Have you ever heard or read a story about a band breaking up after their first gig? Well, believe it or not, I was part of a situation that turned out like that. Some would think it was funny. Others would think it was quite sad. Through it all, I maintained my focus on the silver lining because, when days seem dim, her job is to catch your eye and make a bad situation seem better.
The band started out with just me and my drummer. I use the possessive adjective ‘my’ because I had to search out and locate my beat factory, so in essence it was not ‘a’ drummer, it was ‘my’ drummer. He was a friend from the past, and as luck would have it, he said he was willing to go out on a limb and clang the sticks for me. He knew that I was not well versed in the neckings of a guitar or keys of a piano, but for some reason he looked beyond that and took a leap of faith with me.
The love for music was deeply rooted inside my soul, as well as my genetics, and had been my release for quite some time. I had attended over thirty different concerts, some repeats of the same band, and I knew what kind of sound I was chasing after. Just like any other garage band in the early stages of creation, I was convinced that if I could find the right people and put them together then the sky was going to be the limit. Before long, my band was going to be on the radio, signing a record deal, and traveling together on a bus or in a van because the idea was too original to fail.
I had dabbled in playing the guitar, knew all the major and minor chords, but realized my limits were only going to provide us a steady rhythm. I had purchased a couple of synthesizers and wanted to incorporate them into our sound, with some songs’ bass lines being carried by the unique machines. I had never taken a piano lesson nor did I know how to read sheet music. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a C major or a D minor when it came to the keys, and most of my synth experimentation was done by me spending long nights digging into the different wavelengths of each sound. The brand of music and the way it was going to form was going to be unusual because the most popular themes in our area was singing southern rock, classic rock, country, or gospel music or being in a cover band.
Me and my drummer hammered out long and tiresome practices in an old tobacco barn and developed a unique bond through our music. During our practice breaks, we would smoke a cigarette and play a game of HORSE. The first two songs we fell in love with was a drum and synth instrumental called “Prevail” and a catchy six minute guitar slash drum duo song named “Time Machine”. If it was ninety degrees outside during the long summer months, we sweated and continued to push forward. If it ever cooled off below the fifties during the short fall and winter months, we warmed our hands and tarried on. We had three light bulbs, two electrical outlets, and numerous drop cords and surge protectors to our name, and we were going to make the most out of it (the band later moved to a room in my future house. We practiced every Sunday for three hours plus, and I would clear out the entire living room for our equipment. We did this each and every week).
My drummer had never laid beats to a synthesizer, so you can imagine the struggles we had to begin with. He would get frustrated and want to abandon the original material for covers, and I would come back and tell him that our originals was going to make us stand out. I did not want to do all that work and become another radio station for people to listen to. I wanted original material backed by original talent that was going to put out an original sound. I was hardheaded to a degree, yeah, maybe, but before the split, we had compiled eight original works of art in less than a year and a half. With someone with no musical knowledge, a someone that could not tell you the difference between a Esus4 and a Emaj7, a someone playing with a very experienced drummer, I don’t think that is shabby considering our rural backdrop.
We were going to gig out as a two piece when the second awakening came. Thinking back over it now, us rushing to share our art was somewhat laughable and would have been a beautiful disaster, but I was determined to succeed and so was he. When someone has something to prove and the world keeps telling him or her no, they are either going to give up and wilt or push onward with terminal velocity. I’m glad things panned out like they did because the biggest blessing for a band was on the way.
A local guitarist sent me a message and told me that he wanted to come audition for the band and let his light shine. Me and my drummer knew who he was, and we could not believe that he wanted any part of what we were crafting. The talent this guitarist had was impeccable, and truth be told, in my opinion, he was and is the best guitarist in a two hundred mile radius. I stand by that fact to this day because I have seen greatness on stage, I have heard it with my ears, and I have witnessed it with my eyes. He was the type of guitarist that could listen to a song and know where to put his fingers on the neck of a guitar. It was beautiful to watch. He was quirky. He was different. He was laid back. He was exactly what we needed.
Our new guitarist completed us in so many ways that it was comforting for me to have him as a friend first and then a bandmate. By acquiring this amazing talent out of nowhere, it allowed me to focus more on singing, lyrics, and synthetics. In less than three months, he had memorized all the original material we had created. As I sit and type, I begin to chuckle when I think back and watch in my memories as a guitar’ing nobody like myself tried to show a stringed prodigy how to play the somewhat simple originals. Not only did he fill a void that the band currently had, but he was able to improve our songs while teaching me techniques to make me a better musician. As the saying goes, “if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you are probably in the wrong room.”
We tightened our eight originals (if I told you the song titles, one would think we were opening for Fifty Shades of Lust), rehearsed five or six covers to accompany those songs (three of those being “Do I Wanna Know” by the Arctic Monkeys, “In The Meantime” by Spacehog, and “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper), and gigged out at my house so we could shake the ice off our shoulders before going out into the world. We grilled cheeseburgers for those attending and even had a campfire since we were playing an outdoor gig in early October. The music was so loud, a couple of my parents’ redneck friends said they could hear us at the river bank two miles away. It was a fulfilling night, to say the least, and I catch myself looking at my set list I have displayed near my desk and bookshelf. It was nostalgia at its finest. Those moments are very rare. Little did we three know, this was going to be our only performance together.
Some of you may be asking yourself about the silver lining I mentioned in the introduction. It used to be really hard for me to find, but time, patience, and life has shown me a thing or two when it comes to searching her out. A couple of weeks after the gig, everyone in the band went their separate ways due to an unforeseen issue. I still consider them two of my life friends that I would never shy away from if I saw them in public. I would embrace them like a brother returning from war simply because they joined me on a journey of a lifetime. One of them confided in me with their years of drumming experience, with me being the most unluckiest source of non musical genius, and that says a lot. The other one introduced me to disc golf and yoga, taught me to be a better musician, and motivated me to quit smoking cigarettes after burning the white sticks for over a decade. What was most important, though, was three searching souls came together, the most unlikeliest of people, and created a sound, an original sound, that still remains foreign to the place I currently call home.
Since then, I have sold all my music equipment except for my synthesizers. I parted ways with the first guitar I ever owned, my fifteen year old Gibson Explorer, but I kept the guitar pedal that currently stores all my unique sounds. Out of all the pieces of equipment I sold and parted ways with, my guitar was the only thing that choked me up. Getting rid of my equipment was a forced decision, but I had to sell these material things as one dream slowly died and led into another. One of my many silver linings is the fact that I still maintain the memories that those things were able to give to me and the two special people it connected me to. I always wanted to start a band from the ground up and develop a sound that was ours and ours alone, and that is what I did even though the fame and glory was short lived.
Every now and then, when the event horizon pulls me closer to that specific wormhole, I pick up my acoustic guitar when no one is around and strum the riff to one of my original songs. As time slowly passes me by, each song gets harder and harder to remember and play when they used to be the only language that my fingers knew how to speak. Some would say that the entire situation was just life. Some would say that it was a shame and I ought to get the crew back together. Some would say that it did not need to happen in the first place.
As a single tear strolls down my cheek, I say, “maybe I traded one dream for another. Maybe I had a bigger creative destiny somewhere else and so did they. Maybe my fingers found a different way to invoke emotion, something that will have a better future for me in the end.”
“Well, what’s that?” You may ask yourself.
“Watch and I’ll show you! Tell me no, and I’ll try even harder!”
To the two young men who stood by my side during that time of my life, thank you. You hold a special place in my soul. I love both of you, and I hope life is giving you the stuff that true dreams are made of.