Thursday
May312012

The Mud and the Blood and the Beer

Day five of a bender isn’t pretty, as the boyish grease ball at the end of the bar can attest. Your eyes stop focusing, the heartburn erupts, and your short-term memory that has been shot for a couple of days starts to come back and fuck with your bearings. The shadows of your life-- the interventions, the strained relationships, the medical concerns-- haunt you, but they can’t really touch you until you come out of your self-induced haze. And when you find yourself hunched over yet another PBR in yet another Brooklyn dive, you can explain away a lot of it with a laugh. Mike Herrera, who woke up a few hours ago, downed a 40, and came down to happy hour, launches into yet another story, this one about chipping his tooth on his tour manager/spiritual advisor’s forehead after chugging a “Recipe for Disaster” (one pint glass, half whiskey, half vodka-- no ice) at some hotel in the southwest a couple of years ago. He smiles at the memory fondly, proud of his arsenal of fucked-up tour anecdotes. “You know how you can’t really tell how drunk you are when you’re swimming?” Well, he does.

Over a borrowed Camel, he remembers how the same week his band stole about 200 beers from a venue that stiffed them and rode back to New York on a high note. It was the last time they would make that trip as The Blackout Pact, the Boulder based post-hardcore fraternity with a legacy of childish antics, bar fights, and one-night stands. When I first saw them wreaking havoc on East Broadway’s 169 Bar during my first month in NYC, I took in the blood pouring down their faces at the end of their set and found myself saying the same thing so many others have said since: “That. Is my new favorite band.” At the time they had been on tour, non-stop, balls out, for almost a year, with no end in sight. They were living in their van and on people’s floors, and all of them smelled like a beer-soaked Mastadon t-shirt that’s been decomposing in a landfill for six weeks. They made their exploits a way of life, (right down to razor blade and pen ink tattoos) and embraced a passionate sense of loyalty to their fellow misfits and partners in crime. And, you know, they played some killer rock n’ roll.

Now, teetering on his stool, Mike reminds me less of a rock god and more of a ghost, back in his old haunt more out of habit than intention. He has a new band, most of his old crew, and the same bloody timbre in his voice, but nothing is the same, I know, for either of us. The Blackout Pact were a testament to the all-encompassing lifestyle of living the dream and hitting bottom, sweating, bleeding, and partying in a haze of punk ethos. They walked a razor’s edge between greatness and destruction, and found their end out west when someone got stupid and stole a computer from another band. The theft itself wasn’t such a big deal, it was the lying about it, the attempted cover-up, that killed the trust they held so dear. “The Sin City Combustion,” Mike calls it, and doesn’t want to elaborate, except to say, “We said the band was all or none of us, so. ‘The show is over, say goodnight.’”

So it ended as unceremoniously as it had survived, and left at least two of us broken hearted. When I laugh at his Madonna reference, Mike’s eyes seem to become uncharacteristically clear for a moment, and he puts his hand on my arm. “Listen honey, you have no idea what I’ve got up my sleeve.”

“More track marks?”

“Exactly. Now buy me a Black Label.”

And I do, hoping that somewhere up that sleeve is something pure and honest and ridiculous, something I can half adore and half fear. If there’s any strength left in him after this weekend, I hope he’ll reach all the way up to his heart, rip it out, and let me gawk at it once again.
Needless to say, Mike won’t give a fuck if he’s ever again in my, or anyone’s, favorite band-- it’s not about that, especially now.

Now it’s about getting back on the horse, trying again; About having the nuts to start over.

It’s about, if not growing up, at least moving on.

And, of course, it’s about the beer.

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