Conversion Party

Dear Hugo Chavez,

Conversion Party – A Primer

Conversion Party @ Piano's

Conversion Party @ Piano

We drank tallboys on the train. We slept on the cramped, plastic seats. We drank coffees. We ate greasy slices of pizza out of cardboard boxes. We took drugs. We threw up. We lugged guitars and amps and patches and pedals. We made it work.

We wrote songs. We practiced them in a dilapidated bathhouse complete with tile pool, power vac, lobster pot, chubblers, gonorrhea infested carpets, tin foil robots, ashtrays and beer bottles overflowing cigarette butts, musical equipment in various stages of decline. We heard death metal shredding when our music stopped.

We got back to the city. We held down jobs. They didn’t mean much. We looked forward to blowing our ears out in an old rotting bathhouse, giving ourselves hernias lifting old amps with silver grills. We had a different definition of a good time.

We came home nauseous, stinking, oily-faced, covered in cat hair, dog vomit. Girlfriends seethed. But the songs were good, like something we’d be glad to find. We decided to keep going.

We got on more trains. We ran through the Great Hall under the starry ceiling. We made them or missed them. We waited for the next one. We drank more beers. We waited for Potter to appear. We waited some more. He did or he didn’t. Potter could practice or he couldn’t.

“It’s a Conversion Party,” Potter said.

None of us knew what it meant. Something about it was funny to him. We liked the name. It stuck.

We screamed in a cavernous room. A Dominican woman came to our cave and listened, leaving us with her products. We drank and drank, trying to take the edge off.

Potter’s kick drum broke. He taped it with tape. It broke again. We stopped. He taped it again. His drums were in his roommate’s car. His drums were in the basement of the Brass Rail. We waited for the drums to arrive. We went to a bar and drank and played bar games. We video-golfed. We video-bowled. The bartender with emphysema ran her nails up my wrist. We waited to play. It got late. Night came. We played. It got later. We missed the last train. We watched the sun come up. We were lost and laughing in the Monday morning crush. We made it to work late. Our job performance suffered. We were always on the brink.

We fought like animals. Drop-down, drag-out fights where we enumerated running inventories of fault. We’d never be friends again. Not like before. We were. Personalities were ciphers, sphinxes, utterly inscrutable. We judged and were judged. We talked about replacing Potter, but we liked his drumming too much.

We wrote more songs. We didn’t know where they came from. They came roaring out of the boredom, like they’d been there all along. We decided to make demos. We decided not to make demos. We decided to make a record instead. We rented the nave of a small stone church, but canceled at the last minute.

Potter was in Bridgeport with Tom. Potter was asleep. Potter was working at the Wine Merchant. He wasn’t answering his phone. He didn’t have a phone. There was nobody home. He was nowhere to be found.

We went to a studio in Philadelphia. It could have been anywhere. We would barely leave one square block. We set up. We went to sleep. We woke up in the morning and drank too much coffee, got spooked. We wouldn’t pull it off. Too jittery, too much nervous energy in the room. We needed to get down basic tracks, but couldn’t. We got one down. Things started to roll. Hours passed strangely with no windows. We went in and did our takes, or waited. We recorded more. We did overdubs. We listened back and grinned. We were geniuses, idiots, savants, handsome auteurs. The drugs wore off, but the songs were still good. We worked and listened back, worked and listened back, until we didn’t trust our ears anymore.

Potter sat on the couch reading Vice. He wouldn’t speak for an hour, and then he’d suddenly look up and say, “No, leave it. It’s good.” We listened. We left it. He sat on the couch not saying anything and then went in and unfurled a wistful guitar part that brought up all the sails on the song. Our ears dropped from our heads like withered fruit.

We worked and listened back, worked and listened back. We went in and did our takes, until we were too fucking tired to do anything else. We waited while everyone else did their parts. We pulled off performances that were beyond our abilities. We were exhausted. It ended and this great wave of sadness washed over me.

We left, recovered, went back. We waited. The tracks came. Can you fix this? Trim that? Back-and-forth, back-and-forth. We waited. Then we held the thing in our hands.

We thought the record would speak for itself. It didn’t. We thought people would hear what we heard. Some did. Most didn’t. We played some shows. A few people came. Not many. We fought some more.

We found out what Conversion Party meant.

-by Alex Waxman

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