It was 8:45 on Friday night. Their set started in thirty minutes. The crowd was in their twenties, a few younger people had large black X's sharpie'd on the backs of their hands. The bartender gave Scott a surveying look as he struggled past, responsible for what now was his own gear. He had tried to carry in his drums in as few trips as possible, not wanting to linger among the restless crowd. The floor was sticky, the air hazy with smoke. It was dark and packed, but Dave's resonant chortle cut through the atmosphere as he followed Scott towards the stage.
"We really should have practiced more."
Melody was standing in the middle of the stage, back towards the crowd.
"You mean," Scott huffed, trying not to set the tom down too hard, "we should have practiced."
"I told you," Dave chipped in, "that defeats the purpose."
"I know, but still," Melody replied, "we suck."
"Then all is going according to plan."
Scott shook his head and walked back out to the van they had borrowed, another loan from Mark's brother. Surprisingly, Bessie of all people had a license. They were stopped once by a cop; Scott grimaced as he recalled Bessie stammering through an explanation of why, exactly, the side of their vehicle said "Free Candy".
Scott climbed into the back of the van. Hunched over, he made his way past Andronicus and Mark. They both had a grip on one of Mark's frisbees, eyes fixed to it intently.
"Becoming One with the Fris' Andro?"
"Dude," Mark said, shutting his eyes, "you totally killed it."
"Scott, my dear man, it would seem Mark here has stumbled onto a concept not unlike my connection to the world of acting."
"Yeah, man, I was just, like, enlightening him."
"No, no, good sir, I have already found my path."
"Aw, really? You should have said that before I started the ritual"
"You see," Andronicus said, turning his attention back to Scott, "when I act, I am not acting,' as it were. I am becoming the character. Nay, I am the character. He, or she, and I are one and the same. Acting is like"
"Yeah, that's great. You guys should start getting ready too. They want us to do a soundcheck."
Scott dragged a creaky stool by the two as Andronicus attempted to chill the air with his annoyance. The omnipresent purple cape was replaced with a fur lined, blood red get up. He let go of his half of the frisbee and flung the cape around himself, raising his head high. Scott heard a tinny thump and a flurry of curses, along with Mark's words of consolation.
"Hey," he heard Mark say in a low voice, "does Scott seem, like, different?"
The swearing stopped. "Truth be told, I never paid him any mind."
"No way! Me neither. He just sorta blends."
"Gee, thanks," Scott said to the night. The bouncer recognized him and held the door open, which elicited angry cries from a line of people waiting to pay the cover.
"Can I see some ID?" he asked a college student trying to look over his bulky shoulders. The student snorted and pulled out his wallet.
"Good luck in there, kid."
Scott nodded and backed through the door. "Thanks."
The bar seemed tenser than when Scott had left. Small groups of people chatted away, the underaged preferring cynical solitude. He saw a few he recognized from school but, as usual, their eyes dismissed him. Some sneered, and he guessed they thought he was a roadie for the heralded Aluminum Cans. People were looking to the stage more frequently, amused by the antics. Dave was running in a circle around Bessie and Melody was waving her arms, trying to herd them both to their respective positions.
"Dave, calm down. Bessie, stop crying, help me out here. Dave!"
The lenses of her glasses flashed as she looked over the crowd.
"Scott, I see you slinking over there. Get up here and help me!"
Great, now people were looking at him. He held the stool legs out and approached Dave.
"You both are completely wrong. Dave, you must be the lion. Scott, you must be the tamer."
"Andronicus, you are really not helping," Melody barked. "And Mark, what are you doing? Leave those people alone, they don't want to hear you preach. Bessie? Bessie? I told you to stop crying!"
"Are you kids the openers?"
Melody swallowed her words, Scott lowered his stool and Dave widened his eyes. Three freakishly tall people loomed from the other side of the stage. Their approach had been drowned out by the audience's murmurs. Andronicus was able to look eye to eye with all of them and did so smugly. Everyone else was overawed. Dave pushed his way forward, smirked, and stuck his hand out.
"Sup? I'm Dave. We're"
"Doesn't matter. You kids any good?"
"No, we suck," Dave replied gaily.
The Aluminum Cans, as was apparent from the crowd's excited reaction, looked at each other quizzically.
"That's not something you'd usually brag about."
"Are you in a gang?"
"What're your names?"
"Uh, I'm Grant. These are Mike and Seth."
"Are you guys a gang?"
"What the hell are you talking about, kid?"
"You're all wearing really tight black pants and black shirts while standing in a V formation. Either you're in a gang, about to start dancing, or both."
"Is this guy f--king with us?" the one dubbed Seth asked.
"You should watch your mouth," Mike added, moving next to Grant.
Grant didn't bat an eye. "This is your first show, right?"
"It is," Melody answered, "and you're standing on my trumpet case."
"Well, break a leg. Don't make us look too good. Let's go."
Grant walked off stage, easily knocking Dave aside. Seth and Mike looked at each other and followed. The crowd had fallen silent, mystified by the exchange, but their conversations started up at a higher volume once the Aluminum Cans had gone backstage.
"Dude, what was that?"
"It was obviously a challenge, Mark,'' Andronicus chided. "Though they neglected the ceremonial white glove native to this era."
"This isn't the 17th century, Andro, but you are correct. Those are our rivals, the mountain of aluminum cans we must topple! Scott, we need a drum roll. Now!"
"Then just hit things and make noise!"
"We have to do a soundcheck," Melody whined. "Listen to me, damnit. The audio tech looks like he's going to kill us. We're on in fifteen minutes!"
"When you kids are done jacking off," a voice stated over the PA, "I'd like to get this over with."
Melody collected herself and bustled around the stage, encouraging a peep from Bessie and raising the mic, directing the others to produce cringe-worthy sounds until the levels were set to her liking. Scott's timid drumming and her brash trumpeting had clashed with the rest of the band during their brief practice. Bessie was near impossible to hear at any time. Working around their deficiencies was an unenviable task. Scott was amazed at how sedate his friends were, Bessie's crippling shyness notwithstanding. Years of apathy kept his face smooth, but blood crashed through his veins and blocked his ears. Somehow sensing this, Dave escorted the band outside for a pep talk.
"This is it. This is our moment. Tonight the flock of ducklings inside will know our true mettle. They will fear us, adore us, follow us into the bowels of"
"Can you at least try to make some sense?" Scott asked, teeth chattering. "Is it just me or did it get really cold all of a sudden?"
"It's just you. Now, follow me to face the doting throngs!"
At 9:13 the bar owner walked on stage. He tapped the mic with a finger; the feedback was deafening.
"Hey, everyone. Tonight, we haveactually, I don't know who this is since they failed to provide us with a name. But, we have a new band for you. This is their first show, and from what little they did tell us they only have three songs. It's a short set, so just bear with it. So here iswhoever the hell they are."
A smattering of applause followed as Dave and the others took the stage. Scott sat on his stool and almost fell backwards. Plywood guitar casually slung over his shoulders, Dave nodded at him.
"Just do it like I told you. I BELIEEEVVVEEEE IN YOOOOOUUUUUUU!!!!!!!"
Scott cleared his throat and raised his drumsticks. "UmONE! TWO! THREE!"
A short, middle school girl stood in the doorway connecting the garage to the house. She was in threatening pose, her butterfly print pajamas amplifying the effect.
"Cassie, you're still up?"
"Duh! I'm trying to go to sleep but SOMEONE is not letting me."
"It's not that late."
"It's two in the morning! I'm telling mom and dad."
"They're watching some old person's show in the living room. They've been cracking up all night. Like they care!"
"Whatever, I just wanna go to bed."
"Dude, doesn't that thing look like Dave?"
"Thing?" Cassie said, affronted.
"Excellent observation, Mark. I do believe it does."
"Dave, dude, is that, like, your clone?"
"It looks like his little brother. Or a shorter Dave with long hair," Melody observed.
"You guys," Dave laughed, "That's my little sister Cassandra."
"I am NOT little! I hate you all, I'm going to bed!" Cassandra tossed her blonde hair in righteous anger and slammed the door. They listened to her stomp up stairs. The laughter in the living room continued unbroken.
"That was weird. Let's start from the top. Scott?"
"It is getting kind of late," Scott said, starting to stand. "I think I have a test tomorrow. Maybe."
"No, you guys wanted to practice despite my stern warnings. My very stern, very firm warnings. I should have backhanded you into obeying. So, we're going to practice. From, the top, Scott."
"From the top." Dave brandished his hand.
Scott sunk back down. "Fine. One. Two."
"Okay, jeez. ONE! TWO! THREE!"
Bessie caught her breath in the short break. She was shouting as loud as she could in response to Dave and Mark's knocks.
Dave rose the chords a few steps as Melody had instructed him. Short and easy, just how he liked it.
An improvised turnaround and Dave led everyone back to the first section. He saw Melody raise an eyebrow. He smiled innocently. The practice paid off. His inexperienced band accommodated him admirably. Scott was letting go of his anxiety and hitting his kit with growing strength; Bessie was belting out the response; Andro was dancing around, cape flying, intermittently slamming the keys on the pathetically small keyboard; Mark was doing a sort of swaying motion, staring at his bass, utterly focused; Melody was in the back and living up to her name for once. Dave flew across the stage.
"ORANGE YOU GLAD, ORANGE YOU GLAD, ORANGE YOU GLAD I DIDN'T!"
Dave threw in a pick slide for good measure and finished with a dissonant chord. He cut it off and looked at the crowd, panting. The stage was silent. The crowd was silent.
"Did he just make orange' two syllables?" The speaker, a high schooler in the back, noticed he was the only one talking and covered his mouth in embarrassment. Dave took the mic from Bessie.
"Hey, my name's Dave and we're Didn't Say Banana! That was our theme song slash single, Didn't Say Banana' off of our soon to be released EP Didn't Say Banana'. That's just a working title, by the way."
Scott imagined he heard a cricket. Melody looked torn between slapping Dave, crying, and laughing uncontrollably.
"Now, shut up and listen to the rest of our crap. Hit it, Scott!"