It was dark by the time I got back to the apartment. We had stuck around to chat with Funk Goggles, the fusion group from New York, after their set. They had gotten the audition spot because Kevin, the station's in-house engineer, had pushed for more diverse bands this year at Northern Life. Apparently holding auditions for some spots in the festival had been his idea making me all the more glad our argument had been avoided.
We would have to wait a couple weeks before knowing if we would get to play. In the interim it would be business as usual. We had a gig next week at The Playhouse, a venue downtown that was an old converted theatre. Graham had landed us a spot opening up for a touring act. In all the preparation for the audition I hadn't given it much thought, but now I was looking forward to it.
Walking into the apartment I was greeted by my roommate Steve. There must have been people coming over tonight, because that was the only time he ever picked up the empties littering our living room.
"Hey bud," he said, garbage bag in hand. "Party tonight, ready to get shittered?"
"We'll see about that," I grinned. On Saturday nights you could pretty much count on the apartment being full of drunk undergrads. It was fine with me, as the only one in the house not going to school this made it easy to socialize with people I'd otherwise probably never meet.
"Oh, I'll see to that myself," said Toby, coming downstairs holding a towel around his waist. Steve and him were identical twins, both engineering students. They were the kind that worked hard and played hard, testing their alcohol consumption limit whenever they could. Toby stopped at the base of the stairs."How'd the tryout go?"
"It went well," I said, sitting on our sagging couch. "The band was tight, and we were able to finish a new song in time for the audition, but it's hard to tell. There weren't any judges there, just this pretentious prick who recorded our set. They're sending the tape to the festival's music directors."
"Well I hope you get in," said Toby. "I was there last year, it's one giant party. Hot chicks, good music, cheap drinks really the perfect thing for a hardworking man like me to do on his time off." He flexed his muscles as if it proved his point before going to shower.
"Were you there too?" I asked Steve, who had substituted his bag of empties for a fresh bottle.
"Nah, If I go for a trip I want there to be beaches," he replied absentmindedly. Him and Toby were from southern Pennsylvania, and Steve never hid his disapproval of heavy snow and sub-zero temperature.
"Well those things are scarce 'round these parts," I said in a mediocre cowboy voice. I picked up my bass and brought it up to my room.
All my room had for a sound system was this little old CD player, and I decided to play something classic in a 2000's way: Death From Above. I pulled on a new t-shirt, the old one stunk from all the playing and lifting of gear I had done today.
I dialed Brendan's phone number. He enjoyed a good party and he'd probably see tonight as a business opportunity too.
"Hey Marc," he said after a few rings.
"Hey, there's a party at my place tonight. Wanna come by and have a few? You can probably get some chops in too."
"I like the way you think, my man. Get two birds stoned at once."
"Right. I'm going to pick up beer soon, meet me at the store by my place in an hour?"
"Sounds good, see ya soon."
Brendan was standing outside when I got there, he had driven from his Dad's place. We went in and decided to split a 2-4 of something cheap. Shoving it in the backseat of his old Civic we drove back to my apartment.
I decided to bring up what had been on my mind since talking to Graham after the audition. "Hey Brendan, do you think image is everything in the music industry?"
There had been silence for a few seconds in the car, I think I caught him off guard. "I don't know man, but it sure would explain why there's so much shit on the radio. I mean, you take one look at those pre-packaged pop douche bags and you know exactly what you're getting."
"Okay, but what about a band like Fugazi? They didn't spend time on an image; they did whatever they wanted to."
"Yeah, they were all into equality and freedom of expression, but anti-image is still an image."
"But that's my point," I said, frustrated. "They didn't try to create an image, they just did what they thought was right and wrote great music. Why should a band consciously build a 'look' for themselves? It all just seems dishonest."
"I don't know what you're getting so worked up about," Brendan said. "We both like Fugazi, end of story."
"It's just something me and Graham were talking about this afternoon, no big deal," I said.
We pulled up to the house and brought the case of beer inside. People had already started to arrive. I saw Drew chatting to a couple friends from class and walked over with Brendan.
"Cheers mate," said Brendan, raising his bottle to Drew. He smiled and they clinked glasses.
"Long time no see," Drew said. "Still playing guitar?"
"A bit, but you can say I've moved to greener pastures," said Brendan with a smile. "Speaking of which, anyone care to burn one?" He raised a fat joint into the middle of the conversation.
"Don't waste any time, do you?" I said. "Sure, we can go to my room." Drew's friends declined so the three of us went upstairs. We had already passed it around once when my bedroom door opened.
"So here's where you've been cooped up," said Rachel.
"Come join the party within the party," Brendan said. She came in and sat beside me. We talked, smoked, laughed, and listened to my old CDs. With Rachel, Drew, and Brendan around me I felt like this was all I really needed to be happy. It may have been the beer and the weed, but I felt totally content.
Then things became a little more imbalanced. A big guy with curly blonde hair wearing a polo shirt stumbled into my room. He was obviously drunk, but seemed harmless enough.
"Hey buddy, how's it going?" said Polo Shirt, seemingly directed towards Drew.
"Not bad, not bad. Having a few drinks I see eh?" Drew replied. He seemed to be choosing his words carefully. Rachel was staring at the guy.
"Oh yeah, gettin' f--ked up tonight!" he said, taking the joint being passed around as if to prove his point. He almost put the wrong end to his lips before Drew stopped him. "Shit, 50/50 chance right?" was his attempt of making a joke out of the situation.
"Yeah, but one end is smoking," said Brendan, not amused.
Before Polo Shirt could reply Drew took charge of the situation and lead him out of the room, promising him a drink downstairs.
"Goddamn jocks," said Brendan, leaving the room to work the party.
"That was a little close wasn't it?" I said to Rachel. "I thought that drunk meathead was going to break Brendan's neck." In my state the image made me giggle.
Rachel was treating things very differently. She looked really upset. "Marc, I need to tell you something. But before I do you need to promise you'll let me finish before you do anything."
I began to share her concern. "Sure, fine. What's wrong Rachel?"
She took a deep breath. "I was lying when I said I couldn't remember who hit me with that bottle the night of your show. It was him. My ex, Justin."