The stage is our world
Ben squinted his eyes as the spotlight shone on him. The three of them stood up there with beaming smiles. They could hardly believe they had made it that far. There was applause and the occasional whistle. Jade sniggered to herself as she read the sign four rows back:
WE LOVE YOU JADE
Matt sat down and immediately tapped his foot three times as the bass pedal bashed against the bass drum. As their first song burst forth they were lost in the impressive roar of the crowd…
Two months earlier, Jade was sitting at home surfing the Net out of boredom. She had felt invisible. She wanted to do something with her life.
Then on the corner of the screen she spotted the advert. A band was looking for a bassist. She picked up her guitar and pondered the risk she was about to take.
Logging on to EBay she put her guitar on auction and started looking out for a decent bass guitar. A few hours later, the guitar had been sold and Jade had found a bass.
Meanwhile across town, Ben tapped his fingers on his desk. He wondered if anyone would respond to his advert. He was fed up with the inferior musicians he had been playing with over the previous couple of months. He knew that this was more than just a “school boy” dream. He had lyrics and melodies running through his veins. He had scribbled notebooks filled with verses and choruses. He just needed the right people to journey with him in fulfilling his dream. Would they come?
Ben received Jade’s SMS and Facebook friend’s request at the same time. She wrote:
I play bass guitar and am very interested in joining your band. When can we meet up? Jade
At first Ben wondered if this was just another girl trying to live out a teenage rock star fantasy. However in his gut and after having looked through this girl’s profile, he felt otherwise and took the risk and called her.
Two weeks later, Jade and Ben were sitting at the Jade’s favourite coffee shop, looking at two options for a drummer in their band. Both Peter and Matt had impressive résumé’s.
“Who should we pick?” Ben asked.
Stirring her coffee, Jade replied with a smile, “Maybe it’s time I pull out my dice.”
The delicious aroma of mocha chocha had filled the room, “Um, take out your what?” Ben asked.
Jade laughed. “I told you a few days back, that I can be a little weird. I carry a set of dice with me, to help with decisions.”
Ben smiled and stared at her in disbelief. “You keep surprising me.”
She pulled out one die, “If the die lands on an even number, we will ask Matt to join the band. If it falls on an odd number, then we give Peter a call.”
Ben summoned for their waitress and asked her to roll the die; thinking that a neutral hand was best in that situation.
Matt knocked on the front door at 12 Chelsea Drive. He wore baggie pants and had a key chain from his belt to his pocket. He wore a black INCUBUS t-shirt.
Ben’s mother opened the door.
“Good… Good morning mam, I am here to see Ben.”
“That’s a cool band!” She smiled, pointing to his t-shirt and continued: “They’re in the garage.”
The garage had been well padded with strips of foam and what seemed to be an old mattress. And on the inside of the garage door, sprayed painted in reggae colours (red, yellow & green) was the name:
ANCIENT BLUE STONES
“Welcome to the band” Ben said extending his hand.
Jade stepped forward with her bass guitar strapped around her and raised her hand for a high five: “I’m Jade”
Thinking back on those two hours that followed, Ben smiled knowing that these two were going to be great band mates and friends. They had discussed their bands they loved and shared favourite lyrics and albums and even live gig memories. Ben also shared how when he was younger; he had jotted down the name: ANCIENT BLUE STONES in a boring English class and that’s how their band had arrived at such a name. (He even showed a rough drawing of their first album cover.)
“This band is not about me. It’s about us. But I do hope you see that I don’t want to do this band just to pass time as we finish school and varsity. I want us to be big. I want us to do our best and get known. We’ll keep the name, but obviously we will share our creativity in writing songs and lyrics and even designing album covers. As you see the one I drew a few years back is rather amateurish.” He laughed.
Jade and Matt shared their keenness and promised to do their best.
You could feel the excitement and mystery in the room. There was something much larger than them brewing in that room. They were no beginners on their instruments. They commanded respect from their instruments. Jade’s fingers moved so freely across her fret board. Ben made sounds come out his guitar that one never thought was possible by an 18-year-old: a combination of an edgy and nostalgic melody.
And when Matt played his drums, those symbols and toms were a solid backbone of the sound that the ANCIENT BLUE STONES were going to offer the world…
“Do you want the bad news or good news first?” Well in fact it’s all good news really. It just requires a lot work.” Ben asked the band.
“Shall I pull out my dice?” Jade smirked. The boys smiled.
“Tell us dude. I’m amped!” Matt probed.
Ben told them of how a few weeks back he managed to secure a place in the final in a Battle of the Bands. He auditioned as a solo act and then asked the judges if he could surprise them with bringing on a band in the finals. Ben had promised to not let them down. One of the club owners who knew him had backed up his claim, so the judges had conceded his request.
“The final is on the 1st July.”
Matt and Jade gasped and she replied: “That’s only three week’s away. But bring it! We accept the challenge.” Jade said. Matt smiled and nodded. “Rock on!”
The three weeks that followed were jam packed with hours of practicing, crippled with obstacles and setbacks and rounded up with a well-earned moment and reward…
Practises were set for 4 – 6pm after school. They were all at different schools. Matt was actually in first year of varsity doing a BCOM in Law, Ben was in matric and Jade was in Grade 11 but already 18.
At the first practice, Matt suggested that they play the week before the Battle of the Bands at his Varsity’s Annual Talent show. He reasoned that it would give them exposure and hopefully draw a crowd supporting them at the Battle.
Jade also suggested that they cover a well-known song. Crowds are always suckers for a song they are familiar with. After ten minutes that had agreed on doing a trendy rendition of UB40’s “Kingston Town,” they would perform it with a touch of Grunge mixed in with its original Reggae feel.
Their first three practices went so well. Creativity flowed freely and they were super excited for their first gig. However on day four Matt did not arrive for practice.
Ben and Jade frantically tried to get hold of him. His phone was off. He was not online. They didn’t know where he lived. Ben was pacing in the garage. Why was this happening to him?
You could feel the disappointment and tension in there. Jade gently placed her hand on Ben’s shoulder; “Your dream is still in reach.”
Jade’s parents had noticed the change in her. She walked with her shoulders high. She was more polite to them and even helpful around the house. Jade even made her parents’ coffee in the mornings before school.
She had started living with purpose and enthusiasm. Her confidence was growing. That night Jade asked her dad to print the flyers in colour she had designed for the ANCIENT BLUE STONES gig at his work.
The next day, Matt had not showed up again. Had he been in an accident? Had something bad happened? Jade rolled the dice and the odds fell on keeping Matt in the band.
Matt had been grounded. His parents had taken his phone away and his car keys had also been confiscated. His dad would not allow him to play in the band. His son was to be a brilliant lawyer not a drug taking life wasting rock star.
When Matt’s mother went to the bathroom, from her laptop he had managed to Facebook his university’s address and lunch break time to Ben and Jade with a rendezvous message:
FRIDAY LUNCH MEET BY VARSITY ENTRANCE, WILL EXPLAIN THINGS
Last five minutes of their practice, Jade logged on to see the message.
Next day, Jade and Ben, after deciding to bunk their last lesson of school headed up to Matt’s varsity. Matt frustratingly apologized and told how unreasonable his dad was being. His dad wanted him to be something that he didn’t want to be himself.
“I hate this Law degree.”
Jade held her hand up requesting silence and suggested her brilliant idea. She would forge a letter from Matt’s parents telling the Varsity that for four days he would need to leave early for a prior rearranged family event. Jade would fetch him directly after school and they would squeeze in an hour and half practice before he had to be home by “dad’s orders” 3pm. (His varsity finished later than most schools.)
The plan worked. Their practises were intense. Their creative juices were overflowing… They rocked indeed!
The day of the Talent Show gig had arrived.
That Saturday morning, Jade and Ben arrived at Matt’s place and after a rather tense discussion with Matt’s dad, he approved that Matt could play that night. As they left, Jade turned around and handed him a flyer: “Hope to see you at the gig.”
And he actually did go! That Varsity bar area was pumping with students, a handful of parents and even some scholars who made it past the bouncer. Jade recognised some of the ‘popular princesses’ of her school there. I wonder if they are here to see me mess up or to mock me.
Just then Ben whispered in her ear. “I’m really glad you are in the band. You bring confidence.”
Strumming a Bm. chord Ben started to sing the familiar chorus with Jade harmonising along angelically.
“Oh Kingston Town, the place I long to be, if I had the whole world…”
The crowd roared in appreciation. Their unique rendition of the song well was received.
The set continued with 4 originals, ending off with their single to be: 4:13.
Ben was moved to tears during that song when the crowd repeated the bridge back to them:
“I can do all things; I can do all things…through you my strength”
Flashing lights, happy crowd and ecstatic band; the stage had become their world.
They walked off with the crowd cheering big time. Jade smiled at the boys. Matt was shaking. But they were good shakes. His nerves had turned to excitement.
Ben’s dream had begun. He was living it out. They first gig had got them ready for the many to follow.
On the way to pack up their instruments in Jade’s car; Matt’s dad hurriedly approached the band.
He stopped in front of them. You could feel the suspense in that moment.
“I will be coming to the Battle of the Bands next weekend. Well done my son!” he smiled. “Ben and Jade, you are good for my son. Thank you!”
The ANCIENT BLUE STONES had stepped on stage and were there to stay. A unique sound had birthed. I hope you would get to hear it.