Chapter 1A: The Power of Music
Caution: This Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, mt/ft, Teenagers, Group Sex, Exhibitionism, Voyeurism, .
Desc: Sex Story: Chapter 1A: The Power of Music - The trials, tribulations, and debauchery of the fictional 1980s rock band Intemperance as they rise from the club scene to international fame.
September 13, 1980
Heritage, California was certainly not the center of anything, especially not the rock music scene of the west coast in the year 1980. But little did the citizens of this moderate-sized metropolitan region in the most populous state know, the mediocre venue known as D Street West in downtown Heritage would one day become a Mecca for rock and roll music lovers worldwide because of the performance that would take place here tonight.
D Street West was arguably the most exclusive venue in the city although that really wasn't saying a whole lot. It was a single story building occupying a corner lot in downtown Heritage, at the corner of 3rd and D Streets, in a low-rent portion of the high-rise district. The bar could hold 400 people, though on nights The Boozehounds played, it often held about 200 more than the fire marshall would have legally allowed. The Boozehounds were Heritage's most popular local rock group. Fond of songs about drinking and smoking pot and fornication and sometimes all at the same time, they were a competent band with a lead guitarist who knew most of the chords and could play them with something that resembled proficiency, a singer who had enough range to hit five or six high notes per set without his voice cracking, and a drummer and bass player who could keep time with the songs well enough to make what came out of their amp sound like actual music. Though The Boozehounds had been trying for eight years to secure a recording contract with one of many Los Angeles based record labels, they had been turned down at every turn, told they were "small time" and "great for a cow town, but not worth shit in a real city". And so they stayed in Heritage, squeaking out a living by playing three nights a week at one of the ten or so clubs that featured live rock music.
At 5:00 on this Saturday afternoon, ninety minutes before the club would open, three and a half hours before The Boozehounds were scheduled to take the stage, two vehicles-a 1966 VW Microbus and a 1971 Ford van-pulled in the back parking lot of D Street West and parked near the backstage door. Five young men piled out of the two vehicles. All were dressed in blue jeans and dark colored T-shirts. All but one had long, shaggy hair. These were the members of the rock group Intemperance, a band that virtually no one in the Heritage area-or in fact the world-had ever heard of. They were opening for The Boozehounds tonight, their set to begin at 7:00 and last for 45 minutes. It was to be their first performance before an audience.
Jake Kingsley was the lead singer and rhythm guitarist. He was tall and a bit on the thin side, his shoulder length hair dark brown. At twenty years old he still had the last vestiges of adolescent acne marring his face in a few places. He puffed a filtered cigarette thoughtfully as he examined the backstage door, still marveling over the fact that they had an actual gig, that they were actually going to be paid to perform their music before an audience. And not just any audience either. They were at D Street West opening for a band that had almost legendary status in the region. "Did you see our name out on the board out front?" he asked Matt Tisdale excitedly. "Right under the Boozehounds. Can you believe that shit?"
Matt was the lead guitarist. He was twenty-one, a little shorter than Jake and a little broader across the shoulders and the middle. His hair was dyed jet black and had not been cut since he was seventeen. It fell almost to his waist in the back and was constantly getting in his eyes in the front. It was he who had suggested they audition for the gig despite the fact that the flyer they'd found on the bulletin board at Heritage Community College had specified "only experienced acts need apply".
"Fuck The Boozehounds," he said contemptuously as he flicked his own cigarette into a nearby drain. "They ain't shit. If they were any good they wouldn't still be playin' in this fuckin' place after eight years."
"He does have a point there," said Bill Archer, the piano player. Bill was the one among them without long hair. His hair was in fact cut almost militarily short in an era where even businessmen sported their locks well below the ears. At nineteen years old, Bill was the youngest member of the band. He wore black, horned-rim glasses with lenses about as thick as they could come. In his spare time he liked to study astrophysics, computer science, and the principals of electrical engineering. As far as the rest of the band knew, he had never been laid in his life, had never even had a girl's tongue in his mouth. He was also a prodigy on the piano, a fact that had been recognized by his parents well before his sixth birthday. Jake-who had known Bill all his life since he was the son of one of his mother's best friends-had been the one to convince the other band members that Bill needed to play with them. Though most hard-rock groups these days eschewed the piano on general principals, it had only taken one session with Bill accompanying them to convince the founding members of Intemperance that his skill and ability to blend the ivories with the crushing guitars and the pounding drum beat gave them a sound unlike any other group. Plus, he was fun to get stoned with. He could entertain them for hours with his large vocabulary and his lectures on just what E=MC squared actually meant.
"It could be that the music industry is deliberately keeping them down," suggested John Cooper, the drummer, who was known pretty much universally as "Coop". He had thick, naturally curly and naturally blonde hair that resembled that belonging to a poodle. It cascaded down across his shoulders and onto his back. Coop-who had been smoking pot at least once a day since approximately the age of ten-thought there was a deep, dark conspiracy for everything. He genuinely believed that men had never walked on the moon, that the government had killed John F. Kennedy, that fluoride in drinking water was intended to pacify the populace, and that the world was going to end in two years when all the planets aligned.
"Why would the music industry keep them down?" asked Darren Appleman, the bass player. He was twenty and perhaps the best looking of the group. His physique was well formed to begin with and made more impressive by the weight lifting he did five times a week. His dark hair was shoulder length only, always carefully styled. You would never catch Darren without a comb in his pocket. Though he wasn't any great shake as a bass player, he was very consistent with the rhythm, rarely missing a beat, and had a decent voice for back-up singing.
"You know how it is?" Coop said, which was what he always said before launching into one of his conspiracy theories. "They probably didn't like a contract or something back when they first started and tried to change something. Now they've been blackballed. The industry keeps a list, you know."
"A list?" Matt said, raising his eyebrows, although with his hair you couldn't really tell he'd done it.
"Damn right," Coop assured him. "They only want the right kind of people in the industry. People they can control. If they think you're gonna try to push them too hard, boom, you're on the list and you'll never get a record contract no matter how good you are." He then ended his lecture with his signature end of lecture statement. "It's the way the world works, dude."
"Shit," said Matt, shaking his head. "Or it could be that they just suck ass, which they do. Singing about bonghits and boffing fat chicks. They're a fuckin' comedy act, that's why they don't get signed."
Matt was treading on what was considered sacred ground in the Heritage area. You just didn't talk shit about The Boozehounds. But of course, all of them knew he was right, even Coop. The truth was, The Boozehounds really weren't all that good. Matt could blow their lead guitar player away with one hand tied behind his back. And Jake could sing their lead singer under the table with laryngitis.
"C'mon," Jake said. "We'd better get our stuff inside. We need to get our sound tuned in. You know how long that takes."
"Fuckin' forever," Darren grumbled. Then something occurred to him and he brightened. "Do you think they'll give us some free drinks after our set?"
The backstage door was locked but pushing the button next to the jam soon produced the sound of footsteps and the clicking of numerous locks and security bars from the other side. The door swung open at last and there stood Chuck O'Donnell, the owner and manager of D Street West. He was a small, unassuming man with a bald scalp atop his head and a long ponytail in the back. A failed rock musician himself, he had purchased D Street West ten years before and had turned it into Heritage's premier rock and roll club. He wasn't a millionaire by any means but he wasn't hurting either. He had quite an ear for music. Though the inclusion of Intemperance on his audition schedule two weeks before had been a mistake-he had failed to check the bogus previous performance dates that Matt Tisdale had fabricated on their portfolio until just before the band arrived-he had allowed them to play for him anyway, partly because their deceit had left a twenty minute hole in his schedule, but mostly out of cruel amusement. His plan had been to let them start playing and then to cut the power to their amps shortly into their first song where he would then debase them as rudely and crudely as he could and humiliate them into never trying such a stunt again. That had been his plan anyway. But then they had started to play and he discovered something astounding. They were good, very good in fact, perhaps the best new band he had ever heard. The lead guitarist was a magician with his instrument, able to play riffs of amazing complexity, to wail a solo that was right up there with Hendrix or Page and that fit in perfectly with the rhythm of the song. The lead singer-who played a pretty mean backing guitar himself-had a voice that was both rich and wide-ranging, a voice that would send a chill down the spine with a little more development. The kid could sing. And then there was the piano. There were many who believed a piano had no place in a hard rock group, that it was an instrument best left for the bubblegum pop bands. O'Donnell himself had always believed this with all his heart. But goddamn if that nerdy kid on the keyboard didn't pull it off. This band knew how to play, had an instinct for music that could only get stronger as they matured, and perhaps most importantly, they had a distinct sound unlike anything that had been done before. They made The Boozehounds-his most valuable and popular band-sound like what they were: a bunch of hackers. He had a good feeling about these five young men.
"Hey, guys," he said, his salesman grin firmly upon his face. "How are you all doing today?"
They all mumbled that they were doing fine.
"Good, glad to hear it," Chuck told them. "You're right on time. I like that in a band. Why don't you go ahead and start bringing your equipment inside and setting up. You know where the power supply points are. Remember, have everything tuned and sound checked before we open."
Matt, acting as band spokesman, agreed that they would be dialed in long before the first customer pulled into the parking lot.
"Good," he said, patting Matt companionably on the back. "I'll just be doing some paperwork in my office. I'll drop in on you from time to time to see how you're doing."
With that, he disappeared, leaving the door wide open for them to find their own path to the stage. Once in his office he snorted two lines of cocaine and dreamed a little more about what he might have once been.
It took the better part of twenty minutes just to get everything inside. The band had nine amplifiers, a fifteen piece double bass drum set, a sound board, five microphones with stands, an electric piano, two electric guitars, an electric bass guitar, six effects pedals, and nearly four hundred feet of electrical cord to connect everything together. The stage was a twenty by fifteen foot platform against the rear of the bar, raised four feet off the ground and covered in black boards. Lighting sets hung from scaffolding above. They stacked four amplifiers on one side and five on the other. They then set up the microphone stands and connected them to the master soundboard. While Coop assembled his drum set and Bill set up his piano, Jake, Matt, and Darren ran power lines to the amps and connected the effects pedals that helped twist and distort the sound of the guitars into music. They then opened up their guitar cases and removed their instruments.
Jake's guitar was a 1975 Les Paul in the classic sunburst pattern. It had cost him $250 dollars when he'd purchased it three years before and it was his most prized possession. It was a versatile guitar for the multiple roles he asked of it. It could produce a smooth acoustic sound that was about as close as one could get without actually having an acoustic guitar, or it could pump out a grinding electric distortion for backing Matt on the heavier tunes. He removed it gently from the case, lifting it as a father would lift his newborn infant from the crib, and then wiped it with a soft cloth until it shined. Only then did he sling it over his shoulder by the strap and carry it over to the length of cord leading to the string of effects pedals.
"Be sure you have enough picks," Matt told him. "Stick two in the guitar and a bunch in your right pocket in case you drop one or break one."
"What if I drop one in the middle of a song?" Jake asked, silently cursing Matt for giving him one more thing to be nervous about. When such a thing happened during rehearsal they would simply stop the song until the dropper could pick it back up or find another one. They wouldn't really be able to do that in front of an audience, would they?
"You'll have to use your fingers until the next song. Or at least until you get a break in the rhythm."
"Bitchin'," Jake said, frowning.
"The fuckin' show must go on, my man. The fuckin' show must go on. Remember that."
"Right," Jake told him, wishing for a beer or maybe a bonghit, just to calm his nerves a little.
Matt opened up his own guitar case and removed his favorite of the five electric guitars he owned, an instrument that he had vowed upon purchasing two years before, would be the only one he would ever play onstage. Though he certainly didn't know or even suspect it at the time, it was an instrument that would one day, twenty-five years in the future, be placed in a display case in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. It was a 1977 Fender Stratocaster, the make and model that Matt considered the finest guitar in the history of music. It was deep black on the top, shiny white beneath the three pick-ups and the tuning knobs. It produced a rich, heavy sound and it was as familiar in Matt's hands as anything he had ever held before, including his penis. The "Strat", as he called it, was his baby, perhaps the most important thing in his life, the instrument he had dedicated his life to, and he treated it with all the reverence such an icon deserved. He would have been more upset at its loss or destruction than he would've been at the loss of his parents or his siblings. He even talked to it, usually when he was stoned or drunk, but also when he felt it had been played particularly well, beyond what he believed his own considerable talent could be responsible for alone. He talked to it now as he slung it over his shoulder, as his fingers ran lovingly over the frets, the strings, the whammy bar. "We're gonna kick some ass tonight," he whispered to it. "We're gonna kick some fuckin' ass."
Jake plugged his guitar in first. He turned the power switch on and adjusted the tuning knobs upward. Next he turned on the amplifier it was connected to, keeping the master volume relatively low, the pre-amp about three quarters up, and bypassing the effects for the time being. He strummed a few times, listening to the tuning first and foremost. Though he had carefully tuned the instrument earlier in the day, before packing it up for the trip over here, he had a morbid fear that it had somehow come out of tune. It hadn't. The sound emitting from the amplifier was as rich as always, richer even since he'd put new strings on only two days before.
"It sounds like a freshly fucked pussy smells," Matt told him, turning on his own power switch and belting out a quick power chord that reverberated throughout the room. He squeezed his fingers down on the neck, stopping the vibration and, subsequently the music. "Now lets get our sound adjusted. You ready, Nerdly?"
"I'm ready," said Bill, who had long since accepted the unflattering nickname Matt had bestowed upon him and had even learned to like it.
"Then let's do it."
It took them the better part of forty minutes to get everything just right. Bill was the closest thing they had to a sound expert and he always made sure that when they played they sounded the best they possibly could with the equipment they had available to them. Each instrument and each microphone was hooked up to its own individual amplifier, which would be carefully positioned and then adjusted so everything would blend together harmoniously. The goal was to keep their music from simply coming out of the amps like most club bands' music-which was to say to keep it from sounding like a bunch of indecipherable noise dominated by overloud guitar riffs and bass that would distort the singing. He wanted those who watched them to hear and understand every word Jake sang, to be able to differentiate between the rhythm and lead guitar, to hear each piano key being struck, to hear the harmony they worked so hard at in their back-up vocals. All of this had to be matched carefully to Coop's drumming, which was strictly acoustic only. Everything was checked and adjusted one by one in a particular order. Darren's bass went first, with the sound being turned up and down to match the output of the bass drums. Next came Matt's guitar. Distortion levels were adjusted first, both with and without the effects, then the actual volume itself. The same process was repeated for Jake's guitar, only this took longer because he had to continually switch from the acoustic sound to the electric distortion, adjusting both individually. Then came Bill's piano, which was where perhaps the finest line existed between too loud and not loud enough. Once the instruments were properly adjusted the microphones could be set. The back-up microphones were the most difficult since they needed to be adjusted first individually and then as a group. Last was Jake's mic, which would transmit his resonant voice through the most expensive of their amps, a $400, top-of-the-line Marshall designed specifically to reproduce clear vocals in venues with poor acoustic conditions. For more than ten minutes Jake used standard singing exercises intermixed with snatches of their lyrics while Bill turned the knobs up and down, down and up, while he had each instrument strum a few bars, while he had the rest of the band sing into their own microphones. This, of course, led to other minute adjustments of the instruments and other mics themselves and even more adjustments of the main microphone.
"Gimmee some more, Jake," Bill would say as he kneeled next to the master soundboard, his ear tuned to the output. "Do the chorus from Descent."
And Jake would sing out the chorus from Descent into Nothing, their most recent composition and the song they planned to open with. "Falling without purpose," he would croon, carefully keeping his voice even, emitting from his diaphragm, as he'd been taught long before. "Sliding without cause."
"A little too high still," Bill would say and then make an adjustment. "More."
"No hands held out before me, no more hope for pause."
A nod from Bill, another minute adjustment. "Okay, now everyone."
And all five of them would sing the main part of the chorus, just as they did it in the actual song. "Descent into nothing, life forever changed. Descent into nothing. Can never be the same."
They did this again and again, sometimes using the chorus of one of the other sixteen songs in their repertoire, sometimes having one instrument or another chime in, sometimes having all five instruments chime in at once. Nobody joked. Nobody even talked if it wasn't necessary. They took their sound check as seriously as a cardiac surgeon took his pre-operation preparations.
"I think we got it, Nerdly," Jake finally said when he could no longer detect any differences from one of Bill's adjustments to the next.
"Damn straight," Matt agreed. "We're dialed in tighter than a nun's cunt."
It was necessary for one or both of them to tell Bill this at some point. If they didn't, he would go on making adjustments to every single setting for another hour, maybe more.
"I guess it'll have to do," Bill replied with a sigh, knowing deep in his heart that if he could just play around a little longer he would achieve true audio perfection, but also knowing that Jake and Matt were tired of screwing around and were taking control back from him.
"What now?" asked Coop, who was nervously twirling a drumstick in his hand. "It's only ten after six. Should we run through a song or two, just to make sure?"
"That don't sound like a bad idea," agreed Jake. "Let's do Descent one more time since it's our newest piece. Just to make sure we got it right."
Darren and Coop both nodded in agreement. But Matt-the founding member of the band-utilized his unofficial veto power. "Fuck that," he said. "We've rehearsed Descent at least a hundred fucking times over the last two weeks. We've rehearsed the whole goddamn set at least twenty times. We're dialed in, people. We rock! And if we fuck up tonight then we fuck up tonight, but pounding out a few more tunes in the last twenty minutes ain't gonna prevent it and just might encourage it. You dig?"
Jake wasn't so sure he dug. If nothing else it would've kept their mind off their apprehension for a little longer. But he kept his peace and agreed with Matt, as Matt expected him to do. "We dig," he said. "Why don't we go grab a smoke before they open?"
They shut off the guitars, the mics, the amps, and the soundboard, making sure not to accidentally move a single volume or tone knob on anything. Matt, Jake, and Darren put their instruments carefully down, necks facing up. They then headed backstage as a group. There they met Chuck O'Donnell who was in the company of two men in their late twenties. Every member of Intemperance-being the veterans of the Heritage club scene that they were-instantly recognized the two men as Seth Michaels and Brad Hathaway, who were, respectively, the lead singer and the lead guitarist of The Boozehounds.
"Hey, guys," Chuck greeted, smiling in a way that only good cocaine could produce. "I heard you doing your sound check."
"Yeah," snorted Hathaway, not even bothering to hide his contempt. He was a greasy looking man flirting with morbid obesity. His large belly spilled out the bottom of his extra-large black T-shirt. His hair was tangled and matted and looked as if it hadn't been washed or combed in at least a month. "Over and fucking over again. Are we a little unsure of ourselves?"
"Hey, give 'em a break, Hath," Chuck said diplomatically. "It's their first gig. They were just trying to make sure everything's perfect."
"Perfect, huh?" said Michaels, who was a sharp contrast to his guitar player. Almost painfully skinny, his long, curly black hair appeared to have been painstakingly styled. He wore a tight, white, rhinestone studded shirt and leather pants. He looked at Darren, who was closest to him and who had the most intimidating physique. "It's like they think people actually give a shit what they sound like."
"C'mon, Mikey," Chuck said, shooting an apologetic look at Jake and Matt. "Don't come down on people for being over-careful with their sound check. Don't you remember your first gig?"
"Over-careful?" Michaels said with a chuckle. "This ain't Madison fucking Square Garden. It's a shitty little club in a shitty little city that's widely heralded as a hemorrhoid on the rectum of the world."
"That may be so," Matt said calmly. "But there's still gonna be an audience out there, ain't there? Shouldn't a group of musicians always strive to sound their very best whenever performing?"
Michaels looked at Matt now. "Performing," he snorted, rolling his eyes upward. "That's a fuckin' laugh. Nobody gives a rat's ass what you sound like. You're an opening band. Don't you know your job is just to kill the time until we come on? You don't think these people are here to see you, do you?"
Jake tensed up a little, preparing himself to grab Matt if he decided to choke the skinny little singer into oblivion. The only thing Matt liked more than his music was brawling. But Matt stayed mellow. "I'll give you that," he said quietly. "They're here to see you tonight. But that'll change, my mediocre friend. That'll change."
It took about fifteen seconds for Michaels to realize he had just been insulted. When it finally came home to him he turned red in the face. "Just finish your fucking set on time, hackers," he said, pointing a finger. "When you're done, you got fifteen minutes to clear your shit off the stage. Fifteen fuckin' minutes. Understand?"
"Perfectly," Matt told him. "Unless of course, they ask for an encore. We can't really control that now, can we?"
Michaels, Hathaway, and Chuck all both broke out into laughter at this suggestion. It was clear they thought that Matt was joking, trying to mend the fence that had been so quickly erected between the two bands.
"Right," Michaels said, still chuckling. He actually clapped Matt on the shoulder. "If they do that we'll cut you a little slack, won't we, Hath?"
"Oh, you bet your ass," Hathaway said. "Do as many encores as you need."
"We'll do that," Matt told them with a smile.
The two Boozehounds members and the club owners then disappeared, heading in the direction of the bar, still chiding each other over the thought of their opening band getting an encore request.
Only Jake knew that Matt hadn't been joking.
Ten minutes after the doors were opened, D Street West was about three quarters full of customers, most between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five, about an equal mix of males and females. Jake and Matt sat on either side of the back-stage door, looking out over the stage and the gathering crowd. Matt was smoking a cigarette and tapping the ashes into an empty soda can. Jake was fiddling with a guitar pick, dancing it back and forth across his knuckles, eyeing Matt's cigarette with envy. He desperately wanted a smoke to help calm his nerves but he didn't want to risk drying out his throat before taking the microphone. Neither of the young men deluded themselves that the crowd was rushing in so early because they were the opening band. It was simply an accepted fact at D Street West that if you wanted to get a good seat to catch The Boozehounds, you had to show up at opening and claim your seat.
"You know what I'm looking forward to the most?" asked Matt. "Now that we're starting to get gigs, that is?"
"We have one gig only," Jake reminded him.
"We'll get more," Matt said confidently. "How many times I gotta tell you? We fuckin' rock, dude."
Jake nodded absently. While he agreed that they did indeed rock, his confidence level was never quite as high as Matt's. Just because one rocked did not automatically make one a sure success. Though he didn't put much stock in Coop's conspiracy theories, he instinctively knew it wasn't all that easy to make it in the music business, that the chips were stacked against them by default. He didn't want to have this argument now though. "What are you looking forward to?" he asked.
"Groupies," Matt said greedily. "How long do you think it takes until they start fuckin' us just because we're in a band? I could see it happening just after one set. How about you?"
Jake chuckled, shaking his head a little. "Not spreading your message to the masses, not fighting for social justice with your newly acquired voice, but groupies. That's why you want to be a rock star?"
"Social justice?" Matt scoffed. "Jesus, Jake. You fuckin' kill me with that shit, dude. You're the one who writes songs about social justice and politics and love and respect. You ever hear me writing songs about that shit?"
Jake had to admit that Matt had a point there. They had both penned a roughly equal amount of the lyrics for their music but their styles were on quite opposite ends of the spectrum. While Jake enjoyed writing political and social lyrics-everything from songs about the proliferation of nuclear warheads to the angst one felt by growing up as a misfit-Matt favored hard-biting, almost angry lyrics about picking up women and using them for his own pleasure, partying until the sun came up, or taking advantage of society for one's own gain. When he did write songs about love, it was to put it in a negative context, such as his most poignant piece, Who Needs Love?, which was basically a rant about all the negative emotions a committed relationship would cause. "No," he said. "I guess I never have."
"Fuck no," Matt said. "Not that I don't respect your tunes, you understand? Your shit is just as good as my shit. Its good stoner rock, you know what I mean?"
"I know what you mean."
"So anyway, what do you think the odds are? One set and you get groupies? Some dingbat sluts that'll be so impressed with us they'll let you snort coke from between their ass cheeks?"
Jake laughed. It was hard not to when hearing how Matt described certain people, things, or sexual acts. "I suppose," he allowed, "that it's theoretically possible we might have an encounter with someone of the female persuasion who could technically qualify as a groupie, tonight. How's that for an answer?"
"It sounds like you been talkin' to Nerdly too much lately," Matt said, dropping his cigarette butt into the can. He immediately pulled out another one and sparked it up. "Next you'll be spouting off shit about how gravitational discrepancies prove the existence of Planet X."
"Hey now," Jake said in his oldest friend's defense. "I thought that was a pretty cool lecture. I mean, where else can you get that kind of entertainment when you're stoned?"
"On the fuckin' PBS channel," Matt said, though he was not serious. He enjoyed Bill's marijuana-fueled dissertations as much as anyone. "And speaking of stoned, my man came through for me this morning. I got an eighth of that bitchin' sensimilian for after the set tonight. The bong is already in my ride and ready for stoking."
Jake nodded happily. "Tell your man we'll save a groupie for him. I'll be ready for a nice bonghit after we get through this."
"That ain't no shit," Matt agreed, taking an especially deep drag off his smoke.
There was no discussion, or even thought of a discussion, about taking a few hits before the set. Though the members of Impertinence-in the tradition of musicians worldwide-enjoyed a variety of intoxicating substances with a regularity that bordered on addiction, Matt had long-since established and rigorously enforced a rule that they would neither practice nor perform under any condition but complete sobriety. In the early days of the band, before Jake and Bill had joined, when they were just a simple hard-rock garage band banging out simple covers of existing tunes, Matt had found that even a few beers, even a few bonghits of crappy homegrown weed, would seriously degenerate their performance. It was acceptable to write songs while stoned or drunk-in fact, that was the only way Matt could compose-and it was acceptable to jam a little after imbibing just for the sheer fun of it, but when they actually got together to rehearse or to put a new song together, it was straight heads only. It was a rule that was certainly not going to be tampered with on their first gig.
They sat for a moment, watching the gathering crowd. Jake was finally able to take it no more and plucked the cigarette out of Matt's hand. He took a deep drag and blew it out slowly, feeling the soothing nicotine go rushing to his head. Matt frowned in disapproval but said nothing. He did take the smoke back, however, before the singer could steal another hit off it.
"Tell me the truth, Matt," Jake said, using his don't-fuck-around voice. "Are you nervous?"
"Me, nervous?" he asked.
"Yeah. You, nervous."
Matt didn't answer for a moment. Finally, he admitted, "I've never been so scared in my fucking life."
They both had a laugh at this. A little of the tension seemed to melt away with it. A little, but not much.
"Most of it is probably irrational fear," Matt said thoughtfully. "I'm worried that we're really not as bad-ass as I think we are, that the audience here is too immature for our sound, that this is all some kind of a practical joke that O'Donnell is pulling on us because we fucked with him to get the audition."
"Yeah," Jake said. "I got my share of that too."
"Some of it is real fear though. I worry about Darren sneaking off and doing a line or having a couple shots of booze because he's nervous. He's the kind that would do that. I worry that Nerdly didn't get the levels just right and we'll come across sounding like shit. My biggest fear, though, is about fucking up. I know we rehearsed the shit out of this set, but there's always the possibility that one of the five of us will choke now that the cock's in the pussy, you know what I mean?"
"Yeah," Jake agreed. "I know what you mean. I'm afraid my voice will crack, that I'll forget the fuckin' words, that I'll drop my pick and not be able to use my finger, that I'll hit the petal at the wrong time or forget to hit it at the right time and have my guitar set for the wrong sound. Most of all, I wonder about whether I'm really cut out for this shit. Do people really want to hear me sing, man? Do they really?"
"Well, let me ask you something," Matt said. "Do you think Seth Michaels has a good voice?"
Jake shrugged. "It's not painful to listen to him. That's about the best you can say. His timbre is decent but he doesn't have much of a range."
Matt laughed. "Timbre and range," he said. "Do you think that skinny, pompous little fuck even knows what those words you used mean?"
"No. I'm thinking he probably doesn't."
"But you do," Matt said. "Not only do you know what they mean, but you make use of them. Your voice has been trained since you were what? Ten years old?"
"About that," Jake said. He had actually been nine when his parent's, who had long since realized that their youngest child was a natural born vocalist, had sent him to the first of several voice teachers.
"Your voice is made for singing, dude. If I was a chick, I'd be spreading my legs the second I heard it. You can belt out these fuckin' tunes we do like nobody else could. My voice ain't bad-I think it's a shitload better than Michaels'-but I sound like a truck grinding its gears next to you. I realized the second you bellowed into our mic that first day that you were the singer for this group. The fuckin' second!"
"Yeah," Jake said, embarrassed. Matt was not typically the mushy complimentary type. "But..."
"No buts," he said. "You answered your own question. These people paid money to come in here and listen to Michaels sing. You're better than Michaels. No fuckin' question about it. So don't you think they'd pay money to hear you?"
He took a drink of the ice water he'd helped himself to earlier. "Yeah," he said. "I guess maybe they would."
"And, of course," Matt added, "my guitar playing makes Hathaway's sound like some kid learning to play Smoke on the Water for the first time."
"Don't be modest now," Jake said. "Tell me what you really think."
"Fuck modesty. I've been playing guitar since I was twelve years old. I kick ass and I know it." He looked at Jake, his expression intent, not the least bit whimsical. "We got what it takes, Jake. We're gonna smoke those hackers right off their own stage. And it ain't gonna stop there. We're gonna put this shithole town on the map."
"It's already on the map," Jake replied, deadpan. "I've seen it there. In the Central Valley. Right between Redding and Sacramento."
"That may be so," Matt said. "But some day some enterprising motherfucker is gonna be bringing tourists by your old man's house to show them where the great Jake Kingsley grew up. Then they're gonna take 'em over to my old man's house and show them where the great Matt Tisdale grew up and the garage where we used to rehearse. Mark my fuckin' words, my man."
Jake thought this was funny, one of the funniest things he had heard all day. He would've been quite surprised to know that Matt was absolutely right.
It was 6:50, ten minutes before they were to hit the stage, when Michelle Borrows, Jake's girlfriend, finally showed up. It was Matt who spotted her first, walking through the thickening crowd with two of her friends trailing unenthusiastically behind her. He, of course, pointed them out in his usual, elegant fashion.
"Hey," he said, nodding in the general direction of the three girls, "there's your bitch." He appraised her two friends with his usual eye. "Damn. Who are the sluts she's got with her? Very fuckable."
Jake had long since gotten over being offended by Matt's terms of endearment toward the female sex. He hardly noticed them anymore. "That would be Mindy and Rhonda," he replied. "Mindy's on the left. Rhonda's the one with the big tits."
"They the bitches that keep trying to tell her she's too good for you?"
"In the flesh," he said with a sigh, wondering why Michelle had brought them along. He had met Michelle the year before in a Sociology class they both shared at Heritage Community College. Two months ago, at the beginning of the new semester, he had asked her out for the first time, expecting to be shot down. She was a very classy looking young woman, clean-cut, well dressed, and good looking; someone he figured was far out of his league. She carried herself with an air of elitism he had become familiar with in high school. Why would such a beautiful creature want to go out with a longhaired, scruffy looking musician who had not even declared a major yet? It was only the prodding by Matt, who had tired of listening to him pine about her, that had finally forced his hand. Matt told him he didn't have a hair on his ass if he didn't ask her out. So, just to prove his ass was as hairy as anyone else's, he did it. To his surprise, she said yes.
It was during this date that he discovered she had grown up in a sheltered and ultra-religious household. Her father was a teacher at Holy Assumption Parochial School in downtown Heritage-an all-girls Catholic school. Michelle had attended Holy Assumption from 9th grade until graduation. Before that, she had attended Saint Mary's School for Girls from Kindergarten to eighth grade. She had no brothers, just three younger sisters. She had never learned to socialize with boys except for brief encounters at heavily chaperoned coed dances and dates arranged by her parents with boys as socially inept as she was. Jake had been the first boy to ever ask her out.
By being the first to ask, he had scored the first date by default. But at the end of the evening, when he asked her out for a second date, she had agreed to that as well. Since then, they went out at least once a week, sometimes two or three times, depending on his schedule, which, between working at the local newspaper driving a truck, or attending classes, or practicing with the band, was often a little tight. She seemed to genuinely enjoy his company, of that he had no doubt, but he was not so stupid as to think that was the only reason she was going out with him. Her teenage rebellion, which had been staunchly and thoroughly suppressed during her high school years, was now making itself known with a vengeance. Her parents absolutely hated Jake, hated everything he stood for and represented. Jake was the epitome of everything they had always tried to keep her away from when they kept her out of the public school system. He had long hair, he played guitar, he sang that evil rock and roll music, he had no goals in life other than some misguided dream of being a professional musician, and his upbringing... Good Lord, their precious daughter was going out with a kid who had never attended a church in his life! He was the son of a man who had protested against the war in Vietnam and who had marched for civil rights, who, worst of all, worked as a lawyer for the hated American Civil Liberties Union, the group that had helped remove prayer from public schools, that had helped legalize abortion! All of these tidbits about Jake's life and his father's past and present activities were gleefully passed onto Michelle's parents by Michelle herself on a weekly basis, for no reason other than to get a rise out of them. She reveled in the newfound freedom she had to tell them "no" when they demanded she stop seeing him, to shrug her shoulders in disregard when they threatened to cut off her school fund or to take her car away from her.
"I told them if they do that," she had said to Jake on one occasion, "that I'll just have to move out and get a job as a waitress or something to put myself through school. Maybe at one of those places where they make you wear short skirts."
Though Jake still wasn't sure whether he was all that keen on being a rebellion symbol so Michelle could get back at her parents, he had to admit that he'd laughed his ass off when she'd shared that with him. Especially when she described how red her father's face had become, how he hadn't been able to speak for the better part of five minutes, how her mother had dropped to her knees and begun praying right there in the middle of the living room.
Still, their relationship wasn't only about delayed rebellion and pissing off conservative Christian parents. If that were the case one or both of them would have undoubtedly made the decision to move on by now. That had only been what got them together. They stayed together because they genuinely enjoyed each other's company in a variety of ways. For Jake, he enjoyed rubbing away her naiveté, exposing her to things she had been denied while growing up. She got drunk for the first time with Jake. It was he who introduced her to the pleasures of smoking marijuana. He introduced her to rock and roll music-real rock and roll music instead of the filtered, popular crap she'd been fed in her school and in her home. And, of course, he introduced her to the pleasures of the flesh-or at least as much of it as she would allow him to share with her. He was not the first boy to French kiss her, but he was the first to put his hand on her bare breast, to slide his fingers up beneath her prim and proper skirt and play with her wet vaginal lips under her panties. His cock was the first she had touched, the first she had really even seen in the flesh. He had taught her how to give a proper hand-job without spilling a drop of the offering on the couch or the car seat or the movie theater seat. So far that was as far as her prudish upbringing would allow, but she had hinted on several occasions that it wouldn't exactly be a mortal sin for her to go all the way with him as long as she was truly repentant afterward.
"So," Matt asked as the trio worked their way a little closer to the stage, Michelle's eyes peering towards the darkness, searching for him, "you tapped into that shit yet, or what?"
"I'm getting there," Jake replied, standing up and brushing the dust off his jeans. "It'll be any night now."
This produced an immediate look of boredom on Matt's face. In his view of the world there was no such thing as a woman worth waiting more than two dates for sexual congress. And even that was stretching it. "Well, you go talk to your little virgin. I'll stay here and scope out the future groupies."
"Right," Jake said. He walked out of the alcove they were in and onto the side of the stage. Michelle spotted him immediately and began working her way forward. Her two friends followed listlessly behind her.
"Hi, sweetie," she said cheerfully when they met near the front of the stage. "How's everything going?"
"Good," he said, sliding down so he was sitting on the edge of the stage. He gave her a brief kiss on the lips. "Thanks for coming to see us tonight."
"I wouldn't miss it for the world," she told him. "It's so exciting. Your first concert. I know you're going to be just awesome. Besides, it pissed Daddy off something fierce when I told him we were coming here." She giggled a little in her ain't-I-being-the-rebel manner. "He called this place the Devil's seduction pit."
Jake chuckled, thinking that would actually make a cool name for a club. It certainly had a better ring to it than D Street West. He looked at Michelle's companions, who were both chewing wads of bubble gum and sniffing dramatically at the cigarette smoke in the room. "Rhonda, Mindy," he said politely, nodding at each of them. "Nice to see you both again."
They looked at him with identical expressions of contemptuous disgust, as if he were a cockroach on a shower floor. "What are friends for?" Rhonda asked with a roll of her eyes.
"Yeah," Mindy put in. "Someone has to keep Michelle from getting raped and murdered in this... this place."
"Oh, Mindy," Michelle scoffed. "It's just a different crowd than we usually run with. Jake had taken me here six or seven times and we've never had a problem."
"That's because he's one of..." she started, then seemed to realize she was about to go over the edge of propriety. "I mean, they know him here. We're here alone now."
"Yeah," Rhonda agreed. "What if one of these... guys tries picking us up?"
"Then you might actually have a good time," Jake suggested, making the two girls gasp and making Michelle giggle again.
"I don't think that's very funny," Mindy said.
"Look," Jake told them. "Why don't you just try to have fun? This is a bitchin' place. Have a few drinks. Loosen up."
"We're not twenty-one yet," Rhonda said, giving another eye roll.
"They don't give a rat's ass about that here," Jake told her. "If you got the green, they'll sell you the booze."
This perked their interest. "Really?" Mindy asked carefully, as if he were setting her up for a practical joke.
He turned to Michelle. "Am I lying?"
She shook her head. "We've never been carded here," she told her friends. "Not even once."
Understanding seemed to dawn on their faces. Jake could almost read the thoughts going on in their pretty little heads. Here, at last, was a possible explanation for why their friend was hanging out with a longhaired loser. He knew how to get drinks.
"Well, maybe we'll have just a couple," Rhonda said.
"Yeah, since we have to be here anyway," Mindy agreed graciously.
"That's the way to party," Jake said, his sarcastic tone quite over their heads.
"Buy us the first round, Shelly," Rhonda said. "So we can see how you do it."
"Yeah," Mindy said. "Let's go get some."
"I want a Tom Collins," Rhonda said excitedly. "I heard those are bitchin'."
"My sister made those for me once," Mindy squealed. "Oh my Gawd! They are like, so good!"
The two reluctant attendees continued to talk excitedly about what kind of drinks they were going to have, what kind of drinks they had had in the past, and in what order they were going to consume them tonight.
"I think you've finally impressed them," Michelle whispered with a smile.
"Yes," Jake said. "I seem to have a way of getting to you religious girls, don't I?"
This produced yet another giggle. "They don't know the half of it," she said, reaching out and stroking his hand.
"Should I show them?"
She laughed. "You're naughty."
"That's what they say."
She was about to say something else but Rhonda grabbed her by the arm. "Come on," she said. "Let's go get those drinks now."
"Yeah," Mindy said. "I'm really thirsty."
"Your entourage awaits," Jake said. "Do you need any money?"
He was just being polite and she knew it. Money was one thing Michelle never seemed to be lacking. "I can swing it," she said. She leaned forward and gave him another kiss, a long one this time, the tip of her tongue just reaching out to touch his. "I can't wait to see you play," she told him. "You've been working so hard for this."
"I'm glad you're here to see me," he replied.
They kissed one more time and then parted, Michelle heading through the crowd towards the bar. Jake watched her until she disappeared and then mounted the stage again. It was almost time to go on.
The final minutes ticked by with agonizing slowness. By 6:55 all five band members were standing in the alcove, looking out at the audience they were to perform for. Matt, Coop, and Darren were all chain smoking to calm their nerves. Bill, who didn't smoke, chewed his fingernails. Jake sipped from his ice water and wished he could smoke. He still could not believe he was about to walk out on a stage, pick up his guitar, and sing for a group of people, that he and his comrades were going to be the center of attention, the entertainment for the first part of the evening. Jesus Christ, he thought, his hands shaking a little with stage fright. What in the hell am I doing here? I can't do this!
His anxiety was not really surprising. Jake had always been on the shy side. The second of two children, his older sister Pauline had always been the attractive one, the smart one, the one with the straight A's and all the friends. Though he had no doubt his parents loved him equally, Pauline had always been a tough act to follow. It was she who had competed in and won the Heritage County spelling bee in 1964, the year before Jake had even started kindergarten. It was Pauline who had won the school's speech contest in the sixth grade with her controversial discourse about how prayer really didn't belong in public schools. She shot through junior high and high school, her GPA never once dipping below 4.0, and graduated at the age of 17 in 1972. From there she had gone on to UCLA on a full academic scholarship where she had maintained a 3.9 GPA while taking twenty-one units a semester. In 1975, a full year before the rest of her class, she was awarded a bachelor's degree in Business. From there she had applied for and was immediately accepted to Stanford University's School of Law where she focused heavily on corporate law. Now, at the ripe old age of twenty-five, she was a junior associate for one of the most prestigious law firms in the greater Heritage metropolitan area.
Jake, by contrast, had always been what was known as an underachiever. He was intelligent, with a tested IQ well above what was considered average, but his grades from about junior high school on had been mostly C's and D's, with the occasional F thrown in when a subject was particularly boring to him. It wasn't that he couldn't do the work or that he didn't understand it, it was that the work was not stimulating enough to him, that he just didn't care very much about it. He had never been interested in sports, never interested in mathematics or any of the sciences. He entered no spelling bees, no speech contests, never ran for student council. The only school subjects he did enjoy were history, literature, and anything that even remotely applied to music or the arts. In these subjects he carried consistent A's and in fact often spent extra time doing research and reading on his own. By the age of fifteen he had developed strong, if occasionally naïve political opinions, most of them considerably left leaning. As he grew older these opinions strengthened and became more mature, more focused. Long before receiving his high school diploma he had grasped the fundamental unfairness of life, how things were canted in favor of the rich, the whites, the males, how the catalyst and explanation for any act of any group could usually be found by examining who had what to gain from it.
This un-childlike depth of thinking was one thing that kept him isolated from his peers. Another was the substandard physical characteristics his genetic code had forced upon him during his formative years. He had been shorter than average until junior high school when a growth spurt began and quickly shot him up to his adult height of six feet, two inches by his sophomore year of high school. Unfortunately, his weight had lagged somewhat behind, leaving him skinny and almost gangly until well into his senior year, at which point he began to fill out a little bit. The school jocks-always the elite trendsetters in a high school society-assigned him the charming nickname of Bonerack sometime during his freshman year. It wasn't long before the cheerleading clique and then the rest of the school picked up on this moniker as well and called him by it until virtually no one knew what his real name was. That was when they talked to him at all. Mostly he was simply ignored, the kind of kid who faded from memory the moment he passed out of view.
It was the stoner clique that accepted him as a member during his sophomore and junior years. The stoners didn't care what you looked like, as long as you liked to get stoned and would occasionally spring for a dimebag or an eighth and share it with the crowd. Jake, who discovered the joys of marijuana intoxication at age thirteen by breaking into his father's stash, embraced the stoner lifestyle with gratitude. Here he found something approximating friendship and kinship. But unlike the majority of the stoners, he seemed to have an instinctive grasp of where the edge was in the lifestyle and how to avoid going over it. He would cut school, but never enough to actually get into trouble or fail a class. He would smoke weed with them, drink beer with them, and occasionally do a little cocaine, but stayed away from those who enjoyed the harder drugs like PCP, acid, and the various forms of speed.
Even among the stoners, however, he didn't quite fit in, not completely. His deep thinking amused them at times but quickly gained him a reputation as being a little on the strange side and overly pompous with his knowledge. He did not repulse the stoner girls-many of whom were the biggest sluts in the school-but neither were they endeared to him either. He was just Bonerack to them, a nice kid who didn't talk much when we was straight and who talked about weird, political shit they didn't understand when he was stoned or drunk. He wasn't a fighter or a comedian or a particularly prolific supplier of smoke. Nothing about him bespoke any type of sex appeal or mystery. At least not until the day of the kegger at Salinas Bend. That was a day that forever changed Jake's outlook on life. It was the day he was shown the power of music, the power of entertaining.
It was not unreasonable for Tom and Mary Kingsley to expect that their two children would be musically inclined to some degree. It was a simple matter of genetics. Mary had a beautiful singing voice and had performed in church choirs during her childhood. She played several instruments, including the piano, the saxophone, and the flute, but her love had always been the violin. She could make a violin cry or sing or lull or hypnotize or do all at the same time. Her skill and mastery of the instrument had secured her a position with the Heritage Symphony Orchestra at the age of nineteen, a position she still held on the day her son sat nervously backstage at D Street West (It was also where she met her best friend, Lorraine Archer, Bill's piano playing mother). Tom had grown up with musical interest as well. He had a decent singing voice and played a mean blues guitar. He had even tried to make it as a rock and roll star before deciding to change his focus and settle on a career fighting injustice as an ACLU lawyer.
With Pauline, their firstborn, it could not be said that they were disappointed in her musical abilities. She took to her piano and violin lessons with the same determination she took to everything else and by the age of twelve or so she could produce palatable music with them. Her voice was pretty as well, the sort of voice that sounded good singing along with the radio or belting out a spontaneous tune in the shower. Pretty enough to listen to, to enjoy, but nothing exceptional. Music was something Pauline would always have a love for but that she would never have the drive to produce.
With Jake, however, the combination of musical genes passed down by his parents combined in a way that was staggering, almost scary at times. Even before he learned to talk, Jake learned to sing. As a baby boy crawling around the floor in diapers, still drawing milk from his mother's breast, he would stop whatever he was doing when he heard music on the radio, when he heard a voice engaged in song, and he would try to imitate it. Though no words would form, he would imitate the syllables, the changes in tone and pitch. He would hum to himself in his crib, babbling out snatches of song he had heard and memorized. As he grew older, his love of singing, of music intensified. By the time he was four he was playing around with his mother's violin and piano, his father's harmonica and acoustic guitar, learning the rudimentary skills needed to make the sounds he desired with them. He parents encouraged his musical development as best they could. They taught him about scale and harmony and melody. As he learned to read the written word from his early grammar school teachers, he learned to read music from his mother and father.
By the age of ten he was able to play every instrument in the house to some degree but it was the battered old acoustic guitar his father strummed when he wanted to relax or when he was drunk (or, after he and his mother had disappeared into the bedroom for a bit and that funny, herbal smell came drifting out with them) that Jake was most taken with. He would pick at it for hours, imitating songs he heard on the radio, on his parents' record albums and then, by about his fourteenth year, he started making up his own melodies and then penning simple lyrics to go with them.
Jake was never given anything that could be termed "formal" musical training. His parents took care of that on their own. With his voice, however, they recognized early on that he had a gift of song, a gift that cried out for professional honing. He began to see voice teachers at the age of nine. He always thought the singing exercises great fun, taking to them like a duck to water. It was feared that his natural talent for vocalization would diminish or even disappear with the onset of puberty and the changing of his voice. Quite the opposite is what actually happened. As his speaking voice deepened his singing voice grew richer and developed considerable range. It was truly a joy to hear Jake sing a song, any song, and around the house he did so often, but his shyness kept him from sharing his gift with many. He would play his guitar and sing for his parents, his sister, his voice teachers, but he would clam up and refuse during family gatherings when his proud parents would try to cajole him into an impromptu performance. He never joined the band in school though he easily would have been the star player. He never joined a choir or entered a competition of any kind. Nobody outside his family had any idea that young Jake Kingsley was a bourgeoning musical genius.
Until that night at Salinas Bend.