The members of Pattern Disruption pass through the darkened hall and climb up on stage. Jay, Kev, Danny, and Benny stand by and watch as Kathy climbs behind the drum kit, Ron pulls on his Gibson bass, and Scott picks up his sunburst Stratocaster.
The sound tech, hired by the venue, comes forward and exchanges a few quick words with the members of the band and they get ready to play. Julie, hearing the action, comes up out of the green room through the backstage entrance and takes her position in front of the microphone at center stage. The tech gives them his instructions and heads back to the sound booth.
Each member of the band plays by themselves and the tech makes adjustments. The drums, as usual, takes the longest as Kathy bangs thump-thump-thump on each drum. At last the band plays together, pumping out the first minute of one of their songs. They get a thumbs-up from the sound tech and stop.
Ron pulls off his bass and nods to Danny, Kev, and Benny standing at the foot of the stage. You guys gonna get up and do one?
Danny shrugs. What do you mean?
You three were playing before, weren't you? Do you want to get up and play a song before the big show starts?
Kev puts up his hands. Not me.
No, man, no way, Danny says. There are people in here now.
Ron and Scott hop down off the stage. So? asks Scott. You're playing in front of people later tonight, aren't you?
Danny looks over at Jay, seeking help. Jay shrugs. It's up to you, dude. The stage is free for another, he checks his watch, thirty-five minutes.
Come on, Danny, Benny says. We could do 'Skulls.'
Steve, Hellakill's bass player, wanders up from the bar, a bottle of beer in his hand. You guys are going to do 'Skulls?' Do you want me to sing for you?
No. Danny shakes his head. No, we're not doing it.
I don't see why not, Jay says. You seem nervous about getting on stage, so maybe getting up there when the room is still mostly empty would help. Hey Kathy, he calls up to the drummer, who is still up on the stage adjusting her cymbals. Do you want to play a Misfits song with these guys?
Yeah, of course! she shouts back.
Jay looks at Danny. Want to give it a try?
Danny looks around. Everyone is looking at him. He knees are shaky, but he tries to play it cool. He tucks his hair behind his ears, steps toward the stage and climbs up. Benny and Steve follow him, and everyone takes their place.
You play bass? Kathy says to Benny. That's so awesome! Benny smiles.
Tyson and Peter come up next to Jay. What's going on? Tyson asks. What are these guys doing?
They're going to play a warm-up song, Jay says. Could be good for Danny. Loosen him up a bit.
If you think that's a good idea. We're starting to fill up a bit. Lot of high school kids. I guess it was a good idea getting an all-ages venue. I asked in the office about ticket sales from the record shops, but I guess we'll have to wait until Monday to get the count and money from those places.
That's okay. We'll have an idea how much we made by how full the room is.
There's a lot of talk, Tyson says.
About what? Jay watches carefully as Danny touches his pick to the Stratocaster's strings, beginning to tune up. There's a blare of fuzzy static through the massive amps at the sides of the stage, and Danny nervously mutes the strings and tries again.
About this show going head to head with Allsystemsgo over at The Station, Tyson says. I was just talking to some guys from campus. They've got tickets to both shows. The Station is like, four blocks from here, so they're going to hop back and forth. They said a lot of people are planning to do that.
Well, I guess the economy can't be too bad if everyone can afford tickets to two shows on the same night. It's good for us, really. We're not losing ticket sales to people who would rather see The Bantam All-Stars, or god forbid, Allsystemsgo.
Yeah, Tyson says. But it also means every single band we have tonight better kick some ass or we'll see people walking out to go over there. I don't want the place to be empty by the time we get on stage.
On stage, Kathy taps the sticks together and starts the drum beat, and the informal group joins in. Kathy takes it easy, playing a relaxed, steady rhythm, and Danny and Benny follow along smoothly, strumming and plucking in time. Steve grips the microphone stand with the comedic showmanship of a true karaoke pro. He puts on an Elvis sneer and starts to croon, The corpses all hang headless and limp, bodies with no surprises
Not bad, Tyson says to Jay.
No bad for playing before the warm up band. He grins. The openers for the openers.
Sure, but they've got members of two different bands plus an outsider. So technically, they're a supergroup.
Danny stands behind Steve on stage, focusing on playing the chords properly. It's a simple song, especially at the tempo Kathy is hitting, but he wants to makes sure he's bang on for all of the changes, every note. Even with Steve's entertaining display, he feels like the onus is on him to carry the sound. And it feels like it's going well, until
Danny feels a sudden chill at the sound of the same screeching voice that he had heard in the hallways of McLaughlin Collegiate earlier that day. He recognizes the voice instantly and almost loses his place, slowing and then hurrying to catch up with the beat. Careful not to make another mistake, he glances up at Benny. She's looking back at him with a confused look on her face.
Hellllll-a-killllll! comes the cry again and Danny's face flushes red. He does his best to keep his mind on the song, but he can't help looking out into the crowd to try and see who is shouting, even though he knows it could only be one person. One dick.
Is that Boyd? says Benny, walking toward him to speak over the noise of the drums.
Danny can feel himself blushing. He can feel his knees shaking again. He doesn't answer her or look anywhere but at his strings, trying to hold his act together. They hit another chorus, but instead of playing the F sharp like he's supposed to, he goes back to the A, panics, and loses time for a few beats while he gets back on track. He can hear Boyd's mocking shout from out in the crowd again, and he feels such rage that he's suddenly worried he might cry. If there's one thing that Danny just can't handle, it's public embarrassment.
He keeps it together and they finish the song, with Steve doing a theatrical Presley arm windmill and holding the final Skuuuuuullllllllll, longer than even bad taste would allow. Kathy indulges herself with an extended Charlie Watts jazz outro. There is polite applause from the sparse crowd, and even a few whistles and catcalls in appreciation of Steve's display. Danny pulls off the Strat, his jaw set firmly.
That was fucking sweet! Benny says, an ecstatic smile on her face. I've never played in front of anyone before!
That was shit, Danny says. He sets the guitar down and hops off the stage.
Not bad, Tyson says as Danny passes by. Danny doesn't respond, and Tyson, Peter, and Jay turn to watch as he marches across the dance floor and straight out the doors of the hall.
Okay, Jay says. You guys will have to excuse me.
Jay follows Danny out. Stepping out into the brisk November air, he shivers a little and pulls out his cigarette pack. He lights up, nods to some gig regulars walking up the steps, and walks around the side of the building where a hunch tells him he will find his younger brother.
The hunch is right. Danny is standing in the shadows, kicking at The Venture's exterior wall. You okay, man? Jay asks. You guys sounded good, especially since you were unrehearsed.
I'm not ready for this, Jay, Danny says, his voice cracking. I still suck. I feel like an idiot up there. I'm going to make a fucking mess of everything and ruin your show.
Jay takes a drag and thinks over his response. He exhales, looks around. Tyson can be kind of an asshole sometimes, can't he? Jay finally asks.
Danny kicks the wall. Tyson's okay, he says weakly.
Oh, sure, he's okay, Jay says. Don't get me wrong; the guy is my best friend. All I'm saying is that he can be an asshole sometimes. He'll tell you what he thinks, whether it's going to hurt your feelings or not. He's not going to sugar-coat anything. You know what I mean?
And Peter? You remember Peter giving me shit at the radio station? Peter doesn't put up with crap. The guy is probably going to be fixing people's roofs for the rest of his life, but he takes this band seriously. And Steve is a goof, but he's a good guy. He's not going to set someone up to fail. He'll joke around, but he doesn't want anyone to be embarrassed. Do you get what I'm saying?
What I'm saying is that if any one of those guys thought you weren't good enough to get up there with us, they would have said so. They would have told me, okay, enough is enough, we have to do this without Danny. He's not ready. But they've been watching you play, and they think you can do this. Shit, no one expects you to be some superstar. We just want you to get up there and play the parts we've taught you.
I'm not ready, Danny says, still looking down at his shoes as he kicks a toe against the red bricks.
Jay snorts. What the fuck does ready mean? You're scared, that's all. It's just nerves. You know, for every hour you've sat playing video games, I've probably spent two hours practicing guitar. Do you think I feel ready? Shit, I get so nervous before shows I want to puke. But it's good, you know? After a while, you don't get scared anymore, you get excited. Come on, man. We need you tonight. Get your shit together. We've got a gig to play.
Danny nods. He looks at Jay. Can I have a drag off that?
Jay hands him the cigarette. Danny takes a drag, shudders, and hands it back. Fucking gross, he says, exhaling.
Yeah. Jay finishes the smoke and flicks away the butt. Let's go in, he says. I'm freezing.
Inside, the crowd is thickening, although in the cavernous hall it still seems sparse. As the brothers step inside, Danny hears the call again: Hellakill! And after that, the laughter of a few high school dip-shits.
You know the guy that keeps yelling like that? Jay asks.
Kind of, Danny responds. He goes to my school.
Is he okay or is he a dick?
Danny shrugs. I'm not sure.
Okay. Well, I'm going to grab a beer. You want anything?
Jay laughs. Sorry. We'll probably hook you up later when the place is more crowded. Come find me if you need anything, okay? Just relax and try to enjoy yourself.
Danny sighs and wanders back up near the stage where his friends and the members of the bands are still hanging around.
Hey Danny, Kev says. Did you hear Boyd shouting?
Of course, he says. How could I miss it? I'm not deaf. He looks around and spots Boyd and his friends standing against the wall on the far side of the hall.
What an asshole, Benny says. I can't believe he showed up here for this. I'm going to go talk to him. She turns and walks off toward her ex-boyfriend and his gang of cronies.
Kev looks at Danny. What are you waiting for?
What do you mean?
Kev shakes his head. Dude, she's going over there to fight your battle for you. He was making fun of you, and she's going to go stick up for you. You should go over there and tell him to stick a broken bottle up his ass. Like Slipknot says, 'All that sucks, dies.' Tell him it's time to die.
Nice. Danny sighs. Okay, I'm going over. You're coming, right?
I wouldn't miss it.
The boys catch up with Benny just as she reaches Boyd. What the fuck? is the first thing they hear her say. What the fuck are you doing here?
We're here to see Hellakill, Boyd says. He looks over Benny's shoulder at Danny, strikes a pose and screams in his mock death metal voice, Helllllll-a-killllll!
God, you are such an asshole, Benny says.
Hey, we're just here to support your new boyfriend's band.
Who says he's my new boyfriend?
Boyd's face turns red, and he practically screams in her face, What, do you think I'm stupid or something?
Why don't you just get out of here? she shouts back.
Boyd leans back against the wall and smiles smugly. We paid to get in, he says. We're not going anywhere.
Kev starts to laugh. He points and counts Boyd and his friends. Ten, twenty, thirty, forty. Thanks for the money, assholes!
Yeah, we'll see, fucker, Boyd snaps.
Benny shakes her head. Ugh, she says in frustration, and turns to walk away. Boyd stares at Danny, and Danny manages to stare back, before breaking off to follow Benny.
2008 Nolan Whyte