In five years of trying, Joanie George never sold out a show, nor could she have headlined a 900-person concert hall. After just three months, Saturant accomplished both at the same time. The “Kansas” music video had been released a few weeks prior, which gave us added press as tickets went on sale. The gig was at Williamsburg Sound, where Bart managed the floor, and now he was no longer critical of her re-branding. “I’ve never seen this buzz for someone so new. I can’t believe this is for Joanie, after all this time. How soon can we book her again?” “I love where your head’s at,” I said. “But let’s just wait and see how she does tonight.” I wasn’t totally convinced that she would impress.
Backstage, Joanie was nauseous. Nervous. I had to remind her that all of these people liked her music. They trusted her talent and as such, she should trust it too. “You’re only adding to the pressure,” she said. “This is all some wild accident. I’m just waiting for them to realize I’m a fake, so that I can go back to sucking at music. I was so good at sucking at music!” The stage manager gave us a 30-minute warning, and in a flash, she snapped into character, her confidence fully restored. She joined her band and they toasted vodka, with Joanie—no, Saturant—coaching: “The audience trusts us, and so we should all trust ourselves. Let’s do this!”
I went out into the crowd to watch the show, meeting Peter, Tyler, and Mads off to one side. Simon texted that he would arrive soon…”damn traffic getting over the bridge,” he cited for his tardiness.Then, I heard Sam’s voice: “Hey Eddy. Packed house, way to go.” And there he was: my boss, at a concert for my client. He noticed Tyler—one of his clients—and looked confused, saying a bit defensively that he hadn’t realized the two of us were “mixing business and pleasure.” I assured him it was just as friends, that Tyler was dating one of my best friends. “Bad for business, Eddy,” he said, slurping his vodka soda. “Bad. For. Business.”
Tyler seemed uncomfortable with Sam around—the two of them got on just fine, but Sam was a great manager, and not a great person. “He won’t let me publicly come out of the closet,” Tyler whispered to me. “He says I have crossover appeal and that that would kill any chances.” I was surprised to learn this—after all, Sam’s client James Thurston was very much out to the world. “Yes, but James only plays gay characters, or hoity toity villains,” said Tyler, adding: “I think Sam kind of has a point, don’t you?” There was no agreeing or disagreeing necessary. The whole topic was just miserable.
The crowd erupted in cheers as Saturant took the stage. Joanie looked bashful and bewildered by all of the support. Mads and Peter couldn’t contain themselves—that was our Joanie! We all hugged, tears of pride welling in our eyes. Then, Sam, lingering behind us, soured the moment for me: “What is Simon Stephens doing here? Probably trying to buy the place? Blech.” I realized I might now have to tell Sam that Simon and I were dating, which would probably cue another “bad for business” finger waving. As Simon neared us, Sam made things even more uncomfortable: “Jesus, he’s coming this way. He’s the one-night stand I can’t escape.”
Thankfully, Sam skirted away so as to avoid Simon, allowing me to avoid an explanation to him. Simon, however, wasn’t off the hook. I immediately confronted him, shouting over the music: “Why wouldn’t you tell me that you once slept with Sam?!” I could tell he was surprised with this being my “Hello” for the evening, and he could tell I was hurt. “You never would have given me a chance if I had,” he said. “Right?” I nodded, my eyes widening: “No, of course not.” “Precisely,” Simon said. “So it seems like I made the right choice. Of course I was going to tell you soon, but too early and it would have tainted your impression of me. Now, can we please watch the show?” He gripped my hand in his. My whole body relaxed, as the sound of Joanie’s voice calmed each muscle, each nerve. I nodded to Simon, smiling, squeezing his hand back.
Saturant gave her crowd a secondhand high, everyone mellowed and tingly by the end of her encore. “We’ll be booking her again soon,” promised Bart. “Very soon.” Simon said he would also be after her for more shows at his venue, and we toasted champagne and seltzer backstage as Joanie spoke to reporters and bloggers. We hailed a few cabs to get us home, with a plan to continue celebrating well into the morning. The gang all filed into the first two taxis, then Simon and I hopped into a third car. “West Village,” he said, as if that had been the plan all the long. “No no, Prospect Heights,” I corrected him. Without hesitation, Simon shouted up to the driver: “We’ll be making two stops.”