The tax collector arrived, a stormy look on his face. He came too close to me.
“How many tickets did you sell?” Brett asked. I may as well have been sitting in a dank fluorescent room with folding chairs and a two-way mirror. Tickets sold: one.
“What the Hell, man? We were each supposed to sell ten. That’s what we promised,” he started to get angry. ***** looked at me, embarrassed because I was too uncharismatic to sell a ticket to anyone but them. Brett had spent all of his ticket money, leaving us broke. We owed the Pike Room, that night’s concert venue, money that we did not have. Luckily, Jeff came to the rescue, withdrawing a heroic amount from his bank account.
Once inside the venue, a security guard who had the approximate shape of an orange told us that we weren’t allowed to leave.
“You’re gonna need a wristband,” he told me and snapped one around my wrist like it was a house arrest anklet. It told me that I was a VIP. In the dark, dirty Room full of metalheads and hipster chicks, I did not feel Very Important.
Id of Christ played before us. There were other bands, of course, but none with a name as ludicrously hardcore as Id of Christ. The lead singer had a fur vest and sang of betrayal while his guitar droned. Every so often, he would stop a song in the middle and curse himself (“F — -, I’m sorry!”) for playing a wrong note. The long-haired drummer sensually removed his baggy t-shirt and told jokes about prostitutes.
The concert was woefully off-schedule due to a band who refused to set up their instruments in a timely fashion. I thought Team Lisa, my band, would play around seven, but God-help-me, it was already almost nine. Oh, woe is me. On a school night?
Only four of the twenty people to whom we sold tickets actually showed up.
A grim bartender, reminiscent of a soulless Jim Croce, served me arctic ice water with downcast eyes.
A terrifying mosh pit formed, and Jeff got stuck inside it.
A band refused to tell me what type of music they played, preferring to call themselves alternative. Alternative to what?
Brett disappeared, Jeff disappeared, and I hung around with an old friend, my partner, and my partner’s friend. We huddled together to avoid the harsh chaos of the Pike Room.
When the time came for us to play, the whole place already seemed like it wanted to tear me apart. I removed my sweater and set up my glockenspiel onstage. Jeff set up his drums, and Brett plugged in his ukulele.
We were about as ready as kindergarteners on the first day of school.
Brett forgot the words to the first song we played. A bad start.
Because the whole world was against us, another band started playing downstairs the instant we got on stage. Their sound shook the floor beneath my feet, making my anxious tremors even worse. Between songs, people laughed at us. At, not with.
While we were playing, I could see a group of pentagrammed metalheads talking amongst themselves. A group of girls, presumably on some mind-altering substance, called me and Jeff cute, taking copious pictures of us with their iPhones.
As all things do, the show ended.
Immediately after we stopped playing, some crowd members began to ominously chant, “Where’s the Pork?” I knew that Pork was a band, set to play after us. The sound guy onstage looked at me, smiled, and repeated the chant.
There’s no better way to congratulate a band than by cheering for the next one. Brett, Jeff, and I collectively sighed.
Once our instruments were offstage, I went to *****, my source of comfort and reason in a world of Pork fanatics. They had bad news.
“The guys in Pork are jerks. One kept saying he wanted to break your ‘xylophone’ over your head. He doesn’t even know what it’s called,” they said. “He kept saying that he would dread an encore because he’d have to hear you again.”
Me? I know that I play an instrument designed for schoolchildren, but I’ll be damned if I let the drummer for a mediocre local metal band criticize me.
Well, I will be damned because I totally let him.
Later, Brett came to me with more bad news.
“Yeah, man,” he began like he was already in the middle of the story. “Those guys called us self-loathing pussies. They yelled it at us after we played ‘God Hates You.’”
After a night absolutely full of disappointment and outright weirdness, Pork was the last straw. Not just for me. All of Team Lisa felt the adrenaline of indignance. How dare they call us pussies? I mean, we are, no doubt about it, but how dare they? And they’re more popular than us? The injustices were neverending.
Once we had packed up, I pulled my wood-panelled PT Cruiser up to the sidewalk, so we could load up and get the Hell out of there. Along with *****, we lobbed insults at Pork in an attempt to soothe our damaged egos.
“Pork?” Jeff asked. “I thought they were serving poultry tonight.”
A thumping bass line came through the second story window, and we screamed “Pork!” in time with it. Pork. Pork. Pork-Pork. Team Lisa felt united for the first time that night. Gone were our worries about money, popularity, or forgetting the words to our own songs.
The only thing we had left in the whole damn world was a distaste for Pork. Fitting, because we were all vegetarians.
As ***** and I got into my car, two drunk men stumbled out of the The Crofoot. They raged and twirled, trying and almost-failing to hold onto consciousness.
“Man, f — - this building!” one screamed into the night.
“Yeah!” said his friend.
As a team, they began to violently kick the The Crofoot. One can imagine blood filling up their cheap shoes, toenails splitting, all while the building remained perfectly intact. I couldn’t help but identify with those men a little bit. Sure, they were acting out of blind anger and spite, carrying out a meaningless task with no clear end goal.
But they were doing it together.
Tomorrow, they might ice their feet and go shoe-shopping, forever united in their infinite hatred of that stupid fucking building and its impenetrable brick walls.