It takes four to form a Rock Band – guitar, bass, vocals and drums – and back then, we had four. After the failure of our real-life band, the tentatively titled Keith and the Minions, broken up before it even started due to pubescent power struggles, we turned to the only thing we had left – our only outlet for some musical excitement in those early High School days.
We were young and we had everything ahead of us – plenty of time to suck. Plenty of time to pretend to Rock. Nowadays, the four of us are hardly in the same place – a weekend here, a day there, whenever we could take a day or two off our mounting self-created responsibilities – shackled with debt and lack of motivation with our increasingly distanced lives.
The last thing we want to do now is pick up our crestfallen plastic instruments and suck. But then, we had all the time in the world.
I play Bass, my weapon of choice. In truth, it’s the simplest to play. I suck the most out of the four of us – the lone Jewish kid in our ethnically and racially diverse foursome. With hair like Bob Dylan and none of the talent to match, I wait for the Drummer – the most skilled among us – to boot up Rock Band. It’s complicated to start it using the drums, but it gets done. Besides, we could wait. To borrow a lyric from late, great Louis Armstrong, we had all the time in the world.
In those days, we mostly played one song because we were either too poor at being plastic musicians or just didn’t have the desire to find other songs. Playing Weezer’s Say it Ain’t So over and over, we had our work cut out for us.
We needed to get worse before we got better– or at least, I did.
We were too young to be downing cold ones, at least without sneaking the occasional one from our parents. We had neither the funds nor capacity to get on our own. We lacked connections outside of the local liquor cabinet. Now, we drink because we don’t know what else to do when w get together. Back then, we did it to experiment.
Just a great experiment.
We distract ourselves and experiment more because we don’t know what else to do. We don’t want to go back to school. As Pink Floyd once said, We don’t need no education. But we play along anyway, because it’s the only option we see.
Because it’s the right thing to do.
I alternate between the first and third buttons, failing to keep any sort of rhythm. The game berates us – or at least, it berates me. Everyone else seems to be doing fine.
Caught up in their own little worlds.
We disappoint others, but more importantly, we disappoint ourselves. It doesn’t come naturally. Nothing comes naturally. It still doesn’t. It’s as though all the cool and all the swagger is sucked out of us. Like we are completely unable to progress. But we don’t let that stop us. At least I don’t let it stop me; I continue to not keep a rhythm, breaking barriers of mediocrity. But it’s not a struggle – there’s nothing to triumph over.
It’s just us. And what’s in front of us. It seemed endless.
We keep calm and carry on. With our plastic instruments, we are masters of our own domain. Non-confrontational and non-aggressive, we let the world pass us by. We don’t seize the day, or the moment, or even the hour. We just let it wash all over us. Like a waterslide, we move downward and backwards, but never in a forward direction.
Never in a direction that matters. Progress eludes us. We’re a plastic garage band that doesn’t get better, playing the same melodies over and over – like it was our only respite from the day-in and the day-out.
But we didn’t know how good we had it. We were cooler than we ever could have imagined.
Dear Daddy, I write you
In spite of years of silence
You’ve cleaned up, found Jesus
Things are good, or so I hear
This bottle of Stephen’s
Awakens ancient feelings
Like father, stepfather
The son is drowning in the flood
Yeah, yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah
I’m the only one out of all of us – the only one that feels like there’s tangible goals, dreams and desires to accomplish. The only one that feels like drifting through existence- like there’s something better out there.
But not now. Not when we’re playing Rock Band. It’s just me and my poor plastic Bass – I’m worse at this than I am at playing real guitar. But I don’t keep up with either, of course – with so many options, how can I be expected to choose?
We go upstairs and sneak a few cold ones from the fridge. We have all the time in the world. It’s all in front of us. At least that’s what it felt like back then.