Becker could hardly believe they were actually doing this. He was leaning on a post under a small portico at Karen's house, overlooking a large, bean-shaped pool and their set up to the very right of him. The amps and Tama set lay simply on the patio, looking a bit sullen. But Becker felt rather secure. Eric, Jay, and he had prepared the set list wonderfully. Everyone knew their parts perfectly, and Becker had even prepared a surprise.
So Karen's dad set up your amps through his PA system before he left. Jana was saying, clad in a black t-shirt and blue shorts. Becker nodded, looking over at Eric, who was hopelessly chatting up a blonde girl. Eric was wearing his famous black bandana and Bullet For My Valentine shirt, which greatly accented his arm size. But Becker snorted at his attempts at flirting; he failed miserably. He was the mantis: mate, then have your head devoured. Seen my mates? Becker asked Jana, not particularly caring to look at her. She was halfway attractive, at least, but Becker had found he had no interest in dating at all. He found the prospects a bit sickening. And even now he laughed at how Anson's recent relationship went: they didn't particularly like each other, him and his girl, but kept together because of the sex, mostly.
When do we go on? Becker asked Jana without a glance at her. He was staring at Jay, who was tuning the drums. Jay nodded at him, as if to say We'll do fine. Becker nodded back gently.
Just as the sun begins to set. Jana replied in a far-too-innocent voice.
Fantastic. Our songs echo into the night to the sounds of annoyed neighbors.
Jana gave a warm giggle. Becker rolled his eyes. It would start soon.
In a matter of about 15 minutes, Chagrin had gathered in their playing area, and were huddled around the drum set, going over the set list. Anson was questioning a lot of it, and the band had to make a few last second adjustments.
So we have to start with a cover everyone knows, just to get them into it. Eric began, pointing at the first song.
Then we head into two of our own. Jay concluded. Then a ten minute break for whatever needs. Bathroom, drinks, etc.
So my smoke break? Anson asked, eager-eyed.
That's why I don't let you do backup vocals. Charlie laughed. Can you imagine?
No. Now get ready, fools. Eric ordered, and took his place, left stageof the patio. Anson sighed and stood a bit behind and to his right, and began practicing a fingering as Becker took right stage near Jay's set. Charlie clumsily stumbled to the mic. An eerie screech echoed through the PA system, like dog's nails on a chalkboard.
Ahoy hoy, lowly mortals. Said Charlie.
Oh, dear God Becker heard Jay mutter under his breath. Charlie continued.
Now, this is our first gig, so cut us some slack. We'd like to wish the class of '09 a fantastic life out therein the real world.
There was an odd sort of cheer. Becker snorted uncomfortably.
So enjoy this as we start with a Jersey anthem of sorts.
That was Becker's cue. He began with the opening bars of Livin' On a Prayer. Becker could tell Jay was smiling. He felt the amazing energy of everyone, as they knew what came next. The big opening. Eric leapt in with the opening riff, minus the talk box. They didn't have the money for one just yet. But it went off without a hitch as they reached the verse, and Charlie honestly sounded just like Bon Jovi. Charlie was obviously into it. He began moving about the patio-stage, feeling the good vibes from the opener. The crowd got into it, singing the Whoa-oh part of the chorus, and sang along like a true choir. Becker could hardly believe it; it was actually working.
There really was no rhythm part for the song, so Anson improvised some bar chords and jazzy feeling fills. He looked a bit out of place playing jazz fills with his nirvana t-shirt, but it worked regardless.
The song ended with the perfect fade, as every guitar player lowered the volume knobs manually. The crowd of high schoolers cheered loudly, and Charlie sighed in relief and wiped the stinging sweat from his brow. Some must have landed in his eyes, as he was tearing. He went back to talking to the crowd.
Alright, now that one you knew. This next one is one of our own. I know, I know, we're not as good, but we're going to prove we have at least a little know how. This next song is called Glory, and was written by Becker, here.
It felt odd to Becker as the crowd gave a few cheers for him. Becker looked into his own backup microphone and spoke.
I wrote about an old friendwell, before I got tossed to the curb.
Anson immediately broke into the opening riff, written in D minor, the saddest of all chords according to Becker. It continued for about two lines before Eric broke in with a fast, distorted to hell beat. Anson adjusted, pulling in his chords. Then Jay slammed the fill as Becker joined them all in the verse. The chorus went well, too. The crowd eventually caught on as Charlie sang, and they began to hum along. Becker grinned. They were humming to HIS song.
The solo went a bit awkwardly, as it was Anson's. Eric hesitantly took the back burner as Anson walked very close to the patio's edge to show off to the crowd as he moved from D minor to A to rush up the solo. Then he himself finished the song with the same riff he opened with.
Awesome, awesome. Charlie pandered to the crowd. Okay, okay, next is a song written by Eric, here, about when his first childhood home burned down.
Since Eric had written this one, it was HIS song. He ripped it up with a progression only madmen dreamed of: F A B7 D5. It was the literal reflection of the feelings he felt as he watched his home burn to the ground.
The lyrics reflected it rather well, with the lines rhyming words having to do with great infernos and madness. Then, as Eric wrapped up a short solo, Becker decided to bring Eric down a peg. As Eric and Anson went into a fiery guitar duel, Becker decided to spice it up by adding slap accents to the beginning of each part. He gave a penchant backup vocal yell, which got everything moving nicely. It ended with a light fade, and the band gasped in physical weakness. Jay tossed his sticks behind him and stood, bowing slightly to the first row before walking to Becker, nodding, and walking for the cooler.
Alright, we're gonna take a short break, but we'll be back with three more songs and a finale. Charlie announced and walked toward the portico. As he passed, Becker whispered to him.
Still me and Eric doing the finale?
Yeah. It'll be great. Charlie said, patting Becker on the back.
Oh, I hope so. Becker muttered uneasily. He wandered offstage with Eric and Anson after hanging up their instruments. Jana immediately charged him and leapt into him, wrapping his stick-like limbs in a crushing hug.
Whoa, hey, what did I say about the no-touchy policy? Becker challenged. Jana immediately released him.
Not unless it leads somewhere? she recalled in an upward inflection.
Precisely, now fetch old Fagin a cold one. Becker said in his best Charles Dickens impression. Jana laughed and ran off to get him one. Anson clapped Becker on the shoulder.
You are a hopeless cynic. He said slowly, so Becker could taste every word.
Dude, she jumped into you. That's like saying take me right here.'
Maybe in your twisted reality. Came Becker's scathing retort. Anson smirked.
At least I'm getting some. He replied and walked away, pulling a pack of Lucky Sevens out of his pocket.
Becker sighed and shook his head as Anson walked toward the side of the house. How would his girlfriend react to such words? Probably praise him, Becker thought with a small grin. He took his break by grabbing a Diet Pepsi and drenching his head in the crisp pool water. His bangs now hung down his forehead like snakes, with minds of their own. When he went to go back to the set up, he found himself staring into the messy face of one Robert Carpenter, a freshman at Harmony Hill.
Robert was a filthy little urchin whose mind had been demolished by drugs, mostly due to the fact he and his divorced mother lived above the local convenience store in the smallest apartment known to man. Becker felt at least a little sympathy for Robert, but there was one small issue: Robert was a creature whose annoyance the world had not seen outside of Harmony Hill.
Dude! Robert cried, slapping Becker on the chest. Becker recoiled in surprise and slight pain. Clearly the drugs had frazzled Rob's center of control.
Oh, Robert Becker grumbled. I had no idea you hang around these guys.
I don't. Robert replied, a glazed look in his eyes. Their fences are just too easy to leap.
Listen, no offense. Becker sighed, patting Rob gently on the shoulder. But you'd best get out. I mean it. Raus!
Get out in German? You take German!
Hm. Don't remember it. Robert slurred, getting bothered by Becker's insistence.
Oh, my god. Becker mumbled, pushing past Robert and toward the band set up. Anson was already there, having finished his cigarette break. He smirked as Becker approached, as if he knew something Becker did not.
What? Becker asked, walking to the drum set and slapping the Zildjian crash cymbal blandly.
Can you guess what I just did? Anson asked mischievously.
That's disgusting, man.
No, not that! Anson laughed. I found us another gig after this!
Oh? Becker said, not sounding very amused.
You know Carrie?
Yeah, Jim's big sister.
Well, she knows the guy who owns the Garden
Carnally, I'm guessing.
You're hilarious. Anyway, she got us an opportunity to play at the Garden.
Everyone in north Jersey knew about the Garden. It was the artiest place in all Sussex County, with easels set up should any paintings come to mind as one sipped on all-natural tea. However, it was also a bit infamous for having its own special garden' of sorts. Becker stifled a laugh. Robert probably lived there, knowing how burned-out he was.
Oh, that's cool. Becker said. He knew all the local bands got started at the Garden.
I'm not finished. It'll be in nine days. Anson added with a sly grin.
Nine days Becker muttered, going over the dates in his head. But La Migra is playing then.
Anson's liberal grin grew wider.
Yougot usto open for La Migra?! Becker exploded. That's insane! This'll propel us up, man.
In addition to all of Sussex knowing the Garden, all of Sussex also knew La Migra. The band formed at Harmony Hill and had broken up twice before finally uniting for a final tour. This was their last hurrah before college swallowed their lives into adulthood. They didn't want to grow up. And neither did Becker.
We're gonna have to practice our figurative asses off. Anson said, picking up his Strat. I mean, if we do well with La Migra
Anson didn't need to finish. Becker knew all the speculation like a wise man. He simply gave a nod and went to his place. Charlie soon emerged from Karen's house, looking a bit tipsy. It was rather odd that there was no parental supervision at the party. Becker would have expected better. Eric soon came over, grumbling something about how no girl would talk to him. Becker found this especially hilarious, as Eric was getting a nice taste of his own medicine. Jay also came around, a great smile on his face.
Why are you so happy? Eric asked indignantly.
How many girls' numbers did you get? Jay asked. Because
He lifted his green sleeves revealing a sea of black and blue ink, all numbers and heart. He gave a light laugh and nodded, spouting yeah from his thin lips. Eric scowled and picked up his Ibanez.
Come on, let's go. Eric grumbled.
Gotcha. Charlie said, walking to the mic.
Welcome back, lowly mortals.
Jay rolled his eyes as Anson chuckled.
We'll be playing three more songs and a finale, which shall remain a mystery untilwell, until its unveiled. Now, we're going to start with a song by Eric, called When They Come Back. According to our rotund little guitarist, this one's about a Stephen King story he read that was called Sometimes They Come Back.
Eric didn't even wait for Charlie to finish before he rolled out the opening distorted riff in G Major. Charlie looked a bit bothered, but it quickly faded when the rest of the band joined in. It was a relatively simple song, as it was written by Eric, the world's worst student of music theory. When they finished, they rolled right into the next song, Why I Believe In God, which Jay had written about his father. It was heavy on rhythm; mostly drums. It had to, of course, include nearly thirty seconds of just drums and bass, but Becker had no objection to that. He just went nuts with slap and pop, trying his best to give it an early Chili Peppers vibe. Then it suddenly ended with a cumbal crash and a yelp from Jay.
Becker looked over his shoulder to discover Jay had smacked himself right in the leg with his heavy sticks during the drum break. The drummer gave a small wince and gulped down another yelp as he stomped the bass drum to signal to Charlie to go back to his intros. Charlie recovered nicely.
Fantastic and elastic. Your leg, I mean. Charlie laughed, and the crowd seemed intrigued.
Jay flipped him off jokingly and rubbed his sore leg as Eric laughed it off.
Anyway, now we've got a nice one by Becker called Unholywood.
This one didn't need introduction or explanation. The crowd would understand once the chorus hit with a strange line Becker himself had come up with.
What happened to responsibility? Why is there so much hostility In reason and incongruity? Well maybe the wires have crossed
It was a fast paced, System of a Down sounding metallic song. Charlie would have to stretch his vocal cords for the last note, which held on for twelve measures before the final clash. Jay rolled wonderfully on the crash cymbal, and let it drop, and every note ended just in time, as Charlie's voice began to crack. He was holding his throat by the time it was over, and he frowned sharply.
Never again. He whispered to Becker, who frowned, as he was really proud of the song. Charlie nodded sharply and returned to the mic, now speaking hoarsely.
Okay, okay. Uh he paused, looking back at the band. Well, I just tore myself up. But that's a good thing, as I'm done for the night anyway. This next one is only for Eric and Becker.
Becker grinned as Charlie walked offstage. Anson and Jay soon followed, eager to get a bite to eat. Becker slowly approached the mic as Eric put his Ibanez away and removed his Dean Acoustic EQA. He carefully strummed it to check its tuning before giving Becker a nod and starting the opening notes to Good Riddance' by Green Day, minus the double screw up and f---.
He knew the song would pull on the graduates' heartstrings and fog their minds. All the reminiscing lyrics and memorial themes. It would work perfectly.
And for the most part, it did, despite a slight screw up by Eric on the second verse. It flooded over everyone at the party like a cool mist, which must have collected over their eyes. Becker almost lost it at the sight of tears in the audience. From where he was standing, he could even see Jana losing a bit of her composure. He let out a snort outside of mic range and finished the song.
As the crowd gave appropriate applause for their efforts, Eric and Becker quickly escaped, with Eric effortlessly locking up his Dean before strolling off. He gave Becker a good pat on the back as a job well done'. Becker beamed. They had actually done it. But somehow, it also felt a little empty. What was missing?
In the van, Becker sat lazily in the passenger seat, his forehead pressed against the window. He watched in boredom as Jay looked through the supplies. Becker often wondered why Jay felt the need to lead the band. But he guessed it was due to Jay being the only one of them in all honors classes at school, not that they really needed to worry about that anymore. Finals were over, and all that was left was move-up day, where the students went to next years' classes. Becker silently hoped for some with Jay, and maybe Anson. They were the two he could stand outside of the basement.
Then, Becker's thoughts were broken by Jay's unusually whiny voice.
We're missing a cable
Becker perked up and opened his door to look down at Jay, on his hands and knees, counting and recounting the cables.
I'm positive. Jay said aloud, using his index finger to visually count them again.
Cables don't just disappear. Becker noted, hopping out of the van and helping Jay to look around. Under amps, in cases, and around the vannothing. Becker gave a harsh sigh.
I know, I know! Jay cried, tossing the cables in the van's cargo area. I can't understand.
Relax, Jay. It's one cable. Not going to kill us now. Becker assured him. But then he spotted the rest of his merry nincompoops approaching. Anson at least carried his gig bag, which no doubt held his guitar and at least one slab of vodka stolen from Karen's parent's cabinets. As Charlie approached, he rolled up his red sweatshirt sleeves to reveal what at first looked like tattoos, but as he came closer, Becker could see they were phone numbers written in pen. Charlie laughed gleefully and helped Jay place his microphone stand in the van. Eric was too busy texting to respond. New girlfriend of the week? Becker asked bitingly as he passed. Eric simply threw him a glare and hopped into the back of the van, like a member of the A-Team. Becker could imagine him as the Face and laughed softly to himself.
You of course realize he'll get you back for that. Anson told Becker soon after, closing the van doors and finding his place in the driver's seat. He always insisted on driving to and from virtually everywhere. Becker sat close by in the passenger seat and turned to look back at his bandmates shacked up with the equipment: Charlie with a heavy case balancing precariously on his lap, Eric with a few cords wrapped about his neck, and Jay gently cradling two toms under his arms whilst being shoved against the tin wall by two amps.
Oh, yeah. Becker replied with a grin. Can't wait.
Anson nodded and pulled out of the driveway, leaving their first gig, and most likely, a cord, behind.