So we had a name for ourselves. We were Riot Band, and the more I thought about the name, the more I liked it. It was like riot police, or riot squad, except we weren't the police or some squad. We were a band. A band for a riot.
Ryan, Jed and I were practicing almost every night, but we took Saturday off and I called Jasmine. She said she had plans, but I told her about our show at Nick's house on the coming Friday. She said she would be there, and promised to bring friends. I said that was cool, and when she hung up the phone I didn't bother calling anyone else. My roommates were all out, so I spent the night drinking beers in the living room and catching up on some reading.
On Monday Nick printed off a fat stack of fliers and he and I posted them all over the campus. Since Seriosity was going to be playing a full hour set and Riot Band would play for only about twenty minutes, Seriosity got top billing. That was cool with me. I was glad we were playing and I was excited about the whole night, but I didn't want to build unrealistic expectations.
Here, Nick said after we had stapled up the last poster, reaching into his backpack and bring out a stack of little handbills. They were miniature copies of the poster, printed on regular paper and then cut into quarters. Take these with you wherever you go. Hand em out to people, or just leave them lying around. On tables and stuff like that.
Right, I said. Sounds like littering.
It's just paper, dude. It's recyclable and biodegradable.
I guess. I stuffed them in my shoulder bag. The flier says two bucks at the door, I said. Who gets the money?
I'm calling it damage insurance in case anything in the house gets broken, he said. If there's anything left, we'll split it ten ways, between the four guys in Seriosity, the guys in Riot Band, and my two roommates and me.
So if fifty people show up that would be a hundred bucks, so everybody would get ten.
Yes, he said. If nothing gets broken.
So we practiced Monday and Tuesday at Ryan's place. Jed brought his acoustic guitar along, and all three of us jammed away on the songs, and then just jammed away on random riffs. On Wednesday we went back to Nic's and blasted away using Seriosity's big amps and the drum kit. Since Seriosity was scheduled to practice at Nick's on Thursday, we had our last practice before the show Ryan's. We felt pretty good. The songs had some flow, and we were playing with confidence.
My whole routine fell into a loop of class, study, band practice and then home for either more study or more practice before going to sleep and getting up to do it all over again. We were so busy that the week seemed to go quickly, but I was so excited for Friday to arrive that time seemed to crawl as well.
And each time I saw Jasmine in the hallway at school, she would be too busy to stop and talk. She would just hurry past, saying that she was going to bring a whole bunch of people to the party.
* * * * *
I stayed up half the night Thursday, and then slept in so late that I missed all of my classes on Friday. I had a big lunch, took my time getting ready, and then made my way down to Ryan's place, which was going to be our staging ground before going to Nick's later in the evening.
My roommates Dustin and Nick (roommate Nick, not band manager Nick, which is confusing, but it's my own fault for knowing two guys with the same name) were sitting in the living room playing Nintendo while I got ready to go. They saw that I had the bass with me.
Big show tonight? asked Dustin. Playing Madison Square Gardens?
I hadn't told any of these pricks the name of my band, and I sure as hell wasn't going to tell them about the party. Maybe they were okay guys, but I saw enough of them waiting for my turn in the goddamn bathroom every morning. I had no interest in hanging around with them outside of the apartment.
Just jamming, I said. You guys going to hang out here and get high all night?
Probably, said Nick the Roommate. Unless the girls want to go out. We might end up at Shattered or something.
Have a good time, I said and walked out.
Jed was already at Ryan's place when I arrived. Ryan let me in and offered to pour me a cup of coffee. Jed was sitting on the couch with his acoustic in his lap. Greetings, brother, he said.
Hey. What have you guys been doing?
I've been hanging out, Jed said. He's been driving himself slowly crazy.
I looked at Ryan. He had a cup of coffee for me and another for himself. He looked pale, with circles under his bloodshot eyes. His hands were shaky as he handed me the cup.
It stinks like smoke in here, I told him. Have you just been drinking coffee and smoking all day?
Not all day, he said. I went to class this morning. He sat down and took a sip of coffee, set the cup down on the end table, picked up the pack of cigarettes off the table, flipped it around a few times, opened it and pulled out a cigarette, tapped the filter against the edge of the table twice firmly, put the cigarette between his lips, looked around, felt in his pockets without finding his lighter, set the cigarette back on the table and had another sip of coffee. It was a bewilderingly quick series of clipped, staccato movements.
Jesus, I said, watching him. You look like a meth-addicted zombie.
Yeah, seriously, dude, Jed agreed. You need to lay off the coffee for a while.
Ryan had another sip and set the cup down again. Yeah, I know. I'm just a bit freaky right now. I didn't sleep much. Now I'm stuck in a high caffeine loop.
You'll be too wired to play. Your timing will be off, I said. You should take a nap or something. You know, start fresh.
I'll never be able to sleep now, he said. I'll be fine. I just need a couple cheeseburgers and a few beers and I'll hit center. Is that what you're wearing tonight?
I looked at myself. Under my jacket I had on a plain grey T-shirt with faded black jeans. Despite the simplicity of the ensemble, I had carefully thought out what I would wear. Yeah, this is what I'm wearing, I said. What's wrong with it?
I told you, Ryan said. Jed nodded.
I set the coffee cup down and shrugged off my jacket. What did you tell him? I asked. And remember, you shouldn't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry. I flexed and snarled in a Lou Ferrigno pose.
Calm down, Hulk, Jed said. We were talking about what we should wear tonight. We both kinda figured you would wear something...you know...conservative.
I sat down on the couch. What should I wear? I asked. A top hat and feather boa? Maybe some leather chaps?
Ryan laughed. Nope, just naked, dude. No, I'm kidding. We were just talking about trying to, you know, dress a bit more rock and roll. Wear some heavy metal shirts or something.
I don't want to wear a shirt with another band's name on it, I said. That seems stupid, doesn't it? Why advertise for someone else?
Good point, I suppose Jed said. Are we just going to play it straight then? Just jeans and t-shirts?
Ryan kept tapping the cigarette against the edge of the end table. Yeah, I suppose. We'll have to this time, anyway. I think at some point it would be cool if we could dress up. You know, put on a theatrical show.
I shrugged. I wouldn't want to wear anything on stage that I wouldn't wear on the street, I said. Why wear a costume? That just seems fake.
Here we go again, Jed said. I don't know if you've heard this routine, Ryan. Eric doesn't want anything fake.
What's wrong with that? I said. Why would I want to pretend to be something I'm not? Like, why would I want to dress a certain way because that's the way a rock star is supposed to dress? That seems like bullshit. Shouldn't we try to be, you know, authentic?
I don't know, Ryan said. He had found his lighter under the cushion of his chair and lit his cigarette. Aren't we entertainers?
I looked at what Jed was wearing. He had on light brown cords, a white undershirt and a green collared shirt with an intricate tribal pattern. Ryan was in blue jeans with a black T-shirt. Blood was written across the shirt in dripping red.
I think we're all fine in what we're wearing, I said.
A door opened in the hall and we all looked up. Minako, Ryan's Japanese film student roommate came out. She was a little cutie, wearing a short plaid skirt and knee-high black socks with her black jacket. She nodded to us as she came through the living room. See you at the party, she said to Ryan, before disappearing out the door.
She's coming tonight? I asked.
Yeah, Ryan said. She's going to take some pictures.
She's hot, Jed said. She kind of reminds me of The Grudge.
We hung around for a while longer before taking our guitars and heading downtown. We stopped at Burger Shack and had a bite to eat, then picked up twenty-four beer and went to Nick's.
It was six thirty when we arrived, and the mute hairball that was usually there opened the door for us.
Hello, Clevis, I said as he held the door open. How the f--k's it going? Since he basically never responded to anything I said, I called him a different name every time I showed up. He didn't seem to care. It was curious to me that this sack of puss was attending the same university I was, and I occasionally wondered if his grades were better than mine. He shuffled off and left us waiting in the front room.
There was a roar of music coming from downstairs. I guess Seriosity is here, Ryan said. Should we head downstairs and say hello?
I knocked on the door to the basement, but with the howl of guitars and drums, I could have punched right through the door and nobody would have heard. I turned the handle and went down the stairs with Ryan and Jed right behind me.
Just like he did when our band practiced, Nick was sitting on his steel folding chair watching the action. Seriosity was blazing away. It seemed like both guitarists were in mid-solo, and the bassist and drummer were banging away like V-12 engines on crack.
What the f--k is this? Jed screamed in my ear. Surf thrash?
It's f--king extreme! Ryan screamed. I could barely hear him. I didn't know what to call their style. All I knew was that these guys were way louder than us, way faster, harder, tighter, and way more concentrated. It was like watching lions eating a zebra. It was just ridiculously intense.
They finished their song, and we waved and said hello before they could start another. Hey guys, I announced. We're here. We're Riot Band.
One of the guitar players looked at us. His eyes almost popped out of his head. You guys? You're Riot Band?
I looked at Ryan and back at Seriosity's guitar player. Yeah? Yeah, I said. Yeah, we're Riot Band.
Were you the guys playing in the hallway at school a few weeks ago?
I laughed. Yeah, that was us. But trust us, dude. We don't sound anything like that anymore. We're way, way better than we were then.
Way better, Ryan added with a grave nod.
The members of Seriosity all looked at each other. Then they looked at us, and at Nick.
We're not quite finished our run-through, said the other guitar player. Would you guys give us a few minutes?
Sure, I said. Come on, guys.
We went back up the stairs. Jed closed the basement door and we took seats around the kitchen table. That was... uncomfortable, I said.
Yeah, Ryan said. He tore open the two-four of beer and handed Jed and me each a bottle. I got a weird vibe down there.
You know what else is weird? Jed said, popping the top off his beer. If they're supposed to be finishing their run-through, how come they're not playing?
We all listened. I could hear Clevis playing video games in the living room, but I could only hear muted voices coming from the basement.
Ryan, Jed and I got real quiet as we sat listening to the sounds coming from the basement. I looked at the digital clock on the stove. It said 6:51. At 6:57, the basement door opened and Nick came out. He looked nervous. He closed the door gently behind him.
Hey guys, he said. How's it going?
Pretty good, Ryan said. What's going on?
Nick wiped the palms of his hands against his pant legs. Well, it's like this, he said, avoiding eye contact. They don't want you to play.
2009 Nolan Whyte