All it's cracked up to be - By Michael Davis

Between a crowd of people who either have on too many protest buttons or too much hair gel and a back door that leads to a cold and rainy side street in East Atlanta, I waited.

I sat on the steps. I could hear a little noise, a few voices coming from behind the door and through the opening that led up to the stage.

The walls were painted purple. The last time I was here, I think they were blue, but I don't remember.

I had gone up to the store to buy a soda and some crackers to tide me over until I had a chance to eat later. On the way back I stopped at a pizza shop for a couple of slices.

When I came back, no one was around in the upstairs waiting area. Since the last time I was here, one wall had been closed up and a new one opened to make room for a private dressing room. But there were no mirrors n no fancy light bulbs and make-up people.

The room that had been closed up used to have a nice pool table in it. You could leave your license downstairs at the bar and get a rack of balls and shoot pool before the show.

But there was never a cue ball around.

Now that the room had been closed up, the wall was painted a glossy blue. It looks tacky.

They still had the same old couches upstairs. They were pushed together in a corner. I always made a game out of trying to identify the origin of some of the stains and every time I come here, there are fresher and more exotic patterns and colors.

Now they have, out in the area in front of the couches, what is either an oversized ottoman or a comfy, cushy, kid-safe coffee table.

It must be a two-foot by two-foot square, a giant footstool that sits about 12 inches high. Its stains are similar to the couches. You can't put your drink down on it because it will fall over. It serves no purpose.

As 10 p.m. started to roll around, the nice man who works for the club came upstairs to see if we were ready. Only one other member of our group had shown back up at that point.

We were waiting on the leader.

We, or at least I, paced nervously back and forth at the top of the stairs.

I wondered what had happened; where he had gone; when he would be back; what would happen if he were late.

I wondered if anyone was out there. I heard noise, people talking, but it was hard to tell how many there were.

I walked down to sit on the steps. The odor of stale cigarette smoke and cheap booze reeked in the hallway. You could tell this was where a lot of sweat had been dripped and a lot memories had been made.

For some, making it this far is a noble goal. For others, it's just another stop on the road to bigger and better things. For others still, it's a nice place to come to rediscover what it used to be like when they were just starting out.

Right on time, the leader barreled through the heavy steel door and into the hallway. I assumed he had been at the bar, chatting with friends and meeting new ones.

He asked me if I was ready. I said I was.

The third member of our group came down from upstairs. I got up from the step and followed Ray up to the stage with Scott close behind.

At that point, time seemed to stand still. I don't remember if Ray said anything to the audience before we got started. As I took my place behind my drum kit and picked up my sticks, all I heard was the harsh, distorted opening chords of the first song.

I wish I could describe what it's like to be in a rock band, on a stage in front of a room full of people, but I can't.

The other night, as we played a set as one of the opening bands for a short-lived 1970s rock-band reunion concert, all I could think about was the songs.

Michael Davis is the public safety reporter for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at mdavis@henryherald.com.