We named our band after a sermon by Rev AW Nix. “Black Diamond Express Train to Hell,” the sermon is called, and it is a deeply growling, hypnotically rhythmic condemnation of all the sinners that the devil is going to be picking up in his hell-bound train. We enjoy a bit of blasphemy. I believe that everybody should revel in the beliefs that work for him/her, assuming that those beliefs don’t involve infringing on the freedoms of others, but I love me a good parody and organized religion and Christianity (being the religion I know the most about) tend to be rather easy targets. Particularly because they often have and do infringe on the freedoms of those with other beliefs. Just a note to any Christian readers to please not be offended by my love of blasphemy. There are plenty of positive things about Christianity, and quiet beautiful ways to interpret it and live it, and those are not what I am parodying or talking about when I start getting down on religion. All that to explain that when bad things happen to our band, we like to joke that god is after us. If the devil is on our side, then who else could it be?
Friday afternoon we had the van packed up early, and by 4:15 we were on our way to St. Ingbert for the evening’s show. Miraculously running right on schedule, maybe even running a little early. A couple blocks in, B remembered that he’d wanted to check the oil before the drive, so we pulled over. And discovered that the cap to the oil tank was long gone, the entire front of the car was splashed with oil, and that the tank was just about to reach self-destruction levels of empty. We hurried back home, found another oil tank cap that fit, wiped off the spilled oil, filled up the tank, and were on our way. Disaster avoided. Or so we thought.
The drive south was fairly uneventful. I surprised everyone—particularly myself—by being the only one who didn’t have to request any pit stops. We took the wrong highway and made our drive a bit longer than it needed to be (we’re really good at that). Somebody won a stuffed polar bear in one of those metal claw games at a gas station. I actually forked over 70 cents to use a toilet. And just before we reached the JUZ where we’d be playing someone noticed that we were really low on gas. Granted, from where I was sitting it looked like the tank was just under a quarter full, and I have only ever driven cars that could go for mind-boggling distances even after the reserve light went on. But apparently this particular vehicle is on reserve even before it hits the warning-inconvenience-imminent red bar. So we pulled over and called the show organizers to see if somebody couldn’t bring us some diesel. They could and they would, they said, so all the smokers piled out of the van to light cigarettes for the wait. I rolled down the window to say something to somebody, and that’s when it became painfully clear that I had completely lost my voice during the two-hour drive. And in case you haven’t been keeping up, I’m the singer.
My theory is that the air in the van was really dry. All of the heating vents are in the front, where I was sitting, so we had the heat on full-blast in an attempt to make the back of the bus—where the remaing three Black Diamonds were sitting—less freezing cold. But it was like that deciding stake through the vampire’s heart. We’d barely managed to avert two disasters and then all of a sudden the singer is struck dumb by a heating system. God had us. There would be no songs criticizing religion in Ghana or encouraging revolution that night.
Gas delivered and at the venue, I made tea. After a few cups, I tried to sing a few songs (hey, you never know). But I couldn’t even sing “high” enough (in quotes as in, we don’t even have songs in a high register because I’m an alto, as in, calling any of our songs high is laughable) to sing our lowest songs. I couldn’t even really hold a tune. All I could do was alternate between a croak and a squeak. I breifly considered going on as Nikki Waits, but decided I couldn’t even pull that off. So we quickly threw together a set list of songs that other band members could sing, practiced for a second, and managed to pull off a short but still somehow satisfying set. I played washboard and spoons and reveled at how relaxing it can be to just play an instrument in a band and not be the one in the front that everyone is expecting to tell witty stories between songs, even when I’m feeling tired and not-at-all-witty. So at least there was some sort of silver lining.
Now here I am praying—though of course praying is really the wrong word considering my own religious beliefs and the aforementioned love of blasphemy—that I have my pipes back by Friday. We canceled Saturday’s show in Bingen, but if we are forced to cancel the show in Heidelberg Friday, then damn it, I may never going to get the chance to rock shit while pregnant and knock over the microphone with my belly and have a legitimate reason to sit for the entire set. Cross your fingers, pray, do a throat dance! Four more days and three days behind me with no improvements. Time for an even more serious enforced relaxation and tea drinking regiment.