17th & Bainbridge pt.2

We rocketed through our set. Every time we finished a song, the whole basement screamed and clapped. I was instantly addicted. I thought we were pretty good, but they seemed to think we were great. As soon as we began, everybody was on their feet. All the people who had been sitting on the floor were now standing right up in our faces, smiling and dancing. I was sure that when we got to the reggae rock parts, that everyone was gonna lose interest or yell “Booooo!”, but they didn’t. Instead, they started doing a very specific dance. Later, I found out it was called “skankin’”. Apparently, it was the kind of dance everybody thinks you’re supposed to do if you hear ska. This kind of bothered me. I don’t like organized dancing. I like dancing that is a spontaneous expression of how music makes you feel. It’s bad enough if a dance has specific moves, or a name. If a dance has structured moves that you’re supposed to do in synced coordination with others, well then you may as well be marching in an army, ‘cause you’ve ditched your humanity. I hate ska. And I didn’t like skankin’, but I figured it was better than booing.

I found out that night that adrenaline and nervousness make you play faster, and harder. We blew through our 10 song set in just over 20 minutes. Also, I was bleeding liberally from the cuticle area of my strumming hand. I didn’t notice until the end of the set, but my hand and my guitar were all bloody. I was psyched. The basement was packed with people. It was an absolute rush. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was a part of something, like I belonged somewhere, there in that stinky, sweaty basement.

We played our last song and everybody shouted for more. We didn’t have any more. I unplugged my guitar, grabbed my case, and made my way for the stairs, squeezing through the tightly packed crowd. People I didn’t know told me things like, “That was great!” And “Awesome set!”. It felt so nice to hear these things. I was sure they were lying to me. I had to climb over the people who were sitting on the steps and be careful not to step on them. Finally, I popped out of the top of the staircase and entered the kitchen. It was fuckin’ nuts. The kitchen was almost as crowded as the basement. People everywhere. I finally made it into the living room, still wearing my guitar and dragging my guitar case along behind me. I put my bloody guitar into the case and stashed it behind some furniture. Then I slumped back onto the couch and collected myself. That went really well, I thought, as I took a few deep breaths and felt my heart approach a more normal rate.

I looked around and marveled that I was in somebody’s house. Ken & Troy, and a guy named Chuck and I think another guy named Bill and maybe somebody else all lived here, yet right now the place was crawling with people. I mean, everybody was really nice and friendly and all, but like, did they know all these people? Like, how do you just let this many people come in and rock the fuck out in your living space? I couldn’t really comprehend it. There were some sexy ass girls there. Girls with dangerous looking eye make up and fishnet stockings. I was so glad my girlfriend wasn’t there. I wasn’t gonna try to hook up with anybody, but it was nice to be there on my own. There were also new smells. Weed, cigarettes, and b.o. were all familiar to me, but not in this quantity. Other unfamiliar scents were mixed in, giving the whole experience an exotic dimension that was so very thrilling.

I thought about drinking a beer, then quickly decided against it. I had no real idea what amount of beer would make me drunk. I was driving, I owned the car, and the last thing I needed was to have some alcohol related problem with myself or worse, with the law. The last time I had a beer was about 2 years before. I had been hanging around with my cousin, Chris, who looked EXACTLY like a miniature George Thorogood. We got ahold of a few six-packs and went down to the train tracks behind his house with some of his friends; Two beautiful Korean-American girls named Carol and Carolyn, a slightly older meathead jock named Tom, and another kid our age called Charmeteaux (SHAR muh too). We were killing time before we were all supposed to go to the sweet sixteen party of another friend of theirs at a northeast Philly catering hall. I nursed one can of beer the whole time. When nobody was looking, I even dumped some of it out. By the time we were leaving for the party, Tom and Charmeteaux had drank almost all of the beer themselves and were totally fucked up. Carolyn’s older brother, who was about 22 and didn’t speak any English, was driving us to the party in his purple compact car. Carolyn sat on Carol’s lap in the passenger seat and the four guys crammed into the back seat. Chris and I were in the middle, Tom and Charmeteaux were on the outside. Thank fuckin Jesus, because as we were driving to the hall, both of those dudes started to turn green and looked sick as shit. Charmeteaux started looking all limp and leaning on my cousin’s shoulder salivating all over him. Chris tried to quietly shove him toward the window, but the car was so crammed, nobody could really move. Just then I heard a heaving sound and felt meathead Tom start to convulse like a cat with a hairball. I turned to look and he was looking up with his hand on his mouth trying to hold in the vomit that was spritzing out of his clenched lips like a fountain onto the ceiling of the car. I screamed and slammed my body to the left to avoid the puke spray. Carol and Carolyn shrieked, “TOMMMMMMM! NOOO!” Carolyn’s brother turned around while the car was still moving and his eyes popped out of his head. He began to yell a long litany of Korean scoldings. Just then, we pulled up to the hall. The doors burst open and we all spilled out of the car as Tom continued to spew all over the sidewalk in full view of sweet sixteen girl’s arriving family and friends. Charmeteaux staggered past Tom and laid down on the lawn and seemed to fall asleep while gently vomiting a large quantity of liquid onto the grass beside his face. Carol, Carolyn, Chris, and I all walked into the hall, pretending we didn’t know the pukers, and got in line for roast beef sandwiches. Disaster averted.

Just then I heard a wail of feedback, a drum roll, and a few plunked bass notes thundering from the basement at a devastating volume. Were WE that loud?! I wondered. I don’t think we were. This was almost vomit inducing, it was so insane. I ran down to see what was going on. I had to know. As I squished my way back down the stairs, I saw Prometheus Trashed in all their glory. They all had keffiyeh scarves tied around their heads like the goddamned PLO. As the feedback rang through the densely packed space, The singer, Tavis, I presumed, was delivering a politic laden monologue that I couldn’t comprehend. I think it was about us all having blood on our hands because of the oil war that had just kicked off in Kuwait. Then they lurched into a song and it was the most in my face punk rock experience I had ever had. The whole basement writhed in unison and became one with the band. Goddammit. They were SO much better than us. It was sloppy and chaotic, but it was a thousand times more powerful than what we had been doing. I was blown away. I had work to do.

They played their whole set and the house continued to get even more crowded. I could not believe how many people were stuffed in there. “Pretty great huh?”, just then Jamie was next to me. “I think we kicked ass tonight.”, he said, starting to sound a little slurry. “Yeah, I think so too, man! Everybody’s super friendly here! They seemed to really dig it.” “THERE YOU ARE! Guys I have to GO!!” Suddenly, Lauren was there with us too and Erik behind her. “Why, what time is it?” I asked. “It’s almost eleven o’clock!”, she said with a bit of desperate panic in her voice. Oh shit! I had to go too! I had to drop everybody off and get my ass home before midnight or I’d be in some deep shit. “Alright, I’m stayin’ here”, Jamie told us. “I’ll see you all at practice next week.” With that, I went back downstairs and grabbed my amp and dragged it impossibly through the mobbed house. “Your band’s awesome!”, a dude with one big dreadlock told me.

We loaded our crap into my trunk and started the car. “Do either of you know how to get home?” I asked. “I think I can get us there.” Erik responded. We pulled out and I followed Erik’s loose directions. All the streetlights seemed to be out in this part of town. Every corner had 4 or 5 creepy lookin dudes on it, staring into my eyes as I drove around, not really knowing where I was. Eventually, we got to a well populated part of South street. Erik said, “Alright, I know exactly where we are now. Just keep goin’ straight up this street, then turn right at the Black Banana, and you’ll be able to get on the highway.”
“The Black Banana?” That didn’t sound so great.

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