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 In the Van on Comeback Road

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PostSubject: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 4:48 am

Ok, well ill basically start by saying that this actually isnt my story, it is from the author Nolan Whyte. You can check out his story on either www.ultimate-guitar.com or www.nolanwhyte.com.
Im posting this to basically give Nolan's work a wider range of viewers, because atm his stories are only viewed by teenage guitar players who are, in general, arseholes, or people who enjoy his artwork.
His site is currently updating the archives for this series and has some short stories and artwork on it.
If anyone has any problems with swearing, sex, drugs or down and dirty rock, you probably shouldnt read past issue 1.
Time for some serious reading! The story gets better as it goes on as well.
Enjoy In the Van on Comeback Road Row_577

Nolan has ended the story on Issue 40. His wife is carrying their child (congratulations Nolan) and he needs to spend his time working.

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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 4:51 am

Issue #1

The kid insists on driving. If he had any sense he would follow my advice and sit in the back of the van with me, running over the chords to the songs, since he still only half-knows them. Bobby could drive while I get our little would-be rock star ready for his first performance, but Bobby says he'd rather work. Since the kid keeps saying he wants to drive, I have to let him. Let them both do what they want, and I'll sit in the back and seethe.

The worst thing is, we agreed there would be no smoking in the rental van, so I get tense, on edge. The kid is excited, constantly asking questions, wanting to talk about the rock and roll lifestyle he thinks he's now living, but I act aloof and give him the silent treatment. Bobby's trying to write in a little spiral notebook, and I can see that the kid's chatter is pissing him off. Bobby keeps giving him these horrible death stares, which doesn't bode well, since this is the first time the three of us have been in a vehicle together for a long drive.

It irritates me that Bobby insists on working in the van. He's writing a science fiction novel, which is how he's been paying the bills since the band broke up. Fair enough; he's got to work, he's got to earn a living, but the fact that he insists on doing it here in the van, on the way to an out-of-town gig, just kind of rubs my face in the fact that he's only here for laughs. He's not taking this band really seriously. After all, he must have said ten times since I called him to get a three-piece group together, "I've got a new career now, Jerry."

Well, f--k him and his new career. I want to make this comeback work, even if it is just a blatant attempt to make some cash out of whatever marketability our names might have. After all, we used to be the bedrock of a pretty well-known band, even though I was thrown out before they made it big. If we work hard, we should be able to get some good money for shows and make some good cash. I need it, too. I've got a divorce to pay for.

The kid, who we chose for his youth and lack of experience, turns up the radio and starts singing along to Steppenwolf. Bobby and I figured that the less the kid knew, the less we would have to pay him. Not a bad idea, but it may be difficult to put up with his idiocy. I cringe as he strains to hit a high note. "Leave the singing to the singer," I mumble quietly, but he doesn't notice.

All that really matters is that the kid can hold it together on stage, and we'll find out tonight whether he can or not. Even if he can't, Bobby and I will be able to hold the show together. Bobby's the best drummer that I've ever played with, and I can sing and thump along on a bass well enough to cover for the kid, as long as he doesn't mess up too badly. Hopefully he turns out to be a fast learner.

I stare out the window at the southern Ontario landscape speeding past, and I think about what it means to make a comeback. This project can hardly be called a reunion, since Bobby and I only make up two-fifths of the old band. We aren't even going to play much of the old material-only the songs that I wrote or co-wrote with the other players. The rest of our set will be some new songs I've come up with, and a few classic covers to fill out the time.

So many bigger stars have made big comebacks in the last few years, especially by making new bands with former members of other star groups... the expression 'super-group' is becoming vastly over-used. No one will apply that title to us. If anything, people will quickly see through what we're doing: hanging on, trying to make some money off the remains of our glory days. I'm okay with it, as long as the money we make is enough to pay my lawyer.

I fumble with my pack of cigarettes and put them back in my coat pocket, wishing it was warm enough out to roll down the window and smoke. Instead I sit and stare, wondering what my soon-to-be-ex-wife is doing. Probably, she's at the gym trying to sweat off the pounds she needs to lose in order to pursue a comeback in her own field, which is exotic dancing. What a couple of washed up flakes, I think. We figured we were the perfect match: she was into rock stars and I was into strippers. We thought it would last forever.

F--k it. Pick up the pieces and get back on the road. What else could make you forget your problems better than getting up on stage and pounding through an hour of rock and roll? That's what I'm here for, as much as the money. I've got to get my fix. My old drummer is with me, and we've got a young kid to teach the horrible ways of touring life. We are in the van on Comeback Road.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 4:52 am

Issue #2

Our gig that night is at a pub near the University of Western Ontario in London. I wish we were having the gig right on the campus, but beggars can't be choosers, right? We show up around eight to unload our gear, and when we back up the van behind bar and bang on the door, the manager comes out to see us. He's a good guy, name of Jake. He shakes my hand, and we talk. He tells me that the openers, a group from Grimsby, have cancelled and he has nobody who can replace them.

"What do you say, Terry?" he asks me. "Think you could do an extra set? I'd give you their cut of the door."

Bobby is unloading his drums when he hears this, and he puts them down to come over. I look at him.

"What do you think, Bobby?"

He shrugs his shoulders. "We don't have enough material. We've got our own set counted out to the minute, and doofus over there doesn't know any other songs." He jerks his thumb at Jason, the kid guitar player, who's struggling to get his amp out of the side door of the van. "The only way we could do an extra set would be to play the one set over twice."

Jake, the manager, shakes his head. "No, that wouldn't do. Jeez, I think I'm stuck."

I was thinking about the money, even if it might not be very much, and I wasn't interested in letting it get by. "How about this, Jake," I say. "I could do an acoustic set, maybe forty-five minutes to an hour. Nothing too fancy, but I could play covers and some originals. Have a laugh."

He thinks it over for a second. "Yeah, that sounds okay," he says, "If you don't mind doing it. You go on about nine thirty, take a break and then we could have the rest of the band on at about eleven."

I nod and Jake heads back inside. As we unload our stuff, Bobby gives me a funny look. "You ready to do this? You have an hour's worth of stuff ready?"

"Sure," I say. "I know lots of old stuff. It might not be the best hour of entertainment, but I can work a crowd and put on a show."

We bring our stuff in. I was expecting a pub, but inside the place is a full-on metal bar. The walls are all painted black. The guy behind the bar has a long goatee, hair down to his ass, and pierced eye-brows. A massive Danzig demon-skull is painted on one wall. Bobby looks around and starts laughing. "You're gonna do an acoustic set, huh? What are you going to open with? An acoustic Slayer tune or acoustic Cannibal Corpse?"

"Jesus," I say. "Why'd this guy even book us? He must know we're not a metal act."

Bobby shrugs. "Ahh, who gives a shit? We get paid either way, right? Come on and give me a hand with the drums."

I set my bass and the acoustic up on the stage and help Bobby get his kit set up.

Jason is fucking around with various effects pedals (which he has no skill at using), so he manages to miss out on carrying most of the gear. I make a mental note to kick his ass later.

The bar is open but still empty when we finish up. There's a massive bald bouncer at the door with a cash box. Bobby and I leave Jason to dick around with his pedals while we go up to the bar for a beer.

The bartender with the goatee and piercings turns out to be very friendly, serving us and chatting. "So you guys were with Tremor of Intent?" he asks, not sounding impressed, just friendly.

I nod and take a sip of beer. "Yeah. Bobby here played with them from start to finish, and I was with them for the first few years. I split before the first album came out." I don't bother to mention that the first album was the band's big one, and that I wrote half the songs on it, which no one ever seems to bloody realize.

"Hey, what kinds of bands usually play this place?" Bobby asks. "This looks like a metal joint."

"Yeah, it is," says the bartender. "But all kinds of rock bands play. You guys should do fine."

"Cool," Bobby says. "But just out of curiosity, what was this other band that backed out tonight?"

"The Planetary Demolition Unit."

"That sounds pretty metal."

"Yeah, they are," he nods.

I sit alone for a while and work out a list of fifteen easy tunes I can pull off without any difficulty. I figure that essentially, the roots of metal is rock'n'roll, and the easiest thing you can do to satisfy metal-heads with an acoustic guitar is to play some old rock numbers. I figure Elvis, The Stones, The Beatles, Floyd and stuff like that will satisfy the masses in a pinch. I figure I can throw in some bad-ass old country like Johnny Cash and Stompin' Tom Connor just to shake things up. All good, straightforward drinking songs to please the punters.

Nine-thirty rolls around and the sound guy that Jake brought in gets me set up for sound, setting one mike up for vocals and one for the guitar. I pass on a stool, since I hate watching people sit and play. I switch the strap from my electric bass to the acoustic and get ready.

I don't introduce myself; I just start strumming out the chords to "Jumping Jack Flash," trying to start with something everyone would immediately recognize. The room is filling fast at this time of night, which is good for the money. It's a rough looking crowd, with a lot of leather and beards and ugly men wearing sunglasses inside of a dark room, which can get a little scary. I figure I'm easily as ugly as anyone in here, so I have nothing to worry about.

After a few numbers, which receive sparse applause, I introduce myself, and say that the openers couldn't make it. "I hope you'll stick around and see me and my band a little later." There's a bit more applause, and I start playing "Strawberry Fields."

Okay, now I grant that "Strawberry Fields" is not a rocker, but it is The Beatles, and I had the impression that you had to go pretty far and wide to find someone who would boo The Beatles. Nonetheless, some dirty prick starts booing.

Have you ever been booed? Playing music, or doing anything at all? It's horrible being booed, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either crazy or full of shit (usually they're just full of shit. It's surprisingly difficult to find a genuinely crazy person these days. It's just hard to tell the authentically crazy ones from the legions of people out there who are completely full to the brim of shit.)

The important thing about getting booed is how you react. I've seen people get booed and turn dark red, get flustered, lose their place in the song and end up getting laughed off the stage. I've been booed before, so I know how to handle it, and the best way is to laugh and finish your song, and then play another one.

As soon as I finish "Strawberry Fields," I hear my new fan scream out "Play some metal or get the fuck off the stage!" I guess the acoustic set wasn't going over too well.

It's a balancing act when a crowd starts booing you. You have to make sure that what you're doing is pleasing your audience, but at the same time, if you immediately change what you're doing to try and satisfy anybody's whims, you become the audience's bitch. And you can't be cool if you're a bitch. It's a balancing act, but I have to do something to get the crowd back on my side, because if I lose them now, there's no way I'll get them back when Bobby and Jason get up here with me.

"You want some metal?" I ask into the microphone, sounding nice and calm.

There are some scattered claps and cheers to the affirmative. I start playing my next song, nice and slow, gentle, and the audience listens, thinking that they recognize the tune, but not quite sure from where. I start to sing, quietly, almost crooning: "Living easy, living free?"

A few lines later, a few people catch on and cheer, a few even start singing along, and all the rest finally clue in when I start singing the chorus: "I'm on a highway to hell?"

The boos stop, and from then on the set turns into a big acoustic sing-along to classic metal and hard rock tunes. Softly sung versions of "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "Come On Feel The Noise" are a hit, and Bobby jumps up on stage and climbs behind me to jam along on the drums, using his brushes to lay down a gentle pthh-tss-tss-tss-pthh-tss-tss-tss behind me.

Everyone smiles, everyone laughs and everyone sings along, and I know I've got the crowd behind me, and they'll be behind me for the rest of the night.

When I get off stage and head to the bar for a beer, a big muscle-headed guy grabs me by the arm and says "Sorry for booing you. That was good shit."

"No problem," I say. "Have a good time tonight." He smiles and heads off, and I decide then and there to buy him a beer later that night, and spit in it before I give it to him.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 4:54 am

Issue #3

It’s Stratford, Ontario this time, and the show’s over. We’re playing smaller towns, but we seem to be having good luck getting half-decent venues. I guess I did a pretty good job getting us booked in all these places, considering I did it without the aid of a promoter or an agency. The only complaint about the gig tonight, is that we weren’t the headliners.

I’m out back of the bar with the drummer and the guitarist from the headliners, some up-and-coming locals named The Meatles (pronounced like Beatles). They had just launched their debut EP called “Beat The Meatles,” and were busy trying to tour the hell out of it. Even though I wasn’t happy about playing as openers, I couldn’t complain about how the show went, since the place packed up with people here to see these young kids.

The Meatles’ drummer has weed, and the three of us stand between the vans behind the bar sharing a spliff. We’re chatting about the tour they’re on, and the tour we’re on, and all things musical in nature. The two of them kind of talk to me like I’m a hundred years old, which bothers me, because I’m not yet forty, but I guess that’s probably twice as old as they are right? So because I’ve got some wrinkles they figure I’ve seen it all, and they ask me a lot of questions.

I’m talking and smoking their weed, but I’m distracted. I keep thinking about how the show went, and I keep thinking more and more about what a fuck-up I’ve saddled myself with for a guitarist. I wish I could chat about it with Bobby Metronome, my drummer, but every time Jason, the fuck-up in question sees Bobby and me talking, he thinks it’s a band meeting and he rushes over. Right now, Bobby is inside chatting up the ladies, while Jason is getting retarded on tequila poppers, blowing his tiny cut of the gig money on a world-class hangover.

I interrupt whatever the hell The Meatles’ guitarist is talking about, and ask them, “Hey, you guys watched our show, right? What did you think of that kid we’ve got playing guitar?”

The drummer, whose name was Kevin I think, shrugged and took a drag on the joint. “I don’t know. He wasn’t too bad I guess. I didn’t notice him too much.”

The guitarist, Jared, was equally non-committal. “Yeah, I noticed a few mistakes, but nothing too serious. Why? Is he trouble?”

Kevin passes me the joint and I take a drag. “Yeah, I think so,” I say in a squeaky voice, trying to hold the smoke in. “He messed up a few times tonight is all.” I blew the smoke out. “Like in ‘Dead Fingers Play,’ he screwed up the solo, got lost, and instead of just trying to cover it and pick up with chorus, he tried to start the solo over again. When Bobby and I hit the chorus, Jason kept trying to finish the solo. It sounded horrible. I wanted to throw him off the stage.”

Kevin nodded. “Yeah, I heard that. It sounded pretty bad, actually. I don’t know. He’s an okay player, but he’s not Meatles material.” He and Jared both laughed.

“I’ve got to ask you guys,” I said. “What’s with that name, ‘The Meatles?’ No offence, but that has got to be the worst band name I’ve ever heard. Is it supposed to be clever, or a joke, or what are you going for with that?”

Jared laughed again. “Yeah, I know it’s awful, isn’t it? It’s awesome how bad it is. We picked it because it was the worst name we could come up with.”

I looked at him like he might be handicapped. “And you think that was a good idea?”

He kept laughing. “I guess we’ll find out! Besides, I don’t think a bad name has ever kept a good band from making it, right? Just like a good name doesn’t mean you will make it.”

I nodded. “Okay, that’s a good point. All the same, I don’t know how a name like that will help you.”

“Well, what about you?” asked Kevin, looking a bit pissed off that I’ve been ripping on the name of his band. “Do you guys even have a name?”

Since Jared is finishing the joint with a massive bogart drag, I light up a cigarette. “We’re not using a band name. We’re just playing as Terry Wilson and Bobby Metronome, even though most of the ads say ‘Terry Wilson and Bobby Metronome from Tremors of Intent.’”

“So why don’t you just keep calling yourselves Tremors of Intent?”

Now I laugh: “Because there are four other former members of Tremors of Intent out there that would either sue us or beat the shit out of us for using the name without their permission.”

Kevin looks smug. I guess I must have struck a nerve by making fun of what is, clearly, a horrible name for his band. Anyway, he keeps after me. “Where’d you guys get that name, anyway?” he asks. “Tremors of Intent? I don’t see how that’s any better than The Meatles.”

I shrug and take a drag on my cigarette. “It wasn’t my first choice either to be honest. It’s the title of a book by Anthony Burgess. The guys thought it had a nice ring to it.”

“Who’s Anthony Burgess?” asks Jared, still giggly and silly from the joint.

“He wrote A Clockwork Orange.”

Kevin laughs. “So why didn’t you call yourselves The Clockwork Oranges?”

I sigh. This conversation is boring the shit out of me, and this runt Kevin is getting on my nerves. “Because that would have been too obvious a reference, you know? Like referring to The Beatles in your name, right?”

Now Kevin’s getting really pissed off. “Hey, fuck you man. The Meatles is a good name.”

“Fuck you too, and no it isn’t,” I say, flicking away my unfinished cigarette. “Anyway, thanks for the pot. I’m going back to the bar.”

I walk back in before the kid can say anything else, and I find Bobby as quickly as I can. He’s got his arm draped around some cougar, who in dimmer light would have looked a bit like Iggy Pop. “Hey Bobby,” I say, tapping him on the shoulder. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Why, what’s up?”

“We’ve got a long drive tomorrow. And also, I may have picked a fight with the other band.”

“The Meat Heads?” he says.

“Yeah. Where’s Jason?”

Bobby jerks a thumb in the direction of a table where our guitarist is sitting with a couple of high school-aged girls who surely got in with fake I.D.s. He looks completely plastered, and when I tell him we’re leaving, he starts to get up, but stumbles and falls, whacking his chin on the table.

“You fucking wreck,” I seethe, helping him up. He seems able to walk, so I head back and pry Bobby off his new lady-friend, and together we head to the back exit.

We get outside, and all five members of The Meatles are already waiting for us. I try to see how we can get past these guys to our van.

The Meatles’ singer, a skinny six and a half feet tall, steps forward. “Hey,” he says. “You got a problem with us? You fuck with one Meatle, you fuck with us all.”

“I can’t resist commenting again on the shocking stupidity of that name,” I remark, “and I find it impossible to take you seriously as long as you call yourself a Meatle.”

“You asshole,” he says, taking two steps towards me. Bobby cuts him off though, and thumps him so hard in the gut that the big kid folds up like a deck chair. The other Meatles take a step back. Bobby might not look like much, but he’s actually tougher than old boots and twice as ugly.

“You little shits gonna get in our way?” he screams. He takes another step forward and they back up, and Bobby leads the way to the van. I stuff Jason in the back with the equipment and get in the driver’s seat. Bobby’s not finished yet though, and he stands by the passenger door yelling at the kids, who are trying to help their lead singer to his feet.

“You assholes better change the name of your band, because if I ever cross paths with a Meatle he’s going to the hospital!” he screams and gets in. I start the van and we pull out of the parking lot. I can see that Bobby’s hands are shaking.

“Nice work,” I say to him. “I forgot about your temper.”

“Give me a cigarette,” he responds.

“You quit smoking ten years ago.”

“Shut up and give me a cigarette!” he yells, and I quietly obey, giving him one and lighting one for myself.

“So, um,” I say, afraid to talk too much, “does this mean we can smoke in the van now?”

“Shut up, Terry,” he says, taking a drag. “Just shut up for a while.”

I keep my mouth shut and listen as Jason, our bad guitarist, has begun to snore in the back of the van.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 4:55 am

Issue #4

“Good evening, Windsor, and welcome to The Lounge. My name is Terry Wilson. Bobby Metronome is on drums, and we’re pleased to introduce Jason Pleasant on guitar. We’re going to play some songs for you tonight. You’re welcome to dance, in case you didn’t know. This is an old Black Sabbath number we like to do. It’s called ‘Sweet Leaf.’”

I count in and we hit it, hammering into the riff slow and heavy. Behind me Bobby is hitting the tubs fast and loose, battering the rhythm with perfect precision. To my left, Jason is slashing at his strings with perfect confidence, swaying as he plays, grooving with the music he’s making. This is Jason’s song. It was what he played when he auditioned for us, and he practically begged us to add it to the set list. It shocked him when Bobby and I agreed, and even chose to play it for the opener.

The stage lights are almost directly in front of me, so it’s difficult to see much of the room except the area just below the stage. Even so, I can tell that there are some silhouettes of people nodding their head along with the familiar tune. Half of them probably recognize it as one of Beavis and Butthead’s signature chanting songs: “Dah-Dah…Dih-Dih-Duh.” We chose it as the opener because it’s nice and recognizable, and also because it’s the one song that Jason plays better than the others. Christ, it was probably the first song he learned to play on guitar. I figure, if he plays it well, it should give him confidence for the rest of the set, and maybe he’ll keep his act together. It’s a good theory, and it’s worked in about half the shows we’ve played.

I scream the “All right now!” into the mike, and hear some woo-hoos from the audience in response. It gives me a little buzz of stage-high, and I smile, happy that the audience is happy. I don’t know how many people are in the room. Between one-fifty and two hundred I suppose, and I’m happy to be up in front of them. Bobby played in front of festival crowds of up to twenty thousand when Tremors of Intent were at their biggest, long after I was finished in the band. True, The Lounge in Windsor doesn’t hold twenty thousand people, but I enjoy playing there anyway.

We bring “Sweet Leaf” to a crescendo, with Bobby doing massive rolls to build it up. We peak then fall off entirely, leaving only a breath of space before we pick up with “End Of Us,” an old Tremors number that is fast and catchy. People still remember it from its time on the radio, and after the big hook with the Sabbath number, it draws people in and let’s them know who we are and what kind of music we’re going to play for them.

The set goes well. We roll through our list, keeping the breaks between songs short, except when we need to tune up, when I make snappy banter with the crowd. Some people actually do get up and dance in front of the stage, especially during the last few songs. We hit the false ending, say thank you, goodnight, and get a lot of applause. Jason and I take off our guitars and Bobby gets out from behind his kit. We step to the side of the stage, making the pretence that we’re leaving, but clearly leaving everything still hooked up, so the crowd can see that if they cheer loudly enough we’ll come back on for an encore. We’re not hard core ego cases; we typically only wait about ten seconds to come back up if they do cheer. It’s so hokey and cheesy that I absolutely hate it, but on another level the cheesy showmanship appeals to me. If they didn’t cheer, we wouldn’t play another song, but they do, so after the time it takes for Bobby to drink a glass of water, we go back up.

Bobby leads the way, getting applause. People seem to know who he is, and they know he played with Tremors Of Intent for four albums and twelve years. Jason follows, his arms stuck up in the air like he’s the heavy-weight champion of the world. I get up and sling my bass back on. Bobby starts pounding out the rhythm of our encore song before Jason even has his guitar on. There’s always a long drum buildup. Jason and I take a second to get in tune, wait, I cue Jason to and we rip into it, chugging along with an open E note. We play Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” as our encore song. Like our opener, it’s easy, recognizable, and people really get into it.

I know it’s funny to play a show of original material and both open and close with covers, but it’s something I’ve done for a long time. I just find that people get drawn in when they hear something familiar. Sure, a lot of the Tremors songs are familiar, but they make up a smaller fraction of our set list, since Bobby and I agreed to only use the songs we played when I was actually in the band, way back in the beginning, before I quit (or got thrown out, depending on who you ask).

“Free World” is a pretty simple tune. It’s a fast, aggressive anthem that doesn’t skimp on either hope or social commentary. Personally, I think a few of the lyrics are some of the most affecting in rock. The bit about the kid who will never get to fall in love and never get to be cool is touching. Ah well. I guess I’m just an old softy.

The problem is, it is a simple tune, and Jason gets a little too confident when he’s playing it. I’ve mentioned a lot about Jason’s limitations, and I hate to keep ragging on the kid, but to be honest I had hoped he’d get better, faster. He’s gotten a little better, but he’s also taken too much of a rock’n’roll star attitude, and has focused too much on looking cool and acting like a star, and not enough on figuring out what his weaknesses are, and how he needs to correct them. I guess he’s just not ready for the road.

So Jason starts running over the riff, and we sound great. But when it comes times for the chorus, he sneaks up to me, so he can sing along with the refrain. The thing is, he can play along pretty well, but the kid can’t really sing and play at the same time. I’ve told him a few times not to try this, because he starts messing up his timing, but he keeps trying it anyway. We hit the chorus and I sing, “Keep on rockin’ in the free woooooooorld,” and I notice him there beside me, moving towards the mike. I don’t want to look like a total asshole, so I slide over a bit so he can sing as well, and we belt it out together. Jason’s got an okay voice and we sound good singing together, but as I fear, he misses the changes and falls out of time, has to pause, and picks it up again. A glutton for punishment, he tries to sing again, and falls out of time again.

I want to kick him hard in the balls, but I laugh and shoulder in to the mike to block him out. The crowd seems to get a kick out of the theatrics, turning our encore into a comedy of errors.

The next time the chorus comes around, he starts to move in again, and I jokingly kick to force him back away from the mike. The crowd gets it and eats it up, and we bring the song to a big close. “We’ll have to work on that one a bit for next time,” I say after we finish. “Thanks a lot everybody. Have a great night.”

The house d.j. starts playing before I’m even off the stage. Bobby looks at me and shakes his head. “You know I’m only touring with you until you can get someone permanent,” he says. “But you’ve got to get rid of that kid and find a new guitarist. He’s not figuring this shit out.”

“I’ll talk to him,” I say. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll straighten him out.”

“I’m not worried about it. You should be worried about it. I’m just here for laughs. If you want to get serious about this though, you’ve got to get rid of the amateur shit.”

I nod. He’s right. But we’ve only got a few more shows until we head back to Toronto so I can face my wife and our divorce. I had hoped these shows would solidify us as a band, convince Bobby to stay and make a go of this as a serious comeback, as well as get Jason ready to play some bigger, serious shows.

But there are still a few shows left. Maybe Jason can get it together. Maybe Bobby will change his mind. Right now, I don’t even want to think about it. It’s time for a beer. There will be time to figure this mess out later.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 4:57 am

Issue #5

We drive to Sarnia, Ontario, ready to play a big Saturday night show. I hope it will be a big show anyway, although I’d be satisfied with a show that goes off without any major theatrics or dramas, and with as little bullshit as possible. A nice clean set. That’s all I’m hoping for.

The atmosphere in the van is absolutely poisonous, and has been for the whole drive north from Windsor where we played last night. Bobby, Jason and I are all hung over, and I made the mistake of laying into guitar fuck-up extraordinaire Jason and little too much and a little too early in the trip. I gave him shit for all the mistakes he keeps making during the shows, not figuring them out and correcting them, not practicing during downtime, and not following our instructions and advice. Basically, I explained in great detail what a clown he’s been during this little tour, and what he needs to do to clean up his act.

Jason responded by flying off the handle about how Bobby and I are screwing him on the money side of things, and that the percentages we agreed to before heading out are totally unfair. I didn’t admit this during the argument, but he’s pretty much right. We’re splitting the money 40-40-20, with Bobby and me each getting forty percent and the rookie getting twenty. We also agreed to split the expenses evenly, which means the kid would probably only be breaking even on this trip.

Since he knew he was unproven as a guitar player, he was happy to come on the road with us just for the experience. But now the kid is spending so much on drinks each night after the show, he has to dip into his savings to cover his share of the van rental, motel rooms, and so on. He flipped out over this in the van, screaming at us from the back seat about how we’re screwing him, and somehow implying that he would be playing better if we were paying him properly.

I called bullshit on him, and told him that he had it backwards: if he wanted to get paid more, he would have to improve his shitty performance. Bobby stayed pretty quiet during the argument, continuing to write in his little notebook, while Jason and I screamed at each other.

We eventually fell silent. I drove and smoked cigarettes while Bobby wrote and Jason sat fuming in the back.

As we pass a highway sign that says “Sarnia 20 KM,” Jason reaches into the pile of gear in the back and grabs the acoustic guitar out of its case. He checks that it’s in tune, and begins noodling. I take a drag on my cigarette and hold my tongue, resisting the urge to tell him that he should have been doing that for the whole trip. He should have been practicing and cleaning up all the problems he has with the songs we perform night after night, especially his awful solos.

He plays for a while, buggering around with stuff I don’t know. He eventually settles on a little riff, gently running back and forth over it. I don’t recognize it, but I know it’s not one of the songs he should be practicing, and I lament the fact that I’m driving, so I can’t turn around and put out my cigarette in Jason’s eyeball.

Bobby seems to recognize it. In fact, he starts whistling along with it. It begins to bother me that it seems so familiar, but I can’t place it. Suddenly Bobby starts singing out loud: “Shed a tear ‘cause I’m missing you, but I’m still alright to smile…” and I get it immediately. I drag on my cigarette and flick the butt out the window. I look at Bobby. He’s singing with his eyes closed, belting it out. I look at Jason’s face in the rear view mirror. He’s hunched over the guitar, rocking back and forth a bit, and I can see a smile at the corners of his mouth as Bobby sings.

I crack up and laugh, and begin to sing along in the second verse. We all start singing together when we get to “Paaaaay-tience…yea-ah…” Bobby does his best Axl Rose impression and we sing the song through to the end, and after we trail off, the three of us remain silent. Nobody wants to say a thing to mess up the moment.

We arrive at about five o’clock. We’re playing a hotel bar, a real working class place. We talk to the manager, who tells us where to drop our gear. There will be three bands, he says, and we’ll be on last. The first band is local kids, and the second is another crew from Toronto. Apparently Saturday night is pretty manic in the place and three bands is not out of the ordinary. I shrug. Sounds good to me. As long as they pay what we agreed to, I don’t care if there are twenty bands.

The sound guy won’t be in for a few hours, so Bobby, Jason and I sit down and order some sandwiches and fries, along with a few beers. It’s weird, because we’ve got a semi-good vibe going after the spontaneous Guns’n’Roses sing-along, and none of us want to talk and piss the other guys off. We sit quietly for a while until I decide to try and make a peace offering by buying a pitcher of beer. I know Jason’s short of cash and pissed off about it, so Bobby and I trade off buying rounds a few times and let the kid drink on us. We get loosened up and start making friendly talk, going on about music without getting stressed out about it. It feels good to relax and just chat.

Around seven-thirty the band from Toronto rolls in. They’re called Machine Within A Machine, and haven’t been gigging much. Like us, they’re trying to play out-of-town shows around suburban Ontario to get their act together before they try to impress anyone at the clubs in Toronto.

They lug their equipment in and sit down with us to have beers. The four of them are younger, around twenty-two or twenty-three (about Jason’s age) except for their guitarist, who is a foxy punk chick who’s maybe twenty-six or twenty-seven. She’s got dyed purple hair and a nose ring, with dark Goth makeup. If I had to guess, I would say there are probably a few tattoos under her brown hooded jacket. She says her name is Gina. I don’t remember the names of the guys in her band, although they all seem to be nice enough fellows. I guess I just don’t care that much.

Jason picks up on the hotness of Gina immediately, and starts asking her all sorts of questions. Her avoidance and disinterest is comical, but he keeps at it. Poor guy. It goes something like this:

Jason: “So, what kind of guitar do you play?”

Gina: “I don’t know. A black one.”

Jason: “How long have you been playing?”

Gina: “A while. Where’s the bathroom in this place?”

Jason: “Over that way. So, you live downtown?”

Gina: clomp, clomp, clomp… (the sound of Gina walking away from the table).

Pretty soon Bobby turns into the hero of the table, when the guys from Machine Within a Machine figure out that he was in a big name band for more than a decade (well, medium-big name band, anyway). They start asking him all sorts of questions, which he doesn’t mind, mostly because of all the beer he’s drinking. He keeps trying to change the subject and talk about his new career writing sci-fi novels (a few of which have done quite well, by the way). The guys respond by saying things like “Yeah, sci-fi, cool. So, what was the biggest band you ever played with?”

Around eight-thirty we do our sound check. We move our gear off and Machine does their own sound check, followed by the openers. Half an hour later, the openers get up and start playing. The room is still mostly empty, but people are trickling in.

The openers (I forget the name they use) play a set of eighties hair metal tunes in some kind of tribute to glam. We keep on drinking and watching them, making jokes and trying to figure out what the hell they’re up to. Sincere tribute? Ironic merry-making? There are five young guys in the band: singer, guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard player, all maybe twenty years old. They’re dressed like the kids in the pop-punk videos that are out nowadays, like skater kids or something. We laugh and make fun of them, unable to reconcile what we see on stage with the straight-from-1985 sound. To be fair though, they play pretty well. The guitarist absolutely nails the solo for “Smokin’ In The Boys Room”. They play for half an hour and clear their gear off the stage. The guys from Machine Within A Machine get up to set up their own gear and we wish them luck.

I get up to go to the washroom and I’m surprised how hard it is to keep my balance. I look at my watch and realize that it’s almost ten o’clock. Somehow, Bobby, Jason and I have been drinking for nearly five hours. I clue in and realize the room is getting full, and Machine Within A Machine is getting ready to play. As soon as they finish, we’ll have to get up there and perform for a full house, and I am completely pissed. I stumble towards the bathroom wondering how the hell we’re going to get through this.

To Be Continued…
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 4:58 am

Issue #6

I come back out of the bathroom, weaving a bit from all the beer I’ve been drinking over the last five hours. I want to be pissed off at myself for getting loaded before a gig, but I’m just drunk enough that the irresponsibility switch has been flipped, and I can’t help smiling and giggling over the trouble I’ve gotten myself into (this is part of my personality that drives my soon-to-be-ex-wife absolutely nuts. Good thing for me she’s a few hundred kilometers away, probably getting naked on a stage in front of a bunch of sweaty, beer-bellied men in a bad part of town).

I get back to the table. Some girls have slid into the empty chairs and are chatting with Jason. Bobby isn’t getting much attention, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He’s leaning way back in his chair, with a silly grin on his face. I hate to say it, but he’s sticking his gut out a bit, which is not a good look for a forty year old guy. Jason is leaning forward with his elbows on the table, talking to these girls.

The girls must have figured out that we were at the band table, and moved in when some chairs freed up. Jason, being a young and good looking guy, was their immediate target. I actually have to pull up a chair from another table just to sit down. I give Bobby a big goofy grin, and he smiles back, raising his beer, which he proceeds to drink down in three big gulps.

“Ready for another beer?” he asks, shouting over the noise of the bar.

I shrug. “Do you think we need more? I’m pissed.”

He laughs. “Yeah, me too.”

“Will you be all right to play?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Maybe I’ll go up to the bar and get some coffee.”

“Cool,” I say. “I’m going to head outside for a smoke.”

Bobby gets up and walks away from the table, weaving as he goes. I turn to Jason, who is refilling his glass from the pitcher of beer. “Hey Jason,” I shout. He turns his attention away from his beer and his girls towards me.

“What’s up, man?”

“You getting pissed?” I grin so he knows I’m not giving him shit.

“Not bad,” he says, but his squinty red eyes tell me otherwise.

“Just take it easy, okay? We’ll have to play for a while…I mean, in a while. You know. Um, Bobby and I are switching to coffee. We’re both pretty pissed, so we’re going to take it easy.”

“Yeah, man,” he says, nodding. “Good idea. I’ll switch after this one.”

I get up and leave him to talk to the cute chicks that have sat down with him. They hold no interest for me. Not only are they much too young for there to be any mutual interest between us, I’m also not very fascinated by the female sex these days. Divorce will do that to you. Beyond that, I want to let Jason have some fun. I was pretty hard on him in the van on the road here. I just hope he doesn’t get too wasted.

I get outside the front door of the bar. It’s dark, and there isn’t any street traffic. Sarnia is too small to have lots of people strolling around at night. I smoke a cigarette and lean against the side of the building, waiting for the evening chill to sharpen me up. I don’t get sharper, but I do get cold. I flick the butt away and head back inside.

The music is deafening compared to the small time local opening act. Machine Within A Machine are on stage and have ripped into it, blasting out a cacophony of distorted alt-rock. I stop by the bar and get a cup of coffee. Bobby is standing nearby, watching the band play. I stop next to him.

“How do you feel now?” I ask, screaming over the noise.

“Still drunk,” he laughs. “No, I’m okay. How about you?”

“The same. What do you think of these guys?”

“They’re okay. They need to practice more. They’re not too tight.”

“Yeah.” I watch the band. The lead singer jumps around, screaming out the lyrics. I can’t understand a word. The rhythm section is kind of loose, the drums and bass banging away together, almost in time. The guys head-bang away, trying to rock out as hard as they can. Gina, the guitarist, stands out from them.

She stands casually, ripping along with the tune, a rock song that sounds almost industrial with the heavy distortion. She looks relaxed, but her fingers moves fast and tight over the strings. She watches the other players, nodding to the bassist to indicate the changes. She plays with confidence, like she’s not challenged at all. She plays with the confidence of an Olympic downhill skier at a Saskatchewan ski resort.

My first impression was right; she has tattoos on her arms. I squint, but I’m standing too far back to make out the designs marking each of her shoulders. She’s wearing a tight white tank-top, and her purple hair has been teased up into a big punk Mohawk, with purple tendrils spilling down in front of her face. She looks perfect. Perfectly punk, perfectly rock and roll, and when she plays her first solo, a screaming, mind-blowing solo, at that moment…

Terry Wilson falls in love.

“Bobby,” I scream over the noise, “We’ve got to get that chick for ourselves.”

“What, like a threesome? I don’t want to see you naked, dude.”

“No, you asshole. For the band. We need her for our band!”

He looks at me. “Man, you are drunk aren’t you? Terry, she’s already in a band. Besides, you’ve got Jason. Or do you want to add a second guitarist?”

I think about it. “No, I don’t want to split money four ways. Besides, Jason’s shit anyway, you said so yourself. I’ll need to fire Jason, break up Machine Within A Machine, and grab Gina for us. Wait, no: I’ll break up their band, and then fire Jason.”

“You’re fucking evil, Terry. Besides, you know you’re just talking shit.”

I laugh. “Yeah, maybe you’re right. Fuck it man. Hey, come on outside with me for a minute. I need to clear my head.”

We get out into the street, and I light up a smoke, and give one to Bobby. I know I smoke too much, but it’s hard not to have one when you’re drunk. Bobby’s the same way. He quit years ago, but he still has one sometimes when he’s pissed.

“You just want her to be in your band because she’s hot anyway,” Bobby says. I don’t say anything. I can’t stop thinking about Gina.

Bobby looks at me. “Did you hear something?”

I shrug. “What, you mean the band?”

“No, I thought I heard someone puking.”

I wait and listen, and a moment later, I hear it too: a retching sound coming from around the corner of the building. Curious, we stroll around to the alleyway where the sound is coming from. Jason is there, standing with his back to us, leaning with one hand on the brick wall of the bar. There’s a conspicuous amount of puke on the ground in front of him.

Bobby puts his finger to his lips, telling me to keep quiet. He takes a long drag off the cigarette and flicks it, hitting Jason squarely in the back of the head. The kid twitches, straightens up, and turns around.

“What the fuck are you doing?” laughs Bobby.

Jason is as pale as a glass of milk. “I didn’t want to puke inside the bar.”

“Yeah, the back alley is much classier. You gonna make it? We’ve got to play soon.”

Jason leans one hand against the wall again. “Yeah, I’ll be okay. I just…um…I just need some water.”

Bobby laughs. “You’re so fucked.” Bobby and I bring him back inside, get him sitting down, and bring him some glasses of water.

“Look at it this way,” I say to Bobby. “Better he pukes now than on stage.”

He laughs and gets himself another cup of coffee. I look back to the stage. The band is pounding out their songs. I only watch Gina. She looks brilliant. The heat of the lights and the effort of playing have brought forth a glistening sheen of sweat across her face and bare arms. I want her. I must make her mine. I must break up her band and make her my guitarist. She really is a very good guitarist.

With a crash of cymbals, Machine Within A Machine brings their set to a close. Jason, Bobby and I move up near the stage so we can set up our gear as soon as the other guys get their stuff off. Gina passes by me with her guitar.

“Good show,” I say. Classy. Smooth.

“Thanks,” she says. Busy. Disinterested.

“Are you guys sticking around?” I ask.

“No,” she says. “We’ve got to head back to Toronto tonight.”

“Oh, right,” I say. “Well, you guys did well, anyway.”

“Yeah, thanks,” she says, and heads off to help carry the equipment. I stand out of the way while Machine Within A Machine clears off the rest of their gear. They head off to settle up with the manager and by the time we’ve got the drums ready to go, they’re slipping out the door.

I step up to the microphone, and bang a string to see that the sound is up. “Good evening,” I say to the crowd. I can see Gina walking out the front door of the bar. I look to Jason and Bobby. Jason is having a hard time keeping his balance, but they both nod to show that they’re ready. I count in the first song, and together, the three of us stumble through the worst set I’ve ever played.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 4:59 am

Issue #7

Bobby thinks I’m jealous of him. I am, I guess. Not as much as he thinks, though. He probably thinks that deep down, I hate him or something, and I don’t. Really I don’t. I love him like a brother. We go too far back, all the way back to the beginning, even before we were musicians, back when we were both just getting interested in music, when we were still kids, and we were rushing out to buy Iron Maiden and David Bowie records.

Yeah, he made it to the big time, and I didn’t. Yeah, he made it there with a band that I helped form, and they made it there partly on the strength of songs that I co-wrote. Yeah, he crossed Canada a dozen times, toured all through the States, hit Europe a few times, and even made it to Australia to promote an album, and I didn’t. Am I jealous? Yeah, sure I’m jealous. Do I hate the guy? No. I’m proud of him and I love him.

Having said that, he can be a tremendous pain in the ass.

Bobby Metronome is a fantastic drummer. He wasn’t always. He was awful for a long time; that’s why we nick-named him Metronome. We kept telling him that we were going to get rid of him and replace him with the metronome on my mom’s piano. At least it could keep time. Yes, he is a fantastic drummer, but that doesn’t mean he’s out of my league. I can play. I’m a great guitarist, and a really good bass player. I usually play bass though, because it’s always easier to find a guitarist than a bass player. Did you ever hear the old joke? Where do you find a guitar player when you need one? Just walk through the forest. After all, guitar players grow on trees.

Yeah, he’s good, but that doesn’t mean that he’s the only good drummer there is. But he acts like I couldn’t be doing this without him, like I couldn’t possibly get a gig without the great Bobby Metronome in my band, like I couldn’t possibly play a show without him behind me. What a crock of shit. Sometimes I just want to whack him over the head with one of his toms.

When he gets pissed off, or things don’t go his way, Bobby hints that pretty soon he’s going to pack it in and head home, because after all of his years on the road with the great and mighty Tremors Of Intent, he doesn’t need to be dragging his ass around the countryside playing crappy pubs and hotels, trying to get enough money to pay for beer, gas and lunch the next day. After all, he’s got a couple hundred grand in the bank, and he could easily sit at home and write his science fiction books.

And it’s true. He doesn’t need this shit. But what he doesn’t realize is that I didn’t bring him with me on the road so that I could use his name to get gigs. I didn’t bring him with me so that I could leech off the fame of Tremors. If anything, I would rather get away from that name. The reason I brought him with me, damn near begging him to come, was because I wanted to hit the road with my old friend. That’s it. I wanted to play rock and roll with my old friend, have some laughs on the road. Yeah, I need to do this, because I need the money, and I need to get my ass in gear, get some sort of career as a performer again. And after the emotional teeth-kicking of getting divorced, I also needed to prove to myself that I’m still worth something. But if you’re going to go through all that shit, why the hell wouldn’t you want your good friend with you?

But it’s not all so rosy. After getting solidly pissed and getting up on stage, Bobby, Jason and I proceeded to humiliate ourselves in front of the two or three hundred people in the Sarnia hotel bar. We couldn’t keep time, we missed changes, we did false starts to songs, we forgot lyrics, made asinine comments to the crowd, and generally did a bad job. The really bad part of it was that we had a genuinely good time on stage while it was happening. We were looking at each other and giggling, making funny faces at our own mistakes.

The crowd didn’t boo, but they did jeer. They could see we were drunk. After the show I went to the bar manager to get our cut, and he gave me a lot of shit, but did pay us. How could he not? The bar was full, and he made his money. But he made it pretty clear that we would not be asked back. So be it.

We were all too drunk to drive, so we just loaded our gear into the van and went back inside the bar for a few more drinks. The issue of accommodation for the night was pretty much skipped over. Somehow, it didn’t seem to matter.

We got a round of beers from the bar. Jason was still a funny color from throwing up earlier, but drinking lots of water and playing the show had straightened him out a bit. Bobby raised his bottle to toast us. “Well boys,” he said. “Here’s to the bad end of a bad tour.”

“Cheers,” said Jason.

“The tour’s not over yet, Bobby,” I said. “We’ve still got shows in Hamilton and Burlington.”

“Terry,” he said, looking at me like a parent talking to a child. “It’s over. We’re fucked, man. This is all bullshit. We haven’t played a half-decent show yet. We’re not making any money, which was supposed to be the point of the whole thing. We’re wasting our time and we’re embarrassing ourselves.”

“Yeah, but even so, we’ve got gigs booked. If we back out with only a few days notice we’re going to look like assholes.”

“We look like assholes anyway.” He took a long drink of his beer. “I’ve had enough of this shit, Terry. Seriously. There is nothing worth while about what we’re doing. We’re making idiots of ourselves, and we’re having a miserable time. Shit, half the time we’re sleeping in the goddamn van. I don’t need this shit, man. Not at my age. I’ve been through all this shit before, and I don’t need to be doing this nickel and dime crap. I’ve had enough. Tomorrow we’ll head home.”

“You fucking dick!” I yelled in his face. “You agreed to do this. Ten lousy fucking shows. That’s it. And you can even see it through. You fucking spoiled bitch! You fucking quitter.”

“You begged me!” he screams. “You fucking begged me to come here with you! I don’t need this shit and I didn’t want it! Fuck you, Terry! Fuck you!” Bobby turns and walks off into the crowd.

I take a sip of beer and look at Jason. He’s standing there, wide-eyed, with the scared, half-guilty look of a child who saw his parents fighting. I turn and walk away from him. I don’t want to deal with Jason now.

I push my way up to the bar. Everyone around me is half my age. They all know who I am, and the young boys and girls smile at me, but they step back when I get too close. They’re not interested in brushing up against a piss-drunk old man covered in sweat after playing a lousy rock show. I get up to the bar and one of the staff, a busty young blonde, asks me what I want.

“Three shots of Crown Royal,” I say. She pours, I pay, and I drink.

Ontario bylaws stipulate that you can’t smoke inside of bars and restaurants, so I drunkenly start to lurch towards the front door, still carrying my bottle of beer. The whiskey hits me like a heavyweight’s uppercut, putting me way over the line. I bump into people as I walk, and I hear snide comments about the drunken singer. “Fuck you,” I slur at some young jock that makes a remark I don’t even understand.

“Yeah, you’re a real rock star,” he says in response.

Jason catches up to me by the door. “Dude, what’s going on? Are we going back to Toronto, or are we going to Hamilton?”

“How the fuck should I know?” I say. “Go ask Bobby. He seems to be calling the shots now.” I get to the door and the bouncer grabs me before I can go through.

“You can’t take the bottle out,” he says.

I shrug and drink the contents before staggering out into the street. Jason leaves his beer on a table and follows me out. “Terry man,” he says. “What’s going on? Is Bobby serious? Is he quitting?”

“Maybe,” I say, getting out my cigarettes. “Maybe not. I don’t know. He’s pulled this routine before. He’s not going anywhere for now. His drums are in the van and I’ve got the keys. He’s not going to leave without them, and if he does, I’m going to throw his kit in the lake.” I light up. “Bitch,” I say. “Drummer bitch.”

“Can I um, have a cigarette?” Jason asks.

“You don’t smoke.”

“I just want to have one.”

“You shouldn’t start.”

“I’m not going to start.”

“Nobody thinks they’re going to start,” I say, passing him a cigarette and the lighter.

He lights up. “So why did you start?” he asks, blowing out smoke.

“Bad kids told me it was cool.”

The front door opens and Bobby comes out. I can here ABBA playing inside. “These asshole kids don’t deserve us,” he says. “Disco. I don’t believe it. Don’t you ask venues if they play disco? Don’t book us at venues that play disco, man.”

“Not your problem anymore, is it?” I ask, goading him.

“I guess not,” he says. We both stand there, looking at each other. Jason looks back and forth between us.

“Well?” I say.

“Well what?”

“So are we finished, or are we going to play the two gigs that we committed to?”

“Give me a cigarette.” I give him one, feeling like a dispenser. Don’t these guys know how much smokes cost?

“I’ll do the last two shows,” he says, “and that’s it. And only if we cut this shit out. I’ve never played drunk before, I’m not going to start now. We play straight, and we don’t fuck around. That means you too,” he says, pointing at Jason. “No more bullshit.” He points back at me. “These two shows and that’s it.”

I nod, exhausted of the conflict. “Okay. That’s all I ask.” I leave them to discuss our sleeping arrangements for the night, stumbling to the alley to be sick.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 5:00 am

Issue #8

A fifty year old guy named Clarence sits behind the drum kit and gets ready to play, adjusting the height of the stool and taking preliminary taps on the toms and snare. He’s a really rough-faced guy with short blonde hair and bad teeth. He told me that he was an amateur boxer through his twenties, and to be honest he looks and sounds like a boxer. He’s got the kind of cheek-bones that look like he spent a lot of time getting punched, and he talks slowly, not quite stuttering, but you get the idea that he might have had his brain rattled around inside of his skull a few times.

We had a cigarette outside of the practice facility before we got started. He told me a little bit about his experience as a drummer and other things he’d done, such as construction work and so on. He’s been around the block a few times, that’s for sure, but he hasn’t been drumming for that long. I’m here though, and he’s here, so we might as well get on with the try-out. After all, I need a new drummer.

The only thing that bothers me before we got started, and this is really picky, but when he smokes his cigarette he holds it between his second and third fingers like he’s got it clutched between crab claws. When he takes his last drag, inside of flicking it away like most people would, he throws it like a baseball, sending it only half as far as I do with a simple two-fingered flick. It makes me wonder what kind of drummer he could be if he uses so much unnecessary energy just to discard a cigarette. There’s one thing a drummer needs to be to achieve the highest levels of performance and that is efficient. There’s nothing less efficient than using a big baseball pitcher’s throw to chuck away a tiny butt when a simple flick would do. You can tell a lot about a person by how he smokes a cigarette.

Anyway, Clarence gets behind his kit and I get my guitar ready. I ask him if there are any songs he wants to play and he suggests we just find a good rhythm and jam a while. I shrug and agree. He starts to bang the drums and I start to strum a rhythm line to go along with it, just repeating some chords, G, D, and C.

I need a drummer as soon as possible. My old drummer, Bobby Metronome, played with me through the end of ten-show tour we had, but we barely spoke for the last two shows. The performances went fine, but they were cold and detached. Maybe the crowds at the clubs in Hamilton and Burlington could tell that we weren’t really having fun. I’m not sure. I smiled when they cheered, but even so it all seemed a bit frosty. The whole time, standing at the front of the stage, I felt like I could sense Bobby’s eyes drilling holes in my back.

This old guy sounds rough when he hits the drums. Clarence plays like he’s been taking lessons and maybe spending an hour a week at his scheduled time in the rehearsal studio playing along with a Doctor Hook record. He’s not bad, like, bad-bad, but he’s definitely inexperienced, and I’d rather not get involved with another half-assed inexperienced player when I’m trying to get my career back on its feet.

We play for half an hour, trying out a bunch of different rhythms, playing through some songs he knows, and then I call it to a halt. “Okay, Clarence. I think that’s enough. Um, there are a few other drummers I’m going to see in the next few weeks, and if I decide we should play again I’ll give you a call, okay?”

“Yeah, sure,” he says, very enthusiastically. “Sounds great. Just let me know.”

Not likely, I think as I carry my gear out. Not unless you’re the only drummer available in all of the Greater Toronto Area.

The next day sees me all the way out in Mississauga to try out a couple of kids. As soon as I got back from the tour I printed off a stack of posters advertising for players: guitar, bass, drums, whatever, and put them up in music shops and guitar stores all over the damn place. I got a call back a few days later from a couple of buddies, one a guitar player and the other a drummer. So off I go on the bus with my bass, ready to take chances on newbies.

These two particular fellows, although twenty-two and twenty-three, remind me very much of high school kids. When I get to the suburban home and ring the bell, a woman almost my age answers the door. This is the drummer’s mother, and she leads me to the basement where the two boys are playing. She seems a bit confused, not sure whether to treat me like a young buddy of her son’s or whether to talk to me like a grown up (perhaps she thinks ‘Should I offer him iced tea or a beer?'). I feel like an old loser who has to hang around with young kids because he’s got no friends his own age. Oh well. I can’t really argue that that’s not true.

The two guys are in the basement playing, and they don’t stop when I come in. They look at me and continue jamming while I get my bass out and plug into the amp they have set up for me. I start to play, and we jam for about ten minutes. When we stop I ask them if they know any covers we could play through.

“No, we don’t play covers,” says the guitar player. “We just play our own stuff.”

“Okay,” I say. “Well, do you want to play some of your songs and I’ll just jam along?”

“We don’t really have any songs written,” he says. “Do you want to try and write something?”

“I’m not sure if we’re ready to start writing songs,” I tell him. “We’ve only been playing together for ten minutes.”

“Right, right,” he says.

We jam for a while, and these guys show me ‘their stuff,’ which mostly involves the guitar player sitting on the floor doing tiny fuzzy noodles, while the drummer fumbles around finding rhythms and only staying with them for an odd minute or so before changing. The shit is impossible to jam along with and pretty soon I find myself losing interest. The session concludes with a similar line that I fed to Clarence: “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.”

I end up back at the dingy little apartment I moved into six months ago when everything with my wife Sheila fell apart. I’m in the student ghetto, down near the University of Toronto. We both ended up moving out of our nice apartment because neither one of could afford it on our own. She’s living in a place that’s probably as nasty as this one, but I bet she’s decorated it better.

Home from a disappointing tour and now finding myself without a band, it’s sad to look around the one room place, seeing a few bags with some dirty clothes, a mattress on the floor without proper sheets, an amp and a few guitars, and think that this is as far as I have risen in nearly forty years.

That night I get a phone from Jason, the guitarist I was hoping to drop.

“Hey Terry. What’s going on?”

“Not much,” I say. “I’ve been trying to hunt up a new drummer, but I haven’t had any luck. How about you?”

“I’m bored, man. There’s a jam at the Fox and Hound tonight. Do you want to go play a few songs?”

I think it over for a minute. If I do end up needing to keep Jason around, then playing open jams would be a good way for him to get some stage experience, which he definitely needs. On the other hand, I’m not crazy about playing with the twit again. Finally I shrug. “Sure Jason. Sounds good. I’ll meet you down there, all right?”

The Fox and Hound is a pretty plain old rock joint. It has a reputation for having good live music, so it draws a pretty diverse crowd. It’s got some bikers, but it’s also got some students. I mostly go because I figure there’s a chance I could hook up with a drummer there, provide it’s a well-attended jam.

Jason is already there when I show up, and we get beers and watch the host band. They’re nothing special about the group on stage, except for the cute lead singer who’s wearing a leather vest top.

“Remember,” I say to Jason. “If you see a good drummer, kidnap him.”

Eventually the host band finishes their set and after a short break, they invite players to get up and sit in. A few of the regulars get first dibs, but after a couple songs Jason and I are able to get up and jam. We play with the band’s drummer, so there’s no luck there, but a bit later, after we’re off stage a new drummer gets up to play. He’s a tiny, wiry guy with close cropped hair and tattoos all over his arms.

I manage to get up and switch off with a guitarist on stage so I can play with the tattooed drummer, and along with the leather-top singer and the mullet-wearing bass player from the host band, we blast through an up-tempo version of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.” The drummer sounds great, really hard and thrashy, but without getting ahead of anyone else. He just drives the number along, and it sounds brilliant.

After the jam ends and the host band gets back up, I seek the man out. He’s wiping sweat off of his brow, sitting at a table with a couple other young guys. “Hey,” I say to him. “That was good shit. Can I get you a beer?”

“Aye,” he says, smiling up at me from his chair. “That would be great.” He speaks with a thick Scottish accent.

I bring a couple of beers and sit down with him and his friends. Jason floats around nearby, maybe not wanting to crowd in and scare the guy off, but more likely trying to scope the leather-top singer of the band.

“I’m Terry,” I say to the drummer.

“Mark,” he says back, rolling the ‘r’ comically. “Cheers,” he says, and takes a drink.

“Do you have anyone to play with here in the city?”

“No,” he says, shaking his head. “I’ve no been here too long. It’s no easy finding new mates to play with.”

“My friend and I are looking for a drummer. Would you be interested?”

He shrugs. “Aye, I wouldna mind. What sorta stuff do you play?”

“Hard rock, mostly. Originals with a few choice covers. We gig, and we need somebody reliable.”

“I’ve no other commitments. Would ye like to get together some time and make some noise?”

“Sounds good,” I say, and we exchange contact info. I get up and find Jason. “He’s in,” I tell him. “We’ll jam with him sometime next week. Hopefully it works out.”

“Awesome,” he says.

I finish my beer, and then head out to get the bus home. I feel a little buzz, like I’m back in business.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 5:01 am

Issue #9

I call up Mark, the Scottish drummer I met at a jam, and ask him about coming to learn a few songs with Jason Guitar-Star and me. I ask him about his situation in general, what with being a Scotsman in Canada, but he reassures me that he won’t need to leave as soon as his visitor’s visa expires.

“No, I was born in Halifax,” he says. “I’m a citizen. I just grew up in Scotland.”

“Do you have a drum kit?” I ask him.

“My roommate has a little one I can borrow.”

“Okay. How about a place to play?”

No go. All three of us live in apartments, where noisy band practices lead to eviction notices. I book a rehearsal studio downtown for twenty dollars an hour, where we can show up and use the house equipment. I let Mark and Jason know what time to be at the studio, and make arrangements to meet up with Mark and give him some discs, so he can hear what we’ll be playing. After that, I spend most of the evening reading Divorce Law for Dummies.

The day we’re supposed to meet, I take an afternoon nap and I have the dream again. I’ve had it a few times before in different forms, but it always works slightly the same way: I get invited to perform with a big-name band that I love, but I completely mess it up because I don’t know the material. The first time I had the dream it was about The Sex Pistols, and I dreamt that I needed to fill in on bass for a show at some big soccer field. I didn’t know how to play any of the songs though, and fumbled through it all, making an ass of myself. When I woke up that time, I went ahead and learned how to play Never Mind the Bullocks front to back, even though I know I’ll never play any of those songs at a show and I’m certainly not going to be asked to fill in for the dearly departed Sid Vicious any time soon.

This time the dream was about Ministry. Don’t get me wrong; I love Ministry, and I recognize that they’ve been tremendously influential over the last twenty years, but there’s no way I’m interested in playing in an industrial thrash band. It’s just not the sound that I’m interested in making. But there I was on their bus, having been chosen to be their bass player for thirteen shows in fifteen days starting tonight. And I have no idea how to play a single one of their songs.

Al, the front-man, tries to sort me out on the bus, tries to teach me the notes to a bunch of songs I’ve never even heard. Even when I play exactly what he tells me, it comes out sounding awful. It sounds like every single string on the bass is out of tune, but the bass is fine. It’s just that I can’t play worth a shit, and Al can see it. I can only fumble along half as fast as I’m supposed to, making a mess out of everything while he shakes his head saying, “No, this isn’t going to work. What are we going to do? We’ll be in Albuquerque in a few hours…”

Waking up bitter and frustrated, I get dressed and head down to the rehearsal studio. I show up fifteen minutes early. Jason is standing in front of the place smoking a cigarette. I get to the door I set my gig bag down. “So what, you’re a smoker now?” I ask him.

He shrugs his shoulders. “I can smoke if I want to.”

“Sure you can,” I say. “It’s a free country, right? I’m just surprised see you smoking, when you were a firm non-smoker only a few weeks ago. And I would hate to think that you picked it up from hanging around with me.”

He shrugs again. “I don’t do everything just because you do it. And get off my case about it. Don’t you think it’s a bit hypocritical to give me a hard time for smoking when you smoke?”

I nod. “Sure, of course it’s hypocritical, but there are bigger issues here, such as you starting to smoke. Don’t start, man. I’m serious. I wish I’d never started, and if I could quit, I would. Take my advice. Don’t go down that road.”

He finishes the cigarette and drops the butt into a coffee can sitting outside the door. “Okay dad,” he says, and goes inside. Of course, I want to have a smoke right then, but I don’t want to look any more hypocritical than I already do. I grit my jaw and go in after him.

Paul, the shaven-headed manager of the rehearsal studio shows us to our room, which contains a drum kit, two guitar amps, a bass amp, a few mike stands and a small mixing board. Jason and I get out guitars out and get plugged in, and sit down on our amps to wait for Mark.

“Check this out,” says Jason. “I wrote this song I think we can play.” He starts to strum his electric, slowly rambling along an A chord. He plays for a minute or so, until he’s given me a sense of it, the rhythm and the melody.

He stops and looks up at me. “What do you think?” he asks.

“Not bad,” I say. “Is that all you’ve got, or are there different parts?”

“I’ve kind of got the verse and the chorus. We can work out the rest.”

“Cool. Have you got lyrics for it?”

Jason smiles. “Yeah. Um, I’d like to sing it.”

I nod. “Right. Look, um…can you really sing?”

“I’ll show you,” he says and takes a folded piece of loose-leaf paper out of his pocket. He reaches to pull a chair in front of himself, unfolds the paper and smoothes it out on the seat of the chair so he can read the blue-pen writing while he plays his guitar. He reads for a moment, pauses, and then begins to strum.

“You say that you’re in love again,” he begins to croon in a warbling voice. “That you met a terrific man…” He switches chords, makes a mistake, finds his place and continues singing. “I have to say I didn’t ask… Why are you taking me to task?” He changes chords again, bridging to the chorus, loses his place with his fingers and loses his place on the page as well.

“Okay, hang on Jason, that’s good,” I say, waving a hand to stop him. “That sounds okay; we can probably work something out with it. Are you sure you want to sing though? It’s not something you’ve had a lot of practice doing.”

He nods. “Yeah, but I want to start doing it so I can get the practice. You know, I want to learn how to front. I don’t want to be someone else’s backing musician forever. Someday I’d like to have my own band.”

“Okay, I can appreciate that,” I say. “But at the same time, I don’t want to have you singing on stage if you’re not really ready to do it. I don’t want you to suck in front of a bunch of people, just for the sake of experience. You need to practice, that’s all.”

He sits quietly for a minute. “What if we work on it in rehearsal until you think I’m ready, and then we can start using it in the shows?”

“Yeah, or we can perform it and I can sing it until you’re ready, then you could just take it over.”

“Hmmm,” he says, gently strumming at the strings. “I don’t think anyone else should sing my songs. I want them to be, like…mine.”

“Well Jason, it’s not like I’d steal them. We could just use them in the show. I’d tell the crowd they were your songs. I don’t want credit for your work. It’s just…I think you’ve got a ways to go before you’re ready to sing on stage. You can’t really play and sing at the same time yet. You have to work that out first.”

He doesn’t say anything, and begins to strum through the parts of his new song. He looks pissed off, but what can I do? Mark arrives a few minutes late, apologizes and curses the city transit system, and begins adjusting the drum set.

This is really the first time that Jason and Mark have spoken, and Mark seems embarrassed about being late, so he’s apprehensive about talking. Jason, on the other hand, seems pissed off and barely acknowledges our brogue-talking Scotsman on drums.

Mark is ready in a few minutes, gives the skins a quick battering, and looks up at us. “So? What shall we do first?”

“Did you listen to the songs on that disc I gave you?”

“Yeah, a few times.”

“Well, let’s just try to run through a few of the covers, and then we’ll try to work out one of the originals. We’ll see how many of the songs we can introduce you to today.”

We run through “Rockin’ In The Free World,” and a sped-up version of Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” and everything goes fine. We try each song until we can make it through from start to finish without stopping to discuss how it’s supposed to go.

The head aches begin when we start to play “Knuckles,” one of my songs that Bobby, Jason and I had been performing. Mark goes along fine, keeping time and watching us to figure out the changes. But Jason screws up almost every chord change. He’s all over the place, like he’s never played the thing before.

I call a stop and ask Jason what the problem is. “Don’t you remember it?”

“Yeah, I remember. It’s just screwing me up because the drums aren’t right.”

“Of course the drums aren’t right,” I say. “This is the first time Mark’s ever played the song. He’s got to learn it from you, so you’ll actually have to count and get the song right instead of just listening for the drums and being late on every change.”

Jason looks pissed off and embarrassed, but we try it again and make it through the song. We play all three through again, and manage to finish them without too many problems. After that, there are only a few minutes left and so we pack up and get ready to leave.

“Do you guys have a name for the band?” asks Mark. “What have you been calling yourselves?”

“We haven’t really had a name,” I say. “I think we’ll be using ‘The Terry Wilson Band.’”

Jason stops fumbling with his guitar case and looks at me. “Are you serious?”

I look back at him. “Yeah. Why not?”

“So this is just like a solo project? We’re not a band; we’re just your backup musicians?”

“Relax Jason,” I say. “Look. I’m the front-man, singer and songwriter. Do you think we should be The Jason Pleasant Experience?”

“Why can’t we just think of a cool name, so we’re not just one guy and his backup band?”

I turn to Mark. “What do you think?” I ask him, and he shrugs, not wanting to get involved in an argument at his first practice.

“I’m okay with whatever you guys decide.” he says, avoiding eye contact with Jason. “If it’s your band, Terry, than I think it’s fine if we use your name, as long as everyone’s okay with it.”

Jason looks pretty pissed off, but I don’t really care. With Bobby gone, it seems like Jason is trying to move up the totem pole in the band and talk like a big man, wanting to sing and veto names, and frankly I don’t like it.

We head off in our separate directions, agreeing to leave the name issue on the table for now. Another practice session is scheduled for a week down the road, which gives me just seven days to figure out how to get rid of Jason Guitar-Star Pleasant.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 5:02 am

Issue #10

On Friday night I bite the bullet and call up Bobby. I felt terrible about how we left things when we got back from the tour. We barely spoke during the last few shows and didn’t even say goodbye to each other when I dropped him and his kit off. I hated the idea that he and I might not be friends anymore just because of a few bad shows on a nothing tour.

I call him and he doesn’t seem pleased to hear from me. I think he’s worried I’ll ask him to come back and play drums for me again, but that’s the last thing I’d want. Better to have him as a friend and leave the band out of it than get him playing again and have us not talking to each other.

I ask him what he’s been up to since we’ve been back in Toronto.

“Working,” he says. “Writing. Well, trying to write anyway.”

“Not going well?”

“It’s hard work, man, and it takes forever to actually get anything finished. You know when you do something and it isn’t quite right, so you do it over ten times and it still isn’t quite right, but eventually you just say screw it, it isn’t right, but I’ve got to move on? It’s like that.”

“Sounds like recording.”

“It’s a lot like recording except there’s no one else around to kick you in the ass to get working. And no one to tell you if your work sounds like crap. Anyway, what can I do for you?”

“Yeah, um…Look, I just wanted to say sorry for all the drama and crap on the road. You know I wasn’t trying to—“

“Yeah, Terry, don’t worry about it,” he says, cutting me off. “Let’s just have a laugh about it and put it behind us, alright? I don’t want to make any big deal about nothing.”

“Sounds good to me. So…do you want to grab a beer tonight?”

“Okay. Hey, you know that band with the chick guitarist we played with? They’ve got a gig at The Bovine, down on Queen West tonight.”

“Who, Machine Within a Machine?” My heart starts to beat a little faster at the thought of seeing Gina again.

“That’s them.”

“Did you want to catch their show?”

“I wouldn’t mind. Hey, are you and Jason going to keep playing?”

I’m not as happy with the thought of my own guitarist, Jason Pleasant. “Yeah, we are. We found a new drummer who seems pretty good, so after he learns the material we’ll try and get some gigs again.”

“Cool,” To my surprise, Bobby doesn’t sound bitter or jealous at all. He sincerely wants nothing more to do with the band, but he seems happy that I’m going to continue. “Look,” he says, “You should bring one of your demo discs to The Bovine. It seems like a place that matches your style.”

“Hah. Okay Bobby, what’s my style?”

He laughs. “Oh, you know Terry. Rude, dirty, arrogant rock and roll.”

“Hmph. Yeah, I guess that sounds about right.”

“Okay,” he says. “I’ll see you there about nine, alright?”

“Sounds good.”

I throw on clean clothes and check my hair in the bathroom mirror. I dab a bit of gel into it to slick up a bit, which makes me feel silly, since I generally don’t even check my hair before getting on stage. The thought of seeing Gina makes me feel a bit self-conscious, which I realize is bloody stupid, since the woman showed no interest in me at all when we met at the gig in Sarnia. Not to mention that I’m probably a good ten years older than she is, and hell, she’s probably got a two hundred and fifty pound boyfriend who bench presses small cars and is prone to jealous rages brought on by crack and steroids.

Anyway, I slip on my black jean jacket, put a demo disc in my pocket, and head out. As I ride bus to Queen Street, I entertain fantasies about what might happen tonight at The Bovine. I can see it all: Machine Within The Machine takes the stage. They are slightly drunk and under-rehearsed. The players fuck up continually, driving Gina nearly mad. Eventually, even before they reach the end of their set they begin arguing, and soon drop their instruments in disgust and storm off the stage. I meet Gina by the shooter bar and get her two shots of vodka to console her. She declares that she will never play with those assholes again. We slip outside to cool down, and I offer her a spot in The Terry Wilson Band. She agrees, and we soon find ourselves in the back seat of her car, where one thing soon leads to another…

It seems far fetched, but I’ve never been able to read on the bus, so I need something to keep my mind occupied during the ride.

I get to Queen and Spadina and start walking west to the bar. The Bovine is a dark place, goth-tinged, with a massive sculpture of welded bicycles over the front doors and empty Jagermeister bottles displayed all the way around the room. The last time I was there was a year ago having beers with friends, and they were playing Andy Warhol movies on the televisions behind the bar. The place is dirty enough for me, but sometimes I wonder if I’m dirty enough for it.

It’s eight-thirty when I get there, so I sit down at the bar. The skinny guy working the bar looks like he just got off another job washing dishes for twelve hours straight. He’s got bags under his eyes and bad posture. I nod to him and he comes over.

“Hey man,” I say. “Is the manager here?”

“No. He’ll be in later. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Yeah.” I pull the demo CD out of my jacket pocket. “I’ve got a band. We’d like to play here some time. Do you think you could give this to him?”

“Sure.” He takes the disc and chucks it somewhere under the bar. I order a Kieth’s and wait for Bobby to show up.

The band arrives before he does. At least, most of the band shows up. I recognize the singer, bassist and drummer of Machine Within A Machine immediately (even though I can’t remember their names), but Gina is conspicuously absent. They start hauling their gear in through the front door, slinging it directly onto the stage. I get up and drift over. I catch the singer’s eye, and he greets me.

“Hey Terry,” he says, smiling. “Coming to see the show tonight?”

“Yeah, Bobby and I are going to check it out. Gina’s not here with you guys?”

“No, she’ll get here closer to show time. She kinda pulls the prima donna routine sometimes,” he says. “Doesn’t help much loading the equipment, stuff like that. I don’t mean to bad-mouth her or anything, though. I’ll talk to you after we get the stuff in, okay?”

“Sure.” I end up standing around while they do their load-in. More young kids are coming in and the place is gradually filling out. I start to feel a bit out of place, since the clientele of The Bovine is a lot younger than I am. All the same, there are lots of cute young women coming in, so I relax and just watch and wait.

Bobby comes in, stops to say hello to the band as they set up their equipment, and then strolls over to me. “Hey Terry,” he says. “Did you say hello to your fantasy girl?”

“Who, Gina? Naa, she’s not here yet. I guess she’s not much for helping set up.”

He laughs. “Well, aren’t you glad you didn’t steal her for your own band?”

“I haven’t ruled that out yet, you know. I’m still trying to figure out how I can replace Jason.”

Bobby orders a beer. “What’s the problem with him now?”

“I don’t know. He just seems to disagree with everything I say, like he’s King Shit or something.”

“Like what?”

“Well, for example, I told him we’re going to use my name for the band name. And he freaked out, like I just want them to be my backup players or something. Meanwhile, he wants to get up front and start singing, relegating me to backup status. He just gets up my ass with this type of thing.”

Bobby puts up a hand to stop me. “Hold on. You’re just going to use your own name?”

“Yeah. Why not? I’m the one who’s doing all the creative work. It’s my band. These guys are pretty much just my hired help.”

“Okay, but think practically,” he says. “No offence here, but you’re not famous. Is anybody going to go see you play just because you’re Terry Wilson? Think about it. And yeah, of course those guys are going to be bitter finding out that they’re not equal partners in the project.”

I nod. “Well, I’ll have to talk about it more with the other guys.”

I notice Gina coming in the front door of the bar carrying her guitar case. She stops and talks with the band, checking to make sure they’ve set up her amp properly. Leaving her guitar there, she hops off the stage and heads towards the back of the bar where the bathrooms are. She passes within an arms reach of us, and I say hello.

“Hey,” she says blankly, showing no evidence of recognizing either Bobby or me, and carries on to the ladies room.

Bobby elbows me in the arm. “Smooth work there, stud. She’s practically begging to have your children.”

I shake my head. “How old are you, Bobby, twelve? Jesus, I’m not trying to shag the girl, I just think she’s a good guitarist. Yes, I’ll admit she’s easy on the eyes, but it’s not like I’m going to try and get her in bed or anything. Jesus man, I’m going through a divorce. The last thing I want to do right now is start messing around with a new chick.”

Lies, lies, lies…

To be continued…
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 7:21 am

Issue #11

I wander toward the back of the bar to use the men's room, hoping I might bump into Gina back there near the washrooms. I have no luck, so I take a piss and head back to the bar. Bobby is there talking to the guys from Machine Within A Machine. They're laughing.

"Hey guys. What's going on?"

Bobby looks at me. "I was just filling them in on how the show in Sarnia went after they left."

I nod. "Ah yes. Our proudest moment."

"Yeah, that's funny shit," the singer (what the hell is his name?) says. He turns to Bobby and says "Dude, you should totally come up and play a song with us tonight. We used to do a cover of a Tremors of Intent song. Would you want to sit in with us?"

Bobby shrugs. "Sure, I don't see why not." He looks at me. "What do you say, Terry?"

I don't know what the hell to say, since singer-guy didn't ask me. I presume that I was not included in the invitation, so I would look like an idiot saying yes if they didn't want me. I go for the diplomatic approach. "Sounds good, Bobby. You should get up there."

"Naa, you play too." Bobby turns to singer-boy. "You'll get Terry up there on bass, right? He was a founding member of Tremors, after all."

The Machine Within A Machine guys look back and forth between them. "Um, I guess so, sure." The singer looks to the bassist and drummer, who would of course have to take a seat if Bobby and I got up to play. "That sound okay guys?"

They both shrug. The singer turns back to us. "Sounds good. You guys just be ready, and we'll call you up, sometime towards the end of the set."

"Cool," I say. "So what song are we going to do?"

"'Trying To Kick It.'"

"Okay, cool." Inside my head I start screaming obscenities at myself, but I smile like that's a great choice of song.

Gina comes out from the back, with her make-up done and a tight olive drab t-shirt stretched over her frame. She stops and looks at her band-mates. "Are we ready?" she asks.

"Sure, sure." says the singer. "Hey Gina, Bobby and?" he stops and looks at me, thinking hard.

"Terry," I say.

"Right! Bobby and Terry are going to hop up and do 'Trying To Kick It,' with us, okay?"

"Jeez, we haven't played that song in months. Do you remember all the words?"

"Yeah, no problem," he says. "And anyway, if I forget, Terry can help me out. Right Terry?"

"Yeah, sure. Ha ha, no problem there."

The band heads up to the stage. The bar is mostly full now, and the kids press forward to watch as Gina, Singer, Drummer and Bassist plug in, switch on, tap their mikes, then finally count in and start blasting out their first number.

"Come, Bobby," I say, grabbing my old pal by the elbow. "We must talk."

"But they just started-"

"Come on!" I hiss through gritted teeth.

We go to the back of the bar where the music isn't so loud. Bobby looks at me like I'm crazy. "What's the problem?"

"The problem is that I don't know 'Trying To Kick It.' What was that song off of, the third or fourth album? I'd been out of the band for like, eight years or something. We're going to get up and play a song that I don't even know. Shit, I'm not even sure I've heard it before."

"So why didn't you say something?"

"I didn't want to look like an idiot."

He laughs. "Well, you're going to look like an idiot now, aren't you? Come on man, I thought you knew every song ever written. You've heard it before, I'm sure. The chorus is like, 'Please tell me what to do/ I know I'm not through with you.' You know it."

"Do you have the disc in the car?" I'm starting to sweat with nervousness, worried about looking like a total asshole in front of two hundred bar patrons and one hot guitarist.

"No, I took a cab." He pulls a pen out of his pocket and grabs a napkin from a nearby table. "Look here, it starts out with a C chord?"

Bobby writes out everything he can remember, and we head back up front. We buy another couple of beers and watch as Machine Within A Machine rocks the joint. They're a lot tighter than when we saw them a few weeks ago in Sarnia, and the crowd is right into it. They must have a small following going, because I can see that a few people are moving their lips to sing along with singer-guy, who is belting everything out like he's Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden. I watch Gina play, but I can't really enjoy the show as I keep studying the scrap of napkin in my hand with progressions and changes messily scrawled all over it.

Bobby and I have a few more beers, and about ten songs into their set there's a pause. Instead of the usual banter, the singer gestures to the drummer and bassist, and they leave the stage.

"We'd like to invite a couple special guests to join us on stage right now. Maybe those of you here tonight have heard of Toronto's own?TREMORS OF INTENT!"

There's a big cheer, and some of the crowd starts looking around. Bobby looks at me and rolls his eyes. "Oh Jeez?" he says.

"Right now we'd like to welcome Tremors drummer Bobby Metronome and the band's original bass player Terry to come on up and do a number with us. How's that sound to you?"

There's another big cheer and Bobby and I push towards the stage. "At least he remembered your name," shouts Bobby over the din.

"Asshole," I shout back, laughing.

We get up with Gina and the singer. Bobby sits down, grabs the sticks off the snare and does a quick roll. I sling on the bass and have to adjust the strap, because their player must be a good ten inches taller than me. Either that or he has gorilla arms. It's a five string bass, which I'm not used to, but I do a quick tune up and run a scale to get my feel for the instrument.

Gina hits the resonating opening chord, hits it again, and I command my brain to switch off. This is not thinking time; it's jam time, when the ears communicate directly with the hands to channel what is heard into what should be played. Call it Zen Jamming or something artsy-fartsy like that, I don't care. Play on instinct.

Bobby beats in the opening, and I leap in as well, thumping out the simple line, trying to compromise between what Bobby had scratched onto the napkin and what I can hear Gina playing. What do I care if it isn't just like they way it sounds on a goddamn Tremors Of Intent record? I have no loyalty to their legacy.

I watch Gina as we play, keeping an eye for changes and an ear open. Even though I don't really know the song, soon it's all coming easily. I know when the changes are coming, and I find myself improvising runs and fills, almost as if I know the song. By the time we reach the second chorus, I have a strange feeling about how effortlessly it's all coming to me.

Suddenly before my eyes is a vision of me sitting in my Dad's basement, strumming on a sticker-covered acoustic guitar, humming melody lines, writing notes in a creased little notebook?

Wait a goddamn minute. I do know this song.

I wrote this fucking song!

What the fuck? As I play I turn and give Bobby a look of furious incredulity. He nods and continues playing. He takes a second look at me and holds eye contact, then shakes his head to indicate he has no idea why I look so pissed off. Then he grins and shrugs, not missing a beat.

I turn back around to face the audience and pound out the lines, hammering the bass strings into throbbing engines of sex, rock and death. I don't know what they must have thought, as I burst into a vitriolic virtuoso performance, matching Gina note for note in the solo, even drawing the smiling attention of the singer. Even though I never wrote the words, I scream along with him as he sings "I'm trying to kick it! I'm trying to kick it! I'm trying to kick my addiction to you!"

We bring it to a big crashing close and the crowd goes nuts, screaming and jumping. I shake hands with Gina and the singer and Bobby does the same. Bobby pumps his arm in the air and everybody cheers. I grab the mike and shout "Thanks a lot. Hey, let's hear it for Gina and what's-his-name here." There's another big cheer and the singer laughs, figuring I'm taking the piss out of him for forgetting my name earlier.

Bobby and I hop off stage to continuing cheers. I figure this is what it was like all the time for all the guys in Tremors, hearing people scream until they couldn't breathe. I couldn't care less. I'm super-pissed off, but I've got stage buzz too.

People slap us on the back as we make our way to the bar and Machine Within A Machine continues with their regular scheduled set. We get up to the bar and the bartender gives us beers on the house, and the manager comes over a does a shot of tequila with us.

As soon as we have a second to breathe, Bobby asks me about the funny face I pulled on stage.

"Who wrote that song, Bobby?"

"I don't know. Rob (Tremors of Intent's rhythm guitarist) and Johnny (Tremors of Intent's singer), I guess. Why?"

"That fucking Rob," I fume. "I wrote that song. I played that with him back when we were just getting started. There were no words for it, but I played it with him. We never used it. Ten years later he digs it out and puts it on an album. That dick!"

Bobby frowns. He sips his beer. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure. I know what I wrote."

"You're not going to make a big deal of it, are you? Because I'm pretty sure Rob and Johnny would fight that it's theirs."

"Whether they fight about it or not, they took it from me."

"So what are you going to do?"

I shake my head. "I don't know. What can I do now? Go to court over it? I don't know. I just don't know."

The band finishes their set not too long later and they come down to have drinks. Gina is as standoffish as before and I'm too bitter to be charming. I congratulate them on a good gig and thank them for the chance to play. Bobby decides to stick around, but I wish him a good night and make my exit.

Despite the late hour, I call up my guitarist when I get in the door. He's not home, but I leave a message on his machine: "Jason, this is Terry. I just wanted to say about that last practice, if you want to keep your songs, that's cool. If you don't want me to sing them, it's fine. We'll wait until you're ready to sing them yourself. It's your music, so it's your decision. That's all. I'll see you next week."
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 7:22 am

Issue #12

Mark, Jason and I have our Wednesday night practice and work hard on the three songs we had finished the week before. Jason and I lead Mark, our fledgling drummer through a few more. Luckily he's an old school metal fan, so he handles 'Sweet Leaf' with no difficulty, and is able to pick up 'Rough Go,' one of my newer songs in a few tries.

After we clear out of the rehearsal studio we head into a Tim Horton's for doughnuts and coffee, and a plan to settle the name controversy. Once we get situated at a table, we each pull out pieces of paper, which we hold close to our chests.

"Okay, we've each got a list of ten suggestions," I say to start the discussion off. "We each have three outright vetoes. I'll go first. The Terry Wilson Band."

Jason raises his hand. "Veto."

I expected him to veto it, which is why I started off with it. I'm happy to let Jason waste one of his vetoes on it. I'm a manipulative son of a bitch that way. All the same, I act offended by his hasty dismissal of using my name. "Just like that?" I say, looking hurt.

"Yeah man, just like that," he says, looking at his coffee and not at me. "This is a band. You're not a solo guy."

I shrug. "Okay, whatever. We'll just go around the circle. Jason, what's your first suggestion?"

"Corporation of Dissent."

Mark, blowing on his cup of tea, makes a face. "I don't care much for that one."

"Same here," I say. "Anytime you say 'Corporation' it reminds me of a bad storyline they used to have in pro wrestling."

Jason gives me a condescending grin. "Dude, you watch wrestling?"

"I have been known to watch wrestling. So what? I appreciate the athleticism. Mark, what's at the top of your list?"

The Scotsman looks at his crumpled list and scratches his head. "I've not got many good ones. Um, I thought Passover has kinda like, a cool ring to it."

Jason and I glance at each other. "I don't think we should use anything with any religious overtones," I say. "I don't think it really speaks to the material we perform."

"Yeah," Jason says, "and I think it sounds a bit seventies, anyway."

"Okay, next," I say, looking at my list. "I'd like it if we could find something with a really classic, hard-ass rock and roll sound to it. Something that shows we're a band out on the road, dying for what we do. So, in the spirit of that, I suggest: The Roadkill Heroes."

Mark nods. "That's not too bad."

"Yeah, I can see what you're going for," says Jason, "like we're on the road so much it's killing us, and that kind of thing. The only complaint I have is that when someone says 'roadkill' I have a tendency to think of a mashed up skunk on the highway. I don't know if that's the image we want to project."

We sit in silence for a moment, before I suggest "Maybe we could keep it as a maybe."

Jason shrugs. "Yeah, let's come back to it. Okay, I've got The Nettles. Or The Stinging Nettles."

Mark screws up his face. "Nettles? What, like the weed?"

"Okay," I say. "That's getting better, but I don't think it quite there."

Jason puts his list face down on the table. "It's better than 'Roadkill.'"

"Maybe," I say, "but I'm still not going to call my band The Nettles. Think bad-ass, you know? Like The Sex Pistols, The Misfits. The Nettles? No way, man."

"So are you vetoing it?"

"I don't think I should have to veto something that dumb."

"Hey, I thought we had a rule where we wouldn't call the other names dumb."

Mark nods. "That's right, Terry. You can say you don't like it, but you can't say it's stupid."

"Okay. I'm sorry. Mark, give us your next one."

He checks his list and smiles up at us. "Rock Of Abraham."

I sigh and wish it were still legal to smoke in Toronto coffee shops. "Okay, that also has a religious tinge to it, which I'd really like to avoid."

Jason leans across the table with a concerned look on his face. "Mark, are you religious or something?"

Mark looks embarrassed. "No, I'm no' religious, I just think there's a certain?um?rock and roll sound to some names that have a religious reference, ken? Like Black Sabbath."

"Okay," I say, not wanted to make Mark feel foolish. That's the problem with choosing band names: most of the process is rejecting the other members' suggestions. "All the same, I'd still like to stay away from religious themes. Anyway, I'm not aware of any rocks in the story of Abraham anyway. Shall we move on? My next one is Lightspeed."

Jason looks at me. His expression seems to grow snider with every suggestion I make. "Lightspeed what?"

I smile. "Lightspeed nothing. Just?Lightspeed."


Mark nods. "I think so too."

"Okay, it was just an idea. Jason?"

Jason grins like he's found the cure for cancer. "Pleasureville."

Mark laughs. "There's a massage parlor in Glasgow called Pleasureville."

I laugh too. "Didn't we have a rule about no band names based on massage parlors?"

Jason looks pissed "Nobody here knows it's a massage parlor. Besides, I think it's got kind of a rock and roll feel to it."

I nod. "Yeah, the feel of a rock and roll tug joint. Besides, it reminds me of Pleasantville, and I hated that movie. Next."

Mark goes next. "My next one is Death To Everything."


"Seriously. Death to Everything. It sounds bad-ass, doesn't it?"

Jason looked unimpressed. "It sounds like a hardcore band, or death metal or something like that."

I concur. "Yeah. If we called ourselves that it would have to be intentionally ironic, you know?"

"Yeah, like those pussies in Massive Attack," Jason says. "Their name makes them sound like Napalm Death, but they actually sound more like a relaxation tape."

Mark nods. "Okay, so we scratch Death to Everything."

I check my list. "Next, I've got The Visions."

Jason shakes his head. "Sounds like a used television shop."

For the next twenty minutes we fly through our lists, arguing about the names, criticizing the suggestions and eventually criticizing each other more and more.

"Broken Vessels."

"The Subterraneans."

"Marshalling Forces."

"Canadian Hate Machine." (Kind of like Leonard Cohen meets Nine Inch Nails)

"Surrealism at Work."

"Tom Waits For No One."

We all start getting a bit chippy, mocking the living shit out of each other's dumb-ass ideas, until at last we get to the final round and at last Mark drops a half decent suggestion on the table.

"I used to work in an appliance repair shop," he starts. "You know, fridges and stoves and the like. Most washing machines have a little transmission inside, and there's something in there, little teeth like, called clutch dogs. I always thought that would make a cool name for a band. The Clutch Dogs."

There is a moment of silence. Jason and I look at each other. I give him a nod.

"I think it's okay," he says.

"I think it's rock and roll," I say. "It sounds dirty, like machine parts, and desperate, like the clutch player in the big game. And dogs? Yeah. Clutch Dogs are rock and roll."

Mark smiles and nods. "I always thought so."

We clear out with our plans set: we rehearse until we have a solid set, and we start gigging, playing every single show we can get until people start to know our name. Soon, people will know who The Clutch Dogs are.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 7:23 am

Issue #13

At ten o’clock on Tuesday night I’m sitting on the floor of my apartment with bills spread out in front of me. I’m trying to work out my overall financial picture, and figure out exactly how deep the monetary pit I’m in has grown. I list my assets, which basically add up to a closet-full of worn clothes, a few guitars, amps and some other musical gadgets and doohickeys. My only steady income at this rather fragile point in my career is from publishing royalties I receive four times a year for my songwriting credits with Tremors Of Intent. Beyond that, I don’t currently earn anything.

Over the last several years I’ve been a working musician, playing all over town in pubs as part of different low level groups, typically cover bands with other guys who have to get up in the morning and head to work in the post office, factory, or wherever else they might be fortunate enough to work. I’ve played rhythm and lead guitar, bass, and even keyboards for crews who would show up to host jam night at hotel bars, crank out “Mustang Sally” at the road houses, and even play the occasional wedding or private function. If you work enough and you’ve got a wife who also works hard, you can make a decent living. Not a great living mind you, but a decent one.

The problem now is that I decided to quit all of those earning bands to try and go all or nothing with a new group, playing primarily original material. And that group, the newly-named Clutch Dogs, is currently earning a big fat nothing. On top of that, my hard working wife and I are currently looking for ways to bankrupt ourselves and each other through the use of seedy divorce lawyers we found in the phone book.

These are the problems I’m busy occupying myself with when the phone rings. I get up, nearly upsetting my empties, and grab it on the third ring.

“Hello?” I answer. I can hear muted music in the background. There is a pause before I hear a voice.

“Yes, am I speaking to Terry Wilson?” I hear. I don’t know the voice.

“Yeah, this is Terry. Who’s calling?”

“This is Bob. I’m the manager at The Bovine. We met last week when you played with Machine Within a Machine.”

“Oh, yeah. Hello Bob. How are things?”

“Fine thanks. I see that you dropped off a CD here that night. You’re available for gigs, is that right?”

My heart starts to beat a bit faster. “Yeah, we’re available. Did you have a date in mind?”

“Well, that’s the thing. We’ve had a cancellation for this Friday. We like to have someone in the place on a weekend. Could you fill in the spot for us?”

My first thought is that we would not be ready in time, since we only have half a set ready to go. My second thought is that there’s no way I’m going to tell this guy that.

“Yeah, we’re ready to go,” I say. “That’s not a lot of time to advertise though. What about promotion?”

“Don’t worry about that. We’ll try and get the word out. Of course, if you’ve got friends that you could tell, that would be great. Um, we usually pay the band from the door, but since we don’t know what kind of crowd we’re going to get…” He trails off.

“Well, you understand that we can’t work for free.”

“Oh, of course, I wasn’t suggesting that. How about we charge three bucks at the door, and we guarantee a minimum of three hundred dollars.”

“That sounds fine,” I say, “but I really don’t know if we’ll draw anyone. We haven’t gigged in the city, so we don’t have any fan base to bring.”

“We usually get a good crowd on a Friday,” he says. “So the most important thing is having a quality act on the stage.”

“Um, yeah. No problem there.” Questions about the quality of our act flit through my mind, but I keep them to myself. “What time should we load in?”

I call and leave messages for Mark and Jason, imploring them to call me as soon as possible so that we can figure out getting to the gig. We have just one practice left before the show, and we’ll have to sharpen up the five songs we’ve got down, and run through at least five or six more with Mark to get him ready.

Jason calls up at midnight. “Are you serious?” he asks me. “Terry dude, I don’t think we can pull this off.”

“I don’t see why not,” I tell him. “You and I know the songs cold, and Mark is a good drummer. Shit, the first time we met him was at a jam and he did just fine playing through songs he may have never even heard. We’ll just get him familiar with the stuff and we’ll keep it simple. It’ll be fine.”

“I don’t know man. I don’t want to get up there and look stupid.”

“Look Jason, for you, that’s inevitable anyway. You’re tempting me to use the p-word here.”

“What’s the p-word?”

“Pussy. Just be on time for practice tomorrow, we’ll go hard and get it together. Don’t sweat it. It’ll come together fine.”

Mark calls the next afternoon and sounds excited as hell, and although he too is apprehensive about not being properly prepared, he sounds ten times more ready to perform than Jason did. I give him a similar admonition to be on time, and tell him I’ll see him at the rehearsal facility.

After I hang up, I pick up Have A Nice Day, the book I’ve been reading for the last few days, by Mick Foley of hardcore wrestling fame.

Two hours later, wiping tears of laughter from my eyes, I have a look at my watch and immediately launch myself across the room, ejecting a long stream of swear words as I run to get ready. It’s almost six-thirty, and after warning both Jason and Mark about punctuality, I’ve made it nearly impossible to get to practice on time myself. I quickly brush my teeth, grab my jacket and my bass and head out the door.

My options are either to take the bus, which is dodgy since I’m unsure how long I’d have to wait for one, or walk the dozen blocks to the studio. Taking a bus would make it impossible to grab anything to eat on the way, and I don’t want to show up without eating since my only food all day has been a bowl of fruit loops more than seven hours ago. I wouldn’t want to practice for an hour and fall over.

I start walking and manage to show up only fifteen minutes late with a burger and fries in a brown paper takeout bag. When I walk in, Jason looks like he could wrap his hands around my throat. I decide profuse apologies would not be a good way to go, since Jason might get ideas of superiority.

“Hey guys. Sorry about the time. Just let me eat this thing and we’ll get started.”

“Shit man,” Jason starts. “What the fuck? You say to be here on time and where are you? How are we supposed to play a show on Friday if we can’t even get in a full practice?”

“Relax, Guitar-star,” I say. “You and Mark just run through ‘Runaway’ while I eat. I won’t be long.”

Jason looks like he’s got a lot more to say, but Mark nods to him and counts it in. Before Jason has a chance to continue he’s playing a song. I wolf the burger down, stuff a bunch of fries in my mouth, wipe my hands and I’m plugged in by the time they finish the song. Jason and I get in tune, and there’s barely a pause before we head into another song.

In all, we manage to make it through twelve songs, and I feel confident Mark will be able to manage when show time comes. Actually, just improvising he sounds very clean, very sharp. It probably won’t be so easy with the stage lights in his eyes, but by the time we unplug to head home, I feel pretty good about the whole thing. Mark sweats like hell, but he’s smiling as we finish up. Jason on the other hand, looks stressed out trying for the first time in weeks to run through every song we’ve got. Sometimes I wonder if he actually enjoys playing anything besides ‘Sweet Leaf.’

While Jason and I put out guitars in their respective cases, Mark brings up a critical item that I had forgotten about. “So Terry, does the place we’re playing have a house drum kit?”

“Shit, no,” I say. “You said there was one you could borrow from a friend, right?”

“Aye, my flat mate’s, but it’s no much of a kit. It might not be the best for playing a show.”

“Um. It’ll have to do I guess. I don’t know where else we can get one.”

“Aye. So, can you like, pick us up or something?”

Jason and I look at each other. He shrugs and says, “Don’t look at me. I don’t know how I’m going to get my amp down there either.”

“Yeah, I guess we’ll have to rent something. We’ll take it out of the money from the show.”

“How much will that cost?” asks Mark. “I’m pretty much skint.”

Jason furrows his brow. “You’re what?”

“Skint. I’ve not got much cash.”

Jason shakes his head. “Fuck man, you’ve gotta talk more Canadian.”

I look at Mark and expect him to tell Jason where to stick it, but he smiles likes it’s a joke. I clear my throat. “It’ll probably be twenty or thirty bucks. I’ll call around and see what I can get. Just write down your addresses for me. We’re not on until ten, and we can load in at eight, so I’ll pick you up a while before then.”

We work out the details, and come Friday night I pull up to the address Mark gave me in a Chrysler minivan with more miles on it that a Rolling Stones groupie. The house is old, needs painting, and is located in a wonderfully rough, low income part of the city. I park across the street and look warily around as I cross and run up to the door. There aren’t many places in Toronto where a grown man feels unsafe, but in light of recent gang activity and the proclivity of local news stations capitalizing on urban violence as a method of drawing in viewers, I find myself more and more uncomfortable in areas that I don’t know well.

I ring the bell and Mark answers a second later, with a freshly clipped haircut and battered blue jean jacket. “Hey mate,” he says, ushering me in. “Come on, we’ll grab the drums and head out.”

The kit is down in the basement of the house, which looks on the inside to be some kind of flophouse for several single, untidy young men. We pass a kitchen full of dirty dishes with a kitchen table covered in empty beer bottles, and Mark leads me down to an unfinished basement where he shows me the kit.

“Hmm. It’s tiny, isn’t it?” I say, looking at the little setup, which looks like it was ordered out of the Sears catalogue back in the nineteen-eighties. There are baseball stickers, half peeled off, stuck to the bass drum. It looks very much like something a kid would learn to play on.

“Well, maybe we can act like it’s my gimmick,” Mark says. “Like those guys who had that ‘Peaches’ song. Stripped down. Simple gear.”

“Yeah, but I’d rather have good gear.” We each start grabbing pieces to carry out to the van. “Have you used them at all?”

“Yeah, a bit. They don’t sound as good as the drums at the rehearsal space, but they’re not that bad. They’ll do for one show anyway.”

We get the stuff in the van, but before we get in ourselves Mark tips his head toward the house. “Fancy a quick hoot before we go?”

“A hoot?”

“Smoke up a bit?”

“I’d rather not smoke up before we play. A couple beers maybe. After would be better.”

“I wouldn’t mind having a quick one.”

I check my watch, looking for an excuse to get going. “Do you have to?”

“So I don’t get too nervous.”

We end up going back in and sitting down with one of his roommates, who packs a massive bong, which is shaped like a green alien head. They each take huge hits, and I have to refuse several times. “I’m driving,” I tell them.

Eventually I get Mark out the door and into the van, which to my surprise is still there, and with all the windows intact. We start heading to get Jason, and the digital clock in the dash tells me the bad news: the pot session has put us behind schedule.

Mark starts bantering on, yapping a mile a minute about god knows what, with his accent growing more impenetrable as the smoke kicks in.

Jason is standing in front of his building when we pull up, and he slips his guitar and amp through the sliding door and climbs in. He’s got a big smile on his face. “Hey boys,” he says. “Are we ready to rock?”

“Haddy-fie ye doff dun fucker,” responds Mark, or at least that’s what I pick out from his mangled speech.

“What?” laughs Jason. “What the fuck was that?”

“He’s high,” I explain.

“Shit man,” he laughs. “How high?”

“High enough to faddle-fay yer muddun slee, ye doss cunt,” says Mark (approximately).

“Can you understand a word he’s saying?” asks Jason.

“Don’t worry about whether or not he can talk,” I say. “Hey, Mark? Are you going to be able to play tonight?”

“Abba play ye bastards like the free duddun puts the bus up the lane,” he says. “And ye bastards have no idea a word I’m fockin’ saying, do ye?”

“As long as you can play,” I say, gritting my teeth and reaching for a cigarette..

The load in at The Bovine goes quickly, mostly because the drum kit is so small and easy to move. All the same, when it comes to setting the drums up and positioning them, Mark turns surprising vicious for a guy so stoned, slapping at our hands when we try to help him. I get set up, work with the bar staff to set up the house mikes and work out how they run the sound through their p.a. It takes a while, because Jason insists on dicking around with the effects peddles he never uses. We work out the mikes for the drums before he allows us to get his amp miked.

There are people in the club already, standing around with beers. On the televisions behind the bar they’re playing some Japanese animation, with ninjas fighting in a forest. I sit down at the bar and order a beer, and in the notebook I brought along I start to write out set lists with a fat black marking pen.

“Well, hello there,” says a voice behind me. I turn around.

It’s Gina.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 7:24 am

Issue #14

"Hello Gina," I say, as the beautiful guitar playing vixen from Machine Within A Machine slides out the bar stool next to me and sits down. "Can I buy you a beer?"

"Sure," she says. "Are you here to see The Clutch Dogs?"

"Naa," I say, gesturing for the bartender to come over. "I am The Clutch Dogs."

"Oh, are you playing tonight?" She looks up at the stage, where Jason Guitar-star is still monkeying around with his distortion and chorus pedals. "Oh yeah," she says. "There's your guitarist. Where's Bobby?"

"Professor Metronome?" I laugh. "He's probably in his ivory tower writing his literary masterpieces with a quill pen."

She shrugs and shakes her head with a cute little grin, indicating that she doesn't get my joke.

"Bobby has retired from music to pursue his writing career. Maybe you've seen his book 'Zombie Pelicans from Rygon Seven'? I think it was on the best seller list."

"You're joking, right?"

I nod. "Oh yes." We share a laugh and when she gets her beer we cheers and clink bottles. It's satisfying to have her sitting next to me and talking, after our first cold-shoulderish meetings. She looks at what I'm writing.

"Making set lists?" she asks, and I nod. "You know, I haven't heard you guys play yet, except for that one song you did with us. What kind of stuff have you got here?" She slides a bit closer to read over my shoulder and I catch a whiff of her perfume, which has a hint of vanilla. The scent seems surprisingly and seductively mild to go with the rough looking rock-style clothing she wraps herself in. Tonight she has a short sleeved black shirt on, with fishnet sleeves running down to her wrists and hooking over her thumbs. Cargo pants and leather boots complete the ensemble. The dark-red lipstick and Egyptian style eyeliner along with the black and purple hair leave her suitably gothy, and exactly to my tastes.

"It's mostly original numbers," I say. I think I can feel a trickle of sweat run down from one armpit. I didn't expect to start heating up until I had the stage lights on me, but Gina is speeding up that particular schedule.

"Are you the songwriter?" she asks.

"Yeah. Well, there are a few covers, but I wrote the originals."

She sips her beer and sighs. "Yeah, I don't get to do much writing for Machine. I write my solos, but that's about it. Hopefully I get to do more down the road. Oh!" she suddenly exclaims. "You're married."

I look down at my left hand and realize for the first time that I had not removed my wedding ring since divorce proceedings started between my abominable Sheila and me.

I scratch my head. "Yeah, um. Well, kind of. Not really. We're going through a divorce right now actually." I grasp at the ring to pull it off, but since I haven't removed it in years, it doesn't budge. After gasping and yanking and making an idiot of myself for about thirty seconds, I look at Gina smile a foolish smile. "I guess I'll get that off later with some butter or something."

"I think it's sweet that you still wear it," Gina says. "You must still love her."

"Ahem. Yeah, I guess on some technical level I still do. Like 'on paper' I still love her. You know how you say 'on paper' the Leafs have the best team in the league, and then they take it up the ass all year long? It's like that. I still love her 'on paper.'"

"You sound bitter."

I shrug. "Maybe a little. Ever meet anyone with a broken heart who wasn't bitter?"

She raises her eyebrows. "Oh, she broke your heart, did she?"

I grin. "I'd tell you but I'm too bitter."

Gina laughs. "Nice."

"So what are you doing here?" I ask. "You didn't come for the show did you?"

"No," she says. "I didn't know this band was you. I'm meeting a friend and we're going to have a drink and then head somewhere else."

"You should stick around. I think our show should be worth a good laugh. We've only had a few practices with this drummer, and now he's as high as the Hubble Telescope. And Jason up there?well, you never know what will happen when Jason gets on stage."

"Like what?" she asks.

"Like me two-handing him with a bass guitar. No, I'm kidding. He's okay, but? oh, how can I put this? I wish I had spent more time auditioning him. I wish I had found someone more at your level."

Gina smiles. "I'm nothing special. I just try my best."

"Maybe. Let me know if you ever need to find new people to play with though."

"Oh, are you trying to recruit me now?"

I try and smile coyly, but I probably just look creepy. I was cute as a younger man, but in my late thirties most of my cute expressions just look sinister and disturbing. I finish the last set list and look back towards Jason, who looks like he's ready to go. "I should probably shut my mouth," I tell her. "The other Machine Within A Machine guys will probably take a hit out on me if they hear I'm trying to chat you up." I get up to go talk to Jason and Mark. "Anyway, stick around. I think we'll be starting around ten."

"Okay. I'll see what my friend thinks about listening to some stoned drumming."

"Cool." I take my notebook and head up to the stage. She said 'a friend' not 'my boyfriend,' and the difference gives me a tiny fragment of hope. Not that I have real hopes of anything happening with Gina, but the idea makes me feel warm inside. Walking towards Jason I close my eyes and try and remember an olfactory fragment of her scent, and think sweetly about burying my face into her neck.

"Here," I say, holding out a set list to Jason. He takes it and looks it over. "Does that look okay?"

"Sure," he says. "Have you got any tape?"

"No. Just put it on the stage in front of you and do your best not to trample it when you use all of your pedals. By the way, I've been meaning to ask: you barely use those things. Why do you bother stringing them out in front of you like that?"

"Because I paid for them, so I'm damn well going to have them here. Besides, they make me look like a serious player, don't you think?"

"No. Especially if someone notices you never use any of them. I used to know a guy who would play shows sitting on a stool, surrounded by twelve different guitars. We thought he was going to use a different guitar for every second song, but through his whole show he would only ever use two. Gig after gig though, he would haul out all these guitars."


"So we eventually pegged him for a poseur who just wanted to show off his guitar collection. If you want my advice, leave the ones you don't use at home."

He shakes his head and doesn't say anything, so I go to see how Mark is doing. I thought he was squatting back behind his kit, but he's nowhere to be seen. "Jason," I call to the guitar-star. "Where's Mark?"

"I don't know. The bathroom?"

"Fuck," I grumble and lay a set list across his snare drum. I turn back towards the bar, searching the crowd for Mark, but the first thing I notice is Gina talking to a tall young man, sharply dressed in a leather jacket with his hair slicked up into a demi-mohawk. Not a punk mohawk, but the trendy kind of mohawk that kids wear on American Idol. He's a good looking guy and he and Gina are standing close together talking. I see her put a hand on his cheek, and they look as though they are sharing a special, intimate moment. I feel a sinking sensation in my stomach, but try and focus. I've got a stoned and a.w.o.l. drummer to find, and we have to perform in half an hour.

I hop down off the stage and start slipping through the thickening crowd, hoping that Jason is right and I'll find Mark in the can. As I pass within an arm's reach of Gina and her male friend, I watch carefully out of the corner of my eye to see if she looks my way, but this newly arrived fellow has her full attention. The feeling sucks, to suddenly know that you have no chance with a girl, but it's a feeling that I should be used to by now.

When you're young and single, every pretty girl seems like a good option, and it seems that you could fall in love with every pretty face that walks by. Later when you get into a serious relationship and especially when you get married, you stop reacting to beautiful girls as though they are options. You still look, and you still enjoy their beauty, but unless you're a dirty, dirty dog, you don't think about getting together with them in anything more than a fantasy. Then, if it should happen that your marriage falls apart into a long, horrible battleground of sniping, undercutting and backstabbing followed by separation and divorce, you will begin to look at girls again, and the idea that you could get together with them returns. Unfortunately the little heartbreaks of learning that girls you like aren't available come back as well. But that's life: little heartbreaks scattered around the big ones.

I get to the back and find Mark at a table with half a dozen young people. "Taz!" he yells at me. "It's Taz! Come on over!"

I walk up to the table. "I'm Taz now?"

"Short for Terry like, aye mate?" Mark slaps my back. "These are me friends," he says as a way of introducing me to the motley gang sitting at the table. "This here's the leader of the band like. He's the singer."

"God, you're so old," says a redheaded girl in a hooded green jacket.

"Thanks, Ginger," I say. "I appreciate your honesty." Inside my head I continue talking. By the way Ginger: fuck you.

"No, I don't mean like, there's something wrong with you or anything-"

"Oh no," I say. "Nothing that mummification couldn't cure. Mark, we're on in half an hour or so. You'll be ready?"

He slides in close to me. "Actually Taz, I pretty stoned like, ken? I'm feeling pretty nervous, like fucked up kinda. Are you there with me, mate?"

"Don't sweat it man. Have you had anything to drink?"

"I got a pint."

"Take it easy on the booze. Once we start playing, you won't feel nervous, it'll just come easy. You're pretty baked, so don't drink too much and get all fucked up. Just be cool, okay?"

He nods, looking excited. "Cool, mate, cool. Clutch Dogs." He holds up his hand for me to grip.

I grab it and smile at him. "Just be cool man. We'll be all right. I'm going outside for a cigarette. Are you going to be here?"

"Yeah mate, I'll be here."

"Cool." I slip back out through the crowd, shaking my head at the sheer bloody rudeness of the redhead chick. Jason is talking to Gina and the guy. I decide I want nothing to do with that conversation, and walk out the front door.

To be continued?
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 7:25 am

Issue #15

I come back into the bar after a cigarette. There's a door guy now set up and he's charging three bucks a head. I stand next to him while he tries to get three bucks each off a couple of young guys coming in.

"Three bucks? Who's the band?" asks one of the guys.

The door guy, a big ox with a shaved head looks at the generic-looking poster on the wall next to him. "These guys. The Clutch Dogs."

"Are they from here?" asks the kid.

"I don't know anything about them," the big guy answers.

One of the young men shrugs his shoulders. "Do you want to bother?" he asks his friend.

"They play hard rock shit," I say. "Grungy punk type stuff, going right back to the old school. The same stuff that a lot of crappy young bands are ripping off, except The Clutch Dogs are the real deal. No fucking around. Just good music."

"You've seen them?" the kid asks.

"I'm the bass player and singer," I answer.

The two guys laugh. "Oh, well at least you're objective," he says. "All right, why the fuck not. There are chicks in here anyway." He reaches into his pocket and fishes out some loonies (Canadian dollar coins, to you yanks).

"That's right," I say. "Come for the chicks, stay for the music."

They move past me. I survey the room, trying to do a rough head count, wondering how many showed up before the door man started charging the cover at nine o'clock. At the very least we would get the three hundred dollars Bob, The Bovine's manager promised, but just on the strength of the regular crowd we might get more.

Speaking of Bob, I see him at the bar, serving drinks. I move over to the bar and try to get his attention. He nods my way when he sees me. "Whenever you're ready, Terry," he shouts over the heads of his customers.

I take my watch out of my pocket (the strap has been broken for a year or so, but I couldn't be bothered to fix or replace it). It's a quarter to ten. Time to rally the troops.

I look around for Jason but he's no longer talking to Gina and her man and I can't see him. In fact, Gina is nowhere in sight either, and it worries me that maybe she's already left. Even if she does have a boyfriend, I still want to show her what I'm capable of on a stage with my own band behind me.

I start moving through the bar and find Jason halfway back through the long narrow room, almost at the bottleneck where the bathrooms are. He's talking to a slender blonde who's probably my age. That means she must be at least fifteen years older than he is. She's holding a glass of red wine and has on a classy dress with a suede jacket. She looks sophisticated. Jason may be on the make with an older chick, but at least she looks like a proper lady. I guess I had him mistakenly pegged as a school-girl hunter.

"All set, Guitar-star?" I ask when I get close to him.

"Oh, hey man," he says. Up close I see the lady he's talking to is wearing sexy makeup and looks a bit like a retired porn star. More likely she's a divorced accountant out looking to get fucked by some young rock cock. Jason gestures to her. "Terry, this is my mom. Terry Wilson, Janine Pleasant."

"Oh, hello," I say, shaking her hand and smiling at my mistake. "I didn't expect to meet you tonight. It's my pleasure."

"I'm sure," she says with a crooked smile. "Jason's told me quite a bit about you." I assume she means that Jason has told her I'm a complete dickhole, but that doesn't matter much to me.

"I bet he has," I look at Jason: "Are you ready to go?"

He gets a look of nervous excitement on his face. "Now?"

"Sure. As soon as I grab Mark from the back."

"Okay. Should I get up there, or should I wait for you?"

His mother is looking at me with a look of what? Disgust? Amusement? Naked lust? I can't tell. "Go ahead," I tell him. "Make a little bit of noise. It should get the crowd interested."

He heads up front. I push through the crowd to the back, to the table where Mark had been hanging out with his buddies. He's there, sloppily necking with the red-haired girl. "Hey Ginger," I say to the girl. "Can I borrow your man for a while?"

The two gradually disengage and Mark looks up at me. He looks worse than before. He's got a full beer in front of him along with three empty glasses. How the fuck did he drink them so fast? Fifteen minutes ago he was on his first!

"You ready Mark?"

"Yeah, mate," he says, and slides out from his chair. Worse than just stoned, he also looks fully pissed. He starts to walk with me, but he's weaving. I grab him by the arm and stop him. "Mark, what the fuck is wrong with you? When we met at that jam you weren't all smashed."

"I was pretty skint that week," he says. "No cash like, eh?"

"Can you fucking play right now or not?" I ask him. My stomach is clenching like a squeezing fist. I'm too fucking worried to get angry.

He takes a deep breath. "Yeah, mate. I can play. I just need to use the washroom."

I go with him into the can. I start to take a leak in one of the urinals while he locks himself into the stall. Just as I get a good stream going, I hear the unmistakable splash of beery vomit into the toilet.

"Mark? Mark man, are you okay?"

He responds by retching and I hear the splashing again.

I tap off, zip up and wait. He throws up some more and grim memories of the disastrous Sarnia show come back: getting pissed, Jason puking in the alley and him, Bobby Metronome and me putting on an absolutely rotten performance, followed by Bobby attempting to walk out of the tour.

There is only silence from Mark's stall, until at last I hear his voice: "Taz?"

"Yeah man?" I stand petrified in front of the urinal.

"Taz, I've never really been in a proper band before."

"No shit."

"I played jams and stuff like, but I've no played a real gig with a proper band."

I walk with deliberate steps to the sink and begin carefully washing my hands. "Mark," I say.

"Yeah mate?"

"You can play tonight, can't you? You can go out there and play, right now."

He makes a gagging coughing noise, but after a moment he answers: "Yeah mate. I can play."

The door to the stall opens and he comes out. He stands in front of me.

"You can play," I tell him. "You are a dog now."


"What kind of dog are you?"

He wobbles slightly, and in a croaking voice he answers, "A Clutch Dog."

I feel the cheesy, melodramatic power of the moment and hold my arms open. Mark steps forward and hugs me. We hold the embrace for a moment, and the bathroom door opens. A young punk steps in, says nothing and steps around us to the urinal. From out in the bar I hear Jason strike a guitar chord. Mark and I step apart.

"It's time," I tell him.

"Aye." Mark washes his face and walks out into the crowd.

"We're not gay," I say to the young punk before I follow Mark. "It was just kind of a moment, you know?"

"Hey man, not my business," he responds.

"Right." I walk out into the bar. Mark is walking up to the stage, still a little wobbly, but looking determined. Jason is up on the stage, and the bright lights are on him. He's taken of his jacket and has on a faded black Pearl Jam t-shirt. He's striking random chords, pausing, letting the sound reverberate, and looking over the half-interested crowd with a defiant stare.

"Good stuff, Guitar-star," I say to myself. Instead of going directly to the stage I ease my way over to the bar and order three bottles of beer and ask if a staff member could bring three glasses of water up to the stage. The bartender nods and gets me the beers.

On stage, Mark has begun banging his drums, loosening up, trying a few improvised fills, battering out some sketchy rhythms independently of what Jason is doing. Jason turns and watches him. Mark falls into a straight beat, and Jason crashes out a heavy power chord in time. He hits another and another to follow Mark. The two of them sound ready, and I approach the front of the stage and set a bottle of beer down in front Jason, just next to his tangle of useless effects pedals. I walk around to get up on the stage and set a bottle down next to Mark. He nods and keeps thumping on his tiny kit.

I take a sip and step out to the fore of the stage. There's a slight response from the crowd: scattered clapping of welcome. Some people have adjusted themselves so they can see the stage, but people are hardly stampeding over to get a look at us. I want to knock 'em all flat, make sure they wouldn't dare waste their time paying attention to anything else but us. Jason and Mark are still jamming. I mouth the word, 'Runaway' to Jason and he nods, and I do the same to Mark. I raise one arm up in the air and their playing comes to a halt.

I lean towards the microphone and scream: "One-two-three-four!"

We rip in, slashing through Del Shannon's fifties rocker at double speed. It's a nice old ditty that most people remember by the cheesy way Del sings the chorus: "And I wonder?I wah-wah-wah-wah wonder?" There's nothing cheesy about the way I like to sing it: just fast, angry and as loud as I fucking can. "As I walk along I wonder what went wrong with a love a love that was so strong?" We cut out the dipsy-doodle on Jason's guitar part and keep it straight slashing, fast, fast, rough and rusty razor-edged. And people are looking. They're looking and listening.

We crash through the end of the song and there are some cheers. I look back at Mark. He pulling off his shirt and dripping with sweat. He looks a little ill, but he smiles at me.

"We are The Clutch Dogs," I state into the mike and count in again, starting 'Knuckles,' one of my originals. From there we blast through the set ridiculously fast, our nervousness and excitement driving us to play faster, with Mark playing straight boom-tat-boom-tat raucousness to cover his ignorance of some of the material. It all works brilliantly, and the audience comes around, gradually approaching towards the stage to watch the chaos. We are a brilliant disaster, and although our play is riddled with minor errors, they disappear behind the ferocity and noise.

'Dead Fingers Play,' an anthem to never quitting even after death, brings us to a close. Our set is a full ten minutes shorter than we planned, but it feels long and satisfactory to me. I'm pouring sweat as I thank the audience and acknowledge the bar staff.

The lights turn down, the house music turns up, and we start stripping down our gear. Jason's mother and some other friends come up, as well as Mark's goony friends from the back of the bar. The two of them leave the work of tearing down and start chatting about the performance. And me? I invited no friends. Most of my acquaintances are musicians, and I'm no longer in the habit of trying to get other musicians to come out to my shows. Most of them spend too much time at other people's gigs critiquing and thinking about how much better they are than the performers and don't actually just enjoy the show. What the hell, I'm guilty of it too.

We finish clearing away our kit, and eventually get all the shit loaded into the minivan. Jason and Mark want to head back in for a few more beers and I agree, even though I won't have anything more to drink. Jason's mom is still hanging around, talking to some of Jason's friends and other young men. I'm not sure how I feel about that, and I steer clear of her. I get a bottle of some weird nine-fruit juice and Jason, Mark and I toast the first gig. It seems like a success. We've gone through the five steps of the emotional roller-coaster: 1- excitement, 2- nervousness, 3- on-stage exhilaration, 4- post-performance joy mixed with relief, and 5- gear removal bitterness. Now we can just relax, hang around the bar and hope for props from the drunken punters who watched the show.

Mark and Jason drift away to hang with their friends and I end up at the bar. I entertain a fantasy that maybe Gina will show up again, but she doesn't.

Fifteen years ago a gorgeous girl came up to me after a gig in a bar downtown and told me how hot I looked on stage and how great I played. We ended up going home together and banging each other senseless all night. A year later we got married. Tonight though, I don't talk to any girls. Instead I drive home Jason and Mark, both incoherently drunk, and head back to my apartment. There have a shower and crawl exhausted into bed.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 7:26 am

Issue #16

I wake up late, about one o'clock in the afternoon. There's a nagging feeling of uselessness that I always get the day after a show, especially when I don't have another one scheduled. There's one thing that playing a rock and roll show does, and that's make you want to play another rock and roll show as soon as possible. Only thing is, The Clutch Dogs do not have any more gigs scheduled.

The show at The Bovine proved to me that we were ready to perform, and even though we definitely made plenty of mistakes, we also put on a hell of a good show. It's time, I figure, to distribute some more demos and get the word out that we're available to gig. It crosses my mind about sending some demos to some booking agencies, but I figure that can wait for the time being. I'll see how I can do without them first.

Returning the rented minivan is the only thing I have to do all day, so I eat a bowl of cereal and pick up my acoustic guitar. I tune up and start strumming a bit, goofing around with the opening of 'Jumping Jack Flash,' which I often use as a starting point when I jam by myself. I move on and work over some chords, practice fingering patterns that I don't use very often and eventually run through a few songs before I start trying to form new riffs.

I find a new line and run over it and over it, trying to find just the right chord progression, before I realize that I'm basically playing Buddy Holly's song 'Peggy Sue.' I riff on the number for a bit before I try to find something new. I fall into a fresh line and pretty soon I find that I'm doing 'Peggy Sue' again. It goes along like this for probably an hour, and five times I find myself gradually jamming back towards 'Peggy Sue.' Ultimately I give it up, run through as much of the old hit that I can remember, and think about how it would sound sped up with heavy distortion on the guitar. Not bad, maybe. I'll see what Mark and Jason think about it next time we practice. Maybe they'll suggest I give up trying to play rock clubs and start playing old folks homes.

"Hell with it," I say to no one in particular, and put the guitar back on its stand. I grab my jacket and head out the door. I run the minivan back to the company where I rented it, pay at the service desk and start walking up town. It's a long way back to my apartment, but I feel like walking and getting some air. I take Yonge Street, which runs right up through the center of downtown Toronto. Inevitably I pass a strip club and inevitably I wonder if Sheila, my soon to be ex-wife is inside doing private dances for U of T students to help pay her lawyer to make her the former Mrs. Terry Wilson.

The idea crosses my mind that maybe I should stick my nose inside, just for a laugh. I could have a beer and watch the dancers for a while and banter with them when they come around to offer me private dances. And maybe, just maybe, Sheila would really be inside. We could talk, maybe sweetly and quietly and things would be okay between us for just a little while. I could always duck out just before I felt the shittiness creeping up between us, the snappy banter that degenerates into nitpicking and sniping and sooner or later, open hatred.

I keep walking and I feel lonely. There really aren't any buddies I can call up and ask to meet for coffee or a beer. The only people I've been seeing lately are Mark and Jason, and I have to remind myself that they are band mates, not friends, and they might not appreciate hearing from me the very next day after a show. It's not like we socialize at all outside of practice.

The only thing I really have on my mind is what I can do to get this band going. I figure we'll need to record something, more than just the little demo disc that I have. We'll need something we can use to sell ourselves, something we can use for merch at our shows, when we get some. Something to sell at gigs, and hopefully something kids will like enough to rip off and put on their computer so other people could download us over the internet, which seems like nothing but free advertising to me.

The idea puts me into thinking about making a Clutch Dogs website, which seems mystical and impossible for a computer-talentless asshole like me. Maybe Jason knows something about it. I would hate to think about actually paying someone to set up a website for me. More to talk about at the next practice.

Recording again gets me to thinking. We three are clearly not studio-ready, since we need much more time in rehearsal, but damn it if I'm not an impatient sonofabitch. Probably a live recording, taken through the soundboard at a gig would work best. Simple, relatively cheap, and we could overdub whatever we needed to clean up later on. The live sound was good. Raw, ugly, and good. True rock and roll.

I get back towards my neighborhood, but I make a small detour to a guitar store about three blocks from my place. Sadly, I'm kind of a regular there, always hanging out with no cash in my pocket, fingering the guitars and never buying anything more then a replacement set of strings or a patch chord.

The bell rings when I push the door open. It's a bit dim inside, musty, and a hundred guitars hang from the ceiling like corpses in an abattoir. Corpses ready to be brought to life by eager hand.

"Hey Terry," says Leo, emerging from the back room. Leo is a big bastard, probably six-foot-four, and heavy set. He's got the big goatee and hair down to his ass pulled into a pony tail. I've seen him working as a sound tech at local shows a few times, but mostly he just works in the shop. He doesn't own the place, but he is there pretty much all the time.

"How's it going, Leo?" I ask him.

"Shit," he responds. "I hate everything. There were some kids in here after school eating chips while they were touching the guitars. I wanted to run over them with my truck. I spent half an hour wiping their fingerprints off stuff after they left. Sometimes I just want to burn this place down so I never have to come back here again. How about you?"

"Can't complain. Say, if I wanted to record a gig live through a soundboard, what do you think it would cost me?"

He strokes his goatee and thinks for a second. "Including paying for the rental of the board and paying the sound tech, it would be about five hundred bucks. Why, you got some friends that want to record?"

"Naa, I'm fronting a band. We're called The Clutch Dogs. Had a gig last night at The Bovine."

"Really? Shit, Terry, you know you're too ugly to be fronting a band. You should be standing way back behind the speakers where no one can see you. I mean god, look at you. You look like something my dog threw up."

"Jeez Leo, haven't you heard? Ugly is the new handsome, which is good news for you. You're uglier than the shit I scrape off my shoes."

"That right, Terry? Well you're uglier than a Sid Vicious violin solo."

"Yeah, but not as ugly as Sid's underwear, which is gorgeous compared to your ugly mug. God Leo, I feel sick just looking at you."

"Maybe, but not as sick as you'd feel if I showed you a mirror."

I sigh. "Anyway, trying to ignore that hideous disease you call a face for a minute, would it really be five hundred? Even for me?"

Leo sits down behind the counter and pulls a piece of strawberry licorice out of a bag. He starts chewing noisily and says through smacking lips, "Why would it be any cheaper for you? All you do is hang around here giving the clap to the local prostitutes."

"True, but ugly bastards like us have to stick together."

He shrugs. "Maybe I can make it four-seventy-five or four-eighty. Got a date in mind?"

"No, we haven't got any gigs lined up for the time being."

"Aw shit man, you're haggling with me over prices and you haven't even got anything lined up? Get out of my store."

"Heh heh. All right you metal-head piece of shit. I'm leaving." I steal a piece of strawberry licorice out of his bag and stroll out the door. "See you Leo."

"See you buddy."

I walk back to my apartment, eat a baloney sandwich, and spend another hour playing 'Peggy Sue.' Afterwards I drink a few beers and fall asleep before the sun goes down.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 7:28 am

Issue #17

I spent three days walking and riding the bus and subway all over the Greater Toronto Area dropping off all the demos I had left, thirty five in all, hitting every bar, hotel and club that I could find that has bands in to play. On Wednesday night I meet up with Jason and Mark at the coffee shop across from the practice facility. It's half an hour before our time slot, and after the last show, we need to talk about our future plans. I ask them what they know about setting up websites, and Jason goes into a long routine about what kind of shit we would have to get together to make a site that didn't look like an elementary school kid's project.

"We'd need a band logo, some photos (either snappy-looking promo shots or pictures of us performing), some media content so people could listen to song samples, merch info, upcoming dates, all sorts of stuff like that," Jason says. "There's not much point to putting up a website until we've got some content to put on it."

"So we're not quite ready for it?" I ask.

"Maybe not quite," he answers. "We could probably start with something simple and add more later, but there's not much point anyway until we've got some gigs lined up, right?"

"We could do it any time," puts in Mark. "We could just do a myspace site. They're easy and they're free. My girlfriend has one."

"That redheaded chick from the gig?" I ask. "The sloppy kisser?"

"Yeah. Oh, hey mate, I'm sorry about what she said and all." I roll my eyes.

Jason jumps back in. "I'm not sure about myspace. I heard that in the small print of the legal agreement you actually surrender all the copyrights of everything you put on your site to them."

Mark shrugs. "I don't know about that, mate. Maybe."

"Well, if that's the case we'll skip it," I say. "We can get a site some other way, can't we?"

"Sure," says Jason. "We can pay for it. And we'd either have to learn how to build a site ourselves, or pay someone to do it."

"Okay, maybe we can worry about it later," I say. "Like you said, we don't need it until we've got gigs to promote, right? For right now let's think about the show."

"It was messy," says Jason. He looks at Mark. "That wasn't very cool getting that fucked up. I'm not straight-edge or anything man, but?"

"Don't get all judgmental, Guitar-star," I say. "Remember puking in the alley before the Sarnia show?"

He leans back and crosses his arms. "Yeah, okay, but I learned from that, right?"

I shrug. "I guess. Anyway, I was thinking about the songs. We've got twelve pretty good tunes, three of which are covers, and we blasted through them in less than forty minutes. We'll need to add some more material."

"Are we always going to play them that fast?" asks Mark.

"Whether we do or we don't," I say, shaking my head, "we'll need more material either way. I know we went a bit fast because we were nervous, but I think the energy was good. We could probably use another five or six songs to push us closer to the hour mark."

"We could use my song," says Jason.

"Have you worked on singing it?" I ask.

"Yeah, a bit. We could try it today."

"Okay. We'll try it. I've got a few songs we could add as well, but we should go over them a few times at one of our places before wasting time in the paid rehearsal space trying to figure them out."

They nod. "So," I say. "Are we ready to head over?"

"There's one other thing," Jason says. He looks at Mark. Mark looks back at him, then down into his coffee. "Okay, well, it looks like it's up to me to say it," continues Jason. "We think you should dye your hair."

I laugh. "Why, because of what Ginger said the other night?"

"Her name's Sarah," says Mark.

"We just think that if we're playing for a younger crowd, it wouldn't kill you to dye your hair. Nothing crazy of anything, but you are starting to get some grey. You know, just cover up the grey. That's all."

I get a goofy grin on my face. "That's what you guys thought after the show. Terry needs to dye his hair. That's it. That's what is holding us back."

"No Taz, it's no like that," says Mark, looking guilty.

"Don't worry about it, Mark. You didn't hurt my feelings. Okay, you big babies, I'll dye my hair. Any color preferences? Purple? Green? What do you think?" Both of them say nothing, so I get up from the table. "Come on, let's get going."

We get into the practice room and try and take a run through Jason's song, which he's called "Better Off Not Knowing." It's stone-cold simple, but catchy in an early Ramones album kind of way. I would consider it filler in the set, but we work through it, setting up a pattern of verse-verse-chorus-verse-verse-chorus-chorus. Jason seems satisfied with it, although he sings it at a volume barely above a whisper into the microphone.

After running through it. Jason nods to us. "Sounds pretty good. I'll try and figure out an intro for it later."

"Maybe we could add a bridge or middle eight?" says Mark. "It's no too long like, is it mate?"

"We can figure that stuff out next week," I say. "Um, Jason, look. I know you want to sing this, what with it being your song and all, but I'm a bit?concerned about your voice."

"Aye mate," interjects Mark. "I can't hear ye."

"Maybe you and I should sing it together until you get a bit more confidence in your voice," I say. "It might help you."

He looks at me for a second with distrusting eyes, but then shrugs and looks away. "We'll talk about it next week."

We run through a bunch of our regular songs, stopping to work on parts that give us difficulty, trying to get the sound tighter. It takes us about an hour and a half, and it leaves us worn out and sweaty. Mark especially is over-heated, red in the face and wiping his forehead. The room has a standing fan, but no air conditioning.

"Should we call that a night then?" he asks after we get through the last number.

Jason and I look back and forth. He's shaking his hands, trying to loosen up clenched fingers. As we pause I can hear music penetrating the walls from the next practice room. Someone is going over David Bowie's old song "Heroes." I don't want to leave early when there are still others playing. I don't want to feel like I'm doing something half way.

"We've got twenty more minutes," I say. "We've paid for it. We might as well use it."

"What's left to play?" asks Jason.

"Let's try something new," I tell Jason. "Let me use your guitar for a minute and I'll show you how a song goes."

Jason takes his imitation Strat off and passes it to me. I set my bass down and sling his guitar over my shoulder. "Okay, I'll just run through this a bit for you," I say.

The song is complicated. The lines run rapidly up and down the scales, and I admit it's not in my usual style of straight four chord rock progressions. I let them hear the opening, move into the verse, which doesn't back off, building to what I want to be a massive explosion of a chorus, a real anthem, and in my mind I can imagine a stadium of kids pumping their fists and chanting along.

Mark begins banging along with me, just keeping time with one drumstick tapping the snare. I lose myself in it, running through another verse, another chorus before hitting the solo, which I'd been practicing for years, waiting for the perfect song to work it into. I go through the chorus again and finish.

I look at them. "Well?" I ask. "What do you think?"

"I think?" begins Jason, looking for the words, "I think it would take me quite a while to nail that."

I nod silently, but inwardly I'm very impressed; it's the first time I've heard Jason acknowledge a short-coming in his abilities, and I think it shows some maturity.

"It sounds bloody awesome," says Mark, "but, aye, I'm no sure if Jason could play it."

"I could play it," Jason says defensively. "I just don't know if I could play it like that."

We stand in silence for a moment, and I realize that I can still hear "Heroes" being played.

"You should play that," says Mark definitely, pointing at me with a drum stick.

"Yeah, and what am I supposed to do, bang a tambourine?" says Jason. "I can't play bass, you know."

"Well fucking learn then, mate," he says. "It's no too hard, is it Taz?"

I think for a moment, and then look at Jason. "I could show you. That song can use a pretty simple bass line." He doesn't look very impressed, so I shrug and say "We can think more about it. Maybe you could swing around my place some time this weekend and we could try to work on some songs, and if you want to try the bass, you can. Or I can try to teach you the guitar part for that song."

"Naw, Taz mate," says Mark. "I think you should play guitar on that one."

Jason gives him a death stare.

"We'll worry about it later," I say. "Let's just do a run through of a couple more songs and call it a night."

Mark counts us in and we run through "Knuckles" and "Rough Go," and then start putting our stuff away. Laying my bass down in its case, I realize that I can still hear the Bowie song.

"Jesus," I say. "Are they still playing 'Heroes'? That must be twenty minutes now."

"The original was pretty long," says Jason. "What, like six or seven minutes, wasn't it?"

"Yeah. They must keep going over it."

We get out of the room just as the door to the next rehearsal room opens. I peek inside and don't recognize the two guitarists, but I see that the guy behind the drums is the same drummer from Machine Within A Machine. And like every member of Machine Within A Machine excepting the lovely (but taken) Gina, I have no idea what his name is. While Mark and Jason slip away down the hall and out into the street, I poke my head inside. I nod to the drummer and say hello.

"Oh, hey Terry. How's it going?" he says, running his hands over his sweaty mop of hair.

"Good. You running in two bands now?"

"Um, kind of. This is sort of a side project until we get a full band together. Were you practicing?"

"Yeah, my band just left."

"Well hang on a minute. I'm just going outside for a smoke."

He gets out from behind his kit and the two of us head outside, while the two silent guitarists put their gear away.

The drummer is a talkative kid, maybe early twenties but confident like someone who been playing for a long time. He's mature. I like that.

"That was awesome when you and Bobby played with us at The Bovine last month," he tells me. "You're way better than our bassist. You should totally replace him in our band."

"I assume you're kidding," I say. "What's wrong with your bass player anyway? He seems okay."

"Yeah, he's okay, he just?I don't know, he just doesn't contribute that much, you know? He's an okay player, but he's just kind of blank, I guess. He's a good looking guy, and I know that helps, but he's a bit of an air-head. And he's always staring at Gina, and I know that pisses her off."

"Oh yeah. Hey, I saw Gina last weekend. She showed up at The Bovine before our show. But I think she left with her boyfriend before we started playing."

The drummer shakes his head. "Gina doesn't have a boyfriend."

"They looked pretty close," I say. "She was touching his face and shit like that."

"Well maybe," he says. "But I'm pretty sure she doesn't have a boyfriend. Anyway," he says, smiling, "I'm having a party this weekend. It's like a house-warming party. My girlfriend and I just moved into a new place. You should come around."

I shrug. "That sounds cool." He writes down the address, and thankfully put his name on it as well (his name is Matt, before I forget again). I tell him good luck with his two bands and head home, wondering if this will be another chance to cross paths with Gina.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 7:29 am

Issue #18

I look in the mirror and decide for about the hundredth time that I look like a complete asshole: a fraud, a charlatan, someone trying to pass himself off as something he is not. My face is the same: rough from thirty-odd years of the sun and the road, too many late nights and plenty of bitter mornings. It's a face that you would think would be honest, and would give you the straight goods and speak from experience. But the face is tainted by a frame of artificially colored hair. The color I picked out at the drug store turned out to be way too dark, and my mop of hair is now almost purplish black.

"I curse you, with every fiber of my being to my very last breath," I whisper, thinking of my two young band mates who had implored me to dye my hair. Jason Guitar-star and Mark the Scotsman had argued I needed to look younger and that dying my hair was the way to go. They wanted to get a younger Terry, but instead they would get a still-old Terry who now looks like a fake.

There's nothing I can do about my hair so I try to put on a half-decent shirt and some clean pants, tie up my Docs and head out the door on my way to a house party being held by Matt, the drummer from Machine Within a Machine, a guy I barely know. I guess this could be chalked up as networking, since Machine looks like a pack of hungry up and comers and it might be helpful to be friendly with them. It also doesn't hurt that their guitar playeris a sexy young thing that has my kind of attitude. Not too friendly. Hurt me baby, and I'll love you forever.

With a twelve pack of Laker Lager under my arm, I show up at Matt's door a little after nine. He's rented the third floor of a huge old house, and he and his girlfriend get the whole floor plus the attic. I ring the bell and he comes down to the landing to let me in.

"Hey Terry," he says, looking a little baked. "Hey, come on in man. Hey, I'm glad you could make it?"

"No problem man. Lot's of people here?"

"Hey, it's swinging man, swinging." I walk behind him up the stairs. He leaves a trail of pot stink behind him.

We get up to the third floor and he opens the door to what is indeed a swinging party. There's marijuana smoke in the air, some music I don't recognize playing, and the living room is full of young people. They're on every chair, sitting on the floor and standing in the open spaces. "Holy shit," I say. "Good party."

"Yeah," says Matt, who squeezes between two people to get back into his chair. "Make yourself at home, man."

I slip around the corner into the kitchen to throw a few of my beers into the fridge, but the appliance is already so jammed with bottles I can't squeeze any in.

"Well, no one will go thirsty," I mumble to myself, trying to set the case out of sight in the corner, lest anyone try to lighten my load by a few bottles.

There's a funky looking dude in the kitchen messing around with some food on the counter. He's maybe forty years old, with blonde hair in ragged dreadlocks and rough-looking, hippy-styled clothes. He smells like patchouli.

"You want to try some of these, man?" he says, smiling under droopy eyelids.

"What is it?" I ask, taking a look at the assortment of goodies spread out.

"Man, there's pot brownies, chocolate chip pot cookies, crackers with pot butter, and some left over chili con carne."

"Is there any pot in the chili?"

"Um?I don't think so."

"Okay. I'll just try a cookie."

"Cool, man."

It's a good cookie too. It has M&Ms in it and everything. I squeeze through the crowded living room, beer in one hand and cookie in the other, down a hallway to where I can see a door opening out onto the balcony. I figure the crowd might be a little thinner out there. Most of the people crowding the living room look like young bohemians, artists, musicians and the like. Several are probably students, but there's certainly no way I could talk to every person and find out who they all are. It's just too packed.

I polish off the cookie and step outside. The old house has a big wooden balcony sprouting off of its side, decorated with paper patio lanterns, wicker furniture and, predictably, lots of people. There's no space to sit, so I lean against the brick wall and pull out a cigarette.

No one pays much attention to me, and I smoke and listen to them talk. It's boring, and after I finish a cigarette and my beer I wander back in. Sad to say, but at my age I guess I don't feel very interested in wandering into a big crowd of people and making friends with them all. I'm not a good mingler. Anyway, people who are really good at mingling typically have something they want. It's hard to mingle without an agenda.

I grab another bottle of beer and take another cookie. During a space between tracks on the CD player, I hear music wafting down from the attic above. I hear an acoustic guitar and singing. I figure it might be cooler than the living room or the balcony, so I carefully step through the people sitting on the floor and make my way to the steep, narrow stairway at the back of the room. I carefully climb up to find half a dozen people sitting in a circle in the low-ceilinged attic.

Gina is there. She's the first one I notice. She's sitting crossed legged with a big old acoustic, strumming away. I see the singer of Machine Within A Machine as well. I climb up and almost have to crawl in the close space, but I find a spot to sit just outside the circle, not wanting to push my way in. There's a window open, and in the middle of the circle sits a dick-shaped glass bong, a lighter and an ashtray.

The song ends. The singer nods to Gina and says, "Do the Floyd one." Gina responds by nodding and begins to strum a simple, recognizable riff. The singer starts the line: "We don't need no education," and everybody picks up on it and sings along, "We don't need no thought control." I smile and listen as they all sing. Gina looks relaxed and beautiful. She has her hair braided and pulled back tight. She's got a tie-dyed light blue t-shirt on, and is wearing less makeup than at the shows where I'd seen her. She looks natural and fresh. She looks good. She always looks good.

We all sing through the song, which really is very repetitive, but we all put on squeaky English accents for the final chorus when the school kids sing in the original version, and it's good for a laugh.

When the song ends, the singer notices me and nods. "Hey Terry," he says.

Everyone turns and looks at me. "Hey guys," I say. "Did I miss much?"

"No, just some bad Beatles renditions," he says. "Did you smoke up?" he starts reaching for the cock-bong.

"No, I'm good. I had some of the cookies from downstairs. I'll wait for them to kick in and see where I am after that."

"Hey Terry," says Gina. "We were trying to figure out 'All Apologies' before. Do you know how the guitar part goes?"

"I know the bass part for it," I say. "I used to be in a band that covered it. Umm, can you pass me the guitar?"

She points into the corner where there's another case. "There's Matt's guitar. We can get both of them going."

"Sounds cool." I crawl over and get the cheap thing out of its case. I crawl back towards the circle with it, and while Gina helps me get it in tune, the others take turns smoking the cock, blowing their smoke out of the open window in the ceiling.

I don't know exactly how the guitar part of the song goes, but I know the gist of it and do my best. She picks up on what I'm doing and falls in line with me, getting closer to the correct way to play it. It sounds good, not exactly right, but the singer starts to sing along, rasping his voice in a half-decent Cobain impersonation. Another kid in the circle joins in, and the two them sing along.

The singers sound good, but I pay attention to Gina's guitar. Our strumming blends in together, and we begin leading each other, sliding along and intertwining the sound. It feels really nice just to play along with another competent guitarist. As much as my own guitarist Jason has improved, he's still not a relaxed, natural player. He fights it too much, trying to get everything perfect because he doesn't have the years of practice behind him. But Gina is already there: she's at the level that she can simply play without self-consciousness, unperturbed by minor errors, flowing with the sound and making the music happen.

We continue jamming, playing through a bunch of different songs, old classics, nineties grunge standards, newer shit like Green Day and The White Stripes that Gina knows and I don't. I follow her, just like she follows me when I know a song and she doesn't. People come up and down the stairs, occasionally just to smoke from the bong, but also to listen to the music and sing along.

Around eleven the crowd in the attic starts to dwindle. Eventually it's just Gina and I and Machine's singer, whose name it turns out is Wayne. I repeat it back to him about five times in two minutes trying to remember it, which makes him laugh.

Matt pokes his head up through the attic entrance. "Jesus, are you guys still up here?" He crawls up through the space and sits between Wayne and I. He grabs the bong and begins packing himself a massive bowl out of a bag of grass he pulls from his pocket.

"I didn't realize you guys were such big smokers," I say, looking at amazement at the bowl.

"Not when we play, man," says Matt.

"Actually it's more Matt's thing than anybody else's," says Gina. "Well? I guess we all smoke, just not all the time."

"Not as a routine, anyway," says Wayne.

"Jeez, sounds like my band," I say. "A couple small-timers and a heavy-weight drummer."

Matt lights up, and takes a huge hit. He covers the tip of the cock-shaped end and passes it to Wayne, who takes the next hit.

"What's going on downstairs?" Gina asks Matt.

Matt says nothing for a moment, holding the smoke in, then discharges a vast cloud of smoke, big enough to support a colony of Care Bears. "It's quiet. There's just? holy shit?" He leans back on his elbows. "Oh man, that was big. There's um?there's just a couple people left downstairs. A bunch of people left for a club."

Wayne smokes and passes to Gina, who uses the lighter to reignite the bowl. She takes a big hit and I watch as she puts her lips to the tip of the big glass cock. I notice that Wayne and Matt are watching too. Gina blows out and passes the bong to me and I finish what's left in the bowl.

"I'm getting a bit stiff," Gina announces. "You guys want to go back downstairs?"

We all creep under the low roof and climb down, finding a quiet living room. There's a girl curled up asleep in a big chair. "Hey Rachel man, wake up," says Matt, kicking lightly at the corner of the chair.

"Hmmm?" She opens her bleary red eyes and looks around, then goes back to sleep.

I go into the kitchen to grab another beer. The blond guy with dreads is still in there, watching another guy squirm on the floor. He looks pretty messed up, rolling around like a wounded caterpillar. I have to step over him to get my beer.

"Jeez, what's with this guy?" I ask the dreaded man.

"Oh man, he made the classic mistake," the blond guy says, breaking into a stoned giggle. "He ate some pot brownies and they made him hungry, so he kept eating more pot brownies. You can't do that man. You just get too fucked up. That's why you're always supposed to make two kinds of brownies: one for getting high, then some clean ones for snacking on later."

The guy on the floor made a sick groaning noise. I shrugged and left him to his fate.

Gina slips down the hall and out onto the balcony, so I step back over the floor-worm and grab a second beer for her, and head out onto the balcony, into the night air.

"Hey," I say to her. "Do you want a beer?"

"Oh yeah, cool," she says, taking it and cracking it open. "It was getting a bit stuffy up there, even with the window open. I thought it would be good to get some air."

"Yeah, good idea," I say, opening my own beer and having a long drink. Looking for a conversation starter, I tell her "You know a lot of songs."

She smiles. "I don't think I could remember any more songs now. Ohhhh, I'm starting to feel a bit too baked for playing now."

I get out a cigarette and she looks me in the eye and holds two fingers forward. She smiles a questioning smile, and I pass her the cigarette.

"Thanks," she says. "I don't usually smoke, except when I'm drunk." I light her cigarette and she takes a shallow drag. "What about you?" she asks me. "I didn't know you played guitar too."

I nod. "I started out on guitar, actually. I guess I like bass a bit better. It's what I usually end up playing in bands."

I decide to veer off topic and find out for sure about the guy she was with at The Bovine the week before. "So your friend isn't here tonight?" I ask nonchalantly.

"Which friend?"

"The guy you met at The Bovine last weekend."

"Oh him! Oh, that was my girlfriend's boyfriend. They had a big fight, and I was trying to cheer him up. They've been together like, forever." She pauses and then says "I'm sorry we didn't stay to watch your show."

"That's okay. You two looked pretty serious."

"Yeah. I wouldn't go out with him though. I'm single." She reaches down and takes hold of my left hand, touching the ring finger where my wedding ring is conspicuously absent. "You took your wedding ring off, huh?"

"Yeah." I had finally pried it off and left it on my bathroom sink before coming to the party.

"Hmm," she says. "Looks like we're both single."

"Yeah," I say, smiling.

Gina turns and flicks the cigarette over the side of the balcony. She looks inside the apartment to see that no one is looking, and then leans forward and kisses me on the lips. It's a long, involved kiss that makes me feel higher than the pot ever could. She steps back.

"Do you want to go?" she asks.

"Yeah," I say.

"Let's go back to my place. I don't live far."

"Cool." I seem to have completely lost the ability to form sentences longer than a single word.

We drink up our beers and head inside. I grab my remaining bottles and since the dreadlocked burnout has finally drifted out of the kitchen, I wrap up a bunch of the pot brownies and cookies in a piece of paper towel and toss them into the half-empty beer case.

"Thanks for the party guys," I say to the remaining crowd in the living room.

Matt, who looks on the verge of passing out, doesn't get up. "Yeah, cool man," he says. "Thanks for coming."

"I'm going too," says Gina, who starts lacing up her knee-high leather boots. "I'll see you guys at practice."

We slip out the door, down the stairs and out into the night together.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 7:30 am

Issue #19

Gina and I walk back through the city to her apartment, maybe twenty minutes from Matt's place. I'm excited, thinking about what might happen when we arrive but I play it cool. I don't want her to think I'm some punk who can't keep it together.

As we walk we munch the pot cookies and drink the beers from the case I'm carrying and we talk about what else? Music: the only thing that both of us really know and are interested in.

She tells me about the plans her band has. Machine Within A Machine has recorded an independent album, and they are ready to tour to promote it. The record sounds raw but professional, and in a couple months, when all of the shows are lined up and everything is arranged, they are going across Canada to sell the disc. It will be the biggest musical endeavor any of them have undertaken. Plus, they have the opportunity to be the first opener for El Grande Floyd Ciccone, an old time drug rocker, when he plays Toronto in the fall.

By the time we arrive at the front door of her place we're both smashed senseless, drunk and high. We manage to stumble up the stairs of the old building to her apartment. Once inside she puts on a Velvet Underground record and we relax on her couch. It's a fair sized apartment which she shares with two students from the university. There are books stacked up on the coffee tables and the place is in the general disarray that seems to follow busy young people around.

"You seem like a good guy," she tells me when we're relaxing on the couch. "Kind of clueless, but in a funny way."

"Thanks, I guess." I want to tell her what I've been thinking since I met her, that she's the kind of girl I dream about, beautiful, talented and not the goofy kind of shallow flake I usually tend to meet, but I decide it's much to soon to say anything of the sort. I just say something banal in response.

Nothing much happens until I ask to take a closer look at her tattoos. She says sure and to my surprise, pulls her t-shirt off. In a black bra she beckons me closer and shows me what she has inked on each of her upper arms. On her right arm is a Decepticon symbol, from the Transformers toys. I ask her why, and she shrugs.

"I was an eighties kid, and pretty much a tomboy, so I thought Transformers were cool. If you're a Decepticon you're a deceiver, and you hide your true form from people, unless you want to let them see the real you. That's what I try and do. I don't let people see what I'm really like unless I want them to."

On her left shoulder was a butterfly, outlined with a heart. "I was in love with someone who had a butterfly tattoo. After they were gone I got a butterfly inside a heart, so I would always remember them."

At that moment I choose to kiss her, and from there we proceed to the bedroom.

I'm not a writer by trade, and I would not like to make a fool of myself by trying to describe the inner workings of a sex act between two people. But I am a musician, and I can tell you that lying down to make love with Gina is very much like jamming with another musician for the first time. Both people are tentative, unwilling to go straight ahead. They move slowly, gradually revealing what they are capable of and what they want to play, while trying hard to pay attention to the other person's playing, and trying to guess what they want to play.

Each player does his or her best to play along with the style the other person seems to like. If your partner wants to play slowly and softly, you start out that way too, and if they want to fool around with jazzy improvisations you go along with it until you are comfortable playing together, and you can slowly move forward to playing music you both like together.

Soon you find a style that suits you both and you fall into a rhythm, letting the sound grow more complex, or maybe just faster, harder, more emphatic, and soon you have a song that's just flying forward on its own, and you and your partner are just trying to keep up with the spontaneous magic of the moment. You finally let the song built to a grand crescendo, a mind-blowing culmination of the talent of two individual players who have spend their adolescence playing alone in their bedrooms, coming together to make a stunning piece of music that once completed could never be played again in just the same way.

Of course, sometimes when you try to jam with a stranger, the styles of the two musicians don't mesh and the whole thing sounds like shit. Thankfully making love to Gina was like the former kind of jamming, not the latter.

In the morning I wake up alone and hung over in a bed so narrow I can't believe two people managed to sleep in it. In the morning light I see clothes on the floor, some of which are mine, a dresser with books stacked on top, and in the corner, Gina's guitar. I fork through the clothes until I find all I brought with me and get dressed.

Venturing from the room I meet one of Gina's roommates. She's a small, very young-looking girl who, were it not for her large breasts, I might have mistaken for a fourteen year old. She's sitting in the living room eating a bowl of cereal wearing a black tank top and pajama bottoms. She has red hair in shoulder length dreads and a silver stud in her bottom lip. The look she gives me is unwelcoming and suspicious.

"Hi there," I say to her. "Um, have you seen Gina?"

"She's in the shower," the girl says.

"Oh. Okay. Do you mind if I grab at drink of water or something?"

"The kitchen's in there," the girl says, making a barely perceptible nod of her head toward a door.

"Thanks," I say, and leave the girl to her breakfast. Inside the messy kitchen I have to wash a glass to get a drink, and I decide I might as well stay in Gina's room until she gets out of the shower. Not much point in trying to hang out with the roommate, I figure. She looks as mean as a snake.

I lie back down on Gina's bed and after about twenty minutes she comes in, a towel wrapped around her.

"Oh, hey Terry," she says. "You're still here." She doesn't really pause to let me respond before she continues, saying "Look, it was cool you came around last night and everything. I really needed to get laid. I just hope you don't think it's a big thing or anything. I don't want to get all involved or anything like that, you know? I'm just trying to focus on music right now. I hope that's cool with you, because you do seem like a cool guy and all."

I nod. "Yeah, that's all right. Um, I hope I see you again sometime, but I understand what you mean. I'm focused on my band right now too."

"That's good," she says, still holding the towel tightly to her, apparently not wanting to give me another view of her naked body. "You know, we might need someone to come with us on the road to split some costs. If you guys are ready, it might work out."

"Okay. Should I call you about that?" I ask, getting up off her bed. I've already been brushed off, so there's no point in sticking around much longer.

"No," she says. "Call Wayne instead. He does more of the organizing and stuff. Um, you guys don't have anything recorded, do you?"

"Not yet," I say, even though everybody knows the words 'not yet' really mean 'no, not at all.'

"Well, even so, give him a call sometime. Um, I've got to get dressed and get ready to go, so if you wouldn't mind?" She trails off, but the message is clear.

"Sure," I say. "Hey, I had a great time last night. I'll see you around, okay?" She nods, and I slip out the door, get my boots on, and with a friendly word to the cereal eating devil in the living room, I get my ass out of there.

When I get home I go straight to the phone and call up Jason and then Mark. With both of them I lay down the law. We need to get road ready with a full set of tight, quality shit, and we need to get it recorded, printed and ready to sell. We need to be fully, one hundred percent road-worthy in one month if we have any hope of hell of going on the road with Gina and Machine Within A Machine.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 7:31 am

Issue #20

Jason and I make plans for him to come around my place on Sunday. He's going to take a crack at learning bass so that I can play guitar on one of our songs. Jason has never been to my place before, except seeing the front door. As I sit eating Lucky Charms, I look around the little living room and try and decide if I should bother cleaning it up. Except for a beat up old couch, a coffee table and a television sitting on an old kitchen chair, there isn't any furniture. And yet there seems to be piles of junk all over the place. The coffee table itself serves as my business office, mostly stacked with overflowing ashtrays and legal papers related to my divorce. Guitars rest in the corners with tangles of cords and other accoutrement. Empty cookie boxes and cigarette packs litter the room.

I decide to give the place a cursory tidying. Of course, as soon as Jason walks in, the condition of the apartment is the first thing he comments on.

"Jesus, Terry," he says, standing inside the door holding his guitar in its case. "You live in filth."

"It's not that bad," I say. "Come on in. I bet your place is worse anyway."

He takes off his jacket and tosses it onto the couch. "No, my place is pretty nice. Then again, my mom does most of the cleaning."

"Hey yeah," I say, returning some dirty dishes to the sink. "What's the deal with your mom anyway? I mean, it was cool of her to come to our show and all that, but I was a little surprised that she hung around as late as she did."

"Yeah," he says. "She likes to come out and party."

"How old is she anyway?"

"She's almost forty. She was a teenager when she had me."

"Was your old man around?" I ask.

Jason sits down on the couch. "He was for a few years. I've met him a few times since I was a little kid. He doesn't seem like anything too special. I don't think I missed out on a lot not having him around, you know?"

"Yeah. Hey look, I'm sorry man. I didn't mean to get into a whole thing?"

"No, it's okay," he says. "Do you want to get started?"

"Yeah." I grab my bass. Jason pulls out his guitar. "Um, Jason, I guess you really didn't need to bring your guitar, did you? I mean, you're going to play bass today, right?"

"You didn't want to warm up or anything?"

I shrug. "Yeah, I guess." Jason is sitting on the couch, so I set the television on the floor and pull the kitchen chair up so we're opposite one another. He has his electric guitar and I've got an electric bass. Neither of us is plugged in. We sit looking at each other for a long silent moment.

Without either of us playing a note I ask him, "You warmed up yet?"

"Okay, yeah." He sets his guitar aside.

"All right, now watch this," I tell him. "Simplest shit there is, moving from guitar to bass. Four strings instead of six and you only ever need to hold one string at a time. No chords, right? Just single notes." I thump on the simple bass line from 'Rocking in the Free World' to prove my point.

"The only difference," I continue, "is that the strings are way thicker, so you need to press harder to hold them down. Okay, are you ready?"

"Yeah." I pass the bass to him and he starts plucking at the fat strings. I pick up my guitar.

"Now," I say to him, "Do you want to start with something simple you already know, or do you just want to try the new song?"

We take a crack at the new song, the big anthem I played for Jason and Mark at the last rehearsal. I show him what he should do, and slowly play along so he can try and learn how to do each part.

"This is harder than I thought it would be," he eventually comments. The notes sound farty when he plays them because he's not pressing hard enough on the strings.

After an hour he really hasn't progressed as far as I thought he would. He's getting frustrated and swears constantly, but I surprise myself by remaining very patient and calm. Maybe it's because I'm still preoccupied with the debacle with Gina from the other night. Or maybe it's out of sudden sympathy for Jason knowing that he, like me and just about everyone else I know, came from a broken home.

"Fuck!" Jason shouts, muffing another try. "The strings are so fucking far apart!"

"Yeah, but don't get worked up man. Shit, I think that's enough for today, don't you? Let's just have a beer and chill out."

I take a couple of beers out of the fridge and hand him one. I open up a few windows and grab a cigarette.

"Can I have one too?" he asks.

Knowing he's frustrated, I let him have one. I would still rather not though, worrying about him smoking as a habit. "It's a different instrument," I tell him. "Nobody nails it on their first try. The theory transfers from guitar, but it's not exactly the same thing."

"Yeah, but one hour and I still can't get through one song? That sucks."

"The thing is," I say, "you've only heard the song once before, so you've got nothing to grab onto. If you had heard the song a bunch of times you would know when you played something right and you would latch onto that, you know? Then eventually you would fill in the parts in between. Trying to learn a complicated song cold on an instrument you'd never played before and getting it right on the first try? Man, nobody can do that."

"Yeah, I guess so."

"Don't worry about it." The phone rings and I get up to answer it. It's the manager of a club in the city calling, offering us a line-up spot a few weeks down the road with some other local groups. I wave to Jason and mouth the words 'bar manager' to him. He watches me expectantly.

"Yeah, we can totally do that?Okay. Just let me grab a pen?Yep, sounds good. Cool. Thanks for calling." I hang up.

"Okay," I tell Jason. "We've got a gig."

"Where? When?" He looks giddy.

"At the Strathmore, three Wednesdays from now. Look um, I want to record the show."

"Man," he says, shaking his head, "if you want to record something, why don't we get into a studio? Nobody has a live album for their first album. We'll look like freaks. And what if it sounds like shit? Or nobody cheers? Do you want to have a live album with nobody clapping or cheering between songs?"

I sit back down. "Look, no offence Jason, but I'm tempted to break out the p-word again. First of all, if we tried to record something album length in the studio it would take a couple of days, bare minimum. That would cost a butt-load of money. We can do a live recording through the sound board for maybe five hundred bucks, and then edit and mix it afterwards. Hell, we could probably get Bobby to do that part for us for nothing. If something sounds like shit, we can either clean it up with overdubs, or just cut the track."

I get up and walk around the room. "Jesus Christ!" I shout. "You're worried about whether or not people cheer? Who gives a fuck if they cheer or not? We have to worry about how we sound, not how the crowd sounds. And we better sound like we're fucking ready, I'll tell you that. If we've got songs that aren't clean by the time the show comes around, we don't play them. I want to go in there and sound perfect, all right? None of the amateur-hour shit like last time."

"I thought you said we sounded good last time," he says.

"We sounded good for a band who only half-way knew their own material. And we'll have to get a real drum kit for Mark as well, whether we borrow one, or rent it, or whatever. I don't want to take any risks this time."

He nods. "We'll have to keep Mark from getting all fucked up. No pot this time."

I shrug. "Not until afterwards, anyway."

Jason looks meekly at the electric guitar lying next to him on the couch. "Terry?" he says softly.

I'm pacing, thinking. "What?"

"Would you um?would you help me sing that song of mine?"

I stop and look at him. "Did you want to play that song at the Strathmore?"

He looks around the room. "If it's ready, yeah, maybe."

I sit back down and pick up the bass. "Okay." He's a cocky kid. I know he's embarrassed asking me for help and I don't want to discourage him. I wonder if he ever got to ask his dad for help with anything. Probably not, I figure.

I tell him the get the words to the song out so I can read them. We play it through and he sings. He's very soft. His voice sounds fragile, lacking confidence. I set my bass down and grab my acoustic.

"I'm going to play what you play," I tell him. "We'll both sing. Try to sing as loud as I do."

We play it again, and I sing, no louder than a regular speaking voice, and he pushes to sing as loud as me. It sounds better. He's in key, just quiet. The last chorus repeats itself a few times, and I get louder and louder, saying "Come on, push it," when he doesn't match my volume.

We get to the end, and he says, "Yeah, that sounds better."

"Do you want to do it again?" I ask, and we play and sing through it three more times. When he sings alone he quiets down, so I keep singing.

Eventually he puts his guitar back in the case. "That sounds pretty good." He gets his stuff and gets ready to leave. It feels very positive, like things are going to come together.

At the door he stops. "Maybe at practice this week we should both sing that one together," he says.

"That sounds okay with me." He nods and leaves.

I take another sip of my beer, and then call Mark to tell him about the Strathmore show. When I hang up on Mark, I decide I need to call Bobby Metronome.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 7:32 am

Issue #21

"You're an idiot, Terry." Bobby Metronome pours a bit more rye whiskey into his coke. "I thought you were past this amateur shit, you know? This is what teenagers do. It's okay for kids, man, because they're just figuring it out, but you man? Shit, how old are you, thirty-seven? Why are doing this to yourself?"

We're sitting in my apartment. He swishes the booze around in his glass and takes a sip. I don't say anything. I sit with my arms folded, watching him through angry slits of eyes.

"What's the point man?" he continues. "I don't see the point of anything you're trying to do. You're totally putting the cart before the horse. You want to record your second gig with these kids? Then take them on a cross-Canada tour? What are you trying to prove? It's not going to do you any good, man. You're just going to burn money and make a fool out of yourself doing it."

He waves his arm, gesturing to my small, dirty apartment. "I mean, look at this place. You've got to get your life together. No shit, no word of a lie, you'd be better off getting a job in a shoe store or Seven Eleven or something like that than trying to make it like this. At least then you'd be getting five or six hundred bucks a week. You know you're not going to get any money on tour. You're going to waste money, and it's pretty clear you don't have much of it to throw around.

"This is all about Sheila, isn't it?" He looks at me, waiting for me to respond, but I just sit, waiting for him to get on with his rambling assault on my life and schemes. He shakes his head. "I'm serious, Terry. I know it sounds shitty, but this really is pretty transparent. You and Sheila split up, and you revert to this spoiled kid, who just wants to walk at the door and become a star or something. It's like you want to turn your life around so you have something to shove in her face, like 'Hey Sheila, look at me, I'm a big star now, and you were the one holding me back! Aren't you stupid for dumping me? I'm Terry Wilson. I'm the singer for The Clutch Dogs!' Man, you're clutching at straws."

I light a cigarette, but I still don't say anything.

Bobby takes a deep breath and slows down a bit. "Okay, look man, I'm sorry," he says. "I don't mean to just shit on everything. But you've got to give this whole thing some more thought. You guys aren't ready. You aren't ready to go on a big tour like this. You've got to spend some time gigging, getting your act really tight and building up some kind of name. You're going to go on this tour and nobody's going to know who the hell you are. Worse yet, you're the opening act for a bunch of nobodies. Do you think anyone outside of a couple of bars in Toronto knows who Machine Within a Machine is?"

He shakes his head. "I think you were better off before, when you were just playing in the cover bands, man. At least then you were getting paid. I know it was nothing big, but you were getting some income off it. I'm surprised you're not starving right now.

"The worst thing is," he continues, "is I feel like I encouraged you by going on tour with you last time. I was just doing it for a goof, you know? I thought it would be a laugh. Have a good time, relive the old days a bit. I didn't think you were really going to keep at this like you are now." He takes another drink and looks at me. "Jesus, Terry. Aren't you going to say anything?"

I shrug and take a drag on the cigarette. "I don't know, Bobby," I say, exhaling the smoke. "I can't disagree with anything you've said. You're right. You're the one who knows all about making it big. You've made it so big you can afford the luxury of sitting in your big house that's paid for, playing rock and roll when you feel like it. You can sit and write stories about space-men and monsters and shit and pretend to take yourself seriously."

I look around my little apartment "What about me? You're right, I'm in my thirties and I'm still living out the adolescent fantasy of being a star in a rock band. And yeah, I am going to take a couple of young guys on the road across the country. You're right, nobody will know who we are, and you're right, we probably won't make any money. And maybe I could make better cash working in a shoe store. But do you know what? I don't want to work in a shoe store. I want to play in a band. And I'm going to do it, even if I end up falling flat on my face, completely broke. A couple of months from now I might be banging on your door asking to sleep in your heated garage. How will you like that?

"But I'm doing it anyway, Bobby. I guess it was foolish to invite you over here to ask for your help or your advice. Maybe I'd be better off without you, trying to do this on my own. You don't seem to be very interested in helping me out, except to tell me my head's up my ass. Well, it smells better up my own ass than it does in the real world, so I'm just gonna keep my head up there."

Bobby nods, looking humble from my speech. "You do what you have to do," he says. "I'll help you if I can, just tell me what you need. I just don't want to see you any worse off than you are now. Seriously Terry, you've got to think like a grown up. If you keep going the way you're going, what's going to happen? Are you going to lose your apartment because you can't make rent? Are you going to end up in the street? You should think about that, man. If you're doing this to try and show up Sheila, think about how it'll look if you end up in rags."

Two and a half weeks later, Mark, Jason, Bobby and I are at The Strathmore. We're scheduled to be the second band. Another group of relative unknowns (to me anyway) are opening, then The Clutch Dogs, then some locals heavyweights called Fledgling. I arranged it with the bar to have Leo, my friend from the guitar store run the sound board for us instead of their own guy. Leo sets it up to record us. It all looks set.

Jason, Mark and I are wired tight. We rehearsed the hell out of our set and got as solid as we could. We got what we thought was a great set ready, including our new songs: the song of Jason's for him and me to sing together, as well as the one that I would play on guitar with Jason playing bass. We feel ready for it. After Jason had a couple more practices on the bass he really picked it up and got tight on it fast. He can only play the one song, but he can play it well.

Jason and I were also all over each other and all over Mark about staying as clean as we could. No drinking before the show, and we picked up Mark early in the afternoon so we could keep him from smoking half a bushel of weed like he did at our first show.

The other thing I did was call up everyone I know, whether I liked them or not, and asked them to come down to the show. Since we were recording it, I wanted a good crowd that was on our side. I even called a lot of the people that I hung around with when Sheila and I were together.

Bobby, who didn't know Mark at all, let the Scottish kid use a spare drum kit that he had at home. I honestly don't know how much money Bobby made when he was with Tremors of Intent for all those years, but I guess he's got enough money that he has a couple complete drum kits. I guess he's doing pretty well for himself, anyway.

The four of us are sitting in the long, narrow front area of the bar, which is more like a restaurant. In the big back room the openers are playing, and people are drifting in that we know. Mark's girlfriend, the redhead named Sarah arrives with a bunch of his other friends, plus his druggie friends from the flophouse where he lives. A bunch of Jason's buddies show up. I figure his mom is bound to put in an appearance as well.

Bobby and I stay at the table while Jason and Mark socialize with their cronies. We managed to put our spat behind us, like we always do sooner or later, and he's being very supportive. He hasn't heard us play, but he picks up on my positive vibe and figures everything will go well. I'm laughing and having a good time until some of my own 'friends' start to show up.

The first to arrive is Beth, a girl that Sheila used to dance with. It wouldn't take a genius to peg her as a stripper, or a former stripper at least. She's tall and statuesque, with long brown hair, a perfect face and big boobies (fake-looking, but in a good way). When she sees me she comes up and gives me a big hug.

"How have you been Terry?"

"Good," I tell her. "I've been real busy, you know, trying to get this band together for the last while."

"That's great," she says. "So, have you talked to Sheila lately?"

"No, not really. I talked to her on the phone a few weeks ago, but it's usually just business when we talk, you know what I mean? Just trying to settle things." I have to be careful what comes out of my mouth, since I figure everything I say will go straight back to Sheila.

"Did she tell you she's dancing again?" Beth asks.

"No, but I figured she would be. She said as much at some point, I think."

Beth nods. "Yeah, she's dancing at The Bronze Room. I guess she's doing some other stuff too, but I'm not sure if I'm supposed to talk about."

"Okay, well, don't talk about it then."

She laughs, and after some other empty chit-chat, she gets up to get a drink. It's only a few minutes before another 'dear old friend' shows up at my table. This time it's a sleazy fucker named Billy. I never liked Billy, but I called him and invited him out anyway, because I figured I needed to fill the room with bodies. I wouldn't mind it if Billy was a dead body though.

"Hey, Terry you old bastard, what's happening?"

I make pleasantries, but it takes the guy no time at all to start spreading the shit about Sheila again, just like Beth.

"Hey, did you hear Sheila's doing some movies now?" he says. "She's doing like, internet videos. You know, porn stuff."

"What?" I look at the guy like I want to wrap my hands around his throat for telling me this, but he keeps talking anyway.

"Yeah, I guess there's a demand for hot women around her age for like, MILF videos and stuff like that. I guess she's just doing it all too, like hardcore and everything. I downloaded some of them, just because I couldn't believe it, but there she was, you know, just getting nailed all over the place by these?"

I get up so fast I almost knock the table over. "Billy, what the fuck are you telling me this shit for? Do you think I want to hear this shit? Jesus Christ, I've got to play a show in half and hour and you're telling me this shit?"

He backs up. "Whoa, Terry man, I figured you'd want to know! You know, if my wife was doing all that stuff, I'd want to know about it."

"What the fuck are you thinking, you asshole? She's not my fucking wife anymore! And if I hear you say one more goddamn word?"

"Hey, calm down man. If she's not your wife anymore, why get upset about it? Shit man, you should check it out, anyway. She's really doing some heavy stuff man, and it's pretty hot."

I reach to grab the front of his shirt but Bobby grabs me and holds me back. "Come on man, let it go," he says to me. "Let's go outside for a few minutes." He almost has to pick me up to move me, but he gets me to the door. I keep staring back at Billy, who acts really nonchalant, like he can't figure out why I'm mad.

"I swear to got that I'm going to jam a broken bottle in that prick's face before the night is over," I tell Bobby.

"Forget it man," Bobby says. "This is your life now. You're not with Sheila, anyway. You'll have to deal with this stuff, so just start dealing. Don't let that idiot ruin your show. Just think about the show."

I light a cigarette. My hands are shaking I'm so pissed off.

"Just remember," Bobby says to me. "People will tell you what Sheila is doing. But when they tell her what you're doing, make sure they tell her you're in a great fucking rock and roll band. That's what you have to focus on right now. Playing great rock and roll."

I nod. "Yeah. Thanks Bobby." I take a deep breath. "We're gonna blow the roof of this fucking place."
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 7:33 am

Issue #22

The first band finishes. After their gear is off the stage we get up and throw together our equipment. Bobby helps Mark set up his kit. I'm pleased to see Jason hasn't bothered with his usual spider web of patch cords and pedals, but I'm still bitter and angry over the news that my wife is now doing internet porn. I'm even angrier that some prick would choose tonight to tell me the news.

Jason's the one that notices the scowl on my face and asks if anything's wrong.

"Some guy was talking shit about my ex," I tell him.

"Oh." He looks like he doesn't know what to say. "Are we going to kick his ass?"

"Maybe, but not until after the show." We finish getting everything set up, figure out the mikes, confer with Leo about the sound and the recording, and hop off the stage to wait five minutes until our appointed starting time.

Since we've all stayed clean and sober, Mark asks if we can have one beer each, just to toast, or something like that. I look at Jason and he shrugs, so I say sure, why not. I head to the bar and buy a round, and when I bring the beers back I see that Billy, the prick who was telling me about Sheila's internet escapades is standing with the band. I grit my teeth but decide not to lose my cool. I walk up and pass the beers to the boys. I don't even look at Billy while we clink the bottles together and have a drink.

"Hey Terry man, I'm sorry if I made you upset before," says Billy. "I didn't think it would be such a big deal, you know? After all, Sheila's done that stuff before, you know like, everybody knows about it, right? So I thought I was just talking about what's going on, like catching up, you know?"

I look at Billy and through clenched teeth I manage to clearly say: "I don't want to talk about this. This is not my business. I do not want to know what Sheila is doing, and I want you to get the fuck away from me."

Billy gets pissy and shouts, "Well fuck you then! Jesus, you invite me here to see your shitty band, and all you do is give me shit! Fuck you Terry, you're an asshole!"

He starts to walk away and I step forward and swing a heavy kick into his ass, which sends him lurching forward into the crowd, bumping people and spilling drinks. Bobby steps forward and pushes me back into Jason and Mark, separating me from Billy. Billy spins around and Bobby is there in his face, pushing him toward the back of the room, clearing him away while everybody stares and chatters about what just happened. That's when I notice that Matt and Wayne, the drummer and singer from Machine Within a Machine are in the crowd.

Jason and Mark are holding me by the arms, I guess expecting that I'm going to go flying after Billy to try and kill him or something. "Let go of me," I tell them. "It's all right. I'm cool."

They let me go. I check my watch and see that it's time to get started, so I push my way through the crowd to check with Leo at the sound booth. Some people talk to me, ask me what happened, but I ignore them and keep repeating, "It's all right, it's all right."

"Jesus, what the hell was that?" Leo asks as soon as I get close. "Did you just kick that guy in the ass?"

"Yeah, but don't worry about it," I say. "He's an old friend. Are you ready?"

He nods. "Yeah, it's all good here. I'll start recording as soon as you guys step on stage."

I go back to where Jason and Mark are standing by the stage stairs. Bobby appears from out of the crowd.

"Nice one, Terry," he says. "He'll be sitting funny for the rest of the night."

"Where is he?" I ask.

"I moved him to the front room, but he'll be able to get back in. Don't worry about it. I'll keep an eye out for him. Just get up there."

"Right." I look at Jason and Mark. "You guys ready?"

Without speaking, Mark jumps up the stairs and gets behind the kit. Jason and I follow him up, and because the room is full of our friends, there is a round of cheering when we step into the lights. There is also a sense of uneasiness in the room, a feeling of unpredictability borne from the fact that I kicked a guy in the ass only moments before starting the show.

I count in the first song and we start, going fast and hard into 'Knuckles.' We get through to the end of it and a big cheer goes up, but from the back of the room I hear one lone, long "Boooooo." I know it's Billy.

We play 'Rough Go' and I hear the boo again during the audience applause. I ignore it and introduce the band. Jason is giving me a worried look, but I look hard at him and say "It's okay. Let's just play."

Three more songs go by, and I can hear booing between every one. Jason and I take a quick second before starting the next one to get in tune and he says to me, "Man, that guy is fucking this all up! We're recording this! What are we going to do?"

"Don't worry about it. I'll take care of it."

I turn back toward the audience and immediately hear the boo again. "Boo all you want," I say into the mike. "I'm not going to stop calling your mom."

The crowd laughs, but he keeps booing. "All right," I say. "I'll buy a pitcher of beer to whoever brings me that guy's severed head. ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR!"

We start 'End of Us' and as predictable as can be, Billy keeps booing. I can even hear him while we're playing. I look at Bobby standing near the stage and I yell at him, well away from the mike so the whole room doesn't hear: "Go kill that asshole."

Bobby shrugs and gives me a look like, "What the fuck am I supposed to do?" But he wanders off into the crowd.

We finish the song, and the cheering is lessened. The booing is confusing the crowd, putting it off of cheering. This time I can hear Billy screaming at the back, "Terry's wife is a MILF! MILF! MILF! MILF!"

A few people laugh and start cheering 'MILF' along with him, but I count off again and we start Jason's song 'Better Off Not Knowing.' Jason steps up to sing but he's nervous and thrown off by the booing and he can barely croak out the words. I end up carrying most of it. He doesn't even bother with the last chorus and I sing it alone.

This time there's no booing, and I figure either Bobby found Billy and pushed him out the doors, or Billy's throat gave out from heckling us too much. Regardless, I count into the next song and we play through the next half dozen songs, although we are definitely not playing at our best level.

The last song we had on our set list is the new song, which I had called 'Time For You And Me.' Jason takes my bass and I strap on his guitar. He takes a moment to find his fingering. I look at him. He looks shaken but still okay. I look back at Mark, and the Scotsman is red-faced and sweaty, but otherwise he looks fine. I nod to them, turn to the audience and count in the song.

We crash into the first chord and god help me I will never be able to explain this, but at that second the stage lights go out. Mark and Jason immediately stop playing, and I quit a moment later.

"Oh, what the fuck?" Jason says loud enough for it to go out through his mike. There's a laugh from the crowd and a cheer that falls somewhere between support and mockery. In the dim light I can see the sound guy from the bar rushing up to the stage to find the problem. He plays with some cables for a minute. I shout down to him and he says he doesn't know what the problem is.

I shake my head. "Cursed," I mutter under my breath. "Doomed before we stepped on stage." I clench my fists and step up to the mike. "All right people," I say to the audience. "Did you come here to see us or to hear us?"

There's a cheer. I call to Jason and Mark and ask them if they can play the song in the dark. Mark says no problem, but Jason hesitates.

"I don't know," he says.

"Do your best, okay?" I say. "I just want to get through this and get off this stage."


I turn back to the mike and announce "We're going to try this one in the dark." There's another cheer. I count us in, and we plow muddily into the song. It goes badly.

I want to say that I have faith in Jason and I don't blame him for what happens. He only learned to play bass a few weeks earlier, and is really not experienced enough to play the song without being able to see his hands. Having said that, he makes a mess of the song, missing changes, playing wrong notes and generally falling out of time enough to screw up Mark and me as well. We force our way through an absolute clunker and the lights come up just in time for Mark to do a big final roll on the drums. We finish the song and our horrible set.

There was cheering and clapping and we tear down our stuff before getting off stage. When we finally mix with the crowd, people are supportive and tell us that we were good. I know there's a lot of sugar-coating going on. I go to the back of the room and look for Billy, not sure what I'll do if I find him. Bobby catches up with me and says that the bouncers threw Billy out. I nod. I don't say anything and go to get a drink.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 7:34 am

Issue #23

I get a beer and take a long drink standing at the bar. Someone tugs at my elbow. I turn and see that it's Wayne from Machine Within A Machine.

"Hey Terry," he says. "Pretty good show."

"Yeah, not really," I say. "That was bad. I mean, can you ask for anything worse than the lights going out on you? That was ridiculous"

"Heh, It was funny with the lights at the end. I'm glad that wasn't us up there."

I shrug and have a sip. "Well, I guess if something's going to go wrong it'll all go wrong. What can you do?"

"Yeah, exactly, what can you do? So anyway, Gina said you guys would be interested in coming on the road with us next month. Are you still into it?"

I almost spit my beer. "Are you kidding? You still want to go on the road with us after watching that piece of shit show?"

He raises his eyebrows in surprise. "Oh. Um, I didn't think it was all that bad really. I mean, yeah, you had that nutcase booing half the time and the lights went out on you, but you kept playing through it all. And you guys are pretty good. It's not like the lights went out because you sucked or anything, right? This is just a shitty bar. They need to figure out their wiring. Your band sounded good. That's what matters, right?"

I take a drink and nod.

"Besides," he says, "Gina really thinks you guys would be a good fit for us, even though Bobby's not playing with you. It would be awesome if you still had Bobby, but even so, yeah, we'd be happy if you guys came with us."

"Okay," I say. "Yeah Wayne, we'd be happy to come. I'm ready to hit the road. Do you want to talk details right now, or do you want to do it later?"

"Give me your number and I'll call you tomorrow, if that's cool."

"Sure." I give him my contact information. We shake hands, and he heads back into the stage area to watch Fledgling, the closing band.

The next person to talk to me is Leo, the sound guy. He looked somber.

"Well, I've got the tape," he says. "The sound is clean, but you'll have to give it a listen. And I hope you learned an important lesson tonight."

I smile. "Yeah? What lesson is that?"

"Wait until after your set to kick a guy in the ass. I'm pretty sure you can hear him booing on the recording."

I nod. "Yeah, I figured as much. Fuck it. We'll listen to it and see if we can salvage something."

I had paid Leo in advance using my credit card, so he feels no obligation to stick around. He tells me to stop into the guitar store soon so we can give a listen to the tape and see about a mix.

I head to the back. Jason and Mark are hanging around with their friends. They look depressed, so I walk up and ram into Mark with my shoulder. He turns on me like he's ready to punch someone out, but when he sees it's me, he gives a weak smile.

"Aye, Terry. All right?"

"Sure, bitch. I've got a question for you."

He shrugs. "Okay."

"You ready to take this fucking show on the road?"

His eyes light up. "Serious like?"

I smile and nod. "Serious. Machine Within a Machine wants us for their tour."

Jason leans in. "Really?"

"Yeah, can you believe that? I guess they like bands that get booed. And really, who doesn't like bands that get booed? All the best bands get booed. Shit, I wouldn't even bother listening to a band that didn't have someone booing them."

"Yeah, cut the shit, Terry," Jason says. "We're really going on tour?"

"Yeah, all the way across Canada. Vancouver and back, as far as I know."

Mark looks at my beer. "We've got to get drunk to celebrate."

"Sure, but we should probably start looking after our money," I tell them. "Touring is not going to be cheap, and I'm not sure how much money we're going to be making. Besides, we're already well in the hole after paying Leo to record us."

"I thought you already paid Leo," says Jason.

"I did, with my credit card. That counts as band money, as far as I'm concerned, and I want to see that money back. I'm not rich, guys."

Jason nods. "Yeah, I gathered that from your apartment."

We have a few beers and get our shit out into Bobby's truck. He drives us home, and Bobby and I trade road stories for Jason and Mark, who are giddy about the prospect of the open road.

The next day I get all the details from Wayne on the phone. They have eighteen shows planned, twelve on the way west, then six on the trip back. We'll share expenses when we can, but since seven people and two bands worth of gear in a single vehicle would be impossible, The Clutch Dogs will need to supply our own transportation. He gives me all the dates and as many details as I'm willing to write down. We have three weeks before we leave. Machine Within a Machine is booked for an opening slot for El Grande Floyd Ciccone at Mackenzie Hall two months down the road, so they'll have to back in Toronto for that. It all sounds good.

After I get off the phone I take some time to get myself cleaned up, shower and shave, and nicely dressed in a black collared shirt and khaki slacks. I try to look my very best. When I'm as ready as I can be, I walk out of my apartment and begin the walk up Yonge Street to The Bronze Room where Sheila is dancing now.

The Bronze Room is considered one of the classier peeler joints in the city. It's right at the heart of the city, and it attracts the upper-scale clientele. Sheila probably does pretty well there, making a lot of cash off of private dances for corporate sleaze-bags and real estate investors. Bankers on their lunch breaks and brokers trying to impress clients probably put a hundred bucks an hour into her pocket.

I never minded Sheila being a stripper. It turned me on when I first met her. I like the idea of having a girlfriend, and later a wife whose career was based on being as sexy as she could be: sensual, erotic, but still professional. Now she's a little older, and I know she's probably struggling to keep it up. I pity the idea of her trying to make a comeback at this type of career. It seems very short term to me. There's a parallel to my own situation of course. Young people don't want to see an old lady shaking her saggy ass on a stage. Why would they want to watch an aging nobody like me try to act sexy and bad-assed on a stage at a rock and roll show? In the end, girls like her end up dancing for bikers at rat-holes near the airport and guys like end up hosting jam night at the flea-bag motels. We're both trying to stage comebacks in careers generally reserved for younger people.

I walk into The Bronze Room. After the glare of the late afternoon sun it takes my eyes a moment to adjust before I can see back into the room. It's like a big cavern lit by stage lights and black light. I'm greeted by a burly bouncer in a tuxedo.

"Good afternoon, sir," he says.

"Hi," I say. "Is Sheila working today?"

"I don't know Sheila, sir."

"Right. She's probably using a stage name. How about Justina? No? Christasia? No? Well, how about Teralina? No? Maybe?oh never mind. I see her."

Sheila is sitting at a table talking to some old men in suits. It's too dim to get a good look, but I'm sure it's her. I head into the big room and sit down at a table not far from where she's working over the old fellows. I order a beer from a lingerie-clad waitress and wait.

I watch the girl dancing on the stage. She's young and pretty, with long, curling black hair. She demonstrates her flexibility for the sparse crowd, but I'm only half-paying attention to her gyrations and stretches. My eyes keep moving back to my wife.

Eventually Sheila gets up from the table. One of the men gets up with her. He's a bald old stiff in a thousand dollar suit. Together they walk further into the depths of the club and disappear into the area reserved for private dances, where she will press herself against him and rhythmically entice him until he either expends his weekly nudity budget or blows a measly load in his tailored shorts.

I continue to wait. I'm used to this routine. Sheila and I have been married for a long time, and I've been into the clubs where she works before. I've seen her up on the stage. I've seen her at the tables, putting down a routine to try and get the guys to buy private dances from her. I've seen too much I guess. The only thing I haven't seen is her actually give these old fellows their private dances, and frankly I sleep better not having seen that.

They come out of the back area a half hour later. With songs about three minutes long, that makes ten songs, and at twenty dollars a song it means the bald old fool just handed Sheila two hundred dollars. I try not to think about it. Shit, I should be asking her for alimony payments.

She sees me and casually drifts over. I look up at her. Sheila sits down across the table from me.

"Long time no see," she says. She's dressed to the nines in a tight little black outfit with her cleavage bursting out of the front. With her hair flowing around her and plenty of make up on she looks like every man's fantasy. I can smell vanilla perfume. It doesn't fool me. I know what she looks like with bed-head, no make up and morning breath.

"Good to see you," I say. "You look great. You look like you're in good shape."

"I've got to work hard to keep up, you know?" She leans across the table. "What do you want?"

"I just wanted to say hello," I say. "Hello."

She gives a wry half-grin. "Hello. Is that it?"

"Yeah, I guess so. How are you getting on?"

She shrugs. "As well as ever, I guess. As well without you as with you. What do you want me to say?"

"I'm going on tour."

She smiles and nods, like she's laughing at a sick joke. "I see. This is what you came to tell me. I heard you had a show last night. Beth told me. It must have gone pretty well."

"Not so well, actually. But even so, I've got a couple guys together and we're going across the country."

She looks at me coldly. There is, I think, pity and revulsion in her eyes. She's pretty sick of me. I can see that for sure. "Congratulations," she says. "I hope it makes all your dreams come true."

"Something will have to sooner or later."

She sighs. "Look Terry, there really isn't anything left for us to say, is there? Maybe if we bump into each other a few years down the road we can do the whole catching up thing, but for now, let's just let the lawyers do the paperwork and we can go our separate ways, okay? I really don't have the energy for this sort of thing."

"I um, heard you were doing some videos and stuff. Online stuff."

Her eyes narrow to lethal slits. "We've all got bills to pay."

I nod. "Yeah, we do. Okay. Well, I guess I'll see you around. We'll catch up some time." I get up.

"Yeah, I'm looking forward to it," she says.

"Take care of yourself." I walk outside, not looking over my shoulder. I want to. I want to take another look, maybe see her breaking down in tears that I'm gone, but I know that's not what I'll see. Her heart no longer breaks for me.

In the fading light I spark a cigarette. There are three left in my pack. After they are gone I will not buy a new pack. It's time to get back in the tour van and it's always a good idea to quit smoking for a while before a tour, to let your body get healthy before the long struggles of the road. But I want to smoke. I want to drink too. I want to drink to remember, and drink even more to forget.
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PostSubject: Re: In the Van on Comeback Road   In the Van on Comeback Road Icon_minitimeThu Mar 01, 2007 7:35 am

Issue #24

I'm lying on my back with a dim awareness that I'm supposed to be doing something. I'm not in bed. I don't know where I am, and there's a terrible pain in my head. There's a voice shouting something, but there's so much other noise it's hard to make it out. Then I understand, the voice is shouting my name.

"Terry! Terry man! Are you okay? Terry! Wake up!"

I try to open my eyes, but a stinging pain prevents me. I blink them open and shut, but I can't see anything. It's all hazy and black.

"I'm blind?" I murmur.

"You're not blind. You've got blood in your eyes."

Those words. They are familiar. Where have I heard them before? Reservoir Dogs. Tim Roth telling one of the other bank robbers, you're not blind. You've got blood in your eyes.

"Are you okay? Can you sit up?"

The voice does not belong to Tim Roth. I know the voice. It belongs to Jason, my guitar player.

He grabs my shoulder and helps me sit up, but I still can't open my eyes. "Jason man, I can't see. Where am I?"

"Jesus, Terry, we're on stage! We're in Sudbury, at a gig. Can you get up?"

There is chaotic noise in the background, like a brawl.

"I can't see. Can you grab me a towel or something? Everything is all black. What happened?"

"You got hit with a beer bottle." Someone holds a wet towel to my face and I grasp it, wiping my face clean. With my fingers I can feel the rough edge of a cut across the bridge of my nose where the blood is flowing from.

"Lean back," I hear a different voice say. "I'm going to pour some water over your eyes."

I do as I'm told and icy water splashes across my face. I rub my eyes with the towel and blink again. I can see murky shapes. With repeated blinking they sharpen into the faces of Jason and Mark and a few other people I assume to be bar staff. Harsh stage lights glare down on me.

The sound of the brawl dies down. I suppose whoever was fighting and throwing bottles must have been thrown out. The bar has a hum to it though. Everyone wants to know if the guy with the split face is going to get up and keep playing or not. Everyone wants to know if the poor baby is okay.

"I'm okay," I say. "Let's play."

"Are you kidding?" asks Jason in a shaky voice. "You want to keep playing?"

"Yeah." I grasp at the people around me and they help me to my feet. There's a cheer from the crowd, like when an injured player at a sporting event walks off the field under his own power. I blink into the lights and look out at the crowd. I don't recognize the bar. It's not a huge place, but the room is full. My head spins a little and I stagger back a step to gain my balance. Everything is mixed up. I look down at my feet, where the set list is taped to the hardwood flooring of the stage. I have no idea if we had played any songs or if we had played them all.

"Jason, what song are we on?"

"Oh, this isn't cool, man. We can't keep playing."

"C'mon man, just tell me what song we're on."

"Um, we were in the middle of 'End of Us' when you got hit, but seriously, let's forget it, man."

I adjust my mike stand and look back at Mark. He's back behind his drums with his sticks in his hands, but he looks wide-eyed and nervous.

"Ready Mark?" I ask him.

"Aye, Terry, but we don't have to, you know?"

"Let's just start with the next song. 'Rough Go.'"

We start playing. I can here shouting from Jason. I look back at him. He's screaming something. I step towards him so I can hear him better.

"You're playing the wrong song!" he screams. I listen hard to what they are playing, and try to correct what I'm doing. When I think I've got it right I step up to the mike and begin singing, "Even after you've reached the end/ Even after she's gone?"

Again Jason screams at me. I look at him and I can make out "Wrong words! Wrong song!"

I look back out the crowd. They are standing, open-mouthed, staring up at me. I lick my lips and taste the familiar sickening flavor of iron. I look down at my hands thumping at the strings of my bass. My white t-shirt is splattered with red. Blood continues to drip from my nose and down off my chin.

I don't bother with singing. I keep banging out notes and Jason and Mark, faithful soldiers of rock that they are, continue playing along. "Hey," I say into the mike. "If someone would come up and wipe off my face, I would appreciate it."

Some chick climbs up onto the stage. She looks like punk-pop chick, with long blonde hair and tight black t-shirt, plaid school-girl skirt and the whole bit. She picks the towel up off the floor and cleans off my bloody face. I try to stay in time with the band, keeping up with the changes while she drags the bloody towel over the jagged cut between my eyes. She drops the towel back onto the floor, does a pose for the crowd and hops off the stage to a big cheer.

"Thanks baby," I say into the mike, and she blows me a kiss. "You boys ready?" I say, and look back at Mark and Jason. We reach the chorus and I jump in screaming "Rough go! Why do you always give me such a rough go?" I think I'm singing the right part. Jason doesn't scream and tell me I'm wrong, so I sing it through and we bring the song to a finish.

According to the set list we have six songs to go, but looking at the names of the songs I can't remember how any of them start.

"Okay kiddies," I say to the audience. "I think we're going to cut this a bit short.

"We'll leave you with one last tune. This is an old Black Sabbath song. It's called 'Sweet Leaf.'" It's not on the set list, but it's one we know and that I can remember. We hit it and play through, managing to keep it together. Jason helps me out with the vocals when I stumble, and we make it through to the end and get a big cheer. People clap and whistle, not so much because we played a great set, but because they were able to witness an unexpected and entertaining spectacle. That and people love to see some jerk overcome adversity. And yeah, I think a bottle to the face classifies as adversity.

I hop off the side of the stage and there's a member of the bar staff right there with a clean wet towel which he immediately applies to my still-bleeding nose. Unable to see, I follow him as he leads me to a chair and sits me down.

"You might need some stitches there, dude," he says.

"Don't worry about that now," I say. "What the hell happened, anyway?"

"Some guys started fighting at the back of the crowd and somebody chucked a bottle. Just back luck it caught you, I guess."

I feel a hand on my shoulder. "Nice one, Terry," I hear a female voice say.


She slaps my shoulder. "No, it's Gina. Jesus, are you brain damaged now?"

Gina. Right. I slept with her, is the first thing that crosses my mind. It was pretty good, too. I was good. I was good in the sack. She came twice. Also, I remember with more clarity where I am. I'm on tour with The Clutch Dogs, opening for Gina's band, Machine Within A Machine. I wonder if Gina thinks scars are sexy.

"Yeah, maybe I am brain damaged," I tell her. "At the very least I must have a concussion. I can't remember any of my kid's names."

"What? You've got kids? How many?"

I pull the towel away from my face, look at the blood and press it back into place. "Let's see, how many kids do I have? Three, four?six, seven?um, none. So I guess I'm not brain damaged after all."

"Don't be so sure."

I hear another voice. I look up. It's Wayne, Machine's singer. "Terry, we'll help get your gear packed up. You just relax, okay?"

"Don't need to tell me twice." I look around. There is a semi-circle of kids around the chair where I'm sitting, all staring at me. "Oh, Jesus," I say and put the towel back up to my face. I ask the guy from the bar to get me a beer. I silently wonder if I can make it through the rest of the night with the towel covering my face so I don't have to talk to anyone about how it feels to get clocked with a bottle half way through a song.

Already punters are coming up and asking if I'm okay. I nod and tell everyone I'm fine, but I don't take the towel from my face. Why not? Shame, I guess. I don't want people to see what a bleeder I am.

Some girl pulls a chair up next to me. She puts her arm around me and tries to take the towel. She wants to play Florence Nightingale, I guess.

"I'm cool," I say. "I've got it."

"It's okay," she says. "It's me, Christine."

The name is not familiar, but I let go of the towel and let her hold it. She keeps it against my face for a few seconds and then pulls it away, saying "Let me have a look. There, it's not too bad. You've stopped bleeding I think."

I look at her. She's mid-twenties, chubby-cute and somewhat familiar, but really I have no idea who she is. Maybe I talked to her earlier. My memory is shot.

My beer shows up, and I take a long drink. I know that alcohol slows your blood's ability to form clots and it's stupid to drink when your nose is cut open, but my face hurts like hell and I hope for some pain relief. I'm sure if there is any chance I've got a concussion, beer can only make things worse, but I can always blame the concussion for making me stupid enough to drink.

I look up at the stage. Jason and Mark are taking apart the drums, and the guys from Machine are lugging their gear up. I feel like a dick for not helping, and I start to get up. The girl, this 'Christine,' grabs me by the shoulder and pulls me back down.

"No, no," she says. "You need to sit. Just rest here."

I turn on her with an angry look. "Do I even know you?" I ask.

Her smile drops. "We talked before you played."

"That doesn't make you my doctor," I say. Grabbing my beer, I get up and lurch onto the stage. Mark is hefting the bass drum and I give him and hand with it.

"All right, Terry?" he asks.

"No, my head feels messed up," I say. "This might sound like a stupid question, but where are we staying tonight? I have no idea."

"The bar owner set us up to stay at some guy's house," he says with a worried look. "You really don't remember? Maybe you're like, seriously hurt, mate."

"I'm fine, I'm fine. I just don't want to hang around here all night."

"We're not going to the house until after the bar closes. We've got a bit of a wait."

"Christ." I look back to where I was sitting. Christine is still there, watching me. Fair enough. If I have to hang around for a few hours I might as well let a good looking girl dote on me. I stroll back over and sit down.

She half-turns away and says nothing. I see. I hurt her feelings. God. Chicks.

"You want a beer?" I ask her.

She turns back around. "Maybe later," she says. "Do you want to go outside and smoke a joint before the next band starts?"

I can't remember ever hearing about the effects of marijuana on people with concussions, and even though I'm fairly certain the effects are probably bad, I get up and follow her out. What's the worst that could happen? Permanent memory loss, motor skill damage, mild retardation. No one would even notice the difference.

We walk a block to her car and get in. She produces a joint from her purse, sparks it up, and we pass it back and forth. We talk while we smoke, but I'm not sure what we're talking about. I think at some point she puts her hand on my leg, and that's about when I pass out.
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