All the tools you need to get backstage are gum and a rubber band. Bear with me, this will make sense soon.
My friend Rach invited me to an impromptu hush-hush concert last week. Friends of hers were performing at Cervantes and had an in on who the secret headliner was— GRiZ. I hadn’t heard of him, so I took a listen to his Spotify channel. I was immediately sold. Also, the tickets were just $10. Uuuhhhh, yes, please!
I finally arrived at her apartment (after accidentally knocking on the wrong door, interrupting someone’s yoga session) and she introduced me to her friends, Duey and EJ. We ate snacks, drank wine, and eventually headed to the venue.
It’s an intimate space with great history. Harking back to the Cotton Club days (the 1930’s), Cervantes— named the “Casino Cabaret” back then— hosted distinguished musicians such as Duke Ellington, BB King, and Ray Charles. As I walked in, I noticed large duotone paintings of the jazz artists along the high exposed-brick walls. Puffy cheeks, dark sunglasses, or an instrument grabbed my attention within each picture. It was awesome. It was also packed.
Lots of different types of people were there. One man, in particular, stood out because he had a cane. Remember when I told you the venue was small, and it was packed? That wasn’t a great place to be if you required walking with a cane. But hey, mostly everyone was respectful. I even noticed some people literally push others out of the way to make room for this cane guy. Humans being bros, man.
I was led to the back of the venue where more friends were hanging out. We casually talked for a few minutes and eventually tried making our way to the stage. Rach, attempting to talk over the approximately 500 chatting people, mentioned that this was the most packed she had ever seen it.
The word was out. The GRiZ performance was no longer a secret.
There were some great throwback songs that everyone in our group belted out to. J-Kwon’s “Tipsy” was one of them. I couldn’t remember the last time I heard that song.
Anyway, I was having a jolly good time when EJ suddenly turned to me and asked, “hey, Niki, do you want to go on stage with me?” and my face quickly glitched to Patrick Star:
Before I could say “YES!” he grabbed my hand, slapped on a wrinkled VIP paper wrist band that had already been worn, and secured it with a rubber band. “There,” EJ said while rolling down my long-sleeved shirt for more cover, “just flash a little bit of your wrist so the bouncer doesn’t suspect anything. Act like you belong.”
I quickly realized one of the following three things could happen:
I flash my wrist. The bouncer doesn’t notice anything. We’re in!
I flash my wrist. The bouncer realizes something is off. I don’t go on stage.
I flash my wrist. The bouncer realizes something is off. I’m banned from Cervantes forever.
I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
Disclaimer: I’m not one to casually sneak my way through security. I get anxious really easily. I’m awkward and obvious. I’m never cool in these situations. But that night was not one of those nights. I was prepared to do this, no take-backsies. It felt exhilarating! Bring it on, baby!
“Follow my lead,” EJ said, who grabbed my hand and lead me to the VIP entrance.
EJ got to the bouncer first. He quickly flashed his wrist at her and she waved him in. My turn.
I extended my arm, exposing the bright polka-dotted VIP wristband. The bouncer paused. I felt a wave of panic rush over me. She rolled up my sleeve and inspected my wrist— She noticed the rubber band!
fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck
“Hey, she good?” EJ said, who turned back towards the bouncer after he noticed that she was inspecting me. She grumbled something along the lines of “whatever,” and waved me in. awwwwww yeeeaaaaahhhh.
I danced on stage with GRiZ. It was one of the best nights I had in Denver.
Oh, but the night hadn’t even finished yet. It suddenly became 1 AM so I told my new friends I was headed home and we said our goodbyes. I called a Lyft and walked outside to wait for it.
I waited outside for about 2 minutes before the cane-guy slowly stumbled out. Cane-guy started talking to me and, honestly, I don’t really remember what the main line of conversation was because it was pretty much everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Although, I did learn that he had “found the cane only a few hours before the concert.” He was faking it!
My Lyft arrived and this 32-year-old guy welcomed me into his car. I asked him how his night was and his face immediately lit up.
“Oh! Well ma’am it’s my birthday today— I’m turning 32— and my brother gave me a present he said, he said to me, ‘listen Mikey, come down to the tattoo shop—’ my brother owns a tattoo shop ‘—come down to the tattoo shop because I got a little birthday surprise for you.’ So I went down to the tattoo shop and my brother said, ‘OK Mikey, sit down on the chair.’ and I looked at him all crazy, like, ‘what are you talking about??’ and he showed me this drawing of a tattoo that I told him I always wanted and he said, ‘I know you wanted this tattoo so I’m giving it to you for free for your birthday,’ and now I’m driving because, wow, I canNOT sit down right now!! HAHA! I was so excited I went back home to feed my dogs— their names are Beavis and Butthead after the show Beavis and Butthead and one runs all crazy-like exactly like Beavis so that’s why I named him that..!”
The whole, he excitedly talked about his puppies (which I had NO problem listening to) and just hearing his energy and happiness made for the perfect ending.
I immediately KO’d when I got home at 2 AM and forgot to tear off my wristband before getting under the covers.
I woke up and the first thing I noticed was the epic polka-dotted wristband still on my wrist. Ah, memories. I tore it off to say goodbye and noticed some sticky blue-glue(?) on it. I hadn’t noticed that someone slipped their previously-chewed gum to stick the torn VIP wristband together. I shivered but promptly laughed because I guess the rubber band wasn’t enough.