Fuse had never been a welcoming building. The imposing structure bore no windows that were not covered by wood and painted black. Like a gigantic slab of iron in the middle of the city, it rose from the ground, obviously not meant to be. That was part of the charm of the place. Simply put, it stood out like a sore thumb against the colourful back drop of Wetherspoons and Walkabouts, not fitting in and not trying to. It repelled the usual young alcoholics and drew in the sort of people who had nowhere else to go. It felt like home to people who didn't like the world of dance, rap and electronic music. Anybody who cared about guitars found their perfect place in Fuse. Every single night, the place was packed.
Tuesdays and Fridays were live band nights. Tuesday was the less desirable spot due to the fact that the audience would typically be composed of part-time and full-time workers from the main city. Friday was for the students. Nobody there was over twenty-five except for the staff. Anybody who wanted to play music wanted to play it for the students. In this, Disbelief were lucky.
Together, the four of them were sitting in the back room, warming up their fingers and talking quietly over their upcoming show. Adam had his Jackson in his hands, easing the very tips of his fingers over the fretboard to create the soothing little sounds that he felt his nerves needed. He could hear the music outside, coupled with the roaring shouts and attempts to sing that were the accrued crowd. It was actually quite terrifying.
The memory of their last visit here was playing in his mind. From the performance itself, through the baring of Ally's body, up to the beating Adam had received for finding a women enticing. He was very carefully avoiding Jace's eyes, but he suspected that Jace had no idea either way. Paul was on a seat in one of the far corners of the room, his laptop in front of him, setting up the music tracks for the night. Jace was not far from him, twirling his sticks and playing with the additional tom and cymbal that he had brought to supplement the house drums. Ed was leant against a wall by the door, gliding across his fretboard so stylishly that it was putting Adam to shame. Of course, as always, Ed was playing something that matched Adam perfectly. This only made Adam feel more inadequate.
There was still ten minutes before their performance was due, or so his watch attested. Nobody was talking. The atmosphere was tense, as though nobody could think of something to say to the others. Their last few rehearsals had been great. Three quarters of them had been laughing and joking for pretty much the entirety of it, and Ed had at least been smiling. Right now, nobody was showing any sort of emotion. It made Adam feel more than a little suffocated - trapped alone in his head with his feelings of doubt and panic.
The silence was finally broken by Paul. Is anybody else feeling a little scared? he asked of the room without taking his eyes away from his computer screen. His voice did not waver, whereas Adam's would have done so horribly.
No, Jace replied first. There was no emotion to the response.
I feel scared, Adam added quietly. He caught Jace's mouth twisting into a smile, but he let it go. It's like all of the bad stuff that happened last time is hanging over our heads, you know? I just don't really feel good about this show.
Reckon it might be how we got the gig? Jace asked of the room, though Adam felt certain that he wasn't being addressed. Or maybe it was that none of us even knew about it until a couple of weeks ago. You know, turns out that there are a lot of gigs planned. There's almost enough to keep us busy for the next five months.
I don't see why you're complaining, answered Paul. A gig's a gig. So we got given a favour by somebody. I don't know why, but I'm not going to whine about it. Come on, it's a leg up in the business. How could anybody find fault with that?
I'm not finding fault with it, Jace continued. It's just a little weird is all.
Suddenly, Adam became aware that he had been virtually kicked out of the conversation. With an angry little sigh, he decided to claw his way back in. I don't think it's weird, he said, slightly louder than he had wanted to. This made Jace and Paul both look up from what they were doing. If we get shows like this without having to go out and find them ourselves then I can be happy with that. I just like playing music, and this is a great venue, no matter how scary it is.
It's not scary, Jace returned with a laugh. I'll admit the place isn't warm and fuzzy, but I'd hardly call it scary. It just has it's own style and way of doing things. If you were drunk, you'd understand.
Adam could feel his eyes narrowing as he considered his reply, but, once again, Paul leapt in first. It's a bit scary though, isn't it? he threw Jace's way. Jace turned his head back towards Paul, effectively pushing Adam out of the conversation once again. It's not exactly welcoming. And I know, it's not meant to be. Still, every now and then you want to play at a place where the manager doesn't growl at you, you know?
Adam certainly knew, and Jace offered a nod to show the same. They had brought their instruments to Fuse earlier in the day, then all wandered home to get some rest before their midnight show. After knocking on the back door for some twenty minutes, the manager had opened the door with a snarl and, instead of inviting them in, he had simply asked what they were there for and then walked away. It had been a difficult judgement call as to whether or not they should even leave their instruments there after that, but Paul had told them that it was likely best that they arrive unencumbered later tonight, so they had all done as instructed.
Since returning roughly an hour ago, they had had to spend a long time convincing the manager that they were the performing band, up until the point that they had to tell him exactly what was in his own back room. That convinced him, but it didn't make him even remotely happy. They received their free drink tickets from one of the three ridiculously attractive barmaids and moved into the back room itself for a few warm ups. They had only seen the manager once since. He had poked his head in and furiously asked them what the hell they were doing in his back room. Adam had found it quite terrifying, especially considering that the man was built like a bear.
He's just a little forgetful, said Jace defensively. He's been running this place for decades now, he's not exactly new to this world. Give him a break. It's not like he didn't calm down quick enough, right?
It was still a bit intimidating having him march in here shouting at us though, Adam announced, once again speaking loudly enough to be sure that he had their attention. It's not something you expect half an hour before you're playing a gig for the guy. Anyway, it doesnt matter. Were doing it, so we might as well be ready. We going to go over the set list one last time?
Sure, Paul answered with a sigh. He clicked a few things on his laptop, then pulled it a little closer. Ed, he called across the room, will you do the honours of supplying a little assistance?
With his usual smile, Ed pushed himself away from the wall and walked into the middle of the room. His left hand fell into the third position, while his right hand moved up towards his bridge pickup.
"Right, so, first we open with Home by Dream Theater," Paul offered, speaking directly to Ed, who leapt into one of the heavier riffs from the song to illustrate the point. The evident skill present in every one of Ed's movements made Adam's heart leap and, after finding a moment in which he could jump in, Adam joined the play by harmonising the next riff.
"Moving swiftly on," Paul sound loudly, though in no way unhappily. The two guitarists ceased their play at once, leaving a single D ringing in the air. "That's a good intro and a fairly long song," Paul continued. "After that we're going to be moving on to Thrillseeking. Take it away guys."
In unison, Adam and Ed launched into one of the three major riffs of Thrillseeking. Of course, it was the same one; the one that everybody in Disbelief loved most of the three. Thrillseeking was a euphoric song for them. Even Paul lifted his voice to recite a few of the lyrics that accompanied it, but he stopped quickly enough with a laugh at the energy that the two guitarists were putting into it. They both stopped shortly after at the point where the riff gave way, this time leaving a B to ring on.
"Next," Paul continued, "we move on to A Hound's Hell. Now there aren't really any riffs in that one, so which bit do you want to do?"
"I want to do the third bridge," Adam offered, turning to face Ed hopefully. Ed answered both with a smile and by beginning the lead line that led into the third bridge. Adam followed quickly, as was their usual dynamic. He struck his chords with force, switching between them fast with the delicate and practiced movements that he had spent so long learning. A Hound's Hell was incredibly difficult on all sides, though nobody had it harder than Ed. Nevertheless, Ed seemed to relish every second of it.
"That takes us up to what, twenty five minutes?" Jace asked to a shrug from Paul. "We still have to fill another thirty five and we've used two of our original songs. Don't get me wrong, I like this whole Goat Fish thing you guys have going on, but that's not going to work in a place like this."
"You think that isn't blindingly obvious?" Adam asked in return, cutting Paul off as he had been cut off earlier. "Fuse is full of violent metal fans. You certainly taught me that last time, didn't you?"
"I thought we weren't going to bring that up?" inquired Jace with a small but noticeable glare. "I've said that I'm sorry but I got stressed out. It wasn't your fault and if there's anything I can do then just tell me."
Adam thought about it for a moment. "You could throw yourself in the pit after we play," he offered.
To his surprise, Jace laughed. "Don't be so predictable, man," he said. "You should know that I'd like that sort of thing. What do you think I used to spend all of my time doing when I used to come here? I even did it last time we were here, minus the drugs of course."
"Damned right minus the drugs," announced Paul with a much more obvious glare pointed in Jace's direction. Jace returned the look, but, for a blessing, he actually looked momentarily embarrassed. "It took a lot of work to get you off those things and you haven't touched any since, so keep it up or you'll be in trouble. More trouble than you know, right?"
"I don't need looking after anymore," came the retort. "Especially not by friends who-"
"What's with all the fighting?" Adam asked the two of them. "You guys have been snapping at each other all day, what's been going on?"
The silence continued. Quite suddenly, both Paul and Jace became nervous enough that they seemed to be having trouble even looking at each other. Thankfully, while Adam was considering the different options as to what the reason could have been, there was a knock on the door.
"You're on," the manager shouted through the door.
"Right, we're on," Paul said loudly, standing straight up and marching towards the door. "Let's play gentlemen."