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Stan And Mark Get Into A Fistfight At The Happiest Place On Earth.

Every year we did a show in Florida at Disneyworld. It was a sweet gig. It was basically a week long gig. You’d play for three days, three sets a day, and you could bring your whole family for a paid vacation. The gig itself was in Epcot Plaza at this cool theater that was open air style, and it seated about a thousand people. It’s big. And it’s right in the heart of everything in Epcot. And it backs up to that giant lake so it’s kind of scenic. Anyway, that gig was during a food and wine fest, and Disneyworld was calling it the EAT TO THE BEAT series. They’d book all kinds of nostalgia bands for the duration of the thing, which went on about a month and a half.

So while it may not be headlining the Hollywood Palladium, you’d never be paid more, or treated so well, and get to bring the kids? And make more money than loose money? Disneyland and Disneyworld are a fortune these days so it was an awesome way to take your family on a vacation and actually MAKE money. What a great concept.

So we were planning on going back in October of 2011 and we wanted to have something different or special for that week of shows. I’m not sure who came up with the idea, I think it was Stan, but we decided to put Willie Nelson’s classic ‘on the road again’ in our set at the top. We went over the song at rehearsal in the valley and it went well. Sounded like a good choice.

We get back to the gig. Our plan was to open each set with the song. So we’re backstage getting ready the way we always do. Stan is doing stretching exercises and whacking his drumsticks on a chair to get himself ready to play. He’s enjoying a pinot grigio in a solo cup with ice. Rod is dressed in a suit and having a tropical drink, Mark is pacing around backstage getting ready and having a stoli and soda or cranberry. And he’s asking me if he should wear shades or not. I tell him yes. Music is blasting backstage. We’re getting pumped. I’m drinking a beer, spiking my hair in the bathroom, putting on my shirt for the gig and probably writing something in a journal or taking a photo of something happening. The energy is high, but it’s the regular thing. We’re used to this, and it feels like another gig is about to happen. So it’s intense, but normal.

We roll out to the stage. The announcer says our name. There is a good crowd waiting for us. A lot of them are German tourists who are sunburned have a confused look on their face. It’s a free show. At a tourist park. Again, this is normal. Done hundreds of these.

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We take our places. Stan clicks us in with his drumsticks. We start the song. Only it’s way too fast. You always play things faster live, but this is really quick. This song in particular looses it’s charm if it’s played too fast, and it sounded a little funny, but we can get through this. Rod is keeping up, not problem really for me, but I see Mark and he’s in complete distress. He’s totally screwed up and off-kilter. He blows the lyrics. Can’t sing it this fast. The truth is, he could have sang it, but Mark isn’t great at dealing with spontaneous things that happen to him in a set. He could throw stuff at us, but don’t throw anything new at him. He hated that. It’s kind of like he was frozen, like a deer in headlights, and he’s stuck and can’t get out now.

He looks back at Stan, who is oblivious, and shoots him a death ray from his eyes. It’s as if he tried to burn Stan to death right then and there for forcing him to have to sing this song that fast.

There is a rule in playing live. Don’t let the crowd see you sweat. You have to conceal your emotions, because you’re there to give a show to the fans. The fans didn’t come to watch a hissy fit between band members. They don’t care about in-fighting or inner band politics or who banged who’s girlfriend 10 years ago or who got too drunk at that funeral and caused a scene. They don’t give a shit. They want to hear hits. Then they want to go home.

But Mark was having trouble swallowing this. He couldn’t. The quick tempo destroyed him. He blew more of the lyrics. I watched him, and he kept on looking back at Stan.

Finally, and mercifully, the song ended. Yes it was too fast. But Rod or Al or I weren’t miffed over the tempo. We were fine. We’d dealt with fast tempos before. I can remember much worse. Afterwards, I would have told Stan to slow it down for the next two sets that day. It would have been over. But Mark still had a shaken look about him. It was as if someone stripped his mojo. He was walking around the stage, nervously gripping his mic, and always shooting a look back at Stan. I think I was the only one who was noticing this. Stan could feel the heat too, but he shook it off.

We did EVERY MORNING after that. Even though the rest of the band had moved on, Mark had not. He wasn’t the same. He didn’t sing it well, he was not the same person. The feeling that was gripping Mark was like those Pit Bulls that can bite down and then never let go. Their mouths are dripping with saliva and intensity and passion and they almost physically cannot let go, it’s locked on. That was Mark. He couldn’t let go of how bad he felt during the first song. It wouldn’t leave him and it dragged him down and it ruined the whole set for Mark. He just couldn’t recover.

When we did the final crescendo for FLY, the set was over. Stan and I were first off the stage and into the dressing room. Mark comes into the room and screams FUCK YOU DUDE at Stan and pours as much venom and detest that he can fill into the words. It is filled not only with the disappointment of the tempo, but of all the years building up frustrations over the things he detests about Stan. The unsaid things, the little behind the back comments, the problems never got resolved, all that hurt and pain festering out and exploding like a bomb backstage. Stan doesn’t back down a bit. FUCK YOU.

From here, they got in each other’s faces and started a war of who could say FUCK YOU the loudest. Pissed off screaming matches were nothing new backstage, but we all knew this one was different. Rodney and I can sense this and we get in the middle of them. For some reason I remember Chip was there too but he wanted nothing to do with it. I suppose even he could feel the energy of lifelong friends exploding at each other and that it wasn’t his place. So Mark and Stan are trying to kill each other, FUCK YOU’S being yelling at the top of adult lungs, Rod and I are holding them back from tearing each other apart, and there is a knock at the door. It’s the booking guy for Disneyworld.

Holy shit. 

The guy who booked us for our best gig is walking into the worst band fight ever.

He walks in, and somehow we manage to separate them briefly. Chip takes the guy away into the other room. Stan starts mumbling that he’s done, that he cannot be attacked by a maniac. Mark is telling him he is a shitty drummer and that he should quit. Stan says he’s done. He’s quitting and flying home. For once, I actually consider that it is over. That Stan is actually going to walk out of Epcot Center, drive to the airport, buy a plane ticket and leave us high and dry. Stan leaves the room. We play again, impossibly, in 45 short minutes, but he may have left for good.

Mark is still steaming but focused. He unleashed on Stan and that’s what he wanted to do ever since that first song in the set. As a few minutes go by, there is no word from Stan. He’s gone. We all start texting and calling him to find out what he’s going to do. There is no answer.

The beginning of the end for us had finally began.