The day after we learn that Chase had passed Tyler, Brandon and myself had to ask ourselves if we were going to cancel all of our upcoming show, or play them. It was too soon to think about, but it was on our minds. We had a brief talk, holding back tears and pacing back and forth. Some of our upcoming events were no-brainers. We had to cancel them, but there was one that we felt like Chase would have wanted us to play.
Three months ago we had been approached to open for SmashMouth (If you've seen Shrek, you know the one). It was going to be the culmination of all of our hard work for the past year. Our first shot to see if we were good enough to hold our own with the best of them. We had talks about what dumb stuff we were going to pull on stage I.E. having someone dressed as Lord Farquaad come on stage. When we first learned that our music had been cleared by SmashMouth's management, we all went out and had a celebratory drink (or two). It was a bucket list thing for a few of us (myself included).
Now we're back in the present, one week before the show. Things seemed so much bleaker. Something we had thought to be a celebration, was now our personal version of a memorial service. We decided to do our best to honor him and put his keys on stage. Chase's younger brother Hudson asked if he could be a part of our crew for the night. We were more than happy to have him there, in fact, we decided to have him play a couple of Chase's parts. Cowbell on one song and keys on another (The Mickel bros are very quick learners it appears).
The day of the show, I woke up with an entirely unique feeling. I felt devastated and elated at the same time. Those aren't feelings that usually go together. There was a tightness in my chest all day. Not on the verge of a panic attack, but in the ballpark. We packed up the van, went to the venue. Kate and I sat in silence as we drove from the practice space to the house, not because something was wrong, but because we understood the heaviness of the moment. Moods lightened when we got there. We started unloading, met a few of the members, tried our best to enjoy the moment. Soundcheck was tough. we loaded our gear on stage, including Chase's keys. There they sat, alone for the first time. When someone passes away, it can feel like they just went away to college and aren't coming back or they bought a one-way ticket to the other side of the world. Maybe it's just a way to cope, but that's sort of how I processed it. This was one of 4 or 5 times when it felt very apparent, this time being the most apparent. I tried not to look at Kate while we sound checked. She's watched almost every single show and saw us grow. Her tear filled reaction made it difficult and now was no time to break down. We had to be strong for each other and Chase.
The crowd begin growing, we were safely tucked into a make shift green room. Spirits were light, but the room was heavy. We made our way to the stage. 800 people eagerly waiting for SmashMouth, probably not even aware that there was an opener. We were announced and I walked on stage, grabbed my mic and said a few words about Chase and promised the crowd that we were going to rock out harder than we ever have. Just like that we were off. John joined on stage for the first song, screaming like he usually does. He came up too early and had to dance around for a minute. He has really been our 5th member. He's always coming to the rescue when there's a problem, he's been our sound man and recording engineer and Chase really had a special love for him.
We were off and rolling, with each song we became more and more aware of his absence. There were parts where only he and I played, now there was nothing but the sound of my drum set, no melody, no stupid awkward glances that we'd give each other. The resounding cheers from the crowd keep bringing a little smile to my face. He would have been so proud. Hudson did a fantastic job. He wore Chase's vest and embodied his spirit in such a perfect way. Our set finished and we packed up our gear. We made it through and felt as if we triumphed through tragedy. I can breathe easy. We all took a moment to absorb our feelings. we joined the audience for SmashMouth, we must have high fived 200 people. The vibes and love from the crowd was uniquely special. SmashMouth killed of course, we had a lot of fun, but it wasn't about opening for them or having some musical triumph. It was about honoring his memory in another way.