Hybrid. According to Webster’s, it is “anything derived from heterogeneous sources, or composed of elements of different or incongruous kinds: a hybrid of the academic and business worlds.” In the music world, Hybrid is a bastard combination of sexual prowess, chugging guitars, and swaggering bass with delicate hints of country blues and Latino flavor. It is a mess of a band, who, with their upcoming third album, are already pushing the envelope with their energetic live shows and intense fearlessness.
Yeah, it was a bit cliché to have that dictionary definition, but whatever. Hybrid won me over with their sound, the way they took a band like Led Zeppelin and made it roll like a freight train. They wanted to take on anything—anything—and do it louder. Harder. Better. I loved them for that.
Sitting beneath the ominous shadow of the snow-capped Mount Shasta lies the Northern California town of Redding. There’s not much to it. Dry, rolling hills spread lazily about on both sides of the interstate, dotted with farms and orchards. It’s a slow pace of life here, good, honest and humble. So where the hell did the band Hybrid come from as they clawed their way out of Redding’s dusty belly? How did that town produce the heaviest, most groundbreaking band to ever grace American soil?
I had often wondered that. That was one thing I hadn’t seen in many interviews with the band—how everything really got going, what inspired them all as individuals?
To answer this we have to look back to where it all started. Imagine a fifteen-year-old Robbie Oliver strutting about in his parent’s garage to Mickey Brown’s thunderous guitar and Mickey’s brother, Austin, on bass. On the lead guitar they had Bill Watkins, a skilled guitarist who was a friend of Robbie’s father. They’ve even got a neighborhood kid on the drums just trying to keep up. Fast forward a few months, and the band has gotten rid of the neighborhood kid and put in Sage Knightly instead. Yes, little Sage started on the drums but it wasn’t long before things were shaken up. Bill suffered a mild heart attack, and Austin Brown came down with a good ol’ fashioned case of mono. Sage jumped at the opportunity to do lead guitar—not a far stretch since he was the key songwriter and could play any instrument—and Noelle Clark, Mickey’s girlfriend, took over the bass. Soon, Graham Freed answered an ad in the Redding classified section, and they had a new drummer as well. This was the real start of Hybrid, a band that mixed genres and their own musicians.
My own obsession with the band started with Ryan, actually. We were into a lot of music together, and though his tastes leaned more towards the blues and country, he picked up Hybrid’s first self-titled album on a whim while visiting San Francisco. There had been no radio play for the album at all, so no one had really heard of them. But for whatever reason, Ryan bought the record, took it back home to Ellensburg and played it for me in my room. I wasn’t hooked right away. Sometimes it sounded too loud. Other times, too weird. But it got its claws in me, and pretty soon I was learning everything I could about the band.
Which, at the time, wasn’t much. With no radio play, they also had no press. I’d written a fan letter to the address on the back of the record but never heard back. They were reclusive and mysterious. It made me love them more.
Then the second album, Asteroid, was released on Elektra Records and things exploded. Their first single, “Red Blues Sun” got airplay everywhere. It was the song for the summer of ’73. They started touring and making appearances on The Midnight Special with their quieter numbers like “Pieces of Ash” and “The Deal Fell Through.” Robbie and Sage became the focus of the band. Robbie for his extraordinary voice, his manic, monkey-like behavior on stage, and his foxy Californian good looks. Sage for being a 6’3” powerhouse of pure talent, the driving force behind the band, and the one code the press couldn’t crack. Where Robbie loved nothing more than to talk about himself and the music (and the women), Sage never said much of anything at all.
I was going to have to change that.
The roar of the airplane engines coming alive shook me out of my thoughts. We had coasted up the runway and now we were headed for the sky.
I looked over at the lady next to me. She had a book out and was thoroughly engrossed, not paying attention at all to the fact that we were about to be launched into the air in a metal tube with wings. I had brought a book too, Carrie by some new author, but there was no way I’d be able to concentrate on it while 35,000 feet in the sky. I didn’t even know why I’d picked that book as it looked kind of scary and scary stuff wasn’t really my thing.
I wasn’t sure if it was because I was thinking of the book, or because we were now in the air and I was terrified of us falling to our deaths, but an incredible chill passed over my body, causing every hair on my arms to stand up. My eyes had been squeezed shut for the last few minutes so I opened them to the circulated air and fluorescent lights.
The chill intensified.
In the narrow space between the seats in front of me was the shadowed face of someone staring in my direction. I could barely make out that it was a little boy, maybe around six years old. He kept his dark eyes on me. He opened his mouth to grin.
My breath caught in my throat.
It lasted only a second, only a flash of white teeth, but I could have sworn his teeth were fanged. Sharp as razors and entirely inhuman.
Then the smile vanished and the boy turned around.
I spent the rest of the plane ride with my eyes locked on the back of his seat. I didn’t fear the airplane anymore—I feared something else.
It wasn’t until we were getting up to get our bags that I got another glimpse of him. He was smiling, perfectly normal teeth, chatting to his parents, a cute young boy overall. He didn’t look my way once, and by the time I was walking into the airport, dragging my carry-on behind me, I’d come to the conclusion that it was all in my head.
Why on earth had I just spent a couple of hours on an airplane focused on some random little boy when I had more pressing things to think about? Was it just a distraction for my mind? Because it had worked.
Now, as passengers dispersed in the arrivals terminal, I had to look for a man carrying a sign that said Dawn Emerson on it.
The man would be Hybrid’s manager, Jacob Edwards.
The man who would take me to the band at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
The band who would become my shadow for the next few weeks.
I was hit by such a burst of excitement that I thought my heart was going to bounce its way out of my chest. My knees began to quiver, the handle of my bag starting to slip out of my clammy hands. Could I do this? I didn’t even know where I was.
Denver, right, Denver, Colorado. I was Dawn Emerson in Denver, Colorado, having survived her first plane trip ever with a non-demonic little boy. I was thousands of miles away from home, standing in an airport full of strangers going back and forth. I was on the verge of something epic. It could go well, it could all go bad, but it was going to be epic in whichever way it went.
I was going to throw up.
I spied the signs for the bathroom and began to hurry my way there when I heard someone call out my name.
I stopped and forced the vomit to stay down. I tried to compose myself. Smoothed the fringe down on my shirt.
I turned around and looked. Over by the baggage claim was a tall, red-headed fellow holding a plastic sign that had my name on it. His eyes lit up at my gaze and he gestured for me to walk over to him with a quick shake of his head.
“You’re Dawn, right?” he yelled, full-on Cockney accent. People in the terminal turned to look at us, perplexed at the ginger invasion.
I nodded, feeling like a deer caught in the headlights.
“Well hurry up and piss and get your ass over here, time is money.”
Yes, he certainly did just shout that at me from across the airport.
I was a little too annoyed to piss or vomit now. So this was the Jacob Edwards, was it? What a rude dude.
I straightened my shoulders, gripped my bag tighter, and hurried off toward him.
“Dawn, nice to finally meet you,” he said as I neared him. “I’m Jacob Edwards, but you can call me The Cob. Actually don’t. I can tell I might like you and I only let buggers call me that.”
Now that I was up close, I could see he was quite the brutal looking character. Oh, he was handsome in a peculiar way with a large sloping forehead and broad chin. His eyes were small and sparkling, a weird amber color, and his nose had been broken a few times. Freckles dusted the tops of his cheeks along with pockmarks.
This was the man who kept Hybrid under control. Given some of the rumors I had heard, I wondered how often he was able to do his job. Guess I’d be finding out.
A little thrill ran through my body at that thought, and I held out my hand. I needed to act professional, assertive.
“Nice to meet you, Jacob. Thank you for, you know, thinking of me,” I said. He took my hand in his and gave it a bone-crushing squeeze. I had no doubt he could have broken it in two. So much for being assertive.
He held on to it for a few more seconds, looking deep into my eyes like he was testing my pain threshold or something. Then he released it and smiled. “It was nothing. Now let’s get started. I have a cab waiting for us.”
I couldn’t help but feel shy while looking at him. There was something magnetic about his presence and it was hard to guess his age. His mannerisms and skin made him look older, but his eyes and smile placed him at about thirty. He was a beefy guy, wide at the waist, built like a tree. His knuckles looked fat and he had a bunch of gold rings on them. His suit was checkerboard and ugly.
He turned and started marching toward the door. I followed behind him, my long legs trying to match his, my brain lagging behind. I ignored the tingling sensation in my hand.
We burst through the main doors and into the Colorado sunshine. It was brighter here than at home, the air smelling fresh from the mountains. I immediately imagined Moonglow tossing up her white mane, Arab nostrils wide, soaking in the oxygen. This was horse country, a more rugged version of home.
But now wasn’t time to be thinking about home. We had stopped at a cab that was running at the side of the road. Jacob tossed my sign in the trash (kind of a bummer because I would have liked to have kept that as a souvenir), then opened the door to the backseat, taking my suitcase from me with the other hand.
“Get in,” he gave me a little shove toward the door. “And be careful, she bites.”
I got in and sat in the back of the cab, expecting to see a dog or something. Instead I saw the very unamused face of Miss Noelle Clark. Bassist. Girlfriend of Mickey Brown. An original member of Hybrid, and one of the hottest chicks in the music industry.
She was looking at me like I’d already tested her patience. Despite the dullness in her heavily-lined eyes and the tightness of her normally full lips, she was prettier in person than I’d seen in photographs and on TV. She was thinner than I imagined, but dressed straight out of a magazine spread, a headband on her head, her dark, wild hair trailing down her shoulders. She wore a slightly transparent black lace dress and tall platform boots. It was sexy and hard-edged all at once. She was one of the few musicians who could pull off the Alice Cooper look without being Alice Cooper.
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