Ryan and I didn't actually jam on Thursday night. Instead we played five hours of video games at his apartment while I gradually convinced him that an end-of-semester gig at a dank little downtown bar was a good idea. He eventually came around, but it took so long that I started to wonder if deep down he even wanted to be in a band.
I knew I was in for another long night on Friday, when Ryan, Jed, and I were all meeting at Nick's house for a rehearsal and band meeting.' Even with Ryan on board about the gig, I knew Jed and Nick would give me a hard time about being so impulsive and setting it up without consulting them.
I was right to be nervous. Ryan arrived first and filled in Jed and Nick, so when I showed up they were all set to give me hell.
Good grief, boys, I said after settling into a living room chair. It's a gig. Don't make such a big deal of it. They had a case of beer open, and I nodded for Nick to pass one to me.
Easy for you to say, Eric, Nick said, digging into the box and pulling out a bottle of cheap beer. I mean, you must have lots of free time on your hands or something, right? You obviously don't have any exams to prepare for if you're going around setting up gigs for the first week of finals.
I took the bottle from him and twisted off the cap. It's one gig, Mister Exaggerator, I said. It's not like I booked a world tour. It's one gig in a little bar where we can bring in some people, play some songs, and maybe make a few bucks. Is that so awful?
There are some problems, dude, said Jed. He didn't seem as stressed out as Nick, but he was clearly against the idea. We've got no time to prepare for this. Only two Fridays including this one, and we'll need to add about forty minute worth of material if we want to even play an hour. Plus, Ryan says we'll have to rent a bunch of gear.
Yeah, that's true, I said. We'll need a P.A. and whatever else for vocals. The guy at the bar said we would need lights, but I don't know if that's necessary. And if we can't borrow a drum kit, we might need to rent that too.
Man, that could be two or three hundred bucks, Jed said, scratching his chin. Where does that money come from? We only have sixty-five bucks of band money from the party. Do you expect us to make that much from this show?
I don't know, I said. If the guy sells eighteen hundred bucks worth of booze we'll make three hundred. I didn't tell them, but I'd spent most of the trip to Nick's place thinking about the potential income of the gig.
Okay, Nick said. He actually had a calculator out. Damn, maybe the guy was cut out to be a manager after all. If the bar charges five bucks for a pint of beer, to make eighteen hundred dollar they would need to sell... he punched calculator buttons, three hundred and sixty pints. Do you think that's likely?
You guys sound like a bunch of babies, I said. I sighed and took a drink of the beer. Look, it's time to be honest with ourselves. The school year is almost over, and who knows where we'll all be in the fall? It's possible that this could be our last chance to play a show. And I don't care if we actually end up spending a few bucks. Let's take the opportunity and have some fun.
What are you talking about, Eric? asked Nick. No one is graduating. We'll all be back next year.
Eric won't, Ryan said. Or at least, he isn't sure.
Thanks, Ryan, I said, glaring at my big-mouthed guitarist. I looked at Nick and Jed, who were staring at me in surprise. Okay, I'm not sure. I mean, yeah, I'll probably be back, but I'm still thinking it over.
They all exchanged glum looks. Oh, come on, I said. At the very least we'll be splitting up for a while over summer while we all visit our home towns, so what's so wrong with having a show before we take a break?
They went silent. There was a long pause, and then Jed reached for a beer out of the case. It's funny you should say that, he said, opening a bottle. Um, I'm actually heading to Calgary for the summer. For a work term. I won't be back until September.
Damn, Ryan said. Man, that's four months apart right there. We're falling apart. He looked disappointed. I know we haven't been together long, and I know that basically this is just a student band, but I've gotta say, I had hopes for us. After the way we played last weekend, I figured we had a chance to be a really good band.
He sighed. "I want to show you guys something," he said, and he pulled his wallet out of his back pocket. He opened it up and removed a small photo, which he passed to Nick. I watched as Nick looked closely at the photo, and then raised his eyebrows. Damn, he said, and passed the photo to Jed. Jed made a similar surprised face, and passed the photo over to me.
It was a picture of Ryan, probably seventeen years old, standing with his arm around the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen. Like, a really, really beautiful blonde girl with a smile that would make your heart melt.
That's my ex from high school, he said. She's still in Winnipeg. I'm sure to see her this summer when I go home to visit my folks. And obviously I would kill to still be with her.
Jed nodded sympathetically. She dumped you, huh?
Yes, Ryan said, Yes, she did. She said we'll always be friends and that kind of shit. He took the photo from me and slipped it back into his wallet.
It would suck if we didn't continue on in the fall, he said. But even if we don't continue, I would really love to have some stories about shows that we played when I see her. Ryan looked at Jed and Nick. I'm not crazy about all the work we'll have to do to make this last gig happen, but I'm willing if you guys are.
* * * * *
After that it was pretty clear that we were going to play the show, no matter how difficult it was going to be. We agreed to split the cost if we ended up losing money, and after all that bullshit was out of the way, we finally got out our guitars.
Jed had his acoustic with him, and Ryan and I each plugged in our electric instruments with our tiny amps. Without the drums and the gigantic amps that Seriosity had provided, there didn't seem to be much point in using the basement. We just sat on the couch and chairs in the living room and started playing through our few songs.
It was easy for Jed to follow along. Mostly he just duplicated whatever I was playing on the bass, even though Ryan was playing nearly the same thing. Ryan's song weren't very complicated, and there usually wasn't much difference between what he and I played.
After we'd gone through Ryan's four songs, we paused. Jed cleared his throat. So, does anyone have anything new to try? He couldn't have been any more obvious if he'd nudged me with his elbow and said, Nod, nod, wink, wink.
Um, yeah, I've got something, I said. Neither of us wanted to mention it to Ryan or Nick, but we'd had some success writing a song on Wednesday night. It was based on my words, but the music was mostly from Jed. I'd helped a bit with the music, but mostly I think he'd been humoring me. Regardless, I thought it was a pretty good little rock song.
Really? Ryan asked. Seriously? You?
Well, yeah, I said. I wrote some lyrics, anyway, and I wrote a bass part for it. I think you and Jed should be able to work out a cool guitar part.
Okay. Let's hear it.
I pulled out a piece of paper, unfolded it and laid it in front of me. I started to play the three-note progression that Jed had worked out, and then after four repetitions I started to sing in a hushed voice:
If profits go down, bullets start to fly, The machine has no remorse. The people involved never know why, The machine needs to use force.
A billion people fall through the cracks, And the people die in a ditch. All that matters is cutting the tax To make it easier on the rich.
And then I started the chorus, singing with more confidence:
But we'll make it through this, baby, You and me together, We'll make it through this, baby, Bad times can't last forever.
I had a few more verses, but I stopped playing. What do you think?
Where were you when you wrote it? Nick asked.
Economics class, I said.
Nick nodded. That's what I figured, he said.
I'm not sure about it, Ryan said. It's like, all political and shit, but then you're singing about your baby? Is it political, or is it a love song? It's confusing.
I don't see how that's confusing at all, said Jed.
Well, Ryan continued, are you angry about injustice, or are you in love? I mean, pick an emotion already.
How about scared? Jed replied. You can be in love with your baby, but there's all this bad shit going down and you're scared, so you're singing this to, you know, reassure her and yourself that everything is going to be okay.
I don't know, Ryan said. You'd never hear Rage Against The Machine singing about their baby. Or Anti-Flag.
Good thing I'm not in either of those bands, I said. I'm in Riot Band, and in Riot Band it's okay to sing about your baby.
Ryan smirked. Man, who sings about their baby anyway? It sounds so Fifties.
I'd expected Ryan to be shitty about anything Jed or I came up with. Despite his limited abilities, he was very defensive about his position as song-writer. But even though I'd expected it, I found myself getting pissed off anyway. Look, Ryan, I said, if you hate the song just say so. It's the first thing I ever fucking wrote, so forgive me if it's not Sympathy For The Goddamn Devil, okay? Do you want to play it or not?
Ryan stopped smiling. I'm sorry, Eric, he said. It's not bad, it's justyou knowkinda....
It's fine, I said. Just let the rest of us contribute, okay? You don't have to write every song yourself.
He looked surprised. What? No, I didn't mean it like that.
Look, whatever, okay guys? Jed interjected. Let's just focus on the song. I think we can work out some guitars for it without too much difficulty.
From there we got to work on it, and after a good long jam, it actually started sounding pretty good. I asked Ryan if he wanted to handle vocals on it but he refused, saying I should sing my own songs. I resisted, but I was actually okay with it. I knew I didn't have much of a singing voice, but I liked singing. Despite my almost total lack of music ability and shortage of stage personality, some part of me secretly wanted to be a front man.
We played for a good long time, and even managed to name my song: Revolution Baby. I didn't love the title, but what the hell, right? Jed said it would make people think of Pearl Jam. That didn't matter to me. At least we had another song.
When the beer was gone and our fingers were too sore to continue playing, we packed up and headed home. It was about ten o'clock when I got back to my place, and Dustin and Kara were sitting on the couch watching a movie. The stink of hash smoke hung in the air.
That chick called, Dustin said in a slow, stoned voice. Like, ten times.
That chick? I said. You mean Jasmine?
Yeah, that's her. Better call her. Or just wait a while. I'm sure she'll call again.
Right. I stowed my bass in the closet and picked up the phone.
2009 Nolan Whyte