Soundcheck. Mudpackers have set up their kiddie tent in the rain. The stage and crew are different than last night. I give Fresta money to pitch in on the next box of Nicorette. Traci thinks the headliner should form a bluegrass band called Yonder Hinder. Before the show she and Marni and I find The Tavern downtown and have beers and a pickled egg. Gross.
When I return to the venue, the mood in the bandroom is gloomy. Travis is bumming pretty hard at the thought of facing the Hinder crowd again. Fact is, there could be – and usually are – hundreds of people cheering our set, but the eight or twelve hecklers by the stage will be all the voices Travis hears. Travis asks me to take off my new sunglasses before we go onstage. With a spirit of solidarity, I comply.
At one point someone yells "You suck."
Travis looks up from tuning his guitar and says simply. "I know." Then he starts the beginning of "The Downtown". "Ain't no one can kick my ass as good as I can," he says.
Although I think we play pretty well, it seems that for most of the set the negative energy gets the better of Travis – until the last song. Travis begins "Provider" and then stops. A few twists of his guitar strings and he starts strumming familiar chords we have not yet heard on this tour. We are closing with "The End."
The beginning seems a little shaky. After all, we haven't played the song in years and Malcolm has never played it, though you would not know it by how deftly he lays the shit out. The muse is eventually summoned, and Travis starts surging with electricity. "The children are insane," he sings directly into the faces of the crowd. Yes they are. After the words "Mother I want to fuck you all night long" echo through the gymnasium, the room explodes. As the murderous moment of the song dissipates, the lighting engineer in a stroke of genius turns off every light in the gymnasium. Thousands of kids scream in the dark as Travis intones "Kill…Kill…Kill..." It is a dangerous moment. We have conquered.
Fear not the dark cloud that rises yonder hinder.