The Aces

Reading Time: 5 minutes

THE ACES — The red light flickered three times in the green room. The Red Aces, tonight’s headliner, formed in a circle, arm in arm.

They swayed left and right a few times, and Jonny, the lead singer, let out a low, bass-filled hum, then started singing. Two beats in, the rest of the band joined into their granddaddy’s favorite Roger Miller tune. The one he sang to them after a cup too many of the shine.

“Trailer’s for sale or rent

 Rooms to let, 50 cents

 No phone, no pool, no pets

 I ain’t got no cigarettes,”

“Alright, boys, it’s showtime,” Rick, the band’s bassist, belted out.

The four cousins ran out of the green room with tight-flowered shirts and even tighter jeans. They pranced onto the stage and were met with a flood of screams and cheers.  

“What’s up, Detroit?!” Jonny screamed into the microphone.

The wave of claps and screams only swelled in response.

“We’re so excited to be here. As you know, Detroit is near and dear to us. But tonight, we’re here to help those families affected by the factory closing. For those losing their jobs. All proceeds tonight go to the Bigger Promises organization.” Jonny crowed to the audience. While tonight did have a known cause for charity, the Aces had donated Detroit concert proceeds to good causes for the last four years.

The crowd roared again before Jonny continued, “Alright, we want to play a game to get started. When we say red, you say aces. Red.”

“Aces!” the crowd of eight thousand thundered back.

“Red!”

“Aces!”

“RED!”

“ACES!” Matt screamed and leaned to shout in Ricardo’s ear, “They better play Cadillac Walk!”

“Dude, it’s been five years since they played that live in Tokyo, but that would be epic!”

Jonny turned to the rest of the band and howled into his mic, “We got a crowd tonight, boys! Let’s give ’em what they came for!”

Rick stepped to the front of the stage and started fingering his 1967 Reverend Signature Bass. It only took two notes for Matt and Ricardo to turn to each other and give each other a palm-numbing high five.

“No freaking way!” Matt screamed.

“They’re playing it. They’re actually playing it.” Ricardo yelled back.

The Red Aces played all the classics for the next hour and a half – She Ain’t Left Until She’s Gone, Sunset City and almost all the breakout album Young Doesn’t Get Younger songs. Matt and Ricardo got lost in the tunes as they danced and sang until their shirts were soaked and their voices turned hoarse. After the Red Aces ended with Ricardo’s favorite, Getting Lost Again, the crowd chanted, “Aces, Aces!”

But once Jonny flicked his guitar pic out to the crowd, and the drummer slung his sticks into the crowd, the pitch of excitement died, and fans made their way to the exit. Jabbering as they did about their favorite tune of the night and what bars they were going to hit. Matt and Ricardo only stood there. Letting all the fans make their way out.

Matt finally broke the silence, “Souvenir shop?”

“Yeah, man, yeah,” Ricardo said quietly as he chewed the inside of his mouth.

They sauntered over to the booth. Vinyl records, CDs, and an odd mix of memorabilia lay on the table. Behind the cashier was an assortment of Red Aces t-shirts and sweaters. Matt and Ricardo quietly assessed the goods.

Ricardo pointed at the shirts and tilted his head to Matt, “I’m thinking the polka dots.”

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking too. I’ll get the shirt. You get the Uber?”

“Sounds good.”

Matt whipped out his credit card while the cashier pulled down an XL Red Aces Tour 2022 from the rack. Ricardo nudged Matt with his elbow and gave two quick bobs of the head. They turned from the booth and walked to the front of the Electric Lady Music Hall. They didn’t say a word, which continued as their ride sped off.

When they got to their destination, their driver, a white guy in his late fifties, asked, “It’s a little late to be out here, boys, ain’t it?”

“Tradition,” Ricardo mumbled quietly.

The older man gave a shrug of the shoulders, and Matt and Ricardo popped out of the Ford Fusion. The car sped off, and the two men stood there for a moment, Ricardo took two steps, but Matt gently put his hand on Ricardo’s arm.

“Give me a minute, ok?” Matt asked, staring at the grass below him.

“Sure, man.”

Matt took two deep breaths that looked like they came from his shoulders, eyed Ricardo, and started walking. This was their sixth year of doing this, and they knew where the gate was busted. The hole was just big enough for them to squeeze through and far enough from the entrance that the old groundskeeper wouldn’t see them.

They waggled their way through and walked through the grass until they came to the stone path. They strolled for another couple hundred yards before pulling off to the grass again. Thirty yards later, they found their destination – a headstone.

Beloved Son

Benjamin “Benny” Dominguez

March 28th, 1994 – June 18th, 2016

Matt’s mind flashed back to that night like the previous five years. It had started out with promise. He was having a few drinks with his best friend Benny while they listened to Young Doesn’t Get Younger. Then came the knock on the door. Ricardo, Benny’s younger cousin, had come to visit from Chicago. Benny proclaimed that his younger cousin might be as big an Aces fan as Matt. To which Matt called ‘BS.’  

After a few more drinks and a game or two of beer pong, the boys headed to the show. True to the hype, Ricardo knew every song and wasn’t afraid to belt along with every tune, even if he was six keys off-pitch. Matt screamed note for note, and they only stopped for the occasional high-five or the odd beer run. Then came the first notes of Cadillac Walk, and Matt was about to swing his arm around Benny when it all went black.

Matt never could play the whole scene in his head when he thought about that fateful night. It was more a picture book than a movie. The billows of smoke. The smell of ash. The screams, oh the screams. Benny’s still body lying on the ground before Ricardo, and he scooped him up. The one image that always struck him the most was the front page of the Detroit Press on June 19th, 2016.

‘Tragedy at the Trademark – 16 Dead After Red Aces Concert Explosion’

Below it was a picture of two young men, covered in soot, carrying a limp body. The caption read ‘Matthew Hamilton and Benny Dominguez carry out Benjamin Dominguez, 22, from the wrath. Benjamin was declared deceased at Detroit Memorial Hospital at 11:42 PM.

“You ever feel guilty? Like we could have done more?” Ricardo asked without looking away from the tombstone.

“Every day, man, every day,” Matt started, letting out a deep breath, “But some days, I tell myself we did everything we could and actually believe it.”

Ricardo nodded but didn’t reply. After the funeral, Matt and Ricardo would lean on each other when they cracked. There was nobody else that could understand the shame, guilt, and pain they went through. They were Benny’s best buds, and he had died in their hands. Matt knew now that when Ricardo went dark that he needed time. He needed to process, and when he was done, Matt would know. So Matt waited and stared at the tomb too.

“Alright, man, I’m ready,” came Ricardo quietly.

Matt took the t-shirt out of his back pocket and laid it over the grave. Then two embraced in a bear hug that lasted for a long, quiet minute. As much as their tradition was to remember their lost friend and to lean on each other in ways others couldn’t. They always did the concert to remind themselves they still had to love the things they loved, even if it hurt like hell.

“Next year, man?” Matt asked.

“Aces.”

185 thoughts on “The Aces

  1. I simply wanted to thank you so much once again. I am not sure the things that I would’ve gone through without the creative concepts shared by you directly on this subject matter. It was actually a very distressing matter in my opinion, but finding out a new professional form you processed that made me to weep for gladness. I’m just happy for your support and as well , sincerely hope you really know what a great job you were putting in instructing others via your blog. I’m certain you’ve never come across all of us.

  2. Thank you for sharing excellent informations. Your website is very cool. I am impressed by the details that you have on this web site. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for extra articles. You, my pal, ROCK! I found simply the information I already searched everywhere and just could not come across. What a great website.

  3. What i don’t understood is actually how you are not actually much more well-liked than you might be now. You are so intelligent. You realize therefore considerably relating to this subject, made me personally consider it from so many varied angles. Its like women and men aren’t fascinated unless it’s one thing to do with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs outstanding. Always maintain it up!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *