On Tuesday afternoon Peter, Steve, Tyson, Jay and Danny get together at a downtown Millenburgh restaurant to have a final meeting before the benefit concert. They order beers, except for Danny. The waitress asks him for ID, and he ends up with cola.
The review the logistics of the show and discuss ticket sales. Steve arranged a table to sell tickets in the hallway of the humanities building on campus, but since the university charges per day for the permits, he just booked it for Thursday and the Friday of the show. Sales at The Venture office and at the record store are sluggish, but there's still time.
"People will buy tickets," Jay says. "This is going to be big, I just know it. And afterwards we'll be back on track, just like we were before."
Steve and Peter exchange glances. "Yeah," says Steve. "Sure, the show will be great. But as long as you're talking about afterwards, um..." He pauses to scratch his head. "Some of us have been thinking about the direction the band is going. Maybe this is a good time to talk about it."
"What do you mean, direction?" Tyson asks, eyeing the bass player. "You mean musically?"
"No, no," he says. From the serious look on his face, it's plain to see Steve knows he is touching on delicate subject matter by speaking up to Tyson and Jay, the founders of the band. "We all want to play hard rock, and that's what we're doing. Musically, I still think we're the best band in the city."
"Are you talking about Danny?" Jay asks, gesturing to his brother.
"No, Danny's cool," says Steve, reaching over to punch the younger guitar player in the shoulder. "He needs experience, but he'll be fine."
"I think what Steve is talking about," Peter says, leaning forward, "is the business side of things." Steve nods and Peter continues. "We're seeing what a lot of other bands are doing right now, and it's making it very apparent what we're not doing. Like all the internet stuff that Lady Endorphin does."
"You sound like Rich now," Jay says. "Besides, we've got what's her name, Benny, working on the MySpace page now, right? So that's a start, right Danny?"
"Yeah. We have like, thirty friends now."
"See, that's pretty good."
"No, that's really lame," Steve says. "Shit, The Old-Timey Railroad band has a couple hundred friends already, and they haven't even played a gig yet. They've also recorded several songs to put online, and in the four or five years that you guys have been together, you've recorded just a notch above jack shit."
"So what, they're your heroes now?" Tyson says.
"No. I'm just saying that they're tuned in to contemporary methods of promotion," Peter says. "This is a big part of finding fans now. They're just doing their band for fun, but they're already more organized than we are. You guys say that you're serious about making it, but you clearly have no idea about how to get your music heard."
"You get heard by performing," Tyson says.
Jay nods. "We've always had a band philosophy that the music comes first. We have good songs and we play good shows. That's the most important thing."
"Yes, that's true," Steve says. "But it's not enough if you want to have a career. If it was, then we'd be getting signed, just like Allsystemsgo."
"Ahh," Jay says, leaning back in his chair. "I see. This is about those guys."
"No, it's about us," Peter says. "We keep saying that we're better than them, but if that's true, why the fuck are they getting signed and we're not?"
"Because they didn't have their equipment stolen."
"Aw fuck, Jay, that's an excuse," Peter says. "I don't think you want to admit that they're running their band better than we are. They're making good music, but they're also paying enough attention to the business side to record and send out demos, promote themselves and get signed. They play twice as many gigs as we do, and they get more money. Why? They draw bigger crowds. Why?"
Jay looks at Tyson. The singer scratches his forehead looks away.
"I think after we get new gear we need to spend some time refocusing," says Steve. "We've got a lot of great songs, but we need to figure out what kind of band we want to be. If we want to tour around Indiana and make some dough, we can do that. We can be a good local band. But if we want to go further and you know, really get somewhere, I think we'll need to make some changes."
Tyson looks at Jay. "What do you think?"
Jay sips his beer and thinks it over. "I think we are making progress," he says. "Look at this show. This is the biggest thing we've ever really done. We're working together with all these other bands, we're getting people to come up on stage with us, we're renting proper lighting rigs, and we've recorded a track and put it online. I think we're turning a corner."
"That's true," Tyson says. "The funny thing is, we wouldn't have done any of this stuff if our gear hadn't have gotten jacked."
"Yeah, funny for you," Peter says. "You didn't lose two grand worth of drums."
"Okay, let's not start thinking about that," Steve says. "We're trying to be productive here, right? Anyway, yeah, we've taken some small steps. I guess what I'm hoping is that after we're done with this, we keep moving forward. We build on this and keep modernizing how we do things instead of going back to the way we were before. You know, playing a show or two every month and wondering why we aren't huge yet."
Tyson sips his beer. "It's easy to say. But we need to figure out what to do."
Jay nods. "Yeah." He looks at his watch. "We should be to Julie's. Let's get going."
"Um, one more thing, Jay," Tyson says. "There's something else we need to discuss." He looks over at Steve and Peter. "There's something we've all been concerned about."
"What?" the guitarist asks.
"Well, it's about how you've been acting lately."
"Showing up a practice late, not to mention high," Steve says, "and then after your slightly insane rant against Allsystemsgo on the radio last Thursday, we're just... I don't know, I guess we're just worried about you. You know. Worried you're getting a bit stressed out."
Jay looks at Danny. "Did you know about this?"
"No," Danny says. "But I'm not really surprised. You've been a little crazy lately."
"Well, is it any wonder? Shit, no gear, parents splitting, I have to get an apartment and a new job while putting this show together...of course I'm stressed. Come on, let's just get going."
* * * * *
Danny, as the only one drinking cola, drives the band in Peter's van down to Julie's house in the south end of town. As they climb out and walk up to the house they can hear the thunder of Pattern Disruption rehearsing inside the garage. They head around back and wait for the song to end before pounding on the door to announce their presence.
Scott opens the door. He's wearing a sleeveless shirt and sweat is running down his tattooed arms. "Hey guys," he says. "Come on in."
Despite the cold night outside, the garage in warm and slightly funky with body odor. All four members of Pattern Disruption are red-faced and sweaty. Ron, who is shirtless, wipes sweat from the neck of his bass with a small towel. Behind the drums, Kathy has her curly brown hair pulled back into a pony tail, sweat-stains spreading across her green t-shirt. She smiles at the members of Hellakill as they enter. Danny looks away.
"We've been practicing for hours," Julie says between gulps from a water bottle. Her voice sounds hoarse. "We went to be super-tight for Friday."
"Awesome, awesome," says Tyson. "You sounded great from outside. Are you almost done?"
"We're totally done," Ron says, pulling the bass off. "I need a rest."
Steve takes off his jacket and accepts the bass from Ron. He pulls it on over his shoulder and starts tuning. "Shit," he says. "The strap is all sweaty. I can feel it through my shirt."
"Sorry," says Ron.
"No, it's cool," Steve grins. "You guys are hard core."
Kathy gets up and Peter starts adjusting the drums to his preferred positions. Danny and Jay get their guitars ready, Danny with Scott's Fender, Jay with his Sears model. When they are set, the members of Pattern Disruption move to the far end of the garage and relax on the folding deck chairs as Hellakill begins to rehearse.
They start with the song 'Million Last Times.' Jay listens as they play it through and he doesn't like what he hears. There are no glaring errors, but the sound isn't tight. They haven't been rehearsing enough, and Danny still hasn't fully meshed with the rest of the band. Jay plays, trying to lead the sound as best he can by playing clean, straight and in time, instead of improvising and thrashing too much.
They play for a full hour before there is the sound of knocking on the garage door. They open it and Rich steps inside, lugging his amplifier and guitar case. "Hey dudes," he says.
"What the fuck?" Peter says. "You're alone again? Is that crazy bitch ever coming, or what?"
"Yeah, I'm right here," says Casey, the lead singer of Lady Endorphin, stepping in through the door a moment after Rich.
Rich laughs. "He called you a crazy bitch," he says to Casey, and Peter flushes deep red in embarrassment.
"Shut up, Rich," Casey says. As she was when Jay and Tyson met her at her house, she is completely wrapped in layer upon layer, with a long black overcoat and a wool hat pulled low. Despite the fact that she's indoors and it's nighttime, she still has on her mirrored sunglasses. "Sorry I haven't made it out to a practice yet," she says to the members of Hellakill. "Hopefully we sound all right singing together." She looks at Jay and a tiny smile plays on her red lips. Jay blushes slightly and looks at his guitar, silently smiling as well.
Rich gets his guitar and amp ready, while Danny pulls his guitar off. Kathy moves her chairs to make room for him to sit near her, but he sits on the floor next to Ron instead, ignoring her.
Julie has only one microphone stand, so Tyson and Casey stand close together while Peter raps the high hat to start the song. Jay and Rich hit the opening riff and the band starts 'Walk This Way,' the song they agreed to perform. The sound is clean and heavy, with the two guitars slashing tightly alongside each other. There is no separation between lead and rhythm guitar, and the two competing impresario players let their sounds swerve and coil together like two snakes in a race down a single tunnel. It's a powerful sound, and it's clear to everyone that Rich and Jay are both taking the unspoken competition very seriously, working furiously together to each sound better, with the band being the ultimate winner.
Tyson starts singing, handling the first verse and chorus. Casey takes the second verse, and then they hit the second chorus together, with the two voices, the two guitars, and the hammering rhythm section bringing the sound to an ecstatic peak. Sitting on the floor watching, Danny feels a shiver of excitement at the electricity of the performance.
As they have since they started rehearsing together, Jay and Rich draw the end of the song out with a long duel of solos, and when at last they bring it to a close, Danny and the members of Pattern Disruption stand up to clap.
Casey coughs a few times. "Pretty good," she says.
"That was terrific," Julie says. "This is going to be a fantastic show."
"Hell yeah," Steve says. "We're going to be fantastic. What could possibly go wrong?"
2008 Nolan Whyte