Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hellandback 9

Being a band manager is an a thankless, unglamorous vocation even if the musical act is established and successful. Being one for an unsigned, almost famous rock band is visciously unrewarding. Greg Cooke met Agent Tangelo two years earlier in a McDonald's parking lot in Panama City, Florida when the band's drummer, Kyle Jackson, asked him if he could jump off their battery deprived van. By the time he got their 10 year old junker of a band vehicle on the road, he had agreed to help them travel to their two gigs in Destin later that week and put them in touch with a lawyer friend who could help them with a financial planner. Like feeding a stray cat in a rainstorm, he couldn't rid himself of Agent Tangelo. In a month, he became their road manager, loaned them 11 thousand dollars and helped precipitate his divorce from a disapproving wife. Like most entertainment support people, Greg was fascinated with music and musicians as a teenager. He had been in a bad grunge rock act for 5 months as a freshman in college, He sold his drum kit only a year before crossing paths with Agent Tangelo. Being part of Agent Tangelo ascent had been one of the greatest personal experiences of his life, divorce and financial strain aside. The band was a fulltime job but he balanced day trading and tax preparation for friends and family while collecting low pay as their business voice. What happened next, he should have expected, but hearing Agent tangelo's honest chords and soul baring riffs on a nightly basis had blinded him to the reality that he was a short term answer to Agent tangelo's management needs.

Agent Tangelo's rehearsal was schedule for 5pm. Each member, their manager, their road crew, and various hangerons knew that 5pm was optional for Silas Bane. On a average Silas was 20 minutes later. When Silas walked into the warehouse at 5:02pm everyone gasped. "What? I got some killer new ink. Who wants to see?", a clueless Silas announced. The next person to arrive brought an even more dramatic reaction. Lark McKissic strolled into the rehearsal space and answered Silas, "me too. Same spot. I think you know the artist." Silas' jaw didn't actually drop, but the facial expression was similar. Lark was there, unannounced and the band knew the news was both good and bad, it always was with a record company executive. Greg decided to speak next. "Guys, we have some developments. Things are going to be different, well, if you want them to be. Gotham Media wants to sign you guys, we all know that. They also want their management in place during the transition." Musicians hated this kind of speech. Guitarist and business major at Central Florida University, Drake Huntley, responded, "You want us to fire you and bring in some jack ass from Gotham to babysit us so we become some corporate puppet band, right Greg?" Greg answered quickly, "No Drake. Not at all. I want to still be your road manager but you need musical mentor to help with the first record for the label. You need someone who's more experienced than I am. I'm still going to be around. But it's time to reality check. Agent Tangelo is going to be big time. Big time requires a team of people." Silas hated the business part of being a musican. He always deferred to Drake and Greg. he was talent, they were business. Now was a time for Silas to show some leadership. "Let me see your tattoo, Ms. McKissic." Lark gently removed her bandage and Silas removed his. They noticed the shading, the steady lines, the use of color. Silas smiled and said, "How does Dean Hellenbach fit in to all of this, Ms. McKissic? I know you two worked together back in the day?" His band members looked puzzled. Greg Cooke saw the freight train starting down the track, Lark gave the news, "I just came to an agreement with Dean Hellenbach, former singer-songwriter of the band Hellandback to help manage you guys through the New York trip next week. his name and his industry contacts will grease the rails. You all will be pleased with what he can help with. The key is you all stay focused, relatively sober, and kick a lot of ass for the next 7 gigs covering 10 days. You do that and we will all be very rich and famous." Silas looked at Greg and saw anguish not jealousy nor envy. Silas went over to pick up a guitar and start tuning. Greg wanted the band to pay attention to getting ready for their sets later that night and said, "Lark, why don't you and I talk about the advance for the band and let them practice." They walk out of the warehouse, Silas looked arounds, sees the three guys he met during his junior year of high school. He was a year younger than each of them. They needed a leader during an uncertain time so he spoke. "We don't have to do this. We can stay indie and still make enough money to survive. " Drake felt like punching the chick magnet media darling for trying to pose as a starving artist. Silas wanted to be famous just like they did. Drake said "we're a genre bending band. we play power pop mixed with hard rock. Our only hope in selling records and being heard is with a major label. Gotham has all the resources, They're just evilish or whatever. Plus I hate that ice queen. She makes me want to punch toddlers." Kyle, the drummer and Nate McNeil, the band's bassist and keyboard player, laughed, Nate offered a compromise, :what about being like Radiohead? Ok Go? They release their stuff online and are like independent contractors with the major labels? Drake wanted to hurt Nate now, who was like a toddler, mentally. Silas spoke, "yeah what about that?" No one said anything. Drake and Silas began playing their guitars. Without even taking a band vote, Agent Tangelo just became a major label band with a record contract, to be signed in a few days, in New York City.

Greg and Lark stood outside the warehouse. Lark said "you still smoking Greg?" He nodded yes and Lark walked over to her car, flipped the hatch and reached inside her briefcase and retreived a pack of marlboro lights. Greg was surprised. "I thought you were a fitness person, Lark. You spend more time in the gym than a bodybuilder." Lark rarely explained herself to anyone and considered his question a sign of ungratefulness but she sighed and responded, "everyone in this business drinks, smokes, drugs, or has some digusting habit I have to deal with. I might as well promote the lifestyles as well as the talent." Greg ignored her arrogance and condescension and asked an important question, "Why Dean Hellenbach? He;s never managed before. He's an over the hill musician and producer. I mean he's a tattoo artist and t-shirt shop owner. What can he do?" Lark stared at Greg and in her coldest delivery said "leave." Greg took a long drag off the freshly lit cigarette and answered, "what? you can't just make me go. The band has to agree to that until that contract is signed." Lark went to the hatch of her car, pulled out a pouch and took money and handed it to Greg. "there's 50 thousand. That will get you to whatever mediocre livelihood you were destined before you tried to play Brian Epstein to the Central Florida Beatles. Leave. I don't need you. This band doesn't need you. You are giving me a headache. When I get a headache, I get annoyed. Then I start making bad things happen. Leave. Before the bad happens." Greg Cooke stood there, amazed, almost frozen by the threat of this tall, mean spirited woman. He gave the money back and said "Let me talk to the band. I'll tell them something lame then I'll check out of the Seashell and head back to Orlando. Our agreement was 100 thousand off the top of the advance and I would act as a road manager consultant for six months. I'll honor that agreement." Lark wanted to tell him that he wouldn't make it to Orlando, but her headache was real, her anger was building, and she never liked Greg's small time thinking. As far as she as concerned, what was about to happen to him, was deserved. She put the money away in the car and said nothing as they walked into the warehouse rehearsal space and spoke with Agent Tangelo.

Dean Hellenbach was sick to his stomach and whiskey wasn't making him feel better. He placed his half empty tumbler on the deck of his townhouse and walked into the bathroom. A coldness overtook his spine and hr dropped to his knees. The nausea subsided and he could not deny the way hhe felt, physically, was similar to what he was like twenty years earlier when he delt with Lark, Gotham Media, and the man in the black suit. He heard his cell phone ring in the other room was he was still to weak to move quickly enough to answer. Someone else did. "Hello. Hey mallory, it's Evelyn. I just got home. He's here. He's sick, probably something he ate, it doesn't sound good in there. You guys handle things for him there and we'll catch up with you later at the concert. Thank you Mallory. bye" Evelyn walked into the bathroom and looked down at him. "Are you drunk or did I actually speak some truth to Mallory?" Dean wanted to be alone and just thin, he shouted back to her, "No, I am not drunk!" He bounded from the bathroom tile and walked agressively  past his girlfriend. "I don't want to fight with you, Dean, but I can't just let you order me out of your shop, not call me all day, and refuse my help when you obviously need it." Dean grew more belligerent, "Leave me alone right now. I don't want your help!" Evelyn walked lightly into the bedroom, picked some clothes and a few other things from drawers and picked up her keys. "Dean, I love you, you know that. You may not want to hear that right now, but I think you need to hear it. You moods, your periods of misery are just too much sometimes, and I can't always allow you to push me away when you carry the world on your back. I will meet you later at your shop or the show, you pick. I'll get ready over at my friend Olive's place. I'm watching her cats while she's in Miami with her mom. I'll keep my cell phone on. Evelyn walks over to him, leans in to kiss his cheek and tightly hugs him from his right side. Dean said nothing as she left the townhouse. Dean sits on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands for several minutes. He looks up and briefly sees a her reflection in the mirror. He turns around and see no one. Dean yells, Fiona!

Greg arrives back at the Seashell feeling flush, feverish. He walks into his roon and open the fridge and takes out an ice pack and a Heineken. He walks to the patio door and opens it to take in some beach air when the wind suddely stops, and the room grows quiet. He turns around and see a man in a black suit, with a white dress shirt, open collar, no tie, and charcoal eyes staring through him. Greg, it has been a while since we have talked. Three years, if I remember correctly. Greg, feeling almost faint, can't believe he's seeing the man again. "What do you want?" Greg asks. The man in the black suit extends his hand and unfurls his long, pale fingers to hand Greg Cooke several pills. "You, Greg. You have served your purpose, well, I might add. Agent Tangelo, the music scene, even my lovely Lark, they have all been proud of your work, but it is time for you to be pushed aside. Take these Greg. It will help you cushion the fall." Greg looks into the man's eyes and sees them flame in the pupils. He takes the pills and swallows them with a mouth full of beer. "Why, why now, I was going to leve eventually after the band got through everything." The man answered curtly, "You have to go now Greg. It is time." The man in the black suit reaches out his right arm and Greg's throat closes quickly so that Greg can't make any noise. Then the man thrusts his right arm like an NFL running back to a linebacker and throws Greg out the window over the patio. Three floors later laying on the concrete, blood pours out of his mouth, his neck broken. Greg Cooke was dead.

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