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Freeway & the Vin Numbers

Novel By: Jack Chaucer
Song lyrics



A Rhode Island band channels the late great Jimi Hendrix and wows pop-weary fans. Dozens of original song lyrics. View table of contents...


Chapters:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Submitted:Jul 31, 2010    Reads: 120    Comments: 0    Likes: 2   


My name is Saturn Satriale and I'm a bartender at the Heartbreak Lounge in Providence. How did I get my name? My late parents apparently were into alliteration and fucking under the stars. Yes, I know. Saturn is a planet.
Anyway, the first time I saw Freeway & the Vin Numbers was a Friday night in early October. They opened for The Agents and a bunch of other bands. Because they were the first band to go on, probably around 9 or so, I was one of the few people there to hear them play. Heartbreak Lounge stayed open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, so most people didn't show up until 10:30 or 11. The headliners usually played two sets and didn't take the stage until 11:45. By then, we'd typically have a few hundred people jamming and mingling into the long, rectangular area between my bar and the wide stage on the opposite side of the spacious club, which was enjoying a successful rebirth after being converted from a downtown department store way back in the day.
As the bottom rung on the ladder of bands for the evening, Freeway & the Vin Numbers only had about a half hour to play before the second band would boot them off and start setting up. Other than myself, two other bartenders and several security people, there were probably no more than 10 early drinkers in the club to catch the opening band.
Because it's my least busiest time of the night by far, I actually have time to listen to the opening bands in between rare interruptions from a thirsty customer. Most of the time I wish it was the other way around. Obviously, I'd much rather have more time to pay attention to the headliners because they are always far better than the opening act. In fact, most opening bands suck.
But on this particular Friday night, I was in for a big surprise. Nobody had ever heard of these guys because it was their first show. Nobody even knew their name when they came out. They didn't have it written on the drum kit or anything. I couldn't help but watch this strange collection of characters emerge from the darkness and take their places under the multi-colored lights that beamed down on the stage. Their clothing was completely drab -- they all wore dark-hooded sweatshirts, blue jeans and white sneakers. But one guitar player on the far left was very tall, black and had an afro that was twice the size of his head. There was a microphone stand in front of him. Another black guy had a red bandana tied around his head and just stood there, front and center, glaring at the handful of people in front of the stage. No microphone, no instrument. Next to him was a handsome, skinny Italian-looking white kid who had a bass and a microphone. On the far right, there was another tall, lean guitar player who had long dark mullet, bug eyes and a crazy-looking face. He also had a microphone. And way back there on the drums sat a bowling ball of a guy with a buzz cut.
Chase and Amy, the other two bartenders that evening, both laughed as we looked at the band and then at each other. I laughed, too, and tried to brace my ears for the nasty 30 minutes of noise that was sure to follow.
"You're the lucky few … to hear our debut," the lead singer confidently rhymed into his microphone. "We're Freeway & the Vin Numbers. Wake the dead. Rock is back, baby!"
With that, the bass and drums launched into a groovy, thumpy beat and the lead singer had a great, edgy voice for someone so young. He had spiked, short dark hair and looked no more than 19 or 20. His fingers deftly worked the bass as his voice filled the nearly empty room in front of him:
"Packing sixes and rolling sevens,
Living hells and dying heavens,
Chasing moons and seeing stars,
Shooting beams and smashing cars,
Gambling todays and paying tomorrows"
Wow, I thought to myself at the time. That's pretty catchy for an opening band. They sound pretty good. Then the guy with the afro walked next to the black guy who was just standing there, stepped on a pedal and started jamming with his flashy red guitar. He was so charismatic and the riff was so catchy that I totally didn't see a customer had walked up to the bar. The afro guy shifted back toward his microphone stand and the lead singer cranked his voice up a notch to match the crunching guitar for the chorus. The afro guy and the bug-eyed mullet guy harmonized backing vocals after the lead singer belted out each line of the chorus:
"Papa was a gravestone (still is),
Mama worked the brass pole (still does),
Uncle was a mobster (still is),
Auntie rocked the lobster (still does)"
What the? The few people standing in front of the stage were totally into it right off the bat, too, bopping their heads to the uptempo beat.
The customer waved at me and finally got my attention away from the band. He just wanted a beer, so I cracked open a bottle, poured it in a plastic cup and served it up. He gave me a nice tip because I looked especially hot that night, I thanked him and refocused on the band. I missed most of the second verse, but I heard:
"Gambling todays and losing tomorrows
… But I'm still stuck on yesterdays
Yeah, I'm still stuck on yesterdays"
The afro guy then stepped to the edge of the stage and ripped off an amazing solo that went on for almost a minute. Everybody in the bar was locked in on the guy. He was that good. The other black guy still just stood there. Weird!
After that, they made one last trip through the chorus and we all cheered, whistled, hooted and hollered. Chase, Amy and I were not laughing at these guys anymore. The lead singer looked right at me and seemed to like my reaction.
"Thanks," he said, reintroducing the band as a few more stragglers paid their cover charge and wandered in front of the stage. "We're a brand new band. We're Freeway & the Vin Numbers. That's Freeway over there slaying it on guitar," the singer said, nodding toward the afro guy to his right. "This is Friday … unknown," he continued, looking at the other black guy, who just smiled and stood there with arms folded at his chest. "We've got Buck back there on drums and Craig to my left on guitar. My name is Vin. That first song was called 'Papa Was a Gravestone.' This next one is called 'Freeway in the Front Yard' because that's where my man Freeway plays. He lives right off I-95, man. Real deal."
Freeway shook his head and smiled. Then he thundered into another heavy riff. Vin sang fast:
"Freeway in the front yard
Gangsters in the back
Mama's in the middle
Flapjacks on the griddle
Homies and bullets on the riddle
Priests and pervs on the diddle"
These guys are crazy, I thought. It was a strange mix of blues, rock and rap, but it seemed to work. As they slowed the tempo down for the chorus, Vin sang:
"Dear Lord, keep me out of trouble
Dopin' on the double
Trippin' on the triple
Rockin' all the way home
Dear Lord, keep me out of danger
This crazy world keeps gettin' stranger"
More customers began to belly up to the bar as the second song came to an end. Things were beginning to pick up, particularly in front of the stage. A few dozen people were there to catch the next couple of songs, though I couldn't pay much attention at that point because I was busy serving up drinks. When I did get caught up, the opening band's time was just about up.
"We got time for one more?" Vin asked the manager and sound mixer. They gave him the green light. "Sweet. Once again, for those just arriving, we're a new band. Freeway & the Vin Numbers. We hope to be back here at the Heartbreak Lounge real soon, and when we get a website, we'll let you know. In the meantime, enjoy The Agents and all the other bands on the bill. But first, we'll leave you with this little number. It's called 'Medieval Upheaval.'"
Vin started with a fast spoken-word intro:
"Talk is cheap
Radio is weak
America is bleak
Rotten from the inside out
Spoiled from the top down
What we don't need right now
Is another weak-ass revolution
Been there, done that
What we need right now
Is a bipartisan beat down
So Bookie, give me a beat"
The big bass drums kicked in and that's when Vin started screaming the chorus like he was the singer for Rage Against the Machine:
"What we need right now
Is a medieval upheaval
Of cataclysmic proportions
I'm talking muthafuckin' earthquakes
Of volcanic distortions"
That's when Freeway went crazy with his guitar. He blew the roof off the place with wah-wah action, distortion and heavy riffs. Vin took that energy and got even crazier with his vocals.
"We gotta capture the youth
And rap you the truth
So suck my magma
And swallow my lava
What we need right now
Is a medieval upheaval
Of cataclysmic proportions
I'm talking muthafuckin' earthquakes
Of volcanic distortions"
Talk about big words. And their sound was even bigger. They kept cranking up the speed and intensity with each repetition of the chorus until the people in front of the stage were head banging and throwing fists in the air. It was the first and last time I remember the crowd being "into" the opening band. Some of the people already were trying to sing along with the chorus and they didn't even know the song yet. Even the few girls that were there this early in the evening, including myself, had to cheer when Freeway & the Vin Numbers took their bows. There was a major buzz in the room after they exited the stage -- so much so that I actually felt bad for the second band. It was such an impressive debut that I hoped those guys would stick around after the gig and order a few beers from my end of the bar. Unfortunately, they didn't. I found out later from my manager, Will, that most of those guys weren't even old enough to drink yet. The good news, he told me, was Freeway & the Vin Numbers would be back at the Heartbreak in just two weeks. And for that gig, they would be the headliners.




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