We rolled our amps and carried guitars across a gangplank into the hull of the Spirit of Chicago. We followed a tiled hallway to a red carpeted lounge, set up with duct tape on the carpet to delineate the “stage.” There were only two mic stands, which meant we had to share the front mic George-Paul style and give Tina the other one.

The boat gimmick suddenly became manifestly clear. A $25 all-ages show in the middle of the lake meant seven hours of unlimited drinking, just out of the grasp of the long arm of the Chicago Police Department. As far as we could see there was no food to be had.

As usual, Tina took the lead counting off the songs, setting up song changes with aggressive drum rolls, pushing the songs forward, cuing us when the tempo or volume changed, and always ending with a bang.

Having recently reverted to a three-piece, Barbie Army’s  drumming was even more important to fill up the space between my guitar playing and Mary’s bass playing. We usually switched instruments back and forth several times during the set, as songs demanded. The low-ceilinged room made the sound loud and it was hard to hear each other, especially the vocals.

Doppler Effect, Oliver, Don’t Wait, Rayon Inferno, Billy Bragg’s New England, and Tina belted out her Joey Ramone cover.  There were maybe three other girls on the whole boat, and all looked to be in high school. I tried to make eye contact and sing especially to them.

Could anyone hear the vocals? None of our regulars were there, and the crowd was young, wearing lots of leather jackets – in July!  Most gathered in clumps in the Chicago rock-show stance, arms clasped across chests, heads back, standing skeptically in groups.

Maybe they were Frances Parker students, friends of the ROTA gang.

Booze was consumed in plastic cups which, by 2 a.m. rolled out of the single trash can and littered the cigarette-covered rug. On the deck at 2 a.m., as Rights of the Accused yelled “Child! Adult! Child! Adult!,” we caught some air as various young mohawked patrons vomited over the rails until dawn. I felt old. We were everybody’s big sisters.