The Axe. Part 7

Part seven of The Axe, a guitar-life autobiography. My guitar experience becomes enriched as I enter the world of performance.

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Note: Sorry again for the delay. I'm kind of wrapped up in the whole senior year college frenzy right now.

The practice didn't fit the conventional garage band scene, nor did I expect it to, especially without a drummer. Jim led us upstairs to his messy little room. Half of the space was taken up by his bed and desk; the rest was taken up by papers, clothes, and guitar equipment. On his double guitar stand was a standard acoustic guitar and a sunburst Epiphone Les Paul. Jim lugged his bass out and plugged it into his small practice amp. I unzipped my gig bag and plugged in as well. I opened up with a few open chords and minor pentatonic licks. I looked up at Jim.

Alright, what song do you want to start with? Do you have them all down?

I have Basket Case down. What were the other songs?

Holiday and Can't Take My Eyes Off You Jeff, didn't you tell him?

He froze and smiled awkwardly.

He told me some other song by Muse whatever I guess we'll start with Basket Case.

Wait, uh, Jim? said Jeff. Do you have a printer? I think I need to print out the lyrics

I rolled my eyes as Jim directed him downstairs to the computer.

As he headed down, Jeff called out, You two get it down first, I need to warm up.

So we decided to practice on our own. Since Basket Case is entirely made up of power chords, and the guitar and bass play essentially the same thing, we played the song through about four times before becoming fatigued by boredom. Luckily, I was well prepared in bringing the tabs of all the songs in case Jim didn't know some of them. We made it halfway through Holiday until we heard a subtle yelling noise downstairs. It was Jeff warming up. Jim laughed quietly and said, Let's go.

We crept up by the top of the stairs and looked down on Jeff hollering away at Holiday. His voice was not brilliant, but it was bearable to me how badly could anyone possibly sing a song like Holiday? I made no concrete judgments on his singing, and pushed aside my criticisms. By this time, Jim had his camera phone out recording Jeff while snickering under his breath. Jeff stood up from his chair and started toward the stairs. We scurried back into the room and pretended to practice. Jeff walked in as the door creaked open. You guys got it down?

Dude, we've been ready for ages. What took you so long? Let's do it.

Let me hear you guys first.

What are you talking about? Just sing, dude.

Just one run-through. Then I'll sing.

Fine. One.

We played Basket Case one more time, probably skipping two verses or so.

Okay, now you have to sing.

Jeff slowly and reluctantly agreed. Okay, I don't have it memorized yet, so I'm gonna look at this sheet from time to time.

The crunch of the practice amps filled the room again, this time with Jeff's voice timidly adding to the sound. Do you have the time

His voice grew louder and more confident as the song progressed, until he screwed up a line of the song, laughed, and broke the flow of music.

This went on for a while with Basket Case as well as Holiday. But when the time came to try out Can't Take My Eyes Off You, something wasn't right. As I slowly strummed the unconventional chords to the song, Jeffrey tried to meet the correct notes to the best of his ability. The sound was so terrible that we decided not to even attempt the chorus. Shallow and rough around the edges was the way to describe the noise; we didn't speak of the song again. By the end of practice, Basket Case became our favorite and Holiday steadily came in second.

After our serious business was done, Jeff started requesting songs from me.

Do Stockholm!

I picked the low E string and matched it with the D string to achieve drop-D tuning. I paused for a second and started to pick away at the low D string while my fingers danced along the frets to the tune of Stockholm Syndrome.

Jeff locked eyes with Jim with an impressed look on his face. He and Jim then went on a song requesting spree for the rest of our stay. My guitar self-esteem rose slightly with the positive feedback, and I was satisfied.

So my first drumless band practice came to an end, and I went home that night with a mixture of lukewarm feelings.

The next practice occurred a few days before the audition, in the drummer's garage. The setting was much more representative of the typical garage band practice. Decrepit amps and guitars were scattered around old cardboard boxes full of garbage. A messy PA system was set up across from Kyle's abused drum set. Kyle, our drummer, was a senior amongst the rest of us juniors. His hair was in not a Fohawk, but a spiky Mohawk.

I was the first to arrive at Kyle's place, and I naively brought the Micro Cube. I plugged it in and set it at about eleven o' clock volume. I started throwing a couple of licks around and warming up when Kyle interrupted me.

Uh, can you make your amp louder?

I turned the knob to two o' clock and strummed a few chords.

I mean turn it way up.

I turned it all the way to ten a volume that I had never used before. To what I thought sounded like a sufficient level of guitar volume, Kyle started to bang away on his drums. My Micro Cube was belittled to the sound of paint drying as my eardrums were rattled.

Yea I don't think you can use that amp. I think I have an amp back there. I don't know how to work it though.

I located an old amp that must have been at least ten years old and at most fifteen watts. I plugged it in and made the same mistake of turning the volume up halfway. While Kyle continuously beat his drums to death, I slowly increased the volume to a level at which I could hear myself: ten.

With the arrival of the vocalist and bassist, we were ready to run through the song for real, complete with a drum beat. So we set up the PA system and our little practice amps before beginning to rehearse Basket Case. After a couple of stumbles over timing in the song, we managed to catch on pretty quickly. Basket Case is not exactly Freebird level, nor is it Smells Like Teen Spirit level. Since the guitar part for the song was so boring, I drummed up a solo in my spare time before coming to practice. It fit in the instrumental power chord run well into the song. Major scale soloing is not a strength of mine, so after a couple of bars in, I decided to blend into a slightly morphed version of a segment of Canon Rock. The chords, I had noticed, were strikingly similar to those of Basket Case.

Basket Case shook the garage for about an hour, after which we took a stab at Holiday. At this point, Jeffrey and the others seemed to have drained their practicing energy. We ended practice there with a reasonably solid sound. My ears were occupied with a piercing ringing as I lay on my bed that night.

On the day of the audition, we went straight to Kyle's garage after school. Our audition, according to Jeff, was at five; school ended at two forty-five. We set up our gear, and went over Basket Case a few times in a casual mood, laughing at each other saying I screwed up that time, sorry. At about four o' clock, Jeff received a phone call. Following a futile attempt to get the band members to keep it down for a couple of seconds, he held the phone up to his ear and listened. He told us that it was David, the ASB member who was in charge of the event. I watched him as he made faces trying to decipher the sounds coming out of his phone.

What? Huh?

He looked at me and shook his head.

Wait what? Wh- huh? What?

He hung up his phone and I gave him an inquiring look to which he responded with an apathetic shrug.

We practiced for another hour or so, and realized that it was five o' clock. Once we got to the school, we found the campus deserted, save a few students involved in a club activity. We asked around if anyone knew anything about the auditions for Winter Concert no one had a clue. David's phone was not picking up, and we were reduced to sitting on a bench, wondering what to do. Jim spoke up:

Hey Jeffrey, you're sure our audition is today, right?

Uh yeah

At five o' clock? What time is it?

I looked at my watch and replied, Five fifteen.

They couldn't have left already they would have called, too, said Jeff.

But what about when David called you a while back?

Jim interrupted with, How about we check the audition paper? Where is it?

Jeff pointed at the bulletin board next to the ASB room. Jim and I stood up and walked towards it. We approached the scrawny piece of paper taped onto the yellow board and looked for our names. At the bottom, Jeff, Justin, and Kyle (Jim was yet to be included in the list) were listed next to the audition time: Four o' clock. We looked at each other and cussed in the name of Jeffrey.

13 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Psychologic
    Aw man, that totally sucks. Happened to me too last week, fortunately we got called upon several times before we had to play, so we did make it in time (sorta).
    puppetmaster93
    Well you showed up to a gig late, it's okay all bands do it!!! Well maybe not their FIRST gig.
    GrayFoxz
    yeah...+100000 to everybody who said about not being late for your first ever gig. wow. i wouldnt even practise on gig day itself. that's the kind of day you relax.
    Trvekiller
    wow, that surely had to be frustrating... anyway, i hope you got to some solid metal band after that :-D
    Koshman32
    when's the next one coming out??? this was one of my favorite stories on UG. a little dissapointed that they stopped