I think after last week’s voting that I have an inkling of an idea of where you might want to take this story.
So, it appears that one of my ideas might have been taking us down a deep and dark rabbit hole that quite a few of you weren’t too keen to consider. For your information, the voting was 70/30 this week--and it sat at damn near 50/50 for a long time!
I think, on balance and now that I’ve had a chance to digest my own thoughts and ideas, I’m very happy about the road that (the majority of you) want to take this story.
Enjoy this week’s chapter and—DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
Love Toni xx
Calvin’s threats of easy dismissal had not fallen on deaf ears.
Tensions had left the table—as a result of Calvin’s threats or a couple of beers washing over the jagged edges? Who knew—in fact—who cared?
But, by the time we all filed into the rehearsal room and began to work our way through Calvin’s list of songs an easy peace had settled around the four of us.
It was pretty plain to all of us that we shared a love of music and an ambition to make it. If that meant we had to tread with care around each other, then I guess we’d find a way.
“Do you think we should up the tempo?” I asked Liam, then I added, “I really like the tom fills you’re using,” and my admiration was genuine.
Liam, despite what had seemed like a sour reception at our arrival, was an incredibly talented drummer. I’d expected him to step into some kind of leadership role and take charge of the session—instead, he stepped aside and allowed Jesse to call the shots.
“Thanks, man,” Liam said as he put his drum sticks across his lap and took a swig of water from an orange drink bottle that sat on a small stand beside his drums. “You thinking we should rock this up a bit? Take it up a notch?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“I’m all fucking for that,” he replied. “That’ll really get the toms rocking in the fills.” A wide grin crossed his square features as he turned his attention to Jesse. “What you think of Dylan’s idea?”
Jesse nodded, “I’m for it. Let’s rock the shit out of this one and see how many others we can knock it up a beat or two.”
“You sweet?” I asked Marty.
“Yip,” he replied.
“Okay,” Liam said as he picked up his sticks, “I’ll count us in.” He cracked his sticks together. “One, two, three, four.”
Surprisingly, the four of us hit the opening notes of the song as if we’d been playing together for a decade, not just over two hours.
Two bars in and I began to belt out the lyrics of the cover that Calvin had chosen.
Marty and Jesse came in with perfect three part harmonies in the chorus.
The upbeat tempo suited us.
It felt as if we’d been together for months—not hours.
I’d give Calvin his due, he knew how to put a band together. The question remained, however, whether we’d be able to pull this off for the long haul.
I’d been playing live for as long as I could remember—not just gigs, but school bands and orchestras. I’d learned how to fit into a group. It was a skill that I’d known I would need, but one that I hadn’t expected to be using so soon.
I knew already, after only being in a room with these guys for a couple of hours, that as long as the four of us could find a way to work together, put aside whatever ego issues Liam seemed to have, that we’d be able to make this work.
We finished up the song, rearranged the tempo for the rest of the list and began the work that was going to take us to the top.
Five hours after we first picked up our instruments, Calvin called an end to our rehearsal.
“There’s a meal for you four in the dining room,” he said as he wheeled himself into the middle of the rehearsal space.
The room, sat at the rear of the building, had been fitted out with layers of black acoustic foam to deaden the sound that our instruments had been creating.
“I know you’re keen and you’ve you got a shitload of work to do before the weekend,” Calvin said, “but I don’t want you to fuck yourselves over on the first night.”
I lost myself in the process of making music. I could have gone for days without eating. Having Calvin on board to keep an eye on us might not be too much of a bad thing. All we had to think about was the music. It was a new and welcome experience for me.
No worrying about when I had to go to school.
No worrying about how long I had to spend in the yellow shed working so that I could make enough money to feed myself.
Marty and I had found ourselves at the centre of an amazing opportunity and I for one was certain that I didn’t want either of us to blow it.
I wasn’t sure where Liam was coming from. He and Jesse might have been here first, but they weren’t going to get far without a lead singer—and I wasn’t blowing smoke up my own arse—a band was nothing without the guy on the lead vocals.
Everyone knew that.
So what the fuck was the story with him?
Maybe I’d ask Calvin later.
Or maybe I’d just give it a few days—do the work and then see how things panned out.
We shut the gear down, but there was no way I’d be leaving my guitars down here for anyone to pick up.
“Just taking these upstairs,” I said to the guys. “I’ll meet you in the restaurant.”
Not more than a couple of minutes later, I found myself standing in the lift with Jesse. He had his bass in his hand.
“No-one’s going to touch Liam’s drums,” he said to me, “and I guess your guy’s keyboards are easily replaced.” Jesse nodded at my travel cases. “I’m with you. Not leaving my bass down there for some shit to help himself too. I’ve played too many gigs,” Jesse continued, “seen too many shits think they can pick up a guy’s guitar and walk away with it.”
“Liam’s okay leaving his drums down there?” I asked.
Jesse laughed. “You’ve met Liam right? Anyone who thinks they can walk his drum kit out the front door of this place and not get steamrolled by him is welcome to try.” Jesse winked at me. “Liam’s not an arsehole. I know he gave you some shit down there, but he cares. Sometimes I think he cares too much. He’s as loyal as they come, Liam but if you cross him…” Jesse whistled through his teeth and the sound filled the small metal space that we stood in. “Don’t fucking cross him, okay? We all want the same thing. If we work together, we can get it. That’s all he wants and he deserves it.”
The doors of the lift opened and Jesse stepped out.
“See you downstairs,” he said as he headed for his room.
So, the bulky drummer was more bark than bite.
What I couldn’t work out quite yet was whether Jesse was warning me off—or telling me that things were going to work themselves out.
Dylan and I sat along the wide windowsill of his bedroom window, beer in hand, watching the inhabitants of the night below us.
The large sash window gave way to an old-fashioned fire escape. It gave us the opportunity to survey the late evening scenes unfolding below us.
I could see us spending a lot of time hanging out here—when we weren’t down below in the confines of the rehearsal room.
“It’s a long way from Milford beach,” Dylan said as we watched three young women stroll down the street arm in arm.
Spring had turned unnaturally warm for this time of the year.
Young women didn’t wear an awful lot in wintertime, but now that the evenings had begun to turn balmy and had lost the crisp, biting edge of winter, these women were wearing even less.
The sun hadn’t shone long enough yet for the tans that these women wore to be natural. Tiny slips of bright red and yellow fabric that graced their ample breasts gave way to tanned stomachs. Skimpy designer denim shorts and lengths of brown legs teetered along the footpath on impossibly high heels.
Most of these women looked like long-legged fawns who needed to hold on to each other so they could stay on their towering footwear.
“There’s a lot more to see than just the ocean,” I said. I’d have to be a hermit not to appreciate the wonder and beauty of the unfolding scene below.
Dylan’s cellphone announced an incoming text by lighting up the darkened window.
He took a swig of his beer and checked the screen.
“It’s Destiny,” he announced.
Somehow she seemed like someone that we’d known in a former life.
I couldn’t possibly imagine Destiny tottering down the street looking like the girls that frequented the road below.
It struck me. How quickly I’d put my own life behind me. I’d been unsure about whether I should follow Dylan into this mad adventure, but now that I was here, I knew it was the best thing that I could have done for myself.
School and Milford were already distant memories that felt like another lifetime ago.
We hadn’t even slept the night here yet, it felt like we’d been here for months.
“What does she want?” I asked.
“To come see us,” Dylan replied. He looked up from the screen and grimaced.
He liked Destiny.
Hell, I liked Ella, but everything had changed in such a short space of time.
“You’ll have to put her off,” I said. “We haven’t got time to scratch our arses this week.”
“Fuck. She won’t be happy,” Dylan said. “Have you heard from Ella?”
“Nah.” I didn’t expect to hear from her. Frankly, I hadn’t had time to think about her—everything had happened so fast.
“Should I tell her to come to the gig?” Dylan asked.
“If you want that distraction around for our first gig.”
Dylan scrubbed his hand through his hair.
“Shit,” he muttered under his breath.
He tapped away at his phone, an earnest look on his face. I knew how much Dylan wanted this and I couldn’t help but want it too.
“I’ve told her we’re not available all week, ‘cos we’re playing on Saturday. She can decide if she wants to come or not. Then it’s not as if I have to keep an eye on her.”
“Good thinking,” I replied. “If she comes, she’ll have the girls with her, anyway.”
“Truth,” Dylan said.
“What d’you make of Liam and Jesse?” I asked bringing the conversation back to more immediate matters.
“He’s a fucking good drummer and Jesse knows his way around a bass.”
“I don’t mean that, I mean Liam’s fucking attitude.” If Dylan couldn’t deal with Liam, then I wasn’t sure how the hell I was going to cope.
I wasn’t a wimp by any sense of the word, but I didn’t like conflict and Dylan had always been a kind of shield for me in uncomfortable situations.
The idea of dealing with Liam’s anger issues on my own didn’t sit well in my stomach.
“Jesse bailed me up in the lift after practice. Said that Liam’s bark’s worse than his bite. I figure if we keep it professional, then we’ll be cool. Calvin’s made it pretty clear that he’s not above getting rid of any of us if we’re trouble. If Liam wants to be trouble that’s his business. But you and me just need to keep ourselves to ourselves and we’ll be sweet.”
Dylan had a way of helping me see that everything would be okay.
“Shit!” His phone flashed again.
“What?” I asked.
“Destiny’s got the pricker with us.”
Well, that wasn’t a surprise.
The band and the music were the most important things in our lives at the moment. If Destiny wasn’t cool with that—then Destiny wasn’t going to be around much.
The rest of the week vanished in a blur of rehearsals, sleeping, eating and more rehearsals.
“It’s sounding fucking fantastic from where I’m standing,” Jesse said after we’d been through the set for the fourth time today.
“Agreed,” Liam said as he stepped out from behind his drums and took a slug out of his orange water bottle.
“Calvin said you guys played some originals the night he came to see you,” Liam said. “You wanna play us something?”
This was unexpected. We’d been working together well as a group all week. Everyone being respectful of each other. We’d even bonded—if you could call it bonding—over a few late night computer games.
I looked at Marty.
He shrugged, “Okay with me.”
“How about Yellow Lady?” I asked.
I waited for him to play the slow, evocative opening bars and then I cut in with the first guitar lines.
By the time we got to the end of the song, Liam and Jesse were both nodding to each other.
“Fucking great song,” Jesse said. “The lyrics are out of it. Which one of you wrote them?”
“Marty’s the lyrical genius,” I said nodding in the direction of my friend.
I hadn’t missed the half-smile that crossed Marty’s face.
For someone who didn’t go on showing emotion—that was a lot coming from him.
“Good shit,” Liam said. “How d’you feel about me and Jesse working in some drums and bass on that?”
“Let’s do it,” I said. “We’re not precious. We’ve got a ton of stuff we can work on.”
“What are we waiting for?” Liam said as he settled himself behind his kit. “I was thinking about something along these lines for the fills.” He played a couple. “It’d mean that you’d need to cut back on what you’re playing on the keys,” he said to Marty.
“No problem,” Marty replied.
“What about a walking bass-line?” Jesse asked. “I’m thinking something like this.”
The soft pulse of the bass filled the room.
“Sounds great,” I said.
“I’ll count us in,” Liam said clicking his sticks together.
We worked on the song for the rest of the afternoon. Each iteration coming up better than the last.
A slow clapping from the doorway caught our attention.
Calvin wheeled himself in.
“That’s not on the list I gave you,” he said, “but I want you to play it tomorrow night.”
“You sure?” I asked. “It’s not a cover, it’s one of mine and Marty’s.”
“Of course I’m fucking sure,” Marty cackled. “I want to break you guys with covers, but the long-term plan is to have you playing your own stuff. I didn’t think you’d be ready tomorrow night—but you’ve surprised me. When they ask for an encore, give them Yellow Lady.”
I wished that I had Calvin’s confidence that the crowd would ask for an encore.
* * *
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