The Ballad of Sunrisers’ Fall
As told to Artie Capshaw
“I’m telling this one last time. The only reason I’m telling it again is because they thing out there that I’m some sicjk loony rock star… loon. And I was never that. Never was. I was a businessman. That’s what I thought I was doing.
“It doesn’t seem that way now. Those other guys fell as hard as I did, you could say—but when I formed The Sunrisers, I was picking the best of the best. Then we rehearsed twice a week for three months until we played out. There wasn’t another band in those days with our… determination. This was a plan.
“Our first show, nobody really knows about it. Everybody thinks our first show was our last show, but there were three. The first one was a party on the U. for a friend. A frat party, sort of, so we did mostly covers, then brought out our own stuff when everybody was drunk enough. I’m not about the vanity, but it went well, no question. There were a few guys who came up to us afterwards, blown away, like serious fans. Some of them were at our second show, when we opened for, you know, Mr. Magnificent you call him, at the Bull.
“We weren’t officially on the bill. We just asked if we could play at 8 o’clock, and nobody minded. Quite a few people there. I remember some of them thinking we were a national act on a tour, maybe part of a package with the headliner. Not sure where they got that idea, but I thought that was great. I mean, that meant people though we were already good enough to be signed or something.
“I was walking on air, walking on air. But I also got that this was new. I hadn’t fronted a band ever. I’d studied for this like a test. Training myself, creating moves, trying the words ten different ways.
“My day job then was in sales, and that’s how I approached the music. I was selling something. I know how crass that sounds, but that’s how I felt. The whole other rock thing, some spaced-out [bleeped homosexual epithet] grooving to the vibe in his own little world, who cares, no respect—I hate bands those guys, guys like that.
When we did the final show, it was staged as if it was our big introduction, so we actually wrote this song, “Splashy Debut.” I know how dumb that sounds, so you have to trust me, I was being ironic or whatever—I was acknowledging how over the top this all was, especially for this town. Seriously.
“Which is why… OK, we’re into I think the fifth song—‘Time to Fly,”’ which I later rewrote for another band, and it even got played on the Sports Channel. Not a bad song if I do say so. The song proved itself. I’d been trying to write simple rock lyrics, realizing how much I’d been overwriting, overpreparing. It’s a dopey lyric in a lot of ways—‘I’m tryin’ to find the time to try to fly.’ Why I’m proud of that lyric is that I wrote a flying song that refuses to rhyme ‘fly’ with ‘high’ or ‘sky.’ Intellectual, see? [Laughs.] Overthinking even when I’m dumbing down.
“Anyway, I’m in to the final chorus and I’m going to hit this campy high note and nail the whole gushy power ballad section just like I’d practiced. Spread my arms out just as the guitar solo finishes up, big transition. Got to start singing then, spread my wings, like literally, do the rock star theatrics.
“But—and I keep stressing this, don’t I? I had a careful idea of what would be too much. I’m really just spreading my arm, right? But as everybody knows, here’s what happened:
“I lost my balance. I admit it. Big freaking freak accident. That’s important, because all the stuff I got blamed for, it’s like people think I went on a rampage. My arm hit something—microphone stand, cymbal, guitar neck, one of those pipes in the ceiling, I really have no idea—and I probably twisted my body a bit and hit something else or something, and I just went down. I know I took the chord organ with me, and the coat rack with the costume changes on it. But I swear I have no idea how that lamp fell, which of course is all anybody wants to know. But it did, and it landed on that off-duty fireman who’d brought his teenage daughter to the show, and the rest is history. I will still testify, just as I did in court three months later, that nobody really got hurt—If anyone did, it would be me. But there was other testimony, and there were fines, and the city reduced the capacity of the club [from 125 to 100]. There were surprise inspections for months afterwards. And there was a short fence built around the stage, which lasted for three years or so, until IT hurt somebody.
“More to the point, the other bands never went on that night. A month later, they’d both be huge, then four months later they’d both be dead, without ever having played in our town.
“You hear that the band broke up that night. That’s not exactly true. We had no idea how much damage we’d caused, or how long one guy can drag out a lawsuit for personal injury, aggravated assault and whatever else the charges were. You know I’m still legally constrained from talking about that case. I can only mention the events that led up to it. That’s the real legend.
“So the monument to my band The Sunrisers… the legacy of the best-prepared, best-rehearsed, most all-star band I ever had anything to do with was the step they build between the bits of fence so the band get up there—the step that’s still there even though the fence isn’t—on which somebody wrote ‘Sunriser’s Leap.’ And every time it fades, somebody writes it on there again.
“Even that, I got self-critical about. I thought it should have been ‘Sunriser’s Fall,’ you know? Better symmetry.”
Thanks for the confession, Mr. Russ Cicero.
Making fresh history on wobbly stages this week:
Saint Overboard—in which the beloved Bullfinch gets dunked and a famous old friend finds a new alias this Thursday—is a multi-band project among Pair of Pink Socks, Bathystol and Loretta Chose Life…. Hamilton’s frat-friendly party bands same night includes Plays With Fire and Lady Valerie (with Kane Luker from Sundry Persons on guitar)… And at Dollaire’s, should you care? Beware! Hoppy! Hoppy! Hoppy!