Hey, I'm Doug, and I play guitar, and this is my story.
I got back home from Scott's house, after a thoroughly enjoyable jam session. It was now about 9.30, and I had about 6 hours of work to do before school tomorrow. I was due to start my lab at 8am sharp. Gah, I wasn't going to get much sleep tonight. Not that that was particularly unusual for a final year student. But before I could get started on homework, I had to drag in all my gear from the truck. Daniel wasn't around to help, and even if he was, I doubt he would have been keen to help anyway. So I dragged my bits and pieces in and set it up again.
My roommate Daniel was in his room, and there was a lot of noise being made. It sounded like he was entertaining a lady friend. And by the sound of it, he was a good entertainer. He was such a jerk, and yet he more often than not had female company at night. Another of life's mysteries, I guess.
I went out to the kitchen and started with coffee, and lots of it. We don't have anything more refined that instant, so that had to do. I had 3 cups of lukewarm coffee, and then made a hot cup to take back to my room. I made some attempt to sort through the mountain of books and paper on my floor and bed, trying to find what I needed. I sat down at my small desk, gathered my papers and looked at the clock. 10:12pm. It was going to be a long night.
I woke to sound of my phone buzzing. It was 7am, and time to get up. After going to bed just before 4am, I felt hungover and was sorely tempted to just roll over and sleep for another 12 hours. But it wasn't the first time I'd missed out on sleep, and it wouldn't be the last, especially while I was studying. So I got up, had a shower and then more coffee. I think if you cut me, I would bleed brown, that's how much coffee I drink. I got some toast and headed out to the truck and drove to school.
After the lab was over I was practically sleepwalking. The lab had been so dull I had fallen asleep at least twice, the second time for about an hour. That was annoying, because I ended up not finishing the lab, and no one bothered to wake me. I won't get a good mark for that one, and labs are pretty easy marks. So I was in a pretty bad mood, and I still had to endure another 3 hours of lecturers this afternoon. As I walked over to the coffee shop, I heard a voice call out my name. It was Scott.
"Hey man, how's it going?" he asked, jogging over to me. He looked a lot better than I thought I did.
"Yeah, I'm okay. A bit tired, but that's nothing coffee can't fix hey?" I said, trying unconvincingly to smile. He looked bemused.
"Dude, you look like shit. What time did you go to bed last night?" he said. Apparently I did look bad. I certainly felt it.
We walked into the coffee shop and after a few minutes we were sitting down with coffees. We made small talk about school and news for a bit, until Scott said, "Okay, forget about that shit, how good was last night?"
"That's not something I'm used to hearing from dudes!" I joked, flexing my non-existent muscles. I realised as I did it how pathetic it must have looked. "Um, I mean, yeah it was awesome. I had a great time."
"Are you still keen to get a band together?" he asked hopefully.
"Absolutely. I need something to distract me from studies," I said. In fact, that was a lie - something to distract me was the LAST thing I needed. Every bit of common sense told me that if I wanted to do well this year, I needed to focus squarely on academics, not music. There certainly was a strong case to forget about this band. But I didn't care about that. I was keen to start band, and I said so. I didn't add that spending time rehearsing at Scott's mansion-like house would mean spending more time around his beautiful sister Rachel, even if she barely acknowledged my existence. I would have to work on that.
"Well," said Scott, breaking my reverie, "we'll need other guys to make a proper band." He was right, of course, and I hadn't really considered this up until now.
"Yep," I said, "though I don't know where we'd find them." I looked at Scott and he shrugged. I had never thought of making a band before, so I didn't really have any idea of how to go about doing so.
"We could put up notices around the place, I guess. There music be some musicians here that are keen to join a band. I mean, there's 25, 000 students at this uni," said Scott. "You'd think that there would have to at least a few."
"Yeah, and there's that guitar shop downtown as well," I said, "we should definitely put up a notice there. They'd get all the rockers in town going through."
"Okay, that sounds good. What do want the ad to say?" he asked.
We thought about this for a while and we eventually decided on the text. Not that it made a great deal of difference, I think, as to who would answer the ad. Scott had access to a proper printer somewhere, so he volunteered to make up the notice and print them. We decided to distribute them the next day.
"Hey," he said as I was standing up to go to my next lecture, "what are you doing tonight?"
"Not much," I said, "probably just catching up on sleep. Why?"
"Well, there's a local rock band playing at O'Reilly's, and I thought it might be cool to go and watch. I used to get lessons from the same guy that taught their bass player, so we're sort of mates. I've heard them play before, and they're not bad at all."
I thought about it. I had no work to do tonight, and I didn't have an early start tomorrow. I really did need the sleep. Having said that, I rarely went out, and I do like seeing live music. Why the hell not, I thought. Maybe there'd be some nice ladies there. On second thoughts, O'Reilly's wasn't the sort of place that the ladies liked to hang out, especially on a Tuesday night. So maybe not. But nevertheless, I would give it a try.
"Yeah dude, I'm in," I said. "It should be good."
"Cool. I'll drive, If you like, and you can relax a bit. I'll pick you up at about 8?" he asked.
"Yeah, sounds good," I said. "Look, I gotta run to this lecture, but thanks for the invite. I'll see you at 8." And with that I walked to class.
When I got home, it was about 5.30 and I was tired. There was no one else home, and so I decided to get an hour or two or sleep before Scott turned up. As I was drifting off, I heard a car pull up, and figured it was my other roommate Chris. Chris was a pretty cool guy, and complete geek but he was clean and easy to live with. He wouldn't make any noise now, I thought. I rolled over and suddenly the stereo started blaring from the loungeroom.
"F--k," I said, putting the pillow over my head. But it was no use. I got up and got dressed again, having been in bed just long enough to get warm under the blanket and for my clothes to get cold. I walked out and there was Daniel, already with a beer in his hand and a bag of chips on the bench.
"You look like f--king shit," he said, with a mouthful of chips. Crumbs flew from his lips. I rolled my eyes.
"Hello to you too," I said, grabbing a few chips. I got a cup of coffee (my sixth for the day, not including the ones from last night's session) and sat down on the lounge. Daniel's rap music was blasting out and I could barely stand it, thanks to my headache and the fact that I thought it sounded shit. After a minute or two I got up and went to the kitchen. There was no real food there, so it was instant noodles again. I sighed as I poured boiling water into the noodles.
Soon enough, 8pm rolled up, and I was waiting in the lounge room for Scott to turn up. I had carefully picked out a set of jeans and a Led Zeppelin t-shirt so that anyone who saw me would know that I liked good music, and maybe even realise that I played guitar. It hardly mattered, but it was an image that I like to use. Scott turned up not long after this. I walked outside before he got out of his car. And what a car it was; a near-new Lexus SUV. He really was rich. If I was that rich, I know I wouldn't be spending my money on cars! I got into the passenger seat and took in the surrounding luxury. There was leather and electronics everywhere. It was magnificent.
We drove to O'Reilly's. It was about 20 minutes south. It was not a great pub, by all accounts, and didn't attract a nice crowd. But the owner did give new bands a chance to perform on quiet nights. The setup on the stage was quite comprehensive, even if the rest of the bar wasn't. We walked in, and found that the place was about half full. There were probably about 80 people here, none of whom I recognised. Scott and I got a beer each and sat down at a table near the stage. The band was due to start at 9, so we had about half an hour to talk before then.
"So, nice play hey?" I said, looking around.
"Yeah, brilliant," he said, pressing his shoe into the floor and watching as it stuck to the beer and coke and whatever else was dried into the tiles.
"What's this band like?" I said, looking at the gear on stage. It looked to be of various levels of quality. There were two guitars, both Ibanez ones, as well as an LTD bass. The guitar amp was a newish VOX AC30. I was pretty jealous - what an amp! The bass amp was a Hartke thing, which was pretty knocked about. The grille of the cabinet was dented and the tolex was patchy and peeling. The drums were pretty beat up too. It looked like gear that had seen its share of gigs. I was hopeful that these guys would be pretty good.
The band came out eventually, and there were four of them. They started to warm up and they sounded fairly competent. The guitarist was fairly quick up and the fret board, and it was pretty evident that he was the main skill of the band.
The band got started with an original song, which was introduced as 'the worst song in the world'. An interesting tactic. The song was actually okay, for the most part. The lyrics were fairly uninspired, but the guitar solo was smooth and flowing. The song reminded me a bit of mid-nineties Metallica, not too hard but not too soft, sort of stuck in the middle somewhere. It was about a road trip somewhere.
The band finished the song to generally polite applause, although there were a few dickheads in the place who made stupid comments.
The singer started speaking again. "How the f--k are you, O'Reilly's?" Some people yelled back at him. "Are you ready to rock?" The response was, again, underwhelming. "What a f--king great crowd. Anyway, we're the Spongebobs, and this is called 'Black Horse'!"
The band moved into a heavier song, again highly reminiscent of Metallica. Their influences were obvious. This was another original that suffered from poor lyrics like the last one. Again, the guitar solo was good, and the guitarist demonstrated substantial sweep-picking ability. All in all, not a band song either, I thought. This band was not too bad at all, and they made up for what they lacked in lyrical skill with good musicianship. The set continued on like this for another 40 or so minutes, at which point the band took a break.
By this stage, I had had about six beers and was starting to feel a bit tipsy. Scott was sober, and he looked like he was having a good enough time, except for the circle of rowdy guys sitting behind him. They were all quite drunk and were the source of the bulk of the crude comments coming from the audience. Occasionally they'd flick beer at each other, and Scott was starting to get quite a lot of beer drying on the back of his head and neck. They all had very short hair and were clean shaven - Army boys, I would guess. There was a Army base about half an hour out of town, and it wasn't uncommon to see groups of young men with short hair walking around the place. These guys at the table next to us were various levels of drunk and generally being obnoxious, although there was obviously an alpha male situation, with one guy telling all the jokes and getting all the laughs. I could see Scott was starting to get annoyed, but he wasn't the sort of guy to point out that he was annoyed, much less to a group of about 8 guys. I, on the other hand, had enough liquid courage on board to think it would be a good idea to go and have a chat to them. Scott saw what I was doing and said, "Dude, sit down, forget about them."
"Don't worry about me," I said, "I'll get them to shut up." At this point I really should have had a think about what I was doing. I honestly had no intention of being violent, but with hindsight that would have been what the Army guys assumed.
I walked to their table and sat down at an empty seat. They stopped talking and looked at me. I had sat down next to the alpha of the group, who said, "who the f--k are you?"
"Doug," I said, taking a long sip of beer, "and who the f--k are you?"
The one who spoke before laughed, and looked at his mates. "What do you want? I think your boyfriend is waiting for you!" he said, and he thought that was quite a funny insult.
"Do you reckon you could stop with all the screaming and the gay jokes and the dick jokes guys?" I said to the group. "It's pretty annoying and the band doesn't like it."
"What are you, their fucking fag groupie?" the same guy asked.
I could see this was going nowhere. I'm sure that some Army guys are clever, but these guys all appeared to possess varying levels of intelligence, from moron to caveman.
"Whatever," I said, "just stop with the stupid comments. We're all trying to enjoy the show." I got up to walk away, and as I did, the same guy spoke again. "Walk away, you little faggot, go back to your boyfriend!"
Here's a bit I wish I could take back. I didn't even find his inane gay insults to be very effective. I think everyone's a bit over gay jokes these days. Anyway, I don't know why I did it, but I turned round and walked up to him, stared at him for a bit, and without waiting for him to do anything I swung my fist and punched him in the face, just near his left cheek. I think if he hadn't been drunk, he would have dodged it easily, but he just watched as I hit him. I don't think it was a very good punch. I had never punched anyone properly before, and my first thought was about how much it hurt my knuckles and wrist. I'm definitely more of a lover than a fighter. It must have been an okay punch at least, because the alpha fell off his chair and onto the floor. Suddenly I was surrounded by men all my size and bigger, and the punches came thick and fast. It didn't last long but I wound up lying on the floor dazed and confused, my head throbbing and blood pouring from my nose. What a pack of pricks, ganging up on me like that. My eyesight slowly unblurred. The house music was still thumping away in the background. One of the Army guys was kneeling beside me, looking at me.
"Why the f--k would you go and do that?" he said, though not maliciously. He looked awkward if anything, as though he was the one at fault. He helped me to sit up and pushed my beer in front of me. "You're brave, but you're an idiot," he said, looking at my beat-up face. By this stage, Scott was also standing beside me, looking at my puffy face.
"F--k dude, why would you pick a fight with all those guys?" he said incredulously. I just grinned. The Army guy looked uncomfortable. He had been the quiet one at the table, and I didn't think he had actually hit me, unlike the rest of those drunk fools. So says another drunk fool, I know.
When it was clear that I was okay, Scott and the Army guy stopped worrying about me and sat down. The rest of the Army boys had cleared off, leaving their friend alone with me and Scott. That was nice of them. We sat down and Scott got another round. While he was at the bar, I got talking to the Army guy.
"So, you're in the Army?" I asked.
"Yeah, I'm a Private, well, a rifleman actually," he said, with little conviction, apparently not that proud of his job.
"You don't really look like an Army guy, to be honest," I said. He was a fairly small fellow, quite skinny and not too tall. He didn't look quite sure of himself, and a bit malnourished emotionally, if that's that right word. But he had an honest enough looking face.
"Yeah well, I'm not really that keen on it, I guess," he said, surprising me with his honesty. The Army guys usually struck me as being full-on, keen, hardcore 'I LOVE MY RIFLE' kind of guys. "I dropped out of uni, and I didn't have anywhere else to go, so the Army it was," he added, looking remorseful.
"Bad luck I guess, dude. What were you studying?" I asked.
"Law," he replied.
"Law? Dude, that's tough," I said, assuming that it was. My brother was studying first year law and doing fairly well, but then he was pretty damn smart.
"Yeah, not really, just a lot of work. Lots of reading, more than anything else. It's not really my style I guess," he said. "I wasn't keen for it, even though my parents were. They want me to be a politician one day."
"Awesome," I said, rolling my eyes. "Just what we need, more politicians hey?"
"Yeah I know. I couldn't think of anything worse," he said, looking suddenly more miserable, which was an achievement considering that he was pretty sad to begin with.
"You could do worse, I guess. I'm studying engineering at the moment, in my final year. It's shit," I said.
"Really? You don't look much like a student, I thought you were a musician," he said, looking at my shirt. I tried to look like I didn't care, but in fact that was the image I was going for and I was glad it was working. Well, at least working on the guys, although that wasn't exactly my target demographic.
"Yeah I am a bit," I said, as though I thought it was nothing special. "I can play a few instruments I guess," I said, "mainly guitar. And Scott plays the bass," I added, as Scott got back from the bar with drinks for us. "He plays the bass pretty f--king well, actually."
Scott smiled modestly. "Not really, I play a bit. Do you play anything?" he asked.
"I do actually, I guess," the Army guy said, sounding as if he were admitted some sort of sick perversion. "I can sort of play drums, a bit. Sort of." He sounded as though he didn't know what drums were. Nevertheless, this presented an interesting find for us.
I gave Scott a significant glance. "Drums, you say? That's interesting. Because it just so happens that we're looking for a drummer for our band," I said to him.
"Ha, don't look at me. I'm rubbish," he said, looking around the room nervously. "I've got no skills, really."
"Bullshit," I said, "I'm sure you're awesome. At least have a jam with us."
The Army guy looked really anxious. I could tell he didn't have much self confidence. How could his parents have thought he would have made a good politician? How could the Army recruiters have thought he would make a good rifleman? He looked like he'd flake under interrogation from a toaster. But then he swallowed and look at me.
"Um, I guess I could try," he said, and I smiled at him. "I've got my own kit."
"Alright, well, what do you say about meeting up tomorrow night? We have a great rehearsal space at Scott's place," I said, assuming that we would be allowed to rehearse there. Scott nodded. Excellent.
"Ah, sure, I guess, although I don't have any way to move my drums," he said.
"No worries," I said, "I've got a truck that we can move your drums with."
He smiled, and he told me his address. "I'm Doug, by the way," I said, holding out my hand.
"Ryan," he said, shaking my hand. I introduced Scott, and they shook too. Then we sat down to enjoy a beer and listen to some not too bad music.