Alright, I say, the gig's in less than two weeks, right?
We have thirteen days to make a decent set, hopefully consisting of some of our own songs.
Everybody nods again. It seems like everybody has accepted me as the leader; the decision-maker, since I was the one that wanted to put this whole thing together in the first place.
Personally I think we should combine recognisable covers, because people always like hearing things they've heard before, with more obscure things, so that we can show people new stuff without having to spend time writing it ourself.
That sounds like a good idea, Doc agrees. We should make up a list of slightly obscure artists that we listen to, and find songs that we think we can learn.
Tommy breaks in: What about our own songs? We have two now; the one Doc's written, and the one Andrew and I started on yesterday.
Sounds good, Sam confirms. That's two songs, but they definitely need work. I'm sure we can write at least a couple more before show-time.
I signal to the waitress that's been serving us.
It's about ten in the morning; I've assembled the band at a local caf so that we can talk business. The waitress comes over.
What can I get you, gentlemen?
Damn, she is hot.
Yes, um some more coffee, and some napkins. Oh, and could we borrow a few pens?
She smiles. Of course.
She comes back with the coffee, pens and some cocktail napkins. I say thank you, drink some coffee and grab a napkin, writing in big letters:
And under it in smaller letters:
Ok, let's start with the basics, Tommy says, recognisable covers: I suggest Sweet Child of Mine.
Sam furrows his brow. I'm not sure how good that would sound with only one guitar. There's, like, five in the original recording and usually at least three in concert versions.
Yeah, but if we managed to pull it off I say enthusiastically, I mean, people love that song, and you don't hear it live very often. I could try some extra fuzz on my bass, see if that helps.
I could always pick up an extra guitar, just for the rhythm, Tommy suggests.
Yeah, but let's not turn it into a habit, says Doc. The best frontman is just that: a frontman, singing, clapping his hands, coaxing the crowd, dancing back and forth a bit, headbanging you can't do all that while playing a guitar.
You're right, Tommy admits, alright, extra guitars only where it's absolutely necessary.
Maybe we should try to find another guitarist, Sam suggests. Not for this gig, but in the future.
I don't know, I frown, I kind of like things the way things are now. I don't want more people getting involved, it seems too complicated.
I agree, Doc says, I think things look good the way they are now. Besides, adding an extra guitar can make things musically complex or really plain. We're supposed to be a straightforward rock-and-roll/hard rock band; we don't want constant power chords in the background like some shitty pop-punk band. We want to be raw and dry and dirty, and slightly minimalistic. Am I right?
We all nod.
Yeah, you're right, Sam agrees.
Ok, we're losing focus, I say slightly annoyed, Sweet Child o' Mine is a maybe.
I write it down on the napkin with a little question mark next to it.
Next idea, I urge.
Something by The Beatles, Tommy suggests. How about While My Guitar Gently Weeps?
Everybody nods. I write it down.
Fortunate Son? Sam proposes.
On the list.
We need some Hendrix, Doc states. Hey Joe for starters. Purple Haze, Voodoo Chile as well.
Led Zeppelin, I say, Black Dog, Whole Lotta Love.
What about No Quarter? Sam asks.
Kind of melancholy, don't you think? I say sceptically.
Well, maybe as a sort of intermission song; something to lull the crowd before we explode with something big.
Tommy grins; I like the sound of that. Write it down; No Quarter's a must.
What about Blew, by Nirvana? Doc proposes. It's off their first album, some people recognise it, some don't. I always thought it was a really cool song.
Yeah, it's a great song, I agree.
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Emit Remmus, We Believe, Tommy suggests
I see Sam staring out the window. The sun is shining, there's a grassy park across the street, most people are wearing t-shirts and shorts.
It's summertime, he says conclusively, we should have something that reflects that; I suggest Summertime Blues.
We all agree in unison.
I look at the ink-covered cocktail napkin, I think that's good enough. Alright, if our set list has fifteen songs; four of our own, six recognisable covers, five obscure things does that sound good to everyone?
Again, everybody nods.
Ok, we need to discuss which of these recognisable covers we're going to keep.
And so we do. We go through each song, looking at pros and cons, comparing them to each other. I write down the final results on a new napkin:
We let the number of songs slide from six to seven because we consider No Quarter an intermission rather than actual song, and if we can't pull off Sweet Child of Mine, then that's no problem: six songs, just like we intended. From there we make a list of obscure artists, or artists that aren't so obscure but that not so many people listen to:
Kyuss? Sam looks up from the napkin he's been randomly doodling on. What's that?
It's a stoner/desert/psychedelia band from the early nineties, I explain, They're from California, not like sunny-happy-knappy-clean-beaches-and-vanilla-ice-cream,' they grew up in areas further inland, like Joshua Tree; really dry and dirty, you know? Extreme heat, raw and desolate, and most important of all: shrooms.
Doc grins. Sounds cool.
Tommy looks at the names I've written down. Okay, that's six names, even if we only do one of each, we still need to drop one.
Sam takes a peek at the list; I think we can loose Tool. I mean, they're cool and all, but their sort of industrial prog-thrash: not exactly what we're looking for.
You're right, I confirm, alright, from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds: what should we choose?
Doc, who mentioned them in the first place, speaks up: Midnight Man, off the new album.
No one else has anything to say about that, so it's agreed.
Next, I say, Incubus.
A Certain Shade of Green, or You Will Be a Hot Dancer, Sam says, thinking about it for a moment. No, You Will Be a Hot Dancer is the safest bet. Too much scratching on the other one.
Noted. Next: Joy Division.
Tommy takes a sip of coffee. I'd say Transmission. If that doesn't get people hooked, I don't know what will.
Very good. Seigmen, I look at Doc. This one's all yours, Mr. Drum-machine.
We should do a song called The Man With the Golden Helmet. We all look at him quizzically. It's kind of a dark song, but we need to attract all spectrums of the audience, so for now we're just going to have to throw in a bit of variation with the more straightforward rock-and-roll. Besides, he continues, It's not a very hard song to learn.
Hey, that's okay, I assure, even if I usually don't play darker stuff, I like a lot of it.
Last on the list, Tommy announces: Kyuss.
The song I had in mind was Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop, I say excitedly.
Tommy's the only one that knows what I'm talking about: It's mostly an instrumental track, lot's of really cool guitars, not to mention: it's a very progressive song, has lot's of different parts.
Sam frowns, I don't know, can we learn that in time? I mean, if it's as good and complicated as you say.
We have to try, Tommy encourages, it should be our last song, I mean, if we manage pull it off, people will go ecstatic, I guarantee you.
Alright, says Doc, let's at least give it a try.
It's done. I write down the new songs next to the ones already decided:
Someone's pouring more coffee in my cup. It's the waitress.
Planning a gig? she asks, nonchalant.
Yes we are, sweetheart, says Tommy in a honeysweet voice. Wanna come?
The waitress doesn't respond, she just rolls her eyes. Instead, she faces me:
Can I take a look at the set list?
Um, sure, I fumble.
She looks over my shoulder at the list. I can feel her breathing near my ear, smell her sweet perfume. A lock of her hair brushes my shoulder, and I can feel her cheek nearly touching mine. My pulse speeds up a bit and my face becomes a shade redder than it was. I'm hot; did someone turn off the air conditioning? I get a sudden urge to kiss her neck, but I restrain myself.
She leans back, relieving me of her enticing ways.
It looks good, she says, where's it going to be?
At the Dimebag bar, Doc responds, you know it?
Yeah, I know it. I'll be there. She walks away, stops, and turns around, smiling: By the way, I'm Amy.
Then she disappears into the kitchen. And just like that, bassmaestro Andrew falls in love.
Alright, one last thing on the agenda: a name.
I snap out of it. What?
Tommy sighs. Come on, Andrew; we need a name? For the band? Are you with me?
Yeah, yeah, um, right, uh, a name, yes
My head is still floating a little bit.
My first proposition, Sam states: Psychodelia.
Kind of, I don't know boring, Tommy comments.
I agree, says Doc, it's a cool name, but it sounds like something you could hear anywhere. We need something distinctive.
United in Separation? Tommy suggests.
Sounds wimpy, I say, like some crappy pop-punk band.
Ok, what about Separated in Unification? Doc proposes.
Sounds way too indie, Sam sighs.
Blood for Blood?
I sigh. Come on, guys! We need something distinctive, catchy, unique, maybe with some clever or ironic meaning. Now think really hard!
Everyone goes silent.
Sam stares into his coffee cup. After a while he looks up as if he's ready to say something, then stops and looks down into his coffee cup again, mumbling:
I look at him: What was that?
He looks around at us, as if unsure of himself, before speaking: Well, this might be completely stupid, but I was thinking you know, we're sort of on the edge, we're risking everything with this band, Andrew and Tommy don't have jobs, which means that soon enough they might not have a place to live we're all cutting everything pretty close, and quite frankly, I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I'm exhausted I feel like I'm running on fumes. So I thought, what about: The Burnouts?
Tommy's eyes go wide; I like that!
So do I, says Doc with a big grin.
I smile. The Burnouts? That's amazing!
Then I stand up, speaking in a voice that's probably a bit too loud for being in public, but I really don't give a fuck. I'm happy.
I hereby christen we four musicians as I stop, look at Doc sincerely and ask: I hope you don't mind the religious expression?
He grins, responding equally sincerely: not at all.
Then I hereby christen these four musicians: The Burnouts.
We all cheer, shaking hands, giving man-hugs, generally making a big fuss. But hey, what the f--k, this is a big deal.
Then The Burnouts leave the building, ready to conquer whatever comes next.
Robert Ippolito, July 2009
A special thanks to UG user artnotapathy for a terrific band name, and to all those who suggested titles that didn't make the cut: thanks for giving me something to chose from, you have my eternal gratitude!