Riot Band Blues. Part 71

It was over in the time it took Ryan to smoke two cigarettes...

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It was over in the time it took Ryan to smoke two cigarettes. He and Jed laid it all down, explaining their grievances, while Nick stood there with his hands jammed in his pockets, looking like he was getting dumped by the super-model girlfriend he didn't deserve. I think that was how we all felt. We all felt like we were getting dumped.

Their reasons were all straightforward enough. I stood accused of running a university college band like it was the most important thing in any of our lives. They said I had been an aggressive, menacing jerk, who pushed people around and used my physical stature to intimidate people into doing what I want.

They went on and on, and I stood there taking it. Ryan gave me a cigarette, and they kept talking: Ryan was pissed that I had somehow chosen myself to be the band's front man and de facto leader. Jed was pissed that we had still made no attempt to find a drummer to replace him. They were both pissed that we had somehow been very successful, but were managing to not have any fun at all while we were doing it.

I drank too much at the shows and caused problems. My constant girl trouble caused problems. My confrontational style caused problems. Somehow, every problem the band had could be traced back to me. That was how they saw it. Or maybe that was how I was hearing what they were saying. It was all pretty tough to sit through, and it was especially tough to hear since these guys were my main friends, not just in Garrison Valley, but in my life.

Ryan and Jed allowed me to respond, and I made some half-hearted attempt to explain and defend myself. Things weren't that bad, I said. We're putting too much pressure on ourselves, I said. You can't pin it all on me, I said. I'm only one guy.

"Yeah, we know," Jed said. "It's not fair the way we're doing this. But we're still in a situation where we don't want to keep playing together. I mean, it's not like we're firing you. We're quitting. We're not going to try and carry on without you. We just don't want to play."

I almost choked up when he said that. It meant the band was finished, one hundred percent. But Jed had quit before, and we'd been able to bring him back. It was Ryan that I was more worried about. He was the one who brought me into this, taught me to play, and had been my best friend for the last year.

I looked at him and tried to think of something to say, but what came out was the lame bullshit that a high school boy says when his girlfriend leaves him.

"Ryan, come on," I croaked. My voice was starting to break. "We're doing really well. Don't give up. If you guys would just tell me when I'm out of line, I would back off. I'm not trying to be a dick. Come on. Don't quit."

He looked away. "Sorry, Eric," he said. "When you threw the glass, that was the last straw. This whole night has been nuts. I mean, we worked so hard this week, and instead of enjoying it and putting on a really great show, we spent the night grumbling over t-shirts and yelling at each other. And I'm supposed to be doing this for fun, man. But it's become like a stressful job where I don't make any money. Seriously, between the freakin' gas station and you guys, I'm practically failing my classes." He held up his hands. "I'm out."

That seemed like the final word, and we all stood there. "F--k it," Jed said. "I'm heading back in. We can just run all our gear back to Nick's and pick it up later. Is that cool with you, Nick?"

Nick, who looked frozen, shrugged. "Sure. Just make sure you get it out of there before classes end. I don't want all your crap over there if you're really done."

With that, we turned and headed back inside. Without speaking we went to the back and began taking down our gear. It was a quick and methodical tear-down, and from there we dispersed to wait for Jed's buddy to arrive with the truck and take us away from what felt like the scene of the crime.

I sought out Nick at the bar. He was talking to Keith, probably telling him the band was backing out of Thursday nights. Keith looked serious as hell.

"Hey, Eric," he said when I slid in next to Nick. "Get you a drink?"

"I'll have another beer," I told him, and he brought out a bottle of my brand.

Keith leaned on the bar. "So you guys are out?" he asked. I could understand his worry. Here it was, at least half an hour after the second band finished, and his shitty little bar was still full. Granted, there wasn't much else happening on a Thursday night in Garrison Valley for people to rush off to, but still, these gig nights meant a lot of cash to him. Hell, he probably made as much money Thursday nights as he did the rest of the week combined.

I nodded glumly at him and took a swig of my beer. "I know. It sucks, eh? But you never know. We might work it out."

"Yeah?" he said. "And what happens if you don't figure your shit out?"

"Book these other guys," I said, referring to The Urges, our openers for the night. "And book the other bands that have been asking to play. You'll do fine."

He sighed. "Well, if you get it together, you can always play," he said, then moved off down the bar to serve a paying customer.

I turned to Nick. He had a gin and tonic with a little green straw in it, and he took a sip. "What about you?" I asked. "You didn't have much to say out there."

"What can I say?" he replied. "As you guys are always so happy to point out, I'm not an actual member of this band. I don't play an instrument. Seriously, what am I supposed to do? Talk everyone into not breaking up, just so I can keep coming to your boring goddamn gigs?"

"Yes!" I said. "Yes, that's exactly what you're supposed to do! Damn, Nick, you're supposed to be our manager. Start managing! Help us work it out. It's like you're giving up."

"Yeah, well," he said. "I can't really disagree with them. Like Ryan said, I've got end-of-semester school work, and I'm spending all my time hanging around watching you old ladies nag at each other. It's not that much fun right now, and you have been pretty difficult to handle. You seem to have this idea that everything depends on you, and the world will fall apart if you don't make everything happen, and a person like that can be a real pain in the ass."

"Hmm." I took a sip and tried to process his words. Suddenly I had serious questions about my self-image. I perceived myself as a strong, silent type. Could I actually be a noisy, complaining drama case? "I guess that wasn't the way I saw things," I said.

We got the equipment back to Nick's and I tried to open discussions again, but I received a whole lot of cold shoulder from everybody. I finally decided to hell with it and I started walking back to my own apartment.

* * * *

Over the next few days I was in an emotional dead zone. I went to Friday's morning class and spent the rest of the day sitting in The Market, reading my textbooks and drinking coffee, waiting to see if any of the guys would show up. They didn't. But it worked out pretty well, anyway; I nearly got caught up on my reading while I sat there for six bloody hours waiting to see a face.

And after that, I started filling my days hanging out with Lise, going to my boring classes, and working my shifts at the convenience store. I didn't go out very much otherwise. I felt hollow. The band had formed the center of my social interactions. Suddenly I wasn't seeing the guys most afternoons, and I wasn't having coffee or beers with Ryan some nights, and there were no rehearsals, no nothing. It was very depressing.

But on top of that, the band had really been my whole reason for being in Garrison Valley The job at the convenience store obviously meant nothing to me. I certainly wasn't there for school anymore. Why was I still attending the two courses in which I was enrolled? Because I paid for them, that's why.

But there was Lise, and she definitely meant something to me. She was hugely sympathetic with me over the breakup of the band, and was genuinely saddened by it, and that meant a lot. And a lot of the time that I would otherwise have spent with the band, I started spending with her.

On Tuesday I called Ryan and Jed and asked if there wasn't even a chance we could still do the next show at Jake's, but they all answered with a resounding "No." After that, I figured there was no point in delaying the inevitable. I went over to Nick's and picked up all my gear, including the bass. I knew the bass actually belonged to Ryan, but I figured he would want me to keep it with me. As far as I was concerned, Riot Band wasn't finished for good. There was always the chance things could change.

That Thursday I went to Jake's to see what the scene was like. The Urges were playing again, and to my surprise, they had an opening band with them as well.

I found Keith, and he had a smile on his face. "The Urges invited the second band," he told me. "Everything has gone okay. There doesn't seem to much of a drop-off in the crowd, which is good."

I looked around. There didn't seem to be any drop-off at all. It was the same crowd as before.

"Was anyone surprised we're not playing?" I asked.

"If they were, they haven't mentioned it," he said.

I thanked him and asked for a beer. We'd been paid out for our last show, but drinking on a tab was such a habit at Jake's that it didn't even occur to me to pay. "Three-fifty," he said and I looked at him blank-faced. He shrugged. "What the hell," he said. "One for good times," and he walked away.

The openers were finished, but The Urges hadn't gotten up on stage yet. I mingled in the crowd, greeting people and talking about the end of Riot Band. It seemed like everyone not only knew that we weren't playing, but also that we were finished as a band.

I moved to the end of the room and found James and the others getting ready for their set.

James got a sympathetic look on his face when he saw. "Hey, Eric," he said. "Sorry to hear about Riot Band."

"Shit," I said. "How does everybody know about it so fast? I haven't seen you all week. I can't believe there's that much word of mouth about it."

"Well, everybody here would know," he said. "They're your crowd, right? But it was also in The Typesetter yesterday."

I slapped my forehead. The band had split up right in front of Emily, who had been absolutely trolling the gig for something to write about. We'd served her up a big juicy piece of copy for her shitty student newspaper, and now the official story about the split would be whatever she wrote.

"What did the article say?" I asked.

"It was pretty gossipy," James said. "They talk about the band splitting up right on the night that you start having openers, like the pressure of competition broke you up or something. Ryan, your guitar player, is quoted a bit. The chick who wrote the article called us to ask about the whole thing, but we didn't really talk to her. We didn't want to look like vultures, you know?"

"Sure." I shook his hand. "Thanks. Have a good show, all right?"

I stayed and watched, slowly nursing the free beer. Since I was just barely squeaking by, I didn't have spare money for a second. It had always been easy to get hammered when it was the band's money you were spending. Now, I didn't even really feel like drinking anyway. Even though I knew so many faces in the bar, I was alone, and although the band was great, I couldn't enjoy the show. I was too preoccupied with the opportunity I'd blown with Riot Band.

2010, Nolan Whyte

57 comments sorted by best / new / date

    scrambler_66
    DethFade wrote: Since Eric has the Bass, and Lise wants to learn to drum, if they can get a kit, they could pull something like a punk White Stripes
    Like Death From Above 1979? Hell yes! Great chapter Nolan, I love the dynamics this story has taken.
    Deep*Kick
    nuclear war would make a nice closing to this story line. Then you can start on the fallout side of the story.
    theFACEdude
    Nolan Whyte wrote: I'm just glad no one is asking if it's over.
    Haha, nah you're just not allowed to finish it! I do feel kinda sorry for Eric but I do get the Jed and Ryan's point. My band kicked our singer out a few weeks ago because instead of rehearsing we would be trying to write lyrics for him or melodies or he would run off with some chick, and its a pain in the ass. But Ryan was starting to piss me off towards the end though lol
    huevos
    Nolan Whyte wrote: I'm just glad no one is asking if it's over.
    There's obviously a lot of loose ends. Conrad could've just been a red herring, but Lise's desire to play drums doesn't seem like it. You could end it here, although it's a bit of a dry finish.
    Maru717
    Excellent chapter, Nolan. I feel so identified with Erics feelings towards the band. I was kind of hating him for the past chapters but no i feel sorry for him, haha. Cant wait for the next one. Keep it up! 10/10
    abbydaddy03
    Now what. Is this story over, I have no clue it's only the second fiction I've read on here.
    AJSaw
    +1 for the Lise-Eric comment. sad episode, but I can totally picture this as a movie
    demino
    To be honest, and from a writer's point of view. This chapter can very well be the second last chapter. I mean, the members screwed up, they left the band. If I was writing the series, I would end it this way. Eric gets out of the bar, walks through the night thinking about his life and the time he spent with Riot Band and then he decides that shit happens, bands end, lives change and the world keeps on turning, and he decides to leave Garrison Valley. He goes and meets Lise for the last time before leaving. An emotional breakdown ensures (maybe he even spends the night with her). The next morning, Lise wakes up and he's gone. At the end of the chapter, Eric is waiting on the bus station and saying he is going to wherever the wind blows and he may not be back for a while. That would be my ending to this story; I mean, some endings can be tragic also. The story will probably have a morale too then - Shit happens.
    morrock
    demino, the story could very well end right here and I'd find it a good ending. There's no indication from Nolan that it's over though, and I hope it isn't. Not just because I want Riot Band back together (though I do love following the boys), but because this is definitely the most well written series on UG; even outside UG it's genuinely good, this makes me look forward to my Fridays. Also, Riot Band Blues seems to follow however well my band does that week. We just had a huge fight yesterday... Nolan, get them back together, get them a million dollar deal, please!
    Av4rice
    i really wish that people would read nolans posts outside the story, he's already stated that he doesn't have any intention of ending the story anytime soon, he said at this point the story could go on for years, which is great, cause it's a great story. this is just another one of the weird dips in the story, and it'll probably have another time warp moment where it's suddenly 3 months down the road and he gets a chance to talk with ryan and convinces him to give the band another shot, or something to that effect. someone said something about tying up loose ends, no sir, those loose ends keep the story going. on another subject, thanks for the chapter Nolan, great as always, i've read pretty much all your work.
    Eddeh
    Eric gets out of the bar, walks through the night thinking about his life and the time he spent with Riot Band and then he decides that shit happens, bands end, lives change and the world keeps on turning, and he decides to leave Garrison Valley. He goes and meets Lise for the last time before leaving. An emotional breakdown ensures (maybe he even spends the night with her). The next morning, Lise wakes up and he's gone. At the end of the chapter, Eric is waiting on the bus station and saying he is going to wherever the wind blows and he may not be back for a while
    Waaay too cheesy man!
    Attercop
    I feel like I just read a condensed version of Catcher In The Rye. And I dunno if it's good that I like the chapter, or bad that I'm worried about the end =/ What's next for Eric, the Urges, a new city, or an Our Man Evans result?
    JohnnyApplecore
    I stay up every Thursday night waiting for the new RBB. Been in a lot of the same situations. When I first started reading it, that's what re-motivated me to even keep up trying to make music because all the band drama just made it no fun. Last song of their set should have been their Sex Pistols cover.
    The_Raven
    Wow, you could really feel the emotion in this installment. This is an awesome story; I really didn't expect "Riot Band Blues" would have "Riot Band" end! I wonder what will happen now. The Urges all seem like cool guys. Lise still wants to learn drums, presumably. Conrad was mentioned last installment. I don't really like him, but I hated Jed the first time we saw him too. Can't wait for next installment. Hope things brighten up for Eric. Sure, he's a dumbass at times, but he really is a good guy deep down.
    blommen
    Actually i really liked this episode. It was like a giant relief with all the bad tension that had been building up the last couple of chapters. I hope its not done yet though.
    babinator99
    Very well written Nolan. I wish you hadn't done that, but I can totally see why you did. Made me sad. Shit, now I gotta go work at camp. Kids can't see me cry :'( lol-ish
    Henkdemachtige
    I still think Conrad and Smokey gonna kick some people asses and make together with Eric some dope-electornic beat music.
    ginger ninja102
    well that sucks and the bar tenders sounds like a dick hes like na noone cares that your finished i hope this isnt the end of rbb this is my friday
    Icarus Lives
    I was hoping we'd have some Lise dialogue. I miss her. Its like Eric doesn't care. Suppose he's all mixed up. C'mon with the Conrad!
    N_J_B_B
    ... D: Amazing, Nolan. I will love to see where you take it from here, there's still a lot of loose ends to tie up.
    thedarkblues06
    N_J_B_B wrote: ... D: Amazing, Nolan. I will love to see where you take it from here, there's still a lot of loose ends to tie up.
    Agreed. can't wait!
    DethFade
    Since Eric has the Bass, and Lise wants to learn to drum, if they can get a kit, they could pull something like a punk White Stripes
    DethFade
    I started reading part way through the series, so I just went back to read all the stuff I missed, first episode: Ryan: "Well, let me give you a piece of advice," he said. "If you ever join a band, whatever you do, don't let a girl come between you and the other guys. It's bad news."