My throat felt like I'd swallowed saw blades, but I managed to scrape out a Thanks, to Nick and the others who were standing around congratulating us on our performance. I wanted more than anything to get out of that basement. It was insanely hot down there from the body heat of all the people, and my clothes were stuck to me with sweat.
I think I'm going to die, Ryan croaked, in a voice that sounded much worse than mine.
I know what you mean, I said. Let's get the hell out of here.
There were still people milling around, waiting to head back upstairs or just waiting to see what was going happen next. I got to my gig bag and stuffed my bass inside. Ryan squatted down next to me, putting away his Les Paul.
That was really cool, guys, said the bass player from Seriosity. Really fun.
Yeah, I said. Too bad the rest of your band didn't watch.
He went quiet, and I felt bad. He was trying to be nice, after all, and I was being a dick to him because his band-mates were dicks. I stood up and shook his hand. Thanks, man, I said. I didn't catch your name.
I introduced Jed and Ryan and myself.
Are you guys going to watch us later? he asked.
Ryan shrugged. I don't know, man. I mean, you only came down to watch the gear. You said so yourself. If the rest of your band had come down just to see us, then we might feel inclined, but... He trailed off.
James looked at me with disappointed understanding. We'll see, I told him. Who knows what will be going on when you guys are ready to play, right?
He nodded and went back upstairs.
Nick told us to bring the guitars upstairs so they would be out of the way when Seriosity played, and we took them up to the top floor where the bedrooms were. We can't put them in my room, Nick said. Seriosity is in there. We'll just chuck them in Jordan's room. He won't mind.
He's watching the door. The messy guy. You've met him a dozen times.
He never introduced himself, I replied. Hey, how come we've never met your other roommate?
Nick opened the door to Jordan's room and set Ryan's case and my gig bag inside. He doesn't hang out much. Grad student, you know? Too cool for the undergrads.
We went back downstairs and out the front door to cool off. Jordan, the hairball, was still standing dutifully by the door. His bottle of vodka lay empty by his feet, and he was sagging open-mouthed, against the wall. He looked ready to vomit and pass out.
I got up close to him. You okay, Jordan? You need anything? Need to lie down?
Two dollars to get in, he said in a voice that sounded like a belch.
I grinned. Good man, I said. Still on duty.
There were a lot of people outside that had been in the basement, escaping the heat in the fresh night air. There was actually a smattering of applause when we stepped outside, which was pretty awesome, but nobody came over to say anything.
Just hang out, okay guys? Nick said. I want to stay inside and make sure nobody breaks anything. I'll talk to you about the show later.
Sure. Ryan sat down heavily on the steps and pulled out a cigarette. Oh man, I think I'm gonna puke.
Too much beer? Jed asked. Jed looked fine. I think he'd had seven or eight beers himself, played a rock show in a crazy-hot basement, but he still looked completely relaxed.
Nah, Ryan said. Adrenaline crash. You get up so high during the show, and then afterwards it's like...fffthhhhhhhhh. He did an impression of a deflating balloon.
Yeah, I know what you mean, I said. I feel-- oh, here she is. Right on time.
Jed and Ryan looked. Coming up the sidewalk toward Nick's house was a stumbling pair of girls. One girl had dark eyeliner and bleached blonde hair, and the other was pale with black hair. It was Jasmine with her friend Cara.
Jasmine saw me, and the two girls came up to us. How's it going? Jasmine said, in a drunken sing-song voice. Have you guys played yet?
Yep, I said. We just finished.
Awwwww, we missed you? How'd it go?
Awesome, I'd say, Ryan croaked. Except for my throat.
Oh, that's great, Jasmine said. She stepped forward and threw her arms around my waist, giving me a big hug, her face resting against my chest. Even though I'd spent most of a night with her in her bedroom, it was the first time she'd really touched me. It felt good, but I had the feeling it would have felt even better if she wasn't obviously so pissed.
I'm soooooo sorry we missed it, she said, still stuck to me.
I patted her on the back. Cara was standing there watching, and I smiled at her in kind of a what can I do?' way.
It's okay, I said. Where have you guys been? Were you at another party?
Jasmine let go. No, we were at Cara's place, drinking wine cooler, she said. They had these big two-liter bottles of raspberry cooler at the liquor store and we got, like, four of them.
Way too much, said Cara. She spoke about as much as Hairball Jordan did.
Ryan finished his smoke and ground out the butt. Well, should we go back in? he asked.
The four members of Seriosity were coming down the stairs as we were coming in the door. They had their guitars with them and their game faces on. James smiled at us as they went by, but the two guitarists and the drummer had this fierce look, like they were about to run onto the field for the Super Bowl, or storm the beaches of Normandy.
Good luck, boys, I shouted as they went past. They didn't respond.
Oh, so there's still another band? Jasmine said. That's awesome.
Yeah. I don't know if we're going to watch them.
I shrugged. Well, they're sort of dicks.
Hairball Jordan was still standing there, but he was looking up at the ceiling and didn't notice the girls come in without paying. Jed headed toward the kitchen where his ladies were hanging out, and Cara, Jasmine, Ryan and I headed into the living room.
The room was still crowded and the Rock Band war was still raging, but we found space to sit together on a patch of the carpeted floor. Cara had two of the bottles of wine cooler in her backpack, and she brought one out. Off came the top, and we started passing it around, while Ryan started dissecting the fine details of our performance.
We were good, he said. We were pretty tight, and I liked the way we slowed down Relief.'
That was all Jed, I said.
Yeah, and it worked, he said. We just need to work out the vocals. We'll probably have to buy some equipment or something. Mikes, and a P.A. maybe. But we were good.
I nodded. It's a beginning. Better than the school hallway, anyway.
There was the rumble through the floor of Seriosity tuning up at full volume.
I want to watch the band play, Jasmine said. Even if they're wankers, it would be like, really lame to just sit up here when there's a band playing downstairs, don't you think?
Ryan nodded. Yeah. And that would be showing them up, too. Sort of saying that we're not assholes like them.
I took a gulp of the fizzy fruity boozy drink. I suppose. And I wouldn't mind seeing if they really are that much better than us.
We drank up the bottle, and by the time we were finished, Nick was trying to direct traffic back downstairs for the headliners.' We went along, and crammed ourselves down with everyone else into the basement.
Seriosity had spaced themselves out much wider than we had. They were standing and waiting for the crowd to arrive before they started playing. The basement was a small space, but we tried to find a spot mid-way back. We didn't want to be right up in their faces when they started.
They waited, and when they finally thought the time was right, they started their first song. They just exploded right out of the box, blasting away with a crunching bass and guitar riff, while their second guitar, that cocky prick Doug, started wailing away on a surf-tinged solo.
The whole song was like that: super-intense, blasting away for three and a half minutes, pausing for about three seconds and then starting another song just as furiously, full on with the dual guitars completely maxed out. I was wondering how they could pull off the volume, but of course they had one more big-ass Marshall amp than we had, so they were at least twenty-five percent louder than us from the get-go.
I looked at their faces as they played. They looked fierce, almost angry the whole time. Never once did I see any of them look out into their audience, even during the split-second breaks between songs.
We stayed down there for four songs, which all sounded about the same to me. Punishing volume, crunching and wailing surf metal. When we'd taken all we could, we squeezed our way out of the crush of bodies and up the stairs. Jed was there in the kitchen talking to some girls.
You didn't go down? I asked him.
I tried after the first song. It was too packed.
Jeez, they don't give you a breath, do they? Ryan asked, probing a finger into his ear. Just full on.
We started heading outside for a smoke, but Jed grabbed me by the arm. Hang out for a second, will you?
Sure. I stayed while Ryan and the girls went ahead.
I've been thinking, he told me. Ryan's an okay guitar player and everything, but I think we might need to do something about--
About the singing? I finished for him. He and I have been talking about that.
No, not the singing, he said. I was thinking about the songs. Do you want to take a crack at songwriting? It might give us some more options, you know?
I guess, I said, but you know, I can barely even play. I just play the notes you guys tell me. I wouldn't know how to even start writing a song.
Okay, well, there's no pressure, he said. We could try it together. Or you could just start trying to come up with some lyrics, and we could help you with the music. Just for some variety. Ryan's songs aren't bad, but I don't know how deep that river runs...songwriting wise.
I told him that I would start thinking about lyrics, and went outside. We hung around for a while, and after a few minutes a punk-looking guy with a mohawk and pierced lip came out and stood on the step.
Holy Hell, those guys are loud, he said.
Good show? I asked him, and he shrugged while taking out his cigarettes.
Not bad, I guess. Not much variation, know what I mean? I mean, with you guys, you weren't as crazy hardcore, but at least you could tell one song from another.
Well, that's bonus points for us, I said.
Jasmine grabbed me by the belt. Ohhhh, I wish I had seen you guys play, she said. I'm so sorry we missed you.
It's okay, I said. I looked at Ryan. We'll have to figure out where to play our next show.
Jasmine didn't let go of my belt. In fact, she got up closer to me and practically started grinding against me.
Um, I'm going to head back inside, Ryan said. He looked at Cara. Do you have any more of that wine cooler?
She nodded, and they went back in together. By this time Jasmine had pulled my shirt out from the waist of my pants, and was lightly scratching her fingernails over my stomach.
Do you want to go back to your place? she asked me.
Wow, that's pretty sudden, I said, as she stepped in close to me, and nuzzling her nose against my neck. Um, my place is pretty small. But if you want to head somewhere, how about your apartment?
No, my roommate is such a bitch, she said. He's like my mother. Come on. Let's go to your place.
I felt a tingle of excitement as I popped inside to let Ryan know I was leaving. He gave me a wink that said Good luck, I want details later.' I'll take care of your bass, he said. Rock and Roll.
2009 Nolan Whyte