Nick found out from the promoter of The Pop Rocks gig at The Market that Riot Band was not on the bill as openers on Friday afternoon. He called me at the house and gave me the news. Smoky was out. He'd gotten a part-time job at one of those big-box hardware stores and he was working at the time, but Lise was there. I was pretty bummed out, and she made a pot of coffee and brought out some cookies. They were discount brand, but they were good cookies, and the snack made me feel better.
"What do you think?" she asked me. "You guys were kind of looking at this like your main goal, right? What are you going to do now?'
I dunked a cookie in my coffee and quickly took a bite. "We'll keep going," I said. "When things are going well, we really enjoy playing together, even at practice. It's a really powerful feeling when you're playing and you know that what you're doing sounds really good. Besides, we owe Keith seven Tuesday nights at Jake's Restaurant."
"Right. But you won't get paid."
"No," I shook my head. "We were already paid, and we used that money on a demo, which we can now use to score other gigs. And even though we might not get anything in our pockets each week when we play Jake's, at least we'll be performing, so we'll have to keep coming up with new material. So we'll be busy, and we'll be improving as a band. Getting tighter in case we're able to score a better gig."
"Yeah, that's good," she said. "And you said if the Tuesday nights go really well you might get some money anyway, right?"
I nodded. "Not real job money, but something."
She gave me a kiss and a hug. "I think it's amazing how positive you're being about missing that big show. It tells me that you're going to succeed, because you don't get angry and give up. That's really cool. It's like, inspiring."
I kissed her. She was up close, and I was looking into those pretty blue eyes. We grabbed hands and went downstairs.
* * * *
Later on, while Lise was taking a bath, I emailed Taylor and told her that we weren't going to be opening for them. Frankly, I was almost relieved. I'd managed to so completely bungle our email exchange that I almost didn't want to see her at all. Now it was almost guaranteed that I wouldn't, unless we decided to buy tickets and go, and since everyone I knew was usually broke, there wasn't much chance of that happening.
It was disappointing though. Taylor really lit something up inside me. Sure, she was a gorgeous redhead and she was clearly into me, but there was more to it than that. She pushed me. She was confident and aggressive, and that was clearly something that appealed to me in women. Although sometimes "confident and aggressive" morphed into different things after some time, like with Sash (confident and egotistical) and Jasmine (aggressive and violent).
So I was sad that I wouldn't be seeing Taylor, but the whole thing seemed all twisted and f--ked up now anyway. Better to just leave it alone.
I called Ryan to see what he thought about the situation. I actually caught him at home for a change.
"Yeah, it sucks," he said. "It kinda felt like that one gig was our whole reason for getting back together, you know? To redeem ourselves."
"Well, carrying on and getting other gigs would redeem us too, right? We need to get Nick actually out there pimping us instead of just looking for little artsy gigs. I like the art scene and all that, but I'd like to play some paying gigs."
"There's not really any other places for us to play," he said.
"Yeah. We might have to travel. Do you want to come over tonight? We'll smoke up a bit. Play some video games."
"Nah," he said. "I'm supposed to meet up with Emily around eight."
"Okay," I said. "Do you want to grab a beer beforehand?"
We made a plan to meet at The Clover, which was a beat-up downtown bar that had recently been renovated and was starting to draw a hip crowd. It wasn't a potential venue, but it was an okay place to grab a couple pints without going too far out of the way.
Later, when Lise was out of the bath, I told her about my plans with Ryan and asked if she wanted to come.
"Nah," she said. "Some people will drop by here tonight. Smoky always has friends here on Fridays, and it's usually a pretty good time. Besides, you guys will probably want to go to a bar, am I right?"
"It crossed our minds."
She shrugged. "I'll skip trying to avoid getting carded. Will you be out all night?"
"No. Eight or nine o'clock. He has other plans with Emily."
* * * *
Ryan and I both arrived at The Clover shortly after six. It was fairly typical as far as imitation Irish pubs went: dark wood, bad lighting, and the stale-sweet stink of beer and varnish. "We've got almost two hours," I said. "We have time for a couple."
"Yeah, I could use a couple," he said as we chose a high table and climbed up onto the stools. "We're hanging out with her friends from the paper tonight. Not quite a party, but something like that. Did you want to come along too?"
"Not really. I'm a little put off by Emily right now."
He frowned. "How come? Was it the interview? I thought it went pretty well."
"The interview was okay," I said. "You were there. It was fine, right? Although I don't know why she was dressed like that. With that top, I mean."
"Yeah, she likes to show off her pair, huh? She's always wearing stuff like that. I don't know. It doesn't really bother me."
"Sure," I said. "But she wore it to interview me. So it was like, half an hour of her sitting right in front of me with this plunging-cleavage top. It made me think she was wearing it for my benefit, you know? So I spent the whole interview paying really close attention to where my eyes were, so she wouldn't catch me looking down her shirt. Did you notice?"
"A bit," Ryan said. "But I tried to tune you guys out. You know, you should be able to have your say without me sticking my nose in."
"Anyway, that wasn't really what had bothered me. She told me back before the band broke up that I had gone down on Taylor from The Pop Rocks, but Taylor says that never happened. So I have to conclude that one of them is lying."
"Right," he said. "Or maybe Emily was conjecturing that something happened that she can't really verify, so she's exaggerating."
"Not a good sign if she wants to join the media."
"Or," Ryan continued, "Taylor knows you don't know what happened, so she's withholding certain details in her version."
"Yeah," I said. "I guess that's possible too."
The server came around and took our orders. I asked her what the cheapest thing on tap was. She said Wolf's Eye was the special, so I ordered a pint of that. Ryan ordered a pint of Molson. "Tight on money?" he asked.
"A bit," I said. "I've got very little and I've got to make it stretch. At that price I'm budgeted for three pints, which should fit pretty well with two hours, as long as I don't pound them."
"Beer math, man," he said. "I hate it. Have you looked for a new job yet?"
"No," I said. "I've been focused on the band. And having pot around the house all the time is kind of sapping my ambition on that front. Even Smoky got a job, and I haven't even looked yet. Do you now what would be nice? It would be nice if we could earn a few hundred a month each from the band. That would be great, wouldn't it? More than beer money. Some real cash."
"Yeah. I wonder how much the bands get that play at The Grill House. I bet they get some pretty good cash." He stopped talking as the server set our glasses down in front of us. "Do you think they'd let us show up and play our originals?"
I took a mouthful, considered the taste, and swallowed. It was passable beer. "We could pose as a cover band," I said. "We could just learn a bunch of covers, but play them they way we play. Then during the set we slip in our songs, and no one would know the difference."
"That could work," he said, and sipped his beer. "Actually, yeah, that really could work. Because you'd probably have to tell them what you play, right? Then you could show them a list that has all these covers in it. You make them esoteric reinterpretations, and then play your own songs in between. That could totally work."
"You really like the idea? I just came up with it. I was sorta half-kidding."
"No, we could do that. You should email your buddy Knelson and see how much his band got for playing there."
"You know what else would be cool? If you did your first set as a cover set, and then your second set was all your own stuff."
"That might be harder to get away with," he said. "Yeah. We should totally aim for this. We can practice the covers when we play all these goddamn shows at Jake's."
He took another drink. "There's a guy over at that table," he said, "who keeps looking at us."
"Should I look?" I asked. "Think he's looking for a fight?" I looked over my shoulder and spotted the character that Ryan was talking about, sitting at a table with four other young people. He had a short buzz-cut and big dark frames on his glasses. I recognized him. "Oh, yeah," I said. "He's from a band. They played Jake's the same night that Jed, Conrad and I played there. I think you showed up after they finished."
"Oh," he said. "You know his name?"
"I forget his name, but I think his band is called The Skysharks." I saw that he was looking over again. I waved, and in a minute he picked up his drink and came over.
There was an awkward moment when I was unable to do a proper introduction, but the guy offered Ryan his hand and said his name was Tyler. "So, what are you guys up to?" he asked us.
"We're lamenting," I said. "We just found out that we didn't get a gig at The Market in April. Another band got it. So we're thinking about becoming a cover band."
"Oh," he said. "Was that The Pop Rocks show? You guys were up for that? You know that Blowing Up Springfield got the spot, right?"
"Those guys, really?" I said. There they were again.
"Yeah, I'm friends with some of them. Their bass player called me up to tell me. They're pretty stoked about it. It's a breakthrough, you know?"
"Yeah, that's the way we were looking at it," Ryan said.
"They're playing tonight," Tyler said, "at that place out on Highway Seven."
"The Grill House?" Ryan said. "You're kidding. We were just talking about that place."
"That's weird," I said. "They're an originals band. Are they playing their own stuff?"
Tyler shrugged. "I don't know. Probably. I don't know if they could do a whole set of covers."
"Are you going?"
He laughed. "No. I'm not going out to that place. I'd probably get my ass kicked by some farmer or trucker or something. Besides, I see those guys play all the time."
I looked at Ryan. "How about you?"
"Me? I'm can't go. I've got Emily's party thing. Why do you want to go anyway? To see if they play their own stuff? Just ask them later. I'm sure we'll see them at Jake's eventually."
"Oh, yeah," said Tyler. "They play there pretty often. Are you guys going to start playing some Thursdays again?"
"No," I said. "We're taking over Tuesday night."
"Oh. That's cool. I hadn't heard."
Tyler went back to his friends' table, and Ryan and I drank our beers. We kicked around a handful of possible cover tunes and decided we should start adding them to our sets, just to learn them. At ten to eight he laid money on the table to cover his drinks and his share of the tip, and he hit the road to Emily's party.
I sat there and nursed my beer, thinking about whether or not it would be worthwhile to go to The Grill House and see what Blowing Up Springfield was able to do there, but of course, I couldn't afford a long night out.
I wondered for a moment if Jake's would see enough business at the bar on Tuesday night for the band to get a bit of cash. But there was no real chance of that. We hadn't gotten the word out yet.
I drank up, paid up, and started walking home, enjoying my buzz and hoping there would be a party waiting for me when I got there.
2010, Nolan Whyte