Where Music is Written, or Dapper LeChampagne’s Unraveling at Austin City Limits
Dapper was going to disintegrate today. He would see her during Band of Horses. She was wearing white. Her eyes were round and soft when they met his.
I. Dapper LeChampagne disintegrated into a moment of love at the Band of Horses show. Three days earlier Dapper had been speeding on Highway 360 into town. The sky looks bigger out there, out where parents pull over on the side of the freeway to take pictures of their children playing in the bluebonnets. The clouds pillowed over the giant blue expanse, looking a lot like the time he’d first driven into Texas and had to turn on the radio just to make sure the cumulus formation he saw wasn’t the end result of a nuclear bomb. He sighed at the sight of the city’s skyline up north. He’d only recently begun to notice the smog that hazed over Austin like yellow on a smoker’s teeth. It made him feel extra hot and he stretched his arm out to catch air. This was the third year he’d called this state’s capital his home. He knew how to avoid the commuters and drug traffickers at a stand still on Interstate 35. He knew to avoid the one ways that snare the blocks from the capital to the bridge from exactly 4:45 pm until 6:15 pm. He knew where to park on Red River. But this was the first year he’d felt it: That slithering malignant mass that creeps around the psyches of even the best intentioned hipsters moving to a land known for its cool. Entitlement. Three days of music and out-of-towners has a way of seeming like a chore in a place known only to itself as the Live Music Capital of the World. He caught himself quickly in the negative headspace and pulled into a free meter space instead. He gave his quick prayer of thanksgiving to the gods that always seem to find him parking, opened his door, and saw a penny on the ground. A shiny ’08. Heads up. Lucky! He almost gave it to a crack addict outside of Emo’s. He was waiting in line for the pre-ACL free show. A stranger was listening to him explain the similarity between the desire to leave the line before getting in and leaving a bus stop before it arrives. A woman with missing teeth and Brillo pad hair approached wearing a stained tank top that loosely outlined her sagging breasts. Her eyes were huge like headlights must seem to a deer standing in them. “C’mon man, got some change?” she said. A guy behind him with sun glasses hanging on a croakie said, “No. Never. I’ll never have money for you or anyone like you.” Dapper reached into his pockets and all he felt was the penny. He thought maybe he could explain it to her. It was all he had but he found it heads up. It was lucky. But the woman jerking through the crowd looked desperate like a child might if someone had taken her imagination. She needed more than a lucky penny. The bouncer motioned the next four in and Dapper felt like a bus had shown up. The capacity crowd squirmed from the outside stage to the front room and back out again, spilling Lone Star on each other apologetically. Despite its size, Emo’s has a way of feeling like a house party with some bands in the background. Dapper squeezed through the doors towards the back of the club. He found some standing room in the center of the crowd. A girl next to him pinched the ass of the guy in front of him. The guy frowned back at Dapper with a "Lucy you got some splainin’ to do" kind of look. At that moment, though, the banjo player from the White Ghost Shivers stepped on the stage for their quick sound check. He was a wiry, seven and a half feet tall. Dapper had once seen him at a party off South Congress. There were stilt walkers at that party which really seemed to emphasize the guy’s height because his head was at the same level as theirs. He must attract a crowd wherever he goes, and here the crowd was waiting to see him. Emo’s turned loud as he and the rest of the Shivers took the stage. They came out rollicking and roaring through a set of old time southern-swing that had a few couples in the back attempting a Lindy Hop. Dapper was thinking his Grandmother might have dug this music until the slick backed guitar player from South Carolina led his audience in a rebel yell of Fuck! and Fight! followed by a hootenanny sing-a-long of cocaine, gonna kill my baby dead. This was old folks’ music for the young, and the Shivers played it like actors on a murder mystery train ride. The stilt tall front man wore a giant fake moustache, the guitar player looked like Glen Miller, and the Betty Boop singer had a giant feather in her hat that almost touched the ceiling. Dapper knew her from his gym where she worked. They had a “how you doin’” kind of relationship. He almost hadn’t recognized her all dolled up playing the slide whistle and singing about doing it down south.
After the show, Dapper walked the six blocks back to his car. A man called to him from across the street. “Hey! Hey!” The man ran to Dapper. He was well dressed for a guy hanging out near the shelter. He wore an earring and was already beginning a speech familiar on Red River. “Aw, man, I’m an evacuee,” the man said. “I swear to you, man, I swear, I just got up here, I got a wife, I got kids. They all back in Houston. Man I just gotta get this bus, see. You know I ain’t messin’ with you. I ain’t like those guys on sixth. The bus ain’t come. I got this bus card. Bus ain’t been comin’ for like an hour. I just need some bills, man, you got some bills?” Dapper reached into his pocket. “All I’ve got is this penny,” he said. “Aw, c’mon! You know a penny ain’t gonna do shit, how you tryin’ to play me?” “Really, it’s all I’ve got,” Dapper said. He gave it to the guy. “I found it heads up. It’s lucky.” The evacuee took the penny. “I tell you a story,” he said. “You seen that movie Old Country for No Men? Man that’s a damn good movie. Here, you know this part: Call it. C’mon, call it!” The man held the penny out like he was going to flip it. “Doesn’t the guy kill him after he flips the coin? I’m not sure I want to play this game,” Dapper said. “Oh man, it’s a good scene. C’mon call it!” “What are you gonna do when you flip it? Are you gonna kill me?” “What you think just because I’m an evacuee down here at the shelter I’m gonna kill ya?” “Isn’t that what happens in the movie?” “Man … Oh, SHIT! That’s the number 20!” A bus was turning the corner and approaching the stop across the street. The man clutched the penny and ran to catch it. Dapper walked to his car. There was a quarter on the ground. An ’08, heads up.