair. At least once in every practice that week they ended up in a shouting match.

Genevieve’s parents’ friends kept telling her how much they had wanted to see her play and how sweet she’d been as a teenager in her marching band costume (“the drum was bigger than you!”).

“It’s a rock and roll show,” her dad would tell them, wiggling his eyebrows. “No geezers allowed, she says.”

Then, whatever family friend was sitting in the kitchen drinking herbal tea and eating cookies would straighten his or her Hawaiian shirt indignantly and reveal that he or she had been a regular at CBGB in the ’70s or had followed the Grateful Dead for five years after college. Susan’s research assistant Sunita and her husband had seen Metallica, Megadeth and Iron Maiden at the Rock ’N India festival when they were getting their master’s degrees.

We’re not that good yet,” Genevieve told them, trying to hide her agitation. “Maybe you can see us someday.” She could see them wondering how such nice people had ended up with such a mean daughter, and she felt persecuted.

“What you’re playing in your room sounds good,” her dad said. “Much more precise. She’s been practicing with a metronome,” he’d explain. It was mortifying.

But on Saturday, the stars began to align. Jesse had convinced Chad to stay with him at his brother’s house on Friday night, and Chad decided of his own volition that he wouldn’t drink at all until he had a couple of beers before the show to loosen up. Tim had settled on a combination of hopping and head-shaking that felt comfortable and wasn’t completely objectionable. Genevieve had taken her things to Caspian’s house on Friday, where she was pet-sitting while Waning Gibbous played in North Carolina and Virginia, and the break from her family had calmed her nerves somewhat. Caspian apologized profusely for missing her show, but she was glad he wouldn’t be there, since she didn’t want to have to see her band through his eyes. If anything was amateurish, he’d know better than anyone, and she didn’t want to second-guess whether he was just being nice if he complimented them. Anyway, he wasn’t that into hardcore.


Photo Credit: Kelly Hart

A decent-sized crowd had formed at Caledonia by the time Bezzy started at 10:30, and they seemed ready to rock. Genevieve, Tim and Jesse huddled together in the back of the room, drinking High Lifes and nervously shouting in each other’s ears about logistics as Bezzy crashed its way through its first songs, which were admittedly rough, definitely way less formed than anything Midnight Jesus was planning on. Chad was up in front of the stage, throwing his hulking body around and shaking his head to the music. Genevieve saw him pull a flask from his pocket and pour its contents down his throat. While they played, Genevieve ran to the bathroom to pee about five times and to check that her eyeliner wasn’t running down her face Alice Cooper-style and to reassure herself that the leather bustier she’d worn as an ironic metal-chick nod was awesome and not stupid. The club was tropically hot and so, so loud. She was pretty sure her deodorant wasn’t working. Friends kept grabbing her to say hi and good luck. She’d taken an Adderall before they’d unloaded their equipment, but she still felt loopy and distracted. She saw Tim rush to the bathroom and was certain it was to throw up, which he’d done most of the times they’d played out.

During The Forward Path’s set, right before theirs, she saw Casey come in with her friend Jackson, looking very Athens with an unshaven face and in a vintage plaid shirt she’d never seen him wear. Actually, he looked good, even though she was annoyed with him. He hadn’t spoken to her since the night she and Caspian had left him at her friend’s party in Boulevard. She’d texted him a couple of times but he hadn’t returned her messages. She knew he saw her, but he pretended not to, and she felt a flare of anger. She hated that kind of college-boy crap.

After all the worry and sleepless nights and fighting, Midnight Jesus nailed everything from the start. Genevieve had convinced them all to practice to a metronome, and all their parts synced perfectly. And the energy was amazing. Chad was going wild, lunging around like a rock god as he soloed. Tim’s hopping thing actually ended up complementing Chad’s theatrics; if he appeared in some moments to be having a grand mal seizure, it at least came off as intentional. For Jesse to be standing up at all on his ankle was a major sacrifice, but even he still managed to groove a little. Genevieve could feel sweat flying off her body as she pounded on her kit and felt the music vibrating through her body. And the audience was getting into it. Chad’s friends were slam-dancing near the front, and all the guys behind them were at least nodding their heads enthusiastically. The room was full. Their first songs flew through them effortlessly.

Casey was standing right in her sight line, in the back of the room near the door, just leaning against the wall with his arms folded. His dark hair was falling in his eyes and she couldn’t read his expression in the moment she focused on him before turning back to the music. She knew he was Midwestern and never danced, but somehow he still radiated a malignant energy that chilled her joy a degree. Jackson was dancing like a crazy man near the front and pumping his fist and cheering. He was the best friend to bring to any show, and the sight of his beaming face revived her.

Genevieve was glad she’d worn the leather top after all. The feeling of so many eyes on her was amazing. She’d played a lot of shows already, including at Caledonia, but this one was by far the best. She’d never been so good before and had never cared so much about the individual songs. By the time they got to “Sex with Trees,” their final, eight-minutes-long song, they knew they’d won everyone over.

“Thank you so much,” Chad rasped into the microphone when they finished. His shirt was soaked through and his hair was drenched. His meaty hands flopped at his sides. He was grinning ear to ear. “We’re Midnight Jesus. Antigravity’s Rainbow is up next.” He bowed a little as the crowd clapped and cheered and the rest of them made their way offstage.

“You guys were amazing!” Jackson shouted, clapping Genevieve on the back. “You rocked my socks off.”

Casey had disappeared.