With any luck, I am on my way home by now from Albuquerque. Dig that! Big wedding tomorrow and the rehearsal dinner tonight. Wish me luck!
Here is part 17 of The Trees....
If there was a law against good taste, Rob Grant was often in violation of it. On this Monday morning in Los Angeles, the citations would have stretched from San Pedro to Santa Monica.
“I’m out front” the text from Rob read.
As Dan and John stepped through the automatic sliding doors, they saw the bus. Rob had talked about buying some busses for the label, but he had not mentioned going completely insane about it, but there he was. Standing just outside of a giant, rolling thumb drive was Rob.
“What do you think?” Rob asked as he shook hands with Dan and John. He was grinning from ear to ear as he pushed back the graying black hair from his face. There was a nice breeze sweeping across main arrivals line and it was playing havoc with Rob’s hair.
Subtle Tech Records was Rob’s passion project and had been for the last several years. There was nothing subtle about the bus. It was huge and looked like it had eaten a whale. Neither Dan nor John was able to get a word in edgewise before Rob ushered them onto the bus.
“You guys remember Budda,” Rob said.
Budda Shelbourne was Rob’s friend from high school and, apparently, now his bus driver, too. He put his hand to Dan and John as they pushed by him, shaking each firmly, before settling down into the captain’s chair.
“Where do you guys want to go? Wait…”
Rob studied Dan’s eyes closely as he peered into them. Giggling, Dan tried to look away and take in the beautiful front room of the bus.
“You’re fucking high,” Rob said.
“He was having a bit of back pain when we took off, so I gave him a candy,” John replied.
They sound of Budda snickering up front was audible mid-cabin, but they paid him no mind. He was an ox of a man, but nimble as hell and quick with his wit. Years earlier, Rob had told John and Dan about him when Dan had made a Karate Kid reference. Budda Shelbourne had been an extra on the set as one of the combatants in during the karate tournament scene and the guys had been eager to meet him.
Oblivious to Budda’s humor, Dan was glad that John was doing the talking. It had been enough for him to just walk through the LAX concourse. Rob’s energy was off the charts and this bus was unreal. Sober it would have been a lot to take in and high, well, Dan was having trouble believing where he was.
“I know where we should go. Grab a beer and have a seat, fellas,” Rob said as he turned to speak to Budda about their first stop.
It was good to see Rob being Rob again. Maybe a project like this was what he needed to get out of his own way after Vivian’ death. While it was a bit early for a beer, Dan didn’t mind helping himself and walked over to the fridge as the bus started to move.
“Grab three of those,” John said, sitting down on one of the long sofas.
Dan sat down next to John as Rob grabbed one of the recliners across the narrow walkway and began explaining the story of the bus.
“Do you guys know how much it costs to put a band on the road?” Rob asked.
“I’m guessing a lot,” John replied as he took the first drink of his Pinkus Pils.
“You’re not wrong. Once you factor in gas, hotels, a small per diem, and upkeep on the vans, it’s a lot. When I started the label, I was just doing a lot of reissues from old bands, but now that I have a few bands that are out there, playing shows, I needed to figure out a way to cut costs,” Rob shared.
This perked Dan up. He had been contemplating whether this was the best beer he had ever had but the absurdity of Rob talking about cutting costs when they were sitting in a bus that must have cost over half a million dollars, if not a million, brought him back into the conversation.
“Rob,” Dan started, measuring his somewhat stony words, “This is a palace. Are you going to send band’s out in this? I wouldn’t mind living on this thing.”
Rob laughed and when he did, his whole body shook. It was one of the things that Dan had liked about him from the beginning. Rob had a truly hearty laugh.
“Yes, I’m going to send band’s out in this sometimes. Cherie and I also might just drop out of society, too. Hopefully she won’t gamble away the nest egg when we do,” Rob said, referencing Lost In America by Albert Brooks. The three of them were fans of Brooks’ movies and Rob knew the mention would not be lost on them.
“But your bands don’t need one of these, do they?” John asked.
Rob had grown up in the Southern California punk rock scene and had been working with smaller bands for much of the time Subtle Tech had been a label. John and Dan had gone to see a few of Rob’s bands play over the years and John could not imagine those bands needing a mobile palace to feel good.
“You’re right, John. The bands I have now don’t need this, but the band’s I’m going to get, well, having something like this will make it easier for them to see why they should hang out with us,” Rob replied.
Rob went on to detail his plan for taking Subtle Tech up about three levels in the music world. Many of the older, more established bands were looking to cash in and Rob was happy to help them do it and he might just break even in doing so. If he lost a few thousand, or even hundreds of thousands here and there, he could write it off.
Dan and John understood this, too. They had not had the type of success that Rob had experienced, but they did need to pay it back from time to time and had donated a fair amount to different non-profits around Phoenix as well as investing back in the business to keep their tax bill on the lighter side.
“Plus, I have Budda to make sure everything goes all right. So, what did you guys want to talk about?” Rob asked looking like he was ready to listen.
See you tomorrow.
Yes, I had to make a Lost In America reference. Maybe the best movie ever...at least the best by Albert Brooks and he's made a ton of great movies.