"The sound guy's ready for us, what the hell is with the last minute costume anyway?" Drew was getting nervous. If he wasn't wearing that green wifebeater he'd have pit stains already.
"Calm down, it's fifteen minutes. Have a beer on me," I said, sitting on a stool in the corner of the band room tuning my bass. I wasn't in the mood for his complaining, and anything negative that happened now would follow us onstage.
"You're funny," said Drew, pulling a drink ticket from his pocket.
He looked both stressed and bored as he left the little room the two of us were in. I knew that he was really just scared, I'd seen him like this several times before. The space between the band before us ending and our set starting was when his stage fright kicked in. He would play it cool the whole night until the openers walked off the stage, at which point he'd only concentrate on his practice pad to get the shakes out of his hands. But like every other musician I know, when he gets in front of the crowd all of that goes away.
I didn't care if we delayed our set a bit. We were sharing gear tonight and everything was already set up. The extra time would give the smokers a chance to get their fix anyway. I wanted to make sure the paint would be dry before going on; it wasn't like I had tried this before.
The white paint covering my face was her idea, the purple circles around the eyes mine. I mean, the whole face painting thing hadn't had much planning. The acrylics were in her bag since she came from class, and after a little herbal inspiration out back we were pretty stoked on the idea. This gig was a real opportunity to gain new fans; I wanted the band to stand out and some added visual interest never hurt.
I could hear the crowd on the other side of the wall. The only sounds coming from the band room were the little thumps of my unamplified instrument. The stairs to the band room also lead up to a landing for those feeling uninvolved enough to necessitate leaning against a rail to watch the show. When I went to tune I saw about fifty university age punters with varying scarves and glasses up there. It was a full house with the main floor of the mid-sized venue full of people drinking some half decent microbrew and chatting over the house music. The crowd had a buzzing energy, in part due to a third of the audience being in high school and just excited to be in a bar.
The biggest reason for all the underage drinking tonight was Fragments, a quasi post-hardcore band fronted by a kid in high school. His stage presence made up for lacklustre vocals; it worked only because of the sparse delivery of singing over top of the mildly interesting music. The madly technical playing with mediocre songwriting got the high school kids' and guitar geeks' attention, but now the stage was left to us. They're talented; I bloody learned a couple things about tapping watching their most bearded member mash the four-string tight with the drummer. But technical playing isn't what we're about anyway, so I didn't have to worry about some cred bullshit. Great Mongol Armies is all about the heavy groove.
A cigarette found its way to my lips because I was tired of running through scales alone. I was warmed up but it wouldn't feel right until I plugged into my rig, ready and waiting for me under the hot stage lights. I knew Rachel would be around the bar somewhere doing her social butterfly thing with talent I couldn't hope to match. Sure, I could make small talk about music with her friends but I didn't see the point. Generally I don't have the drive to be unnecessarily social and I couldn't talk right now anyway, it would give away my little gimmick.
Chelsea and Graham were together doing their own private warm up, and I never really wanted to know the specifics of what that entailed. I was alone in the dimly lit band room, every possible surface covered in Sharpie and stickers from bands who had passed through before. But this was what I needed: a few minutes of calm. The cigarette was already bringing me away from the lingering high of the joint with Rachel.
At least two hundred people were in the venue tonight, this is going to be a good show. Friday nights are the perfect gig night, students and co-workers are bound to tell their peers they're going to the event, and the energy is fantastic with everyone releasing their stresses of the week into a night of music and drinks. I'm no longer anxious, just excited. I reach to put out the butt just as Chelsea comes through the door followed by Graham, guitar slung over his shoulder.
"The new face is taking up old habits I see," said Chelsea with a slightly warmer smirk than Drew. I knew Graham would have lit up with me, but I decided not to bring that up.
I grin and lean my bass against the corner of the room. "For the nerves or something. It's not like I'm singing tonight anyway. How does it look out there?"
"The predictable show up, but they come in bulk," Gram responds. "Everyone's getting drunk too."
"Makes it easier I guess," I reply. "If the crowd's a little tipsy they'll start swaying to the music sooner. As long as no one grabs a mic we're golden."
"I'm sure the corpse paint bassist will scare them off," said Chelsea. Apparently it's my night to be the point of shit-taking. The deadpan humour takes little enough energy to keep up for the multiple times a week we see each other, and I'll concede to take this target role tonight.
"It's all part of my plan to start a black metal side project," I retorted, and Drew came in before anything could be said in response. He had his sticks in one hand and a fresh pint in the other. Drew always got a pint to bring onstage because he knew how easy it would be to steal the glass after.
"Is the makeup job ready for public exhibition?" he stumbled a little over his words. I wasn't worried though, Drew's sense of rhythm is the main artery of his life force. He could play on time with twice as many drinks in him.
"Shit, how many have you had?" Graham gave Drew a playful shove as he lead the way out of the room, followed by Chelsea.
I got up and gave Drew a smirk of my own. "I guess that's a yes. Let's go kill this thing."