The kid looks pissed. As I take a pull at my beer, he enters another solo, third one in the same fifteen-minute song. Fingers flying across the frets, the crowd gives a roar as he hits the last fret, 22nd, on his Strat. He bends it slowly, speeding up and slowing down a session of speed-picking, using his wah-pedal to enhance the effect.
This guy's good, I say to myself. So why is he pissed? You can see his face, pulled into a tight grimace, eyes drilling into the neck of his guitar. He doesn't sway to the music, close his eyes, even give a brief smile. I look at his two fellow musicians, a bassist slapping at a Warwick and a drummer softly painting the cymbals with slow shivers of his brushes. These two keep looking at each other, shaking their heads and looking annoyed.
Still, they sound great. Although I never really got into jazz, I've always liked the controversial genre. The song finishes with a crescendo, and the crowd roars. The bassist steps up to the microphone, using for the first time since they opened, when he stated:
We're Cardiac Funk-Fest, enjoy.
This time, he says: That's it for now, have a good night.
Gotta love an instrumental band. The jazz/funk trio get off stage, and go into the back room.
I call over to Tommy: Tommy, get over here.
Tommy, surrounded by girls as usual, squeezes away, moves his ladykiller mug topped with a silky blonde head of hair over to me, at the bar, ordering two shots while he's at it.
What's up? he says, nonchalant as usual.
What'd you think of that trio? The shots arrive, and we kick them back.
Pretty good, He says with a cough. They're on the wrong stage, though. This is a f--king metal bar, they should be in a jazz club.
I raise an eyebrow. There aren't any jazz clubs in this town.
Yeah, whatever. Lot's of talent though, that bassist whips you're ass.
f--k that, I retort, that guitarist was f--king badass.
Yeah, he was good. Why was he so pissed?
So it wasn't just in my head. You noticed it, too?
f--k, who didn't notice? The guy was ready to burst a frontal lobe.
I laugh, letting the alcohol hit the nerves. Tommy goes back to his girls; I drain my bottle of beer, and go outside to get some air.
Walking to the backdoor, I stop to eavesdrop on what sounds like a debate between representatives from North- and South Korea, coming from the back room. I recognise the bassist's voice:
What the f--k were you doing on Chameleon'? Playing a f--king violin?
I hear a voice that I can only assume belongs to the guitarist, scream back:
f--k you, you missed the change!
I didn't miss the change, you pretended to bring your shitty solo to an end, then just pick it up again at double tempo? How the f--k am I supposed to predict that?
I lean against the wall, pretending to fidget with my wallet. The two voices continue to scream at each other, generally abusing each other's musical talent, physical appearance, genital organs, and so on, until a commanding voice drowns them both out:
Shut the f--k up, both of you! Must be the drummer. He continues,
Look, I didn't want this to get personal, but the fact of the matter is that you can't keep up with us. Sinclair and I have been playing jazz together for ten years, and then you come along. And even though you've only been playing guitar for five years, and mostly rock, we decide to give you a chance, hoping that we can teach you something. We've been playing together for eight months now, and as far as I can tell, you're still at the same place you were. We have better things to do than get strapped to a guitarist like you.
Whatever, f--k you both, says the guitarist.
I hear footsteps, and the door slams open, busting one hinge. The guitarist storms out, blazes past me, out the back door.
I go out the back, letting the fresh air whisk away the alcohol buzz, the crowd queasiness, the chaos. I see the guitarist leaning against the wall, staring at the ground. He sees me.
Don't suppose you have a cigarette to spare?
I fish a pack out of my pocket, handing him one of the little white cylinders.
Then I start digging around for a book of matches.
It's okay, I've got it. he says, lifting a lighter up to the cigarette.
He tries to light it, again, again, and again. It just keeps sparking. After a few seconds of failed attempts, he screams:
He smashes the lighter against the wall.
Relax buddy, here.
I find my matches, strike one, and light him up.
Thanks, he mumbles, I'm sorry, I'm-I'm not doing so good.
It's okay, I consult. I know the feeling,
I take a good look at the kid. He has semi-long dark hair down to his shoulders, a good three-day moonshine, and dark brown eyes. He kind of reminds me of a twenty-year-old version of Clive Owen. He's wearing a corduroy jacket hiding a brown leather vest and a psychedelic shirt. His jeans are full of holes, in sync with his tightly laced black Converse Allstars. I light a cigarette of my own, and try to make some half-assed conversation:
Hey, you f--king great up there. Good shit.
Yeah, others wouldn't agree, he snorts.
I play dumb; How so?
Let's put it this way: not two minutes ago, the recently before mentioned Cardiac Funk-Fest lost thirty-three percent of their ensemble.
Or got kicked out, little bit of both maybe.
I smile. I like this kid; he has a temper, a sense of humour, and lots of talent, even if those jazz snobs don't see it. We finish our cigarettes.
Come on, I'll buy you a drink. I offer.
No offence man, but I'm not a fag. I mean, I respect you and shit, and I appreciate the cigarette, but there's no point in trying.
I laugh out loud. Relax man, strictly straight myself, and a fellow musician. Let me buy you a drink, or pay for it yourself, if you insist.
He laughs as well, showing for the first time that night any sign of positive emotion. I offer a hand.
He shakes it.
Then we step inside.
Perhaps I should say something about myself: My name is Andrew, I'm twenty-three years old, and have been playing bass since I was fifteen. Mostly, I listen to and play good old-fashioned rock n' roll, but I do appreciate some dirty blues Tom Waits shit. I live in a dumpy little apartment along with two basses (one electric, one acoustic), an amplifier, and a cheap acoustic guitar.
I've been part of a few bands in my time, but none of them have ever amounted to anything, and the last one fell apart when everyone left for levels of education higher than I care for. Since I have ditched my education, I figure my only chance of making a life for myself is to make some proper attempt at starting a band; a real, dedicated and serious band. Which brings us to where I am now, looking for members.
The more I talk to Sam, the more I can't believe my luck. A truly talented rock n' roll guitarist that isn't taken, and he is dying to play some hardcore shit after eight months of being verbally abused in a jazz band that didn't appreciate him. He informs me that he's twenty-one, shares an apartment with a college student who's never home. He owns the Strat I saw him with on stage, an acoustic, a twelve-string acoustic and an acoustic bass, along with a cranky old Marshall amp. We get along pretty well, and have a few more drinks before we exchange phone numbers, agreeing that we should get together and see if we can't start something.
He says thank you and good night around one in the morning, and I try to find Tommy. I feel good. I've been looking for members for two months now, with no results. Now I have something to work with, maybe Sam and I can record a demo or something to show other musicians, if and when we find them.
Where the f--k is Tommy? I head to the bathrooms, but before opening the door, I hear some strange sounds coming from inside. Groans of ecstasy, I can recognise Tommy's voice. Then comes an orgasm. I sigh, counting how many cigarettes I have left. I don't actually smoke, cigarettes that is, because it's expensive and unhealthy, not to mention impractical if you're practicing in a no-smoking area, and you need to take a smoking break every twenty minutes. But it's handy to have a pack, a good way to make friends.
Tommy comes out. At first he jumps when he sees me, then he grins.
I can only hope that you're not jerking off to me and her.
Out the door comes a cute blonde chick, looking rather shaken, but slaps Tommy's ass as she walks by.
Funny man, it's her and I, but listen; I think I've found a guitarist.
Really? He looks curious. Hard to tell with Tommy whether that's a good or a bad sign. Who?
We make our way to the bar, ordering drinks.
That band we saw, the pissed guy.
Tommy looks quizzically at me. That hippie?
Yeah, he looks like a jazz-hippie, but he has a rock and roll temper, I explain, you could hear his solos, they sounded like rock, not jazz. And I talked to him. He's ditched the other band, and he agreed to jam with me sometime soon.
Tommy sips his beer. Interesting. Well, good luck with him. If you guys actually started playing together, it would sound pretty cool, I'm sure.
We both know what's coming next:
Come on, Tommy! I beg. Can't you be our vocalist?
Look man, I've told you this a million times before: I'm going to university in two months, there's no point.
f--k university, I say coaxingly, why not just go for it? Take a risk?
Tommy rolls his eyes. Because, five years from now, I don't want to be on the street offering blow-jobs for heroin.
I sigh. Tommy and I have known each other for most of our lives. He has a great voice, likes the same music as I do, and being the good-looking bastard he is, he would make a fantastic frontman.
Well, well, I'll just have to find someone else. That means that I still have to get a drummer, a vocalist, and maybe a rhythm guitarist. At least I have great lead guitarist, I hope. We haven't even played together yet. Maybe I'm investing too much too early in this guy. It doesn't matter. I'm on a roll, and I have no doubt that I'm going to get something going. And whether we become world-famous, or whether I end up getting my face slammed into the bar, I really don't care. I have a shot at this, and I'm going to make the f--king best of it.
Robert Ippolito, June 2009.
A special thanks to Tom Colohue for all the help in the forums, and to Ultimate-Guitar.com for being such a great f--king website!