Danny and Kev walk up Franklin Street toward Duke's, the grimy bar in The Grand Hotel where Hellakill and Pattern Disruption are playing.
"This is stupid, I'm telling you," Kev says to his friend for the umpteenth time that night. "There's no way we're getting in. What are we going to do? Just stand in the parking lot waiting to get raped? This is a rough part of town, man."
"Just relax," Danny says. "We'll just see if there's a door guy. If there's no guy, maybe we can get in and see some of the show. And there will be chicks in there. Hot chicks."
"Moms. Moms and cougars. This is Duke's. Hot chicks don't come to Duke's."
Rounding the corner at Seventh Avenue, they see the entrance to Duke's and hear the rumbling sound of a rock band coming from inside the building.
"That's Hellakill playing," Danny says. "They're on. Come on, let's try to get in."
"Hang on," Kev says. "Um, what are we going to say if they ask to see our I.D.? We should have a plan."
"I don't know. Just say you left it in the car."
"Yeah, right. No one ever thought of that before. Hey, should we smoke one of the joints first? Because we won't be able to once we're in there. And I'm not going to go in and out."
Danny looks up and down the street. "I don't know, man. It might be harder to get in if we're high. Too freaky, right? And if the door guy smells it on us, we're screwed."
"Yeah, but what if we get searched? We could get busted."
"Why would they search us? This isn't the airport. Come on. We'll just try."
The boys gather their courage and head to the door. They stand up straight, puffing out their scrawny chests, and push in through the door. Inside is a square-jawed man in a black t-shirt. He looks at Danny and Kev. "Sorry boys," he says. "We're full."
"See?" Danny says, as the step back out into the cool night air. "He didn't even card us. We would have gotten in if they weren't so packed."
"The place wasn't packed," Kev says. "He could just tell we were under age, so he didn't bother humiliating us by checking our I.D."
"Maybe. Let's go to the parking lot and have one of those joints. Jay will come out sooner or later for a smoke. Maybe he can get us in."
* * *
Inside Duke's, Hellakill's first set is winding up. They'd played through six of their own songs, along with covers from Hendrix, Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Cult, Iggy Pop, and The Who. They play through the end of "Baba O'Reilly" and declare a set break, leaving the gear on the stage and climbing down into the audience.
Jay, Tyson, Peter and Steve head to the bar for drinks first, then work their way through the crowd to the booth where Ron, Scott, Julie and Kathy from Pattern Disruption are sitting. Rich sits there as well with a drink and a wry grin on his face.
"What did you think of that?" Tyson says, squeezing onto the bench with his energy drink. "Pretty good, huh?"
"It was hard to tell from back here," says Rich. "There was some other entertaining shit going on."
"What do you mean?" Jay asks.
"There was a fight back by the pool tables," Kathy says. "They carried some guys out. Big guys, too. The bouncers here are serious."
"They probably see a lot of it." Jay looks at Julie. She's jammed in next to Rich on one of the benches. "You ready to get up there?"
"I'm scared now," she says. "This place is an animal house."
"Don't worry about it," Rich says, throwing an arm around her and giving her an encouraging squeeze. "These people just want to see a good show. Just get up and sing and they won't bother you."
"Yeah," Steve says. "They'll all want to be your friend."
Jay takes a sip of his beer and turns away, looking off through the crowd, trying to act casual. He half-listens to the conversation, trying to work out what's going on with Julie and Rich.
"Are you guys going to play that 'Peaches' song?" Peter asks.
"No," says Ron. "We figured we should learn some less ironic covers."
Jay drinks his beer and glances at Julie. Rich's arm is still draped over the back of the bench along her shoulders. She doesn't seem to mind. Or maybe she doesn't care. But then, Jay thinks to himself, why should I care?
Twenty minutes pass by and Tyson leads Pattern Disruption up to the stage. Hellakill's lead singer steps up to the mike while the band prepares to play. Ron picks up the bass, Kathy climbs behind the drum kit, and Scott unplugs Jay's little left-handed guitar and plugs in his Stratocaster. Julie pulls off her sweater, revealing a clinging tie-dyed tank top. There are a few whistles from the crowd.
"Hey everybody," Tyson says to the crowd. "We're going to introduce you to some friends of ours. They're called Pattern Disruption and they're going to play a few songs for you, then we're going to get back up and party for a while longer. How's that sound to you?"
There are unintelligible shouts from the crowd. Tyson gives a thumbs-up to the band and hops down. Kathy counts the first song in and Pattern Disruption starts to play.
"Is that Roadhouse Blues?" Jay asks Tyson when the singer gets back to the booth.
"I guess they want to be crowd-pleasers." He shrugs. "Nothing wrong with it, I guess."
They watch as Pattern Disruption plays. Julie dances at the front of the stage, singing the lines: "Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel," moving to the beat, her breasts bouncing rhythmically along, drawing the attention of every drunken goon in the place. There is a gradual surge toward the front of the stage.
Disruption plays a long version of the song, tapping out at nearly eight minutes. When they finish there is an energetic cheer from the crowd. Jay can pick out calls from the men in the audience: "Show us yer tits!"
"Fuck, I don't like this," Jay says to Tyson.
The band starts their next song, one of their originals. The scene in front of the stage gets rowdy, with some pushing and shoving. A random punch is thrown, not connecting, but some people go down to the floor and the bouncers wade into the crowd. The band plays on, keeping the sound together but looking more and more worried.
During their third song, another original, Julie gets half a glass of beer thrown on her. The beer wets her t-shirt and face, but she wipes it off and keeps singing. There is more shoving in the crowd and Jay feels the nervous pang in his stomach again.
Before their final song, Julie goes to the back of the stage and pulls her sweater back on over her wet tank top. There is a chorus of boos from the horny men in the crowd. "Oh, come on," she says into the microphone, doing her best not to let the crowd get the best of her. "I'm covered in beer. Do you want me to catch a cold?"
There are laughs and jeers and hoots from the audience as the band starts playing "Born to be Wild."
Sensing that the scene might get out of control, Jay starts moving toward the stage. Steve gets up and follows, and as they approach the stage they see the chaos begin. A roughneck in a plaid jacket starts climbing up on stage, but others in the audience grab the guy and drag him back into the crowd. The roughneck slugs somebody, and in seconds the dance floor turns into a punch-up battle royal, with the band trying to hold the stage and make it through the song. Once again the bouncers push in to remove the combatants. Jay and Steve try to stay clear of the fighting, but when more people start to climb up on stage, Jay moves into action.
Against his own better judgment, he runs and jumps up onto the stage and starts pushing people back down onto the heaving dance floor, trying to clear them away from Julie and the others. He sees the plaid jacket thug climbing back up and Jay plows into him with his shoulder, sending them both tumbling down to the floor. The drunk lands flat on his back and Jay rolls off him, getting tangled in the legs of the people pushing and shoving. He gains his feet and Steve grabs him, pulling him to the back of the bar. "What the fuck are you doing?" he shouts. "Let the bouncers take care of it!"
Jay's eyes are wide. "Holy shit, man! Did you see me hit that guy? I can't believe I just did that!"
They look up at the stage. The band hastily ends the song, drops their gear and slips off stage, trying to get away without becoming engulfed by the brawl. They reach Steve and Jay, and the group heads back to the booth.
"Fucking crazy, man," Scott moans.
"Did you see that one guy?" says Ron. "He was nuts!"
"Is it always like this here?" adds Kathy. "Christ, why would anybody come back?"
Ron slaps Jay on the back. "Thanks for the help, man. You're hard core."
When they reach the booth they find Rich standing and clapping. "Fucking classic, guys, absolutely classic. Shit, I wish I'd been taping that."
"I'm getting the fuck out of here," Julie says, grabbing for her jacket. "This place is horrible."
"Yeah, let's go," says Kathy, looking through the jackets for her own stuff.
Ron turns to the members of Hellakill. "Okay, well, thanks for having us here, guys. I guess I'll drive the girls home."
"Hang on," Jay says. "Someone has to stay. We need someone to take pictures of our second set."
"I'll stay," Scott says. "Someone needs to stay with the gear, right?"
"Well, we are notoriously bad at taking care of gear," Jay says, "so you'd better stay." He looks at Rich. "How about you? You staying or leaving?"
Rich laughs. "I'm not going anywhere, man. This place is hilarious. Millenburgh rocks!"
Kathy, Julie and Ron get their jackets on. The members of Hellakill thank them, and Jay puts his own jacket on and goes with them, skirting around the final scuffles on the dance floor and out the door into the cold.
* * *
In the parking lot behind The Grand Hotel, Danny and Kev lean against a rail, dazedly watching the people on the sidewalk. Tiny stubs of two joints lie on the asphalt at their feet.
"There are a lot of people coming out now," Kev says. "Maybe the show's over."
"No way, man," Danny says. "It's only like, ten-thirty or something. They'll play longer."
"Maybe those people just don't like emo."
"I keep telling you man, Hellakill isn't emo. Check this out. Does this sound like emo to you?" He stands up and poses with an imaginary guitar, nods his head one-two-three-four and starts to play air guitar, trying to make the guitar sound with his mouth as he plays: "Di-di-di-di-dshh-dshh-dzzzshhhhh, di-di-di-di-dshh-dshh-dzzzshhhh..."
Kev nods his head along with the beat, and then begins to sing. "I stole her eyeliner but she stole my heart. I just wanna take her to the prom... Emo kids in love... Emo kids in love!"
They both break down laughing, but straighten up when a small group comes around the side of the building and heads straight for them.
"Shit, shit. Look cool," Kev says, and the two boys lean against the rail with their arms crossed, trying to look normal. Their eyes are glassy and staring, and if you watched them steadily for a moment you would see them wobbling and trying to hold in laughs.
"Is that Danny?" someone asks.
The group gets closer and Danny and Kev see that it's Jay and most of Pattern Disruption. The four older kids stop. "What are you guys doing out here?" Kathy asks.
"We were just about to go inside," Danny says. "We just wanted to smoke a doob first. What are you guys doing?"
"We're going the fuck home," says Julie. "Come on. I'm freezing."
"See you guys," Kathy says to Kev and Danny with a smile and a wave.
"She wants you, dude," Kev whispers as Ron, Julie and Kathy climb into Ron's little car. Jay says goodbye to them, and the battered compact pulls out of the parking lot.
Jay walks over to Kev and Danny. "Did you guys try to get in?" he asks. The boys nod. "Come on. We'll try again. The bouncers are probably too busy to notice you know."
Danny and Kev get up and follow Jay. He leads them inside. The same bouncer is at the door, but he's holding a cold washcloth against a bruise on his forehead. He nods to Jay and the three of them slip inside.
Kev and Danny stare around at the crowd as Jay leads them to the booth at the back. They sit with Scott and Rich when Hellakill gets up to play their second set. Scott takes pictures of the band and Rich sips a glass of bourbon. Kev stares at the women in the crowd. But Danny...
Danny watches the band perform. In his affected state he stares up at the stage and listens to the layers of sound interacting: the thumping line of the bass upon which the guitar glides, the crashes of cymbals witch act as punctuation giving the musical statements their shape. He listens to the builds, the crescendos, the falls, and the moments of silence after the final note, followed by the tap-tap-tap-tap before the explosion of the next song. He hears the simple, subdued rhythm allowing space for the words to come across clearly to the listener before a blues-rock solo sweeps the song along toward a dynamic chorus, each of the four parts blasting in unison. And after listening to a few songs like that, Danny begins to hear HOLES. He begins to hear where there is a sound missing. He hears where the band needs another guitar.
And he realizes that he could play that guitar. He realizes that his guitar could complete Hellakill's sound.
2008 Nolan Whyte