OPENING FOR MEN WITHOUT HATS

Earlier this year, my band opened for Men Without Hats in Teaneck, NJ. We were one of 2 opening acts; the other was a bunch of 17-year-olds. As someone who has always been fascinated by The Safety Dance, it was a surreal opportunity. I got to the gig early to watch MWH soundcheck, and I ended up having a conversation with their touring guitarist, who is friendly and looks like Edward Norton. I looked around for the main guy—the brains of MWH, the guy in the video who does the sideways move that may or may not be THE safety dance—but he wasn’t there yet. He would not arrive until right before they went on. This man has the same name as me: Ivan. What did it mean? What would happen if we met each other?

I remember sitting in the green room with my band, waiting to go on, while the 17-year-olds finished their set. By the calculus of venue + headliner, we were at that moment equal to the teenagers. We were on the same gig on the same night. It made me wonder if an Ivan was in that band too. It made me wonder, in fact, if the entire night was some kind of bizarre prophecy: were we all the same band in different stages, like the riddle of the sphinx? The teenagers on all fours, SWEET FIX standing erect before an unknown future, and Men Without Hats walking with canes into an episode of Where Are They Now? And if so, is that what I wanted to get out of all this? To endure as a nostalgia act on the strength of one kinky hit?

After MWH finished their set, I ran backstage to meet my destiny. “You guys were great,” I said, and the guitarist smiled. I turned to the lead singer and said, “My name is also Ivan.” We shook hands. The other Ivan said, “It’s a good name” in a Canadian accent and looked away. I could tell he was being polite and had no real desire to know me or my band. Maybe if that happened the universe would destroy itself. So I just said, “Thanks for a fun night,” and gave our CD to Edward Norton. As I turned to go I heard the other Ivan say, “Good luck with that, eh?”

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