Colin couldn’t play the guitar. He could never wrap his head around it. He could play a little bass, but nothing special. Enough to follow along on some Ramones covers with buddies, but nothing requiring skill. He was a drummer. And even as a drummer he wasn’t very talented. He had a band. A garage band, and that didn’t require much skill. A simple one two beat. The guys in his band were all much better than he was. They were musicians. They knew their instruments. Colin felt somewhat inadequate but nobody ever said anything.
Colin sat down on his bed with his roommate’s acoustic and tried to write something. He only knew a few chords but some of his favourite songs were just a few chords so he kept that in mind while he sat, struggling to come up with something half decent. G was an easy chord, and E wasn’t too hard. He played a sloppy C and a sloppy A, but as he strummed along he got a little tighter and came up with a progression he felt happy with until his fingers were sore and then he put it down and lit a cigarette.
Maybe it was too late to learn. He was Twenty-Two years old. Most of his friends who were guitar players had started when they were kids and had had lots of practise. He stared at the instrument as he smoked and he felt like a failure.
His band had a show that night in Halifax. They were opening. Colin didn’t mind opening. He preferred it to closing. Closing was the worst slot because by one a.m. most people were drunk and tired and ready to head home. The last show they played they’d closed, and there were no more than fifteen people in the room by the end of their set. Spending money on cabs both ways across the bridge for fifteen, twenty people and forty bucks to split four ways seemed like a complete waste of time and effort, so Colin was glad they were opening. He just wished he could play the guitar.
Colin got to the club before any of his bandmates. He packed his sticks and cymbals in his gig bag and took the bus over the MacDonald Bridge around Ten o’clock. He walked in and put his bag down next to the stage and got a beer at the bar. There weren’t many people there who he knew. There was Troy– the front man for Shankills– one of the most popular bands in Halifax. He was sitting at the door with the cash box, getting things in order, sipping a draft, and talking to a pretty girl in a yellow dress. Colin and Troy locked eyes and nodded to one another. Colin sipped his beer and walked over to the table.
“Not much, man,” Troy said, “What time you guys on?”
“Cool, cool. Where the boys at?”
“Not sure. They should be here soon.”
“Oh fuck, I heard the new songs you guys posted. They were sick.”
“Where’d ya do them?”
“Oh nice. I love it there.”
“Yeah same. Real chill.”
“Who’d ya do it with? Charles?”
“Oh, nice nice. I think he’s comin out tonight. I was talkin to him the other day on facebook. Told him to come oat.”
“Oh, shit, Colin, this is Stephanie.”
Colin stuck out his hand. “Hi”
“Hi,” Stephanie said, shaking his hand, “What band are you in?”
“Oh cool, I heard you guys on that comp. It was really good.”
“DARTMYTH!” Troy yelled, “The dirty D.”
“That’s the one.”
“You ever think you’ll move over here?”
“Maybe,” Colin said.
“Where in Dartmyth do you live?” Stephanie asked.
“Oh cool. I like it downtown. Two if by Sea is great.”
“You think so?”
“Well, I like it.,” she said, with a quiet laugh.
“Cigarette?” Troy asked, pulling one out of his leather jacket.
Colin took a long drink from his beer and set it down on the table next to the cash box, and the three of them stepped outside.
By ten-forty five the place was filling up and the stage was set. All the other bands had loaded in and gotten drinks and were standing around the club bullshitting and waiting for the show to start. Colin’s bandmates still hadn’t shown up and none of them had responded to his texts.
“Where the boys?” Troy asked.
“I dunno, man. They’re not responding. I’m gonna try them again.”
Colin stepped outside and called Sean, the guitarplayer/singer. There was no answer. He called Michael, the bassist, and there was no answer, and he couldn’t call Cory because he didn’t have a phone. Colin thought about Troy saying “Dirty D” and how much he fuckin hated it when anyone said that. It wasn’t as bad as when people said “The Darkside” but still, “Dirty D” was lame enough.
Colin put his phone back in his pocket and lit a smoke.
“Any luck?” Troy asked, lighting a joint.
“Ok, well, if they don’t get here in time we’ll just change the order. I’m sure Chupacabra wouldn’t mind opening.”
Troy passed Colin the joint and he took a few puffs.
“Tried playing guitar today.”
“Yeah. Didn’t go to well,” he said passing the joint back.
“Took me awhile ta get the hang of it. Still can’t really play it. That’s why I sing.”
“That’s why I drum.”
“I can’t drum worth shit. No rhythm.”
“I’d like ta sing again.”
“Alright, you take this,” handing him the joint, “and I’ma go talk ta Rob aboat goin on first.”
Colin took his phone out and called Sean again but there was no answer.
Michael showed up right when Chupacabra were tuned and ready to start. Colin saw him come in from across the room. He had his bass on his back and Colin felt he looked a little too calm and collected for being an hour late. Colin went right up to him.
“Dude, where the fuck ya bin?”
“I was at Celtic. It’s Amber’s birthday. What’s the word?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t gotten a hold of anyone. We’re supposed to be playin right now.”
“Fuck it. Second’s better anyway.”
Michael put his bass down on the left of the stage with the miscellaneous gear and coats, and headed to the bar.
“Have you talked to Sean or Cory?”
“They were both working.”
“Yeah but they both said they’d be off at like, four or five or some shit.”
“Sean texted me earlier when I first got to Celtic and said his phone was dying and that he’d be over before eleven.”
The bartender came over. Young dude with a pony tail and a white button-up. “What can I get ya?”
“Can I getta Moosehead?”
“One here, too, please,” said Colin, irritated with Michael’s cavalier manner and Sean and Cory’s poor communication skills.
They got their beers and paid and tipped a quarter and then placed themselves in the middle of the floor, waiting for Chupacabra to play a song.
“These guys are pretty shitty,” Michael said quietly to Colin with a smile.
The singer grabbed the mic.
“Hey, we’re Chupacabra. R.I.P Dio!”
When they’d finished their beers, Colin and Michael went outside for a smoke. Four Chupacabra songs were enough. While they walked through the crowd and towards the door they passed many people they recognized but didn’t speak to a single one.
Outside, Cory was leaning up against Sean’s car with half a quart of Wisers and a broken smoke hanging out of his mouth.
“How is it in there? “ Sean asked.
“They suck?” Cory asked. “Haha, do they fuckin suck?”
“Yeah,” Michael said, “Chupacabra.”
“Yeah they fuckin suck,” Cory said. He gave up on the broken smoke and tossed it on the street. He took another swig outta the quart and handed it to Michael. Michael took a swig and passed it to Colin.
“Nah, I’m cool.”
“Ahh come on,” Cory said. “Take a drink before I gotta put it away.”
“Nah, I’m cool. Where the fuck you guys bin?”
“I was at work till seven,” Sean said, “and then I was at home chillin. I picked this fucker up from Montebello Park.”
“Montebello Park?” Michael said, “Haha, Cory what the fuck you doin in Montebello park? Fingerin fifteen year olds?
“Drinkin with Pat and all them.”
“Aright well, we’re on in like, twenny, twenny-five,” Colin said.
Colin always finished setting up first. He set his cymbals the way he liked them and adjusted the toms and the hihats and then he was finished. He was always just sitting there at the kit like a goof, waiting for the three of them to tune and adjust their amps.
He thought about the guitar. He pictured himself on stage, at the front of the stage with a beautiful electric guitar, playing a badass riff and wailing on the mic, with the crowd eating it up. He watched Cory in the corner, struggling with his stings. Drunk. Too drunk. It was a good thing he was only second guitar because he was bound to be sloppy and there was a good chance he’d break a string or two before the set was over.
Sean and Michael were ready to go. Cory was still fiddling with his high E and the crowd was getting restless. Colin began playing a simple funk beat out of boredom and Michael followed him with a simple line and started beatboxing in the mic and the people in front were smiling and laughing.
“DARTMYTH!” Someone shouted from the bar. “DARTMYTH!”
Colin grimaced and went into a blast beat, drowning out the idiot in the corner.
Cory was finally ready and Sean introduced the band and they went into their first song.
The set went well. Cory managed and only broke a string at the end of the last song. All four of them were surprised by that. They finished to a good reception and quickly packed their shit up and got off stage.
Colin got a beer and sat down at a table, ignoring the familiar faces. He felt alright, but he didn’t wanna talk. He drank his beer slowly and thought about guitar again. He thought about Cory. “I can’t play drums all fucked up and get away with it. If I lose a beat, everyone listenin knows I lost the fuckin beat, but a second guitarist has little pressure, especially if the first guitar isn’t fuckin up too.”
He knew he ought to learn to play guitar.
“Hey, good set,” said Stephanie, sitting down at the table.
“Why don’t you like Two if by Sea?”
Colin smiled. “The coffee tastes like spaghetti.”
“Eww, no it doesn’t.”
“Yeah it does. And the baked goods make me sick.”
“Their cookies are amazing.”
“Where else would you go to get coffee?”
“It’s cheap and delicious.
“It is cheap; not so into shitty coffee is all.”
“So, you’re from Dartmyth.”
“Do you like it?”
“Not really. It has its moments.”
“Why don’t you move over here?”
“You’re a difficult one, aren’t ya?”
“I like it downtown. I like how cheap my rent is. I like that all my friends live there. I like being able ta see Halifax from the waderfront.”
“True, that is a nice view.”
“Oh, it’s a great view.”
“You like views?”
“I do, I do.”
“Do you like Halafax?” Stephanie asked.
“Some people say you Dartmyth boys hate Halafax.”
“Some do. I don’t.”
“Why is that?”
“I’m not a Dartmyth Representative. I can’t speak for the whole city.”
“But I’m sure you know a little bit more about it than I do. The reason that is.”
“You like Halafax?”
“You from here?”
“No, I’m from Toronto. I go to Kings.”
“I almost went to Kings.”
“Changed your mind?”
“Yeah. Changed my mind.”
“Do you go to school?”
“No. What do you take?”
“I wanted to be a journalist once.”
“Changed your mind?”
Colin smiled. “Yeah, I changed my mind.”
“You goin back to Dartmyth tonight?”
“Nah, Sean’s gonna drive.”
“He doesn’t drink?”
“Well that’s convenient.”
“How do you know Troy?”
“Through a friend.”
“You like Shankills?”
“Yeah me too. Really fuckin catchy.”
“You wanna smoke?”
Colin finished his beer and the two of them went outside. He lit Stephanie’s smoke for her and she smiled. He was no longer thinking about his failure as a guitar player.