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Luis Ahumada
The view from the Kings Theatre stage in Brooklyn, New York, where the author's son, Skyler, a k a Jade Cicada, performed his electronic music compositions during music producer Dave Tipper's Tipsgiving Weekend.

Part 2: Mother and Fan: Journey to Kings Theatre

By Saturday, Apr 13, 2019 Life In the Berkshires

To read Part 1 of “Mother and Fan: Journey to the Kings Theatre” click HERE.

I practiced walking from the front of the stage to the back of the theater, going up and down the aisle by grabbing onto the back of the aisle seat in each row. People started to stream in and I knew that I could very well get stuck in front with three thousand people surrounding and behind me. I decided to stand in the back near the engineers where I had a closed-off area where I could view the stage and dance to my heart’s content. The lights came down and the first of four sets began. My hearing and body more than made up for what I could not see.

I danced for four hours straight; I danced like I danced in my youth, making all the same moves, while amazed that I could in my aging body. I jumped up and down, raised my arms above my head, brought them in front of me and shimmied from the waist down to the floor. At some point an usher commented on my stamina. Was he flirting with me? I think I told him that I am a long-distance swimmer, which I am.

The truth was my stamina came from gratitude that I was there, in this theater, to hear not only Sky but Tipper perform. I was back in Brooklyn, where I was born and where I lived in many neighborhoods during my tumultuous childhood before ultimately moving to Manhattan with Lowell. I was fueled by the joy of hanging out with Sky and Will; traveling through some of my old hoods; chatting with Matt; and taking in Tipper’s good will. I was overcoming vision obstacles with the help of others. And, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, more euphoric than seeing my son on the stage playing his astonishing music while I dance with three thousand euphoric people, fans who get his music as do I. While we listened and danced, we also watched image after image merged, submerged, and diverged in concert with the music, and this too brought ecstasy. Even with my weird vision, I could make out the oscillating visuals surrounding the stage: faces, animals, symbols, shapes and bursts of color.

The acoustics in the back of the theater were perfect and I witnessed thousands of individuals united by electronic music, moving as one. However, a couple of girls right in front of me were yammering away during Sky’s set. I leapt over a seat in the back row and told them to keep it down. “Excuse me, I am Jade Cicada’s mother and I can’t hear him. Can you keep it down.” They shut up for a while then were back to talking. One of them called to me, “Did you say you were his mother?” I guess they didn’t understand what I had said at first. “Yes,” I answered and continued to dance.

Photo: James Callari

The lights came up after Tipper’s awesome set and I waited for people to file out before making my way to backstage and to the Green Rooms. Sky and Will were in one room and Tipper in another. I then committed a faux pas. The vibe in the room where Tipper was seated felt reverent. His girlfriend was there as well as Detox Unit’s gal, both young ladies decked out in glittery garb, and there were passing hugs. I was dressed in my blue dungarees, brown ankle boots, and a fake cashmere Christmas-tree-green top. Still high from the chocolate edible, I exclaimed at the top of my lungs, “Holy fucking shit! That was incredible! What a night!” People stopped talking. I then approached Tipper who was in the midst of a subdued huddle and cried out, “Stand up! I have got to hug you!” And, he did.

I could have been any one of their mothers.

I was expecting champagne flowing and vape pens passing. There were none. There was a cooler full of beer.

We got back to the place at two in the morning – not my usual bedtime. I could not fall asleep because I was so charged from the evening.

Saturday morning, Sky, Will and I relocated to The Box Hotel that was upscale in comparison to the first place. Over a meal in the hotel restaurant we got into a conversation about perfectionism. I talked about Lowell’s hyper-critical approach to every concert he conducted as a choral director and that it took away from some of the joy of what he accomplished. Will made the point that perfectionism can make artists strive to do better. Sky talked about one transition at the end of his set that did not go as he had intended. I hadn’t noticed it and offered that the audience probably hadn’t either. He insisted that other producers would have noticed. Again, I thought about how much more talkative Sky was when another person is present.

The two of them took off; the plan was for them to come fetch me in the evening to go back to the theater.

Saturday night, Sky texted me the following: “When you get backstage please don’t yell like you did last night. Producers need their ears and that’s the last thing they want to hear.”

I was miffed by this at first and then realized that he was sharing important information that there is protocol to follow. I would curb my enthusiasm moving forward.

I met Sky and Will in the lobby of the hotel. The sight of them brought a smile to my face and the closer I got to them the more I noticed how tired they were. I was a tad sleep-deprived myself for evening two of “Tipsgiving Weekend.” I would count on my stamina.

When we arrived, I went to my area at the back of the theater. When I said, “Hi,” to one of the engineers (a guy who looked like a teenage friend of mine with whom I got stoned and listened to the Doors and Led Zeppelin on a regular basis) he replied, “Hi, Mom.” That was how I was identified by everyone: Jade Cicada’s mother. I am more than that: I am also a fan.

When Spoonbill, the Australian producer, came on at 11 o’clock I was sitting in the very last row on the top of the back of a seat, drinking chardonnay. Every so often when the music invited it, I leapt across the seat to dance in my designated area. This was my first time hearing Spoonbill and I was blown away.

I also impressed myself by being able to leap about in the dark and not fall over.

Photo: Jeffery Burch

Then Tipper came on at midnight. Every seat was taken and everyone was standing up. From my spot, I could no longer see the stage so I moved to the right where the engineers were. Tipper transitioned in his set and everyone went wild, clapping, and carrying on. Me too. Suddenly, from out of the darkness, seated in the engineer section wearing a black hoody, a guy shot around in my direction and screamed, “Stop that! Don’t you clap in my ears! I am a sound engineer.” He then noticed my pass for the theater and added, “I see that you are special and can be here but you’ve got to stop that!”

I could barely make out his face and was taken aback but I would not let this guy ruin my evening. [It would be the first of three aggressive encounters with this dude during Tipper’s set.]

There was a metal railing between me and the engineers. I tried to grasp the metal bar in the dark to steady myself. My left hand accidently brushed against this guy and he jerked around and screamed, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you touching me? Why do you touch me? Don’t touch me!” I recoiled, “I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to touch you. I have a vision impairment. I couldn’t see you in your black hoody.”

He growled for a while then simmered down. The next encounter with this guy was my bad. I wondered if he might have Asperger’s syndrome and hence a lack of social skills plus some anger management issues. I have worked with people with Asperger’s and it is a good idea to let them know ahead of time what to expect. I decided to give this guy a heads-up: when Tipper’s set was over, I would be clapping, screaming, and carrying on. So, I lightly tapped him to get his attention. This time, he shot up out of his seat and standing, facing me, he again wanted to know what was wrong with me. A guard approached and suggested that I move to another spot. At this point I did feel that this dude could become physically aggressive. I listened to the guard and moved to the left where I continued to clap and carry on.

The lights came up. While I waited for the theater to empty before forging my way to backstage and the Green Rooms, I stood watching the audience leave in all their glory and every so often I glared at the back of the head of this sound guy who was now standing with the other engineers. Before making my way down the rows of seats in the theater, an adorable young black guy probably in his early twenties approached me and said, “You really get this music.” I was flattered and surprised. “How do you know?” I asked. “I’ve been watching you dance.”

Halfway through the theater toward the stage, I ran into Matt and I told him about this sound guy and what went down. “He scared me,” I said. Matt told me to stay put and he left to talk to him. Some time passed and I decided to go to the Green Rooms since Sky was texting, wanting to know where I was.

Of course, I would not repeat my behavior of Friday (jumping up and down like a thrilled child) and I was so pleased to find Tipper alone in a room. I approached him and this time he rose to hug me. I asked him if he was going to an after-party and he said he was so tired that he needed to rest. He had heard that I wouldn’t be at the last night of ambient music, music he said he knew I particularly liked. “This vision thing, “ I replied,” it would be too much for me to handle Grand Central Station at rush hour on a Monday morning. Leaving on Sunday will be easier for me.” Sky wasn’t returning to the Berkshires after the weekend was over and I would be traveling alone. I was touched that he brought it up. In parting I said, “Thanks for taking care of Wobbles.” Werksobbles is Sky’s cat and it is often Tipper who checks in on her when Sky is traveling to gigs. “Wobbles,” he exclaims, “I love Wobbles!” I had hoped to take Tipper out for dinner while in Brooklyn but realized that he would be not only tired performing three nights in a row but this was hisevent (with Veler, and the others). It demanded all of his attention. Before leaving him, I told him that one of these days I’ll take him out, “Somewhere over the rainbow.” He smiled. The Wizard of Oz.

In the hallway between the rooms, Sky introduced me to his booking agent, Hunter, from Creative Artists Agency (CAA) who happens to have the same birthday as Sky and who also played the clarinet growing-up. So many coincidences with the people in his immediate music world. I was thrilled to hear Hunter bring up Sky’s future career – what CAA has in mind for him. Music to my ears. In the beginning, when his career first took off, I was worried, I have to admit. In fact, I was freaked-out. I was worried about people trying to hitch their wagon to his trajectory while not having his best interest at heart. In other words, people taking advantage of him and his success. No need to worry about that. First of all, Sky has great common sense and a good sense of people; and, those drawn to him professionally are terrific people (excluding one past “manager” who shall be nameless).

Before time in the Green Rooms was over and the theater was shutting down, Sky had been communicating with Matt about my encounter with that sound guy. Sky told me that the guy was “from Queens” as if that made any difference in explaining his poor manners. I responded, “Well, I am from Brooklyn.” Matt was going to bring the guy by so we could talk, if I wanted to, about what went down. I didn’t want to leave with any hard feelings behind when it was, after all, one of the best weekends of my entire life. We went to the appointed place to meet with them. No Matt or the sound guy. We waited a bit. Sky asked, “You didn’t tell Tipper about what happened?” I replied, “Of course not. Why would I bring that up?” I understood that Sky was protective of Tipper but certainly he would also realize that I would not be so insensitive that I would follow Tipper’s great set with telling him about the guy I had to deal with. Perhaps Tipper will learn about that weirdness when he reads this story.

Photo: Sebastian Jovys

Even though Sky got zero hours of sleep, he and Will were game to check out a party. We Ubered through a deluge of rain to The Box Hotel and I said goodnight and my goodbyes.

Again, I was wired at 2 a.m. Feeling all righteous, I emailed Matt that I am not surprised that this sound guy did not show up. It confirmed my impression of him. Matt emailed back that they had shown up and we weren’t there and they had to leave to close-up the theater. Oh well, I missed what could have been a telling encounter: vision impaired female senior citizen wearing hearing aids meets with young male sound engineer who yelled at her for being obnoxious (from his point of view).

Back at the Box Hotel, I lay in bed reliving the night and trying to quiet the tension I was feeling about getting myself back to the Berkshires. Once asleep Iwas awakened several times by the roaring sound that came from the heater kicking in when the heat dropped. I was so annoyed that I questioned just how much more upscale the hotel was compared to the Place. I should have asked for another room, but at three in the morning?

After breakfast at the hotel restaurant, I was picked up by an Uber driver and we sailed into Manhattan. Grand Central Station, as I expected, was relatively calm and I found my way to the train on the lower level. My friend, Sheila, was waiting for me at the Wassaic station. I felt high and sleep deprived. In her car, spilling out of me, I talked about some of the highlights of the weekend. I was excited and overstimulated.

This high lasted a few days and then I crashed. I realized that if I didn’t have all these vision issues I could get to electronic music productions and festivals on my own. I would love this.

And, I usually crash after a Sky major event (school graduations, music recognitions, etc.) because of the presence of absence: Lowell. At “Tipsgiving Weekend,” we would have been dancing together but not in the pit. I can’t imagine Lowell in the pit, not even at his son’s gig. No, we would have been dancing in the aisles.

As I type the last sentences of this story, I am listening to a Jade Cicada a k a Sky track, “Dusty Lungs.” I get up to dance around my apartment. I find humor in this “choon” – humor is often in his music as well as wit, and mind-expansion. “Wire Skulls” one of my favorites, is about mind-expansion, darkness, and beauty. Then there is the marvelous “4am.” I am indeed, a fan.

As his mother I have come to fully realize that life is about love, joy, acceptance, and creativity.

To follow Jade Cicada and his music, go to his web site: https://jadecicada.net

To listen to the Fish Juice EP, click HERE; listen to Wire Skulls and 4am.

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