Dead Nights at Jazzland

Jazzland in Sacramento featured live music of various bands every night, seven nights a week, but some of those nights were so dead, the only audience members were Dave the bartender and me, standing on either side of the bar, applauding politely, and anchoring the stack of cocktail napkins when a breeze blew in from Broadway.

One older drummer in the¬†straight-ahead band on late night Wednesdays, would regularly fall asleep while working the brush on the snare drum. His head would droop down until his chin rested on his chest and the circles of the brush would slowly come to a complete stop. The rest of the band kept sawing away, just making it through to the end of the evening. As I looked around at the few lonely customers sipping drinks at circle tables, no one seemed to care that a member of the “live” band on stage was asleep. It felt like an extravagance to have gotten semi dressed up to come to work, because we were Nowhere, and we were with almost No One, and not only does that equal No Tips– it was depressing.

Once, at midnight, we were closing up after a Nothingness night, and Dave was in back, counting the till. I came around front with the broom, to sweep, when I noticed someone sitting at the keyboard, softly playing. The band had already packed out of there, and yet here sat this figure, alone in the emptiness, staring at the keyboard like he had something sad to tell it, and coaxing out a haunting tune that made my skin prickle.