The challenge was the key of F#. The mids were low, the treble was high and the volume was at a level that could destroy the ears of their respective contenders. Everything was set. The complaints of Bret Turner had been silenced by the effect of several glasses of on the house alcohol. The owner of Indy's knew what was good for business. A guitar battle between Edgar Finn of Disbelief and Rick Ash of Fire Brand Records definitely counted towards profit.
Standing behind the two of them, Adam could feel his annoyance melting away. By the bar, Anna had talked Jace into buying her a glass of vodka and orange. The siblings were standing together, with Veronica nearby, but not quite with them. Clearly, she had just not wanted to be alone. Unfortunately, this meant that the comfortable chairs were vacated. Adam was a little disappointed by this. Also, Jace still seemed to be laughing at the absurdity of the situation in front of him.
Both of the competing guitarists were standing ready, guitars tuned and amplifiers set. The people of Indy's had all gathered to watch. The only instructions that Adam had been given had been to play in F#, so that was what he did. He moved his hands into position, chose himself a chord progression and began to play.
Before he reached the first repetition after eight bars, Ash started playing, cutting off Ed. Ignoring any sense of rhythmic play, Ash simply hit the shred that he was famous for. He moved through arpeggio after arpeggio. By this point, Adam was quite experienced with music, so he understood that Ash was just moving position and repeating his movements, but the unaware audience lapped it up.
Eight bars on, Ash stopped abruptly, giving Ed neither warning nor signal that he should take over. Thankfully, Ed seemed to be expecting this; seizing the piece without missing a beat. His counter was nothing like Adam had expected. It was not fast. Instead, the Stratocaster had an attack of the blues. Slow bends and constant vibrato ruled.
Before it had even begun, it was over. The bars turned, bringing in Rick Ash's fast paced shred once again. This time though, the effect was lost. Like a good story, Ed's blues improvisation had hooked them in. Annoyingly, Rick Ash had turned into an interruption after only twenty-four bars. Adam suspected that this had been intentional. Likely feeling his influence slipping, Ash made the mistake of overstaying his welcome. He continued past eight bars, forcing Ed to keep his hands still. However, Ed actually seemed quite satisfied with this. Ash's shredding added in a few legato licks, but it was still being played at the same blistering speed. He continued doing this until he had done so for sixteen bars until he finally conceded.
Of course, Ed had been waiting for this moment. As if there had been no break, Ed's solo continued. For exactly eight bars, everything was quiet except for the two guitars of Adam and Ed. Adam struck his chords gently, better suiting the notes that Ed was bending to the extreme. The smooth interplay of the two Disbelief guitarists only made the blues style sound more accurate than the heavy metal shred. As the eighth bar ended, Ash seemed to have learnt his lesson about jumping the gun.
The former Redchip guitarist left the speed behind once it was his turn again. As Ed had done for his first addition, Ash began with a slow bend, then surrendered to the simplicity of a few ascending and then descending scale runs. It didn't fit, and that was obvious, but he was doing things his own way. Having never worked with either of the two Disbelief men, Rick Ash was an intruder in their midst and his own personal style screamed that he wasn't meant to be there.
Faced with these two near legendary behemoths, Adam suddenly felt very small and insignificant. He could see their fingers moving swiftly from note to note, vibrating so fast that it wasn't even visible and bending so far that Adam felt embarrassed by his own paltry skills. All that he was supplying was a selection of four chords over and over again. Looking past their little duel, Adam could see Jace, Veronica and Anna all watching the exchange. Everybody in Indy's had their eyes on Ash. When the eight bar stretch ended, they would likely all switch to looking at Ed. Adam was virtually ignored. It was with this in his mind that he suddenly realised how wrong he was. With a wicked smile, Adam changed his chord progression six bars in. The next note that Rick Ash played quite literally made people wince. Following this, he received a glare that made him shake inside.
Of course, Ed immediately took up the slack. The slow blues piece continued, offering another glimpse of the story to the accrued spectators. Supposedly, he had been expecting Adam's change in progression after four repetitions, as his notes were made to match. However, Ash was furious. Every line in his face told that story, but the hatred in his stare was such that Adam quivered beneath it. It was by far the hardest section for Adam to concentrate on, but, in truth, it was Ash's own fault for taking up double of his typical place. Ed would have been prepared for it. Despite all that was going on, Adam found himself listening carefully to the mysterious sounds coming from Ed's guitar.
Ash was swimming now. The one change in chord had thrown him off completely, but he tried his best to get back on top when it came around to his turn once again. He ignored the blues, turning his back on rock n' roll in the attempt to wander into a more metal direction. Instead of mindless, stupidly fast shred though, he went for a slightly more melodic approach. Moving from riff to riff and from lick to lick, he threw together an interesting array of notes. His accidentals seemed planned, his plan seemed clear and, even worse, it all fit quite well with what Ed was doing. This was probably Ash's best work yet. Apart from a few quick runs, he was not ruled by speed. Instead, he let whatever note he ended up on guide his next actions. Unfortunately, as Ash ended on a sustained bend, something didn't feel right.
It was Ed that gave the game away. Once the bars had switched over and he came in, he added the resolution that Ash had seemingly forgotten. It was the one note that tied everything together and Ash had missed it. A rookie mistake, as most pieces of music, regardless of epic metal, classical or guitar battle, contained the root note at the beginning and end. This held the resolution, holding everything together smoothly while still being pleasant to the ears of a listener. Something told Adam that Ash had actually understood his mistake, because he visibly withered in front of everybody. It was going to cost him and he knew it.
Taking advantage, Ed continued with the next part of his own solo. Listening closely, Adam recognised a few of the licks, so he changed one of his chords to compensate for it. He was very confused when that turned out to be exactly what Ed wanted. The mute guitarist began to speed up, moving smoothly and swiftly back and forth across his fretboard. His scalloped frets let his fingers dance only lightly, while still provided exactly the powerful and sustained sound that he was after.
In response, Ash moved to his supplied amplifier and turned it up. At that point, all thoughts of courtesy were retracted. Ash harmonised Ed's resolution, knocked up the intensity and, seeing opportunity, Adam stepped on his chorus pedal. Everything was about to get very difficult.
Suddenly, everybody was working in tandem, even Rick Ash. They no longer took it in turns, instead one would play and one would harmonise and use counterpoint. If the chance was spotted, one of them would slip into Lydian or Phrygian. Adam found his chords becoming more and more complex as time went on, giving them the backing that they wanted rather than the backing that he wished to supply. Everything sounded so professional that, had Matthew Cooper been here, he would likely be wearing headphones and holding a microphone. The crowd, forgotten by these two lead guitarists, were clapping, cheering and whistling. Everything was so fast, so intense and beyond technical. The choice of note, the abuse of modal notes and accidentals and the constant back and forth interplay showed a clear and defined rivalry. In actuality, Ed was generally apathetic.
A moment of surprise came during this period, when Ed looked towards Adam, trying to signal a switch over. He wouldn't be tired, or out of ideas. Ed was never either of these. Nevertheless, he wished Adam to jump in off of the rhythm and give Ash a try himself. At first, Adam panicked, then, choosing a few notes to start on, he nodded and waited for the bar to end. He could feel the sweat gathering on the end of his nose already.
The switch was definitely unexpected, as evinced by the sounds of shock from the crowd and the curious gaze of Rick Ash, but Adam held his own. Ed switched to his clean channel, playing a selection of suspended chords. Following this trend, Adam held the resolution as long as possible. Not pushing for speed, he let Ash control that part, while himself harmonising and adding tension in the notes. Unfortunately, since turning up his amp, Ash was drowning both of the Disbelief guitarists out. His gain was through the roof, throwing out huge levels of angry distortion while Adam teased their audience with a counterpoint resolution that didn't quite arrive.
Ed directed his movements based on that of their opponent, leading Adam calmly, yet furiously, through the motions. They drew closer and closer with flurry after flurry, a tactic picked up by Ash. Trying to block them off with his own notes, the former Redchip guitarist found the one note that they were teasing with the chord suspensions. With a wicked smile, he moved into the exact notes that Adam was playing, moving closer and closer until, with a puff of smoke and a curse of hatred, the higher volume blew his amp. A moment after, Ed and Adam quite literally hit the perfect resolution to sounds of riotous applause. Rick Ash received nothing but laughter as he moved angrily towards the broken amplifier.
At the same time, Bret Turner left his seat at the bar and marched towards his former friend, shouting curses and insults. They still had two amplifiers, but Ash had of course broken the most expensive one. While watching this exchange, Adam felt Ed's hand on his shoulder and, turning, he received a warm and gentle hug from his fellow guitarist, sandwiching Adam's Jackson between the two of them. Ed's Fender was in his hand.
"Right," Adam said afterwards. "Let's go pack up. I think we've done all that we can do here."
The two of them left the situation to sort itself out, walking away towards the back room with their instruments. Their success was fairly evident, and, even if somebody in the crowd disagreed, nobody cared. They were given a thumbs up and a selection of smiles when they passed Jace, Anna and Veronica by the bar. Jace was crying with laughter.