"How ya feelin, man?" Brian took a sip from his beer and put it down on the bar.
"I feel fine now. Thank god it missed that nerve. I'd probably kill myself if I couldn't play my axe anymore." Kevin looked at Brian as he tipped his bottle back all the way to get the last bit of beer out, set it down and ordered another.
It had been a month since their last gig at The Town Tavern and to keep her customers happy, Denise, the head bartender, had hired a few other local bands to fill in while The Truth recooperated. It had actually turned out for the best for The Truth since they knew a few guys in the other bands, and they did what they could to raise money for Kevin's hospital bills, and to give the band more exposure than they could have dreamed of on their own. Their story had become somewhat of a local legend, embelleshed to certain degrees by different people. Some told it exactly how it happened, others said he had gotten attacked completely by surprise, and yet others had woven a fantastic tale about how Kevin took on an entire biker gang by himself with the knife protruding from his back the whole time, falling only after taking care of the bikers.
Of course, The Truth knew what really happened, but didn't mind a little hype at the same time. Whenever someone would ask what really happened, they'd laugh and give them the true story. In the past few weeks, the members of The Truth's phones had been ringing almost off the hook with offers from other local bands to help fill their spot at the Tavern until they got back on their feet. In all honesty it was a bit overwhelming for them. One day they're just another no name local band, the next they're the talk of the town. The Town Tavern had also turned into the hotspot for the area's younger bar patrons. In a matter of only a few weeks it went from a quiet little dive bar to the most popular one around.
As the date got closer and closer for The Truth's return, it seemed like the parking lot to The Tavern overflowed more and more into the street and parking lot of the trucking company across the street. People had heard so much about The Truth recently and were getting more and more restless awaiting their first gig since Kevin had been in the hospital. He had recovered rather quickly, coming back to band practice in just under a week since his release from the hospital, and the band had adjusted their availability at their menial jobs to get as much practice in as possible. They had been getting together at least once every other day, if not more.
Tonight was a special night. Not just because of the multitude of other bands playing, making it the biggest night at The Tavern in recent history, but because it was The Truth's first gig since the incident. Three bands had performed already, and the last band was about to go on before The Truth closed out the night. There had been a pop-rock sounding band on to open the night, followed by hardcore band that sounded like a more simplified version of Pennywise who's singer was actually pretty good and sounded like Jim Lindberg, probably explaining their sound. The third band had a very nice, balanced mix between old school metal in the vein of Judas Priest and surprisingly a Grunge edge to them. The last band on before The Truth sounded more similar to Alice In Chains than anything else, but were heavy enough that they could be considered Metal. All in all, the bands all sounded great, and were put on in an order to transisition easily into The Truth's sound- A heavy blend of Godsmack and Alice In Chains with some Metallica and Lamb of God thrown into the mix.
This was also going to be The Truth's first gig without playing almost purely covers. Since the whole night spanned their usual set length of four hours, they opted to go with all originals and their signature cover of The Offspring's "Pay The Man" as the last song. After finishing off his beer, Brian ordered another, his 4th or 5th round of the night and took a look around the tightly packed bar. Rob and Rich were over in a corner, sipping their Cokes and talking up a small group of female admirers. Special K sat to his left, Jess on his right, and Kevin to her right, all four of them downing their drinks. He could also see a bunch of people he had gone to school with that he kept in touch with and a few that he hadn't seen since graduating high school. Denise was running around like a chicken without a head with the three other girls she staffed the bar with that night to keep up with the demand for drinks. The last band on, Heaven's Bane, was on their 2nd to last song. The singer was a guy he had gone to school with from kindergarden to high school graduation. John was his name, and even though Brian and him hadn't always been on good terms, they eventually learned to put their differences aside and had become friends after school ended.
With the bar being so crowded and noisy, it was pointless to try and talk to the rest of The Truth, so Brian finished his beer and sent everyone a text to get outside and start unloading all their equipment. The Tavern had recently acquired a house drum set, so that helped in cutting down on time needed to set up, but they still needed to drag their amps to and from each gig. That would be fixed soon though, as the owner of The Tavern planned on buying a few house amps as well. Since The Truth were technically considered the main band there, the owner decided to buy the same equipment as The Truth had. This would also make it much easier on the band since they wouldn't have to use anything they were unfamiliar with. Brian made his way out to his truck to unload his equipment. After a few minutes, the rest of the band congregated around his truck. Jess had come out with him, being no more than five feet away from him at all times. Some people might see them as a couple with how much time they spent with eachother, but Brian didn't believe in monogamy and even though he didn't really have any desire to bang any of the groupies that damn near threw themselves at the band, he refused to give himself and Jess an official title.
"That band on right now is pretty good. They could end up going somewhere if they keep at it." Kevin lit up a cigarette and hefted part of his halfstack out of the bed of Brian's truck.
"Yeah, they are. I went to school with the singer, he's pretty f*cking sick. Can scream his head off like a god damned banshee" Brian lifted the other parts to Kevin's halfstack out of the bed and set them down next to the cabinet Kevin had removed.
"Definitely sounds pretty badass" Special K commented on John as an ear piercing, earth shattering scream issued forth from the PA system that was set up for Heaven's Bane inside, lifting Rich's bass amp out of the bed of Brian's truck.
"We should probably get this stuff set up by the back door and ready for when they finish". Brian grabbed his amp from his truck and lugged it to the back door of The Tavern where a small group of smokers had gathered. The strong smell of cigarette smoke and weaker smell of weed had permeated the air around the back door, and a slight haze lingered in the humid late August air. Brian hated cigarettes with a passion but couldn't get enough of that sweet leaf. As he went back to help unload the rest of the equipment, he saw jess rooting around in the backseat of his truck, her feet planted on the ground outside the truck with her ass sticking out and her damn near skin tight black Metallica shirt riding up a bit, revealing her deep purple G-string.
"Hey guys, I almost forgot! I made this for you!"
Jess pulled herself out of the truck with a large piece of cloth in her hands. When she unfolded it, it revealed a five foot wide by three foot high banner with the words "The Truth" emblazoned on a black background in large white letters in block font. Underneath it, it had a circle with two question marks made to look like a yin-yang symbol with the two dots inside the hooks of the question marks where they'd be in a yin-yang symbol.
"That looks badass!" Rich proclaimed as Jess held the banner wide open for the band to see.
"That looks awesome, Jess. You didn't have to do that for us." Brian took the banner and held it up, trying to get a closer look at it before handing it back to her.
"Well I figured it would help you guys. You know, maybe give you some kind of recognizable symbol, like a trademark or something for the band. None of the other bands in there have one, and it'll catch everyone's eye. Every band has to have a logo, right?"
"We'll put it up in there as soon as Heaven's bane are done. Thanks, Jess, that was really nice of you." Brian put his arm around her and gave her a great big bear hug.
"No problem. Now let's get the rest of the stuff unloaded, sounds like they're finishing up."
"Alright, here's our last song of the night! We're gonna throw it back to some old school shit that a lot of you guys are probably gonna recognize. If not, then you should, because The Offspring are f*cking amazing!"
Rob shouted into the mic as Brian came in on the melodic opening riff of "Pay The Man", opting to use distortion instead of delay on it, and adding pinch harmonics every few notes, making it sound more Metal in the process. The Truth had been in rare form that night, as everyone was tighter than they had ever been and everything just seemed to flow like water for them. The crowd went nuts after every song and couldn't get enough. Unfortunately, they finished up only a half an hour before the bar closed, so they had to end without an encore to ensure all the patrons left before they had to close. After Rob gave his gratitude to the crowd, they chanted for a few minutes for an encore, but understood when the owner of the bar got on the mic and told them that there was unfortunately not enough time for one. He asked them to drive carefully when they left and urged them to finish their drinks quickly. About an hour later, The Truth were packing the last of their quipment back into the bed of Brian's truck and Brian was locking the hard top cover when a rather short man, standing maybe no more than 5'4" tall by Brian's judgement approached them. He was wearing a button down shirt, black dress pants, a black leather belt, and what looked to be very expensive black dress shoes. He had slicked back red hair that he tied into a ponytail and his facial hair was neat and trimmed and fashioned into a goatee.
"That was a killer f*cking set, guys! You destroyed that place!" The man outstretched a hand to offer a handshake to Brian, which he accepted.
"Thanks, man. We appreciate any thanks from fans." Brian replied and took his hand back.
"It really was great. The other bands were good, but I see now why the owner booked you guys as the closer. You guys are something, real original. Most of the bands around here do that generic, hardcore bullshit that's been done a million times by everyone else, but I haven't heard a real, honest to god Metal band come out of this area since the 80's."
"We're only doing what we love, making real music. We just do it for ourselves, and if people like it then that only makes it better for us, gives us more enjoyment out of what it." Rich lit up a cigarette as he offered the man one, who politely refused.
"Is there anything we can get you? Maybe a beer, cig, or some bud?" Brian reached into his pocket and pulled out a lighter along with a dimebag stuffed to the breaking point with some rather pungent weed.
"Nah, I'm good on all three. I didn't come out here just to shoot the breeze with you guys. I really liked what I heard in there. I mean really liked it. A lot. I have a studio a few towns over and want you guys to come in and record some of your stuff. You guys were on top of your shit tonight like white on rice, and out of any of the bands around here I think with the right guidance you could get really far."
"You can't be serious" Brian damn near dropped his weed and lighter as his jaw hit the ground when he heard what the man was offering.
"As a heart attack. I'm dead serious. I've got an open slot next saturday, and to show you how serious I am, I'm gonna offer to record your first demo for free, and offer you a contract for your 1st EP if the demo does well enough. On your terms, of course."
"Is this some kind of joke? I mean we've barely been together six months." Rich just stared wide eyed at the man as he made his offer.
"No, no joke. I own my own recording studio, and have a few other bands signed to my fledgeling record company. I wanna expand but can't do it with class act, truly talented bands like you guys. I call it Barrens Records, after the Jersey Pine Barrens."
"I've never even heard of it, nor any bands signed to it. Sounds like something you just made up off the top of your head." Brian composed himself and now was looking at the man with doubt in his eyes.
"I'm pretty sure you have. The last band that went on before you, Heaven's Bane? I signed them a few months ago. They're recording their first EP with me next month."
"Well John and I don't talk that often and he doesn't like revealing the inner workings of his band, which would explain why I never heard anything about your record company and why they seem to have blown up all of a sudden. So why us? Why come and check out a no name band like us? I mean we're small time, chicken sh*t compared to what's out there." Brian packed his bowl in front of the man and proceeded to light it.
"Well first off, I'm a Jersey boy myself, born and raised. I do all I can to help out the local music scene. Second, you guys have developed quite the reuptation for yourselves around here recently as a sort of badass, hard partying band. I can eventually help you guys get bigger and better gigs, maybe even go on a few dates of summer tours, or even organize one of your own at some point in the future. When I heard what happened at your last gig, I had to come down and check it out for myself. I can safely say I was not disappointed in the slightest bit. I mean hell, it was the classic rock and roll scene in there- loose women, fights, plenty of alcohol flowing through people's veins, and an energetic as hell band whipping the crowd into a frenzy. You guys really know how to put on a show, and it deserves a bigger audience."
"I don't know, still sounds a little shady to me." Brian took a toke and passed it to the right to Special K.
"Well here's my card. Call me in the next few days if you want a chance to give your music a bigger audience. I'll see you guys around."
With that the man walked to his Dodge Viper and peeled out of the gravel parking lot. Special K held the bowl in his hands and just stood there in disbelief as the dust settled. A few seconds later he snapped out of his stupor when Rob tapped him on the shoulder. He took a toke and passed it to Rob.
"You really think he's the real deal?" Rich asked Brian as the bowl came his way.
"He sure as hell seemed like it. I say we call him, couldn't hurt otherwise." Rob took another toke and passed it to Rich.
"Yeah, but that's up to our manager. What do you say, Jess?" Brian inspected the laminated business card the man had given him and handed it to Jess.
"Yeah, Jess. How about it?" Special K looked at her as he eyed up the bowl making its way around the circle.
"Let's go for it." Jess took the bowl and inhaled deeply.