Nothing calms me like running my hands in a familiar way over my old acoustic. Muscle memory leads me to favourite chords from where I'll fool around with voicings and little melodicisms to construct grooving moments, my palm absorbing unwanted vibrations. Sitting on the stool in my bedroom the sound is mine alone to hear, allowing the piece of mind to wander wherever the partial improvisation will take me.
It's the total opposite of playing live, but is just as much reason why I'm a musician. When alone with my guitar all surroundings lose consequence. That's why I didn't notice Rachel watching me.
"Hey there," she said, standing in my bedroom doorway. Her short black hair now totally covered the spot where she had gotten the stitches; no one could be able to notice the weekend's injury. "Some tight security you've got here," she smiled and walked towards me.
I set down my guitar and put my arms around her waist. "Well, you know, my roommates have a lot of faith in the world karma or something. No one will break in because of their positive energy."
Rachel rolled her eyes. "I infiltrated the man cave didn't I?" A common theme of her visits was to tease about what a typical student apartment I had. My four roommates were all in school and a quiet afternoon was rare, the norm being a handful of students sitting around drinking and smoking, T.V. at high volume.
"Yeah, but I'm fine with you taking what you want," I said while adjusting my arms, bringing us closer together.
"I know you are," she responded, letting her hand prove her right. Rachel's libido was fantastic, and she was never hesitant to initiate anything.
"Well, I'm glad you're feeling better," I said as we moved towards the bed.
When I went to see Rachel the day after the concert she was too burnt out to have a real conversation; her visit this afternoon was the first time we could coherently talk about that night. Before she left my apartment I learned it was her friend Tommy that had given her the pills, but there was no reason to connect him to the person who attacked Rachel. My only concern with Tommy was that I really doubted MDMA was the only chemical he gave her; Rachel's recollection was so hazy that it just seemed like the most plausible explanation. I just hoped she would be more careful next time.
It was getting dark when I knocked on Drew's front door, bass slung over my shoulder. He came to let me in wearing one of his many wifebeaters, matching bandana around his head.
"Hey man, how's it going?" Drew lead me through his parents' pristine living room to our rehearsal space, the basement the two of us had soundproofed last year.
"Pretty good, Rachel's back to her old self," I was sore from the afternoon's events, and Drew's grin showed he picked up on what I was getting at. Of course the band knew about Rachel's injury, but we hadn't seen each other since it happened.
"That's good to hear," said Drew. "This must be the most f--ked up post-gig shit that's ever happened to us." We may be hard on each other, but I knew I could count on Drew when I needed to. He ended up driving all the gear home at the end of that weird night.
We walked into the band room. It had morphed from Drew's bedroom into a practice space littered with cables, notes, and empties over the past few years. All the band's material was written down here; brick wall behind Drew's kit adorned with posters of his influences since middle school.
Drew sat at the kit. "Chelsea and Graham will be here soon. They had to do something first, said they'd explain when they get here," he ran through some snare patterns on his practice pad.
I stretched and unzipped my case. We kept all our gear at Drew's place; after the soundproofing deal we made with his parents they were cool with us practicing whenever we wanted. Switching on my rig, I went over some scales and a few lines that I loved to play. I knew I was loosened up when I could run through the first few bars of "Donna Lee".
"Alright hot stuff, ditch the jazz for now," Drew gave me an evil grin and we started into a grooving slow jam, taking the lines we had worked out to start the last gig and expanded on them. My connection with Drew was the best I'd had with any drummer; from the first time we jammed we created discourse between our instruments in total harmony. When you don't need words to dictate the direction of the jam it's something worth holding on to.
We played with dynamics, making the groove more intense as we carried on. Drew would layer beats while I'd throw the odd chord here and there to give some harmonic rhythm. For the second time that day I was too absorbed in the music to notice new bodies entering the room.
"Sweet stuff, guys," said Chelsea as she took off her jean jacket. Graham appeared behind her, ducking through the doorway.
"Yeah, I think we can get a song from that," he said with characteristic nonchalance, setting his guitar down in front of the Fender Stage-Man. We had the room set up so we could practice in a circle facing each other, with Graham closest to the door.
"Who said that wasn't the plan?" asked Drew. He had already pulled off his shirt; our jam had made us both sweaty. The two of us had intense focus when improvising together; a heightened awareness of the beat unique to the spontaneous interaction.
"Well, we've got a couple weeks to finish it," said Chelsea smiling. "We just came back from the KROQ station. We've got an audition for the Northern Life music festival."
That news brought a smile to my face too. The festival was at a ski resort town a few hours from the city, and was as much a band showcase as a week of partying. It happened during winter break, and was a kind of Mecca of exposure for bands in the area.
"The audition has to be live," continued Graham. They're holding them all next month at the station. We play three songs, and five local bands they choose get spots on the festival bill. I don't know how many got an audition, but we have a chance."
"Damn right we do. Great Mongol Armies will crush puny competition," said Drew in his best Governator accent. He was excited, we all were. This was a big opportunity all the bands even got put on a compilation CD each year.
"Well," I said, breaking my silence. "Then let's get to work."