“The shelf in the room
has been so true
I can hide in
the shelf in the room”
I remember hearing this song on the radio in 1998, when I was a senior in high school. There was something about it that haunted me. I probably had to hear it several more times to catch who sang it, so that I could make the trek to the next town over and get the CD.
1998 was a weird year for me. It was the year my spirit was broken. I was on the second year of an insanely abusive relationship. I had quit dance classes, playing the guitar, but also fiddling with substances. I would graduate soon, move to Austin the very next day because I hated the town I lived in so much, but would also then be under complete control of my then boyfriend. I was taking classes I was supposed to take for college, playing sports when I didn’t care about it, and attempted to hang around the ‘right crowd’. I would be in college in the summer, at the school my parents wanted me to go to rather than the one I wanted to go to. At a time when you’re supposed to feel empowered to do anything, be anything, be free…..I was crossing dreams off my list. I had resigned myself to the life everyone else wanted for me: run the family business, get married to the high school ‘sweetheart’, have a house in the ‘burbs. I retired my free spirit; put her in the closet for what I thought might be forever.
There was something about driving an hour south of the city to go to this show that brought me right back to being in high school. I had to drive an hour to go to the few shows I saw back then. And then stepping into this venue, a space that tried to be high on style but was low on substance; it felt very Texas. Even the people there; it was like being transported back. We were definitely not in San Francisco anymore.
The band onstage confused me, so instead I sipped my vodka cran and surveyed the place. It was funny how the bands performing seemed almost secondary to a lot of the crowd, as they drank beer, ate fried food, and ensued in mating rituals.
I was excited to see Nova finally, after listening to their album off and on for about a year. This SF band may be flying under the radar a bit now, but the inclusion of their song ‘You Are Dirty Water’ on the Iron Man 2 game soundtrack should propel them forward. I was really impressed by them. Not only did they sound great, but they had a good stage presence that really drew me in. They are pretty clean cut and innocent looking for a hard rock band, but they proved that one shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. Half a song in and the bassist’s mic stand has been swatted down into the audience. Another mic stand bit the dust somewhere else in the set. A cup of water and ice was kicked, bathing the stage in the process. It was enough to have the sound guys giving them dirty looks. They played mostly new songs, until the end of the set, when their obvious comfort level with this older material changed the vibe a bit. Speaking of the end of the set, they closed with ‘You Are Dirty Water’, and were walking off the stage when someone from the venue runs over and tells them to stall…play another song. I’ve never seen this happen before, and it wasn’t til later that I understood why. So they got back up there, did another number, and ended up basically serving as the headliner for the night.
About a half hour later, I hear an acoustic guitar start to be played. I go to the stage, and there is Travis Meeks….and a semi circle of acoustic guitars behind him….and that’s it. Apparently he fired his band the week before. After getting over the fact that this set could be billed as ‘Days of the New‘ instead of a solo show…..because I mean, really, I get that he’s the main guy but aren’t we all here to see a band? Anyway, then I start looking at him up there, watching his behavior. He’s strumming away, obviously just jamming, not singing a word. His clothes are ill fitting; he looks gaunt.
I’ve seen Scott Weiland high on stage, I’ve seen Anton Newcombe drunkenly rant on stage, but those guys still played their songs, and played them well. It was pretty apparent that wasn’t the case with Travis Meeks. I’ve been around addicts my whole life, but it never makes me any less sad when I see something like this unfold. After about 15 minutes of a jam, we decided to leave. I just couldn’t watch. Perhaps he turned it on after, but I just couldn’t bear being a part of it. I was shocked that the crowd seemed into it- clapping even; that would not go over well in SF.
Later on I would find out that Travis Meeks was on Intervention.
Walking back into my apartment at 1am, I thought about how it’s been about a year since I decided to pry open that closet and dust off my old free spirit. With my heart and mind open to the world again, I am slowly finding my weird, meandering path of self discovery. While I didn’t get to hear that song that set me off on this introspection live, a roadtrip to see music on a school night reminded me that I may be 30 now, but my teen spirit is still very much alive.
“The key is so distant
I’ve opened up doors
Know when to listen
Know when to listen for”