… SOUND CHECK…
Mike test…(screeching feedback)…”could you lower the treble please”…Hello 12…Mike test…”yea much better, now gimme more bass”…
The lead guitarist cranks up the distortion and like a raging bull thrusting its nostrils and mud kicking from its heels, his Ibanez rumbles with every sliding rift. The bassy takes guard and the grunt of his mean Fender grips you like a revving Mustang. The keyboardist is subtle, as he seduces you with the blissful touch of his smooth black n whites. Much like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, the saxophonist- every boyfriend’s nemesis, uses his soothing pipe (ahem…I meant his saxophone) to lure the women in. The vocalist rips off his shirt, and hurls it at the crowd which now is a violent sea of hands reaching out. The neons on stage flicker as a cold mist sets your pulse racing. Soon your heart thuds in synch with the bass drum and with each strike of the cymbal, the crowd erupts and then TWEENG…the rhythm guitarist goes, “Oye Bhenc**d, my string broke.”
In a teenage world torn apart by drugs, sex and booze, Bands have always ‘been there’ for all sections of teen society- the nerds, the Goth, the jocks, the noobs, the rebels, the mo-hawks and the works. The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Animals et al, kinda shared the same story- a bunch of guys, socially outcast, playing their hearts out, changing the world. Every band has a story, one that defines the lives of each of its members; a story that no gig can truthfully tell. So, I’ll try and take you behind the scenes, coz beneath the classic guitarist stereotypes, drunken keyboardists, ‘cracked’ drummers and the heaving cleavage of most backup singers, each member brings a lone flavor that adequately marinates the band.
All lead guitarists are show offs. Admit it. Be it the distortion ridden unwanted fret burning rifts during sound checks, the flashy licks some Hendrix wannabes try to pull off or even smashing their guitars after gigs (the later less likely). Some go the extra mile just to be YouTube cult celebrities. The irony is, behind their hardcore manly alias, leads tend to be the most emotional characters of the band, easily offended. Yet they help put things in perspective and are blunt. They tend to take charge, during those weird moments in the course of practice when the flow of ideas dries up. They can be really bitchy critics, but it is that scrutiny that helps a band come up with a really good original composition or even a worthy cover. So the next time a lead does a flamboyant screaming solo, cut him some slack!
Bassys are the horny ones. I mean you really can’t blame them, with all the intricate yet smooth ‘fingering’ (o yeah), their bass solo is all the ‘climax’ they get. They bring the much needed humor to most bands. Bass guitarists tend to cut to the chase, do their part, and get out. No questions asked. Not easily rattled, they’re the guys who set the ball rolling. In band lingo, they give a song a good ‘feel’.
The keyboardist is usually a brat. Now brat-o-meter readings vary, but they can get on your nerves at times. Get it right and the guy on keys can walk you into the jazz and blues hall of fame. Their cheesy fill-ins, pitch bending pipe organ arpeggios and sound effects break the guitar dominance. They’re like a garnish that compliments the bold guitar flavors and adds the additional funk to your band gourmet.
The rhythm guitarist, the saxophonist and the other musicians in some bands’ arsenals, are like snipers in a war zone. Along with your regular ground troops you need them taking out vital impossible targets through their scopes aka rare skills. They are the goofy guys who lighten things up and crack the occasional dry joke. More importantly, they break the monotony and smoothen out the rough edges of any performance. They kinda are the most creative and the ones who come up with tunes that stick or insane lyrics.
The drummer pretty much is a Knight in whining armor. The pillars of any band they can also be cranky, absurdly emo, outrageously loud and on their off days, the epicenter of a musical disaster. Much like a really hot girl you’re trying to hook up with; get her to open up and slowly you work your way deeper (relationship-wise that is). Probably the most important and pivotal part of a band is its drummer. It’s like gravy spiced up with it the rhythmic booms of the bass, the crisp clash of the Hi-Hat, the deep toms blending with the snare or the glass shattering cymbal strikes, you need it to make your band curry awesome.
And finally the lone soul that weaves it all together and makes it happen- the vocalist (background explosion). He is either the most complimented or the most cursed after a gig. Some of them have issues; major superiority, lime light hogging issues, but most are humble Samaritans that lead the way. A guitarist plays a wrong chord, nobody notices, the keys guy hits two keys at once by mistake, well it may raise an eyebrow, the drummer loses timing, the bassy makes up, but if the vocalist screws up, it’s Armageddon. The vocalist is the go-to guy for any band. He soaks in all the pressure off the musicians and delivers in style. He kinda is the ring master cracking the whip to keep the on stage circus as entertaining as possible.
A gig at a good club…5000 bucks…fancy equipment…10,000 bucks…getting the crowd to love you…good music and lotsa Vodka , but as anybody who has ever played in a band would agree; the hours of practice, the heated arguments over pitches, the countless ‘let’s take it from the top’s, crashing at your drummers place coz practice ended late, the soppy one liners, random rifts that were eventually rejected, the mix matching of vocal parts and harmonies, strings breaking, face palms during zero idea moments and the satisfaction after your first half decent run-through…Priceless.
Well, I do the keys for a band called Ever Undecided, and the confines of our drummer’s place, where we jam, sure is my dojo. Now we aint no AC/DC in the making, but we think through hearts and play it out loud. Be it our lead guitarist James’ mind boggling fretwork, Myron slapping his bass guitar, Jaydeep’s tryst with some wicked strumming, Kris tearing apart his Pearl drum kit or Eddie singing soprano; after a long rough week , nothing is as fulfilling as free styling with the band. Coz no matter how bad things get, you can always take it from the top.
(drumsticks)…tick tick tick tick…
(drumsticks)…tick tick tick tick…