We're no f--king acoustic and a capo! We've come here to make one hell of a show! And we're not going to keep the sound down low! 'Cause we're no f--king acoustic and a caaaaaaapoooooo!
Tommy's screaming out Sam's lyrics at the top of his lungs. Forget melody, he just roars. Usually, Tommy has a very clear and distinct singing voice, but if he wants to be hard; he can be hard.
Sam goes for a southern-rock styled solo, using a straightforward minor pentatonic scale. It sounds great: simple and catchy, but with a fiery edge.
Next up is Doc: he excels, as usual. I see him grinning as he plays, talk about a guy that digs his music.
Now it's my turn: I've been swimming around the second and fourth frets, but now I race up the neck, performing a semi-planned solo that gives me liberty to move around and improvise, while still keeping to a rough reference scale. It sounds pretty good if I may say so myself.
We trade off solos a few more times before ending the song at the agreed point with a bang of cymbals.
Good evening, Tommy says to the imaginary crowd. We're The Burnouts, I hope you enjoy the show. This next song is called You Will Be a Hot Dancer, by Incubus
Sam has already started the funky intro, being generous with the use of his wah-pedal.
The sharp, clean, funky tone is ear piercing, but it sounds good. I throw in the bass, and then the whole band kicks in. I do my best to follow the printed tab of the bassline I found on the Internet yesterday, but it isn't easy. I have to simplify quite a few parts, and improvise other parts. I'm sure, given time, I can learn it, but right now it's proving to be quite a trick.
The first verse comes along. Damn, situation's new to me
We play through the song with a few mistakes here and there, but close it neatly.
Ok, says Sam, That's good, but it needs work.
Well, this bass isn't easy, I grumble.
My thumb aches from all the slapping, a technique I usually don't put to use very often.
Right, that sounds like a good opening, Doc says, Let's just go through the songs we know, there's no point in trying all these songs that nobody knows, not yet.
We all agree on this, and so it goes. We play Purple Haze, Summertime Blues, Emit Remmus, Blew It all goes fairly well, and I can imagine them being good enough for the stage give a few more dedicated practises. But things go awry when we get to Sweet Child of Mine.
Sam stops us in the middle of his song, making a grimace. This is no good. It sounds hollow. Like f--king without a hard-on.
Tommy smirks at the bizarre simile, I guess I should pick an extra guitar
Question, I enquire sceptically: Where's this extra guitar going to come from?
My fellow band members look at each other. No one seems to have thought of the fact that we don't actually have another guitar, nothing electric anyway.
Damn, hadn't thought of that, Sam says regretfully. I have an acoustic guitar that can be plugged in, that's it.
Doc raises his eyebrows, Sweet Child of Mine on an acoustic guitar? What the f--k?
I sigh, It's all we've got, we have to at least try it. If it doesn't work, we'll have to see if there isn't a house guitar at the bar, or we'll just have to ditch the whole song.
Alright, let's practice tomorrow, I'll bring the acoustic and we'll see how it sounds, Sam offers.
It's all we can do for now, Tommy points out. Let's keep rolling: While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
The classic Beatles cover gives the room a certain atmosphere, and we all start rocking back and forth. Sam is swiftly switching between the clean and the distorted channels with his footswitch; playing the chords, then the solo pieces, then the chords, then back to the solo pieces beautiful.
The song ends smoothly, and without really thinking it over, I hit my ripple-effect pedal and start playing a bass equivalent of No Quarter's blackwater piano.
Everyone is watching me, I can feel their staring eyes, but I don't mind. I just keep playing the same riff, until the drums kick in and Sam finally strikes the first chord. Then another one. I close my eyes as the distortion makes an entry, letting the music fill the room. The guitars are a lot harder and louder than the original recording, but I like it; it sounds bitter cold, like a comforting chill on a frosty winter night.
Eventually the guitars and drums stop, and there's just me and Tommy.
Close the door, put out the light
I keep going, following the exact same notes as the original recording. I learned this song a long time ago: I heard it for the first time when I was sixteen, and immediately I knew that it was something special, something that needed to be learned.
Here I am playing it now. It doesn't matter that the sun is shining outside, I can't see it. I like it dark; dark music in a dark cellar.
Sam is playing the solo. He keeps to the original mostly, allowing himself a few improvised licks here and there. For a moment I look up at my fellow musicians: Sam has his eyes closed. Doc is staring at his for the moment immobile drumsticks, as if set on hold until his time comes to shine. Tommy is sitting on one of the amps, listening to the solo. He looks up at me and smiles, as if to assure me that we haven't all gone insane and that we can and will be able to communicate with each other after our little magical jam session.
After what seems like a very long time the song ends. Doc is the first to say something:
I need a f--king drink.
We all laugh and head upstairs into Doc's makeshift livingroom. Doc heads into the kitchen, bringing out a sixpack and a bottle of vodka.
Oh god, I groan, not again.
Relax, Tommy says, I'll be your chaperone.
Let's keep to the business at hand, Sam proposes, does everyone have the CD's they said they would have?
Doc and I nod. I fish the Kyuss album out of my gigbag. Doc wanders over to a collection of CDs, grabbing a dark-covered album and bringing it over. Sam takes a laptop out of a bag that's been lying on the couch. He fires it up, opening iTunes. Adding a playlist, he selects all the songs from our set that he already has on the programme and drags them into the playlist. Then he imports the two albums Doc and I have, adding the tracks that are a part of the set.
Alright, that should do it, he says. We're ready to burn.
Doc rummages through some drawers, locating four burnable discs and hands them to Sam. Sam then proceeds to burn four copies of the songs. I look at the playlist:
Anyone have a feltpen? he asks.
Doc procures one, and Sam writes on each disc:
Burnt Out Covers.
Tommy grins, clever.
That'll do the trick, Sam says as he hands a disc to each of us. Let's call it a day. Go home, practice the songs you don't know, get tabs and lytics off the Internet
Sounds good, I concur, alright, practice again tomorrow, Sam will take the acoustic guitar, and we'll just run through the songs we know. Sound good to everyone?
Everybody nods, and Sam, Tommy and I head out the door. Sam gets on his Vespa, and Tommy and I start walking to the nearest bus-stop.
Later in the evening, I'm practising the You Will be a Hot Dancer bassline, listening to the song over and over again and trying to mimic the unpredictable pattern. Tommy is playing Devil May Cry and eating potato chips.
I finally give up, grumbling f--k it, and sitting down next to Tommy, munching on some chips.
What's up? he asks in a monotone voice as he blasts a group of marionettes with shotguns then slices them up with a gigantic sword.
Baithline ishn't cooperating, I pout with a mouth full of chips.
Can't you just improvise it? Simplify?
I suppose, but I'd like to at least try to keep to the original as closely as possible.
Well, don't strain yourself, he comforts. I mean, we're not really planning on being a cover band, are we? So don't hesitate to make a song more you,' change a few things. We're trying to project our own sound, aren't we?
So don't worry about it! the videogamer assures. Just play it like you would play it, no sweat.
Tommy finishes the level, and we switch over to Timesplitters, playing two-player mode and decapitating zombies. Then we watch a movie. About halfway through I fall asleep.
I had the oddest dream. For starters, I was a banana. Then I realized that Adam Cartwright from Bonanza was riding me, so I bucked him off. He pulled out an uzi and shot me, then ate me (because I was a banana). Then I went into a forest where all the trees were pink, and in this clearing there was Kyuss playing a set, with a bunch of hedgehogs and squirrels. I joined the crowd, and ate some purple mushrooms, and went on a bad trip. Then I woke up.
I always get a bit surprised when I wake up anywhere else than my own bed, but waking up on the couch isn't so bad. I hear cupboards banging open and shut. Looking over to the kitchen, I see Tommy rummaging through shelves.
Tommy? I fumble, rubbing my eyes. What's going on?
What's going on is that you don't have any food, he says in an irritated tone.
Well sorry about that, but we don't have an income, remember? I respond snappily.
F--k this, let's go out and get some breakfast.
With what money?
I have a few dollars put away, I'll buy, he offers.
I'm not going to say no to some free food, so I put on my shoes and we head out the door.
Walking through a more central area of town, we see a poster taped to a wall:
DIMEBAG BAR is hosting ROCK CONCERT
At the very bottom of the poster it says:
with The Burnedouts warming up.
Tommy and I look at each other.
I thought Doc said that we were the headliners, Tommy says in a confused manner.
They didn't even spell our name right! I shout angrily.
What the f--k?!
This can't be right. Who are the Renegade Asylums? I say, adding a sarcastic twang to the band name.
Some shitty emo-punk band, Tommy responds, this is so totally f--ked!
What should we do?
I don't know.
Something about this doesn't seem right, but instead of delving on the matter, we go get some breakfast. But rest assured, The Burnouts won't stand for this kind of treatment, and if somebody plays rough with us, we will play rough back.
Do Not F--k With The Burnouts.
Robert Ippolito, July 2009