The Green Room

The Drummer

It happened at the build. Whoever did it knew the song, or else just got lucky. I’m going with the first. Ryan starts Jumping Sides on his own on guitar and then I come in with a bass drum five measures in—a hypnotic, driving kick on the down beats. One. Three. One. Three. Then, before the band goes all out at measure 12, I build. One-and two-and three-e-and-four-e-and-a. That next beat is when I go nuts, and I was ready. Jumping Sides was the last song before the encore, so even though we were exhausted from bouncing around like pinballs with instruments strapped to our shoulders for an hour and a half, you get an extra boost of energy for the encore. Fairly large sweat stains soaked through my black AC/DC shirt, and yet I was unphased.

But the payoff to the build never came. Gunshots put an end to that. Man, I was so close to getting a stage.

“Weren’t you on stage already?” one of the cops asked me as I uttered those words to him during my questioning after the chaos had died down, Shit, bad choice of words. We stood backstage in the hallway to the broom closet that masqueraded as our dressing room so I could stand against the wall with my right leg up at a 90-degree angle. I had just sat on a stool for nearly two hours flailing my limbs like a mad man. The least appealing idea to me was to sit in a closet after the show.

“No, no, man,” I answered. “Er, sir. Like a platform. So that my kit is raised off the ground. I can’t see shit back there now but after that deal with Turn, I was finally going to be able to see what everyone else sees. And they could see me.”

Turn was the record label that had just signed us to our first deal with the promise of a forthcoming album and an upgrade from the van and trailer that we had toured in for the past four years. Now that our quartet is now a trio, who knows if a hand will still be waiting for us to bring us up from this hole.

The point I was trying to make to the cop was that I was not the most helpful in a criminal investigation. I couldn’t see shit. My view was blocked not only by cymbals, but also by three bandmates who got to roam around the stage as they pleased, winking at the women in the crowd and soaking up the limelight. I didn’t see the shooter approach. All I saw was Trey hit the ground and a mass of bodies in the crowd spray in all directions away from the stage. I even played two beats longer than everyone else because I didn’t know what was happening. How could I from where I sat? I’m sure someone will make me look like an asshole for it.

“So, you didn’t see anyone with a gun?” the police officer pressed.

I shook my head. “No, but I wish I did so I could have done something to help. Would have gladly provided him, or her, I guess, with a couple of drumsticks to the head.” I could feel the officer scan me up and down. Unlike the stereotypical 5-foot-10, 160-pound shaggy-haired kids who he probably pictured behind a drum kit, I was a 6-foot-1, 195-pound shaggy-haired “kid” behind the drum kit. I could do alright in a fight with a pair of sticks in my hand. The name helps with the persona. People don’t believe me when I say D.J. Wilde is my given name. “How fitting,” is the response when I convince them of the truth. I keep the fact that D.J. stands for Daniel John to myself.

“Did this surprise you?” the cop continued.

“Was I surprised that the lead singer of my band, and more importantly a friend of mine, was shot and killed while I was on stage with him? Not really. I normally expect most of our shows to end in death and pain.” There was no chance my sarcasm did not come through.

“Of course, I’m sorry. What I meant was, can you think of anyone that had problems with Trey or reasons why he could have been in danger?”

Wasn’t that a fucking question. I looked to my left down the dark narrow hallway that opened to stage right and the overhead lights that illuminated the platform. Trey’s body had been removed but the dark read stain from where he dropped to his back and exhaled for the final time remained. The Green Room would probably have to pull up and replace those floorboards all together. What do you think would happen to the ones branded with history? Would they go out with the weekly trash, or would someone keep them aside as a souvenir, a historic moment in Kansas City rock music? Would the boards hang someplace visible, perhaps over the bar of The Green Room so that every patron could be reminded of what took place on this night and what came since, once the shock and bad press subsided?

Standing at the other end of the tunnel-esque hallway was that music blogger, typing away on his phone. That lucky son of a bitch. I still don’t understand why Trey allowed him to follow us around for this last show, but now this wannabe Almost Famous character has the story of his life. My emotions pushed me to stride toward him and clock him in the face but the presence of the cop kept me against the wall. Before I could dwell on my rage further, he moved to his right and then I saw Jenna Yarick wiping a tear from under her left eye. The latest of Trey’s girlfriends, or rather, Kansas City-based girlfriends. Does she know how many other girls in random towns across the country are going to be wiping away tears just like her when they hear the news? It’s not her fault. He’s an entrancing presence.

I don’t know how long I had been starting off down the hallway, but I snapped back to see the cop raising his eyebrows at me, waiting for a response.

“The enigma that is Trey Thorne is going to get peeled back, isn’t it?” I asked, rhetorically.


The Bassist

“I don’t mean to be rude, but is this going to take long?” I asked with my hands folded on top of one another on the cold metal desk.

“It shouldn’t, no,” the detective sitting across from me answered after giving me a puzzled look. “We appreciate your time, Mr. Turner. We are just hoping that as someone closest to Trey, you would be able to provide some insight that will help us find out what happened to your friend. Do you have somewhere to be?”

“We have a practice session at 3:30,” I said, trying my best not to have the bluntness come off the wrong way. “While on the one hand, it seems impossible to continue without Trey, the other guys and I have worked too hard to let our dreams be taken with this tragedy.”

The detective ignored the comment. “Did you see the shooter?”

“No, I was on the right side of the stage and looking back at D.J. to hit that first note in line. It had become a thing. Ryan and I look back at D.J., raise the necks of our guitars up, and crash down on that first beat.”

“Seems like the shooter picked a good time,” the detective commented, almost to himself.

“Something like that,” I muttered, reliving that moment in my head and hearing the boom and screams as I swiveled around.

“What were the dynamics like in the band?” The detective checked his notes. “Every Time, right?”

I nodded. Like everything, this was Trey’s preference. I wanted to call ourselves The Flyovers, as an homage to our Midwestern roots, but Trey shot it down. Said it made us sound insignificant. I countered that like those who discount where we’re from, our music would prove the name wrong. Trey got his way. Of course he did.

“The dynamics?” the detective prodded.

I wasn’t sure what to divulge. D.J. thought we didn’t listen to his ideas enough, that just because he sits in the back doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what works out front. There also may be truth in that if he didn’t form the band initially with Trey, he would have been gone by now, at least in my opinion. Ryan didn’t seem to care about anything but playing and did what we told him. It was Trey and I who had the strongest creative viewpoints that were actually worth considering. Were we really that different than any other band?

“We’re a family,” I said. “Brothers. And sometimes we don’t see eye to eye, but we always have each other’s backs.” I paused. “And we don’t kill each other.”

“Tell me about Jenna Yarich.”

“The latest girl to fall under the spell of Trey’s charm. It’s been about, I don’t know, six months maybe. She’s nice.”

“Quite the family, too,” the detective led. “Powerful.”

“That’s what I’ve heard. She didn’t talk about them much around us.”

“Is there anyone else in Trey’s life that we should talk to?” I paused and thought, trying to come up with the most appropriate answer.

“Trey’s circle isn’t very big, which is why he’s always making sure he’s in the center of the circle. Or, I guess, he was always making sure. I’m not used to the past tense.”


The Guitarist

Indents of perfect lines ran across the four fingers of my left hand, the result of not putting down my guitar for what had to have been hours. They don’t hurt anymore. The callouses have been built up for years from these types of endurance sessions.

I leaned my head back against the wall behind my bed and closed my eyes. The sounds from my playing weren’t anything in particular, just random assortments of riffs that my fingers came across in their search to ease my mind. I thought about the first time I experienced one of these moods. My grandmother had just died. I was maybe 14. And the only action that didn’t feel painfully sad was playing. So, I played until the lines appeared and ached on my less weathered fingers, looking so ingrained that I was certain the tips of my fingers were going to permanently have a new indention.

In the other room, D.J. was downing a Bud Light, which number of the night it was I doubted either of us knew. We deal with grief in a variety of ways. My hands subconsciously went into the beginning of Jumping Sides before I realized what I was doing and stopped my rogue appendages, quickly moving slightly up the fretboard for Metallica’s Jump in the Fire, as if I could sell myself on the first song not actually happening. My hands have a tendency to act on their own. At their best, they drive inspiration and creation. At their worst, they stumble around aimlessly but, mostly, harmlessly. While they work, my mind is free to focus on other efforts.

My bandmates assume I am lost to the world in this state. They pin a reputation on me of being single-minded and easygoing. I have found it has worked out better to keep to myself the fact that I am listening and aware of more than the sounds I am creating. Their secrets being mine is my secret. Trey believes he got away with selling one of our amps for drug money three years ago and claiming it was stolen. Bryce has no idea that I know he has been sleeping with Jenna Yarick behind Trey’s back for the past three months. Or even worse, that Bryce auditioned another singer without Trey knowing before we recorded this latest demo.

Next up on my personal shuffle was Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, which felt like a more apt tribute. Two memories kept replaying in my head on repeat. In the first, I had only been rehearsing with the band for a few weeks when Bryce offered some unsolicited advice into the construction of my solo for what would later be Any Time.

“I don’t pretend to do your job better than you,” I spat. “Don’t pretend to do mine better than me.”

I turned around to sip a drink of water and cool off when Trey put a hand on my shoulder.

“You and I are going to get along great,” he said with his patented smile.

In the second memory, we were just about to take the stage in this tiny dive bar in Omaha when Trey moved forward to face me and smacked me on the chest with the back of his hand.

“Don’t shy away from the spotlight searching for you. Step into it and let it bathe you.” He then smiled that Trey smile that made so many follow him into the light and walked out onto the stage, raising his hands above him in a clap as the crowd erupted in cheers.

My recollection was cut short. I heard the phone ring from the other room but figured D.J. had passed out at this point. A minute later, he was standing in the doorway. I finished the last few measures of a riff I had been working on and laid the guitar across my lap.

“It’s Bryce.” D.J. spoke in a quiet monotone. “He was jumped tonight. He’s OK, but they focused on his arms and hands. Left one is broken. Right one not a lot better.”

“Do we know who?” I asked.

“We think it was some of Yarick’s men.”

Bryce’s secrets didn’t feel much like secrets anymore.


The Singer

I picked a booth next to the window at Danny’s Diner so the warm spring sun would shine down on me. Will had arrived before me and sat at a table in the middle of the narrow room but I suggested we move.

“I really appreciate this,” Will said, clearly trying not to sound too giddy.

“You caught me at a good time,” I answered, taking a drink of water. “I don’t always eat lunch, but I was up early today.”

“Excited for the show at the Green Room? I imagine the hometown shows carry a different weight than the others.”

“It does. I have a feeling tonight is going to be one to remember.”

I glanced down at the tape recorder between us on the gray table.

“Don’t most journalists use their phones to record now?” I asked.

“I’m being extra careful today,” he answered, pointing at his phone on the other side of him. I nodded and smiled.

“You have been in on us early,” I said. “Will you be at the show tonight?” This was a question I didn’t need an answer to, it was purely for his benefit. I had done my research. Will needed a big break while he followed his passion project paid for by shifts as a barista. He would be willing to tell what we, or rather what I, needed from him without putting up a fight. One look into his large, eager eyes confirmed it

“Of course.”

“Good. Show up a bit early and watch from the side of the stage. I’ll have my guy Tony let you through.”

The waitress returned to take our order and left nearly as quickly as she came with instructions for a turkey club on focaccia and a Reuben.

“I know we’re all about barbecue here, but the turkey club from Danny’s may be the single best piece of food in the entire central time zone,” I said, building rapport. “It might make my last supper list.”

“You’re from here? Lived here all your life?” Will asked in a commendable transition to stay on track. I humored him with a decently detailed accounting of my childhood, my friendship with D.J., meeting Ryan, and our failed string of bassists before Bryce arrived. We talked musical influences as the food was placed in front of us and my approach to songwriting.

“The first song I ever heard of Every Time was Jumping Sides, and it seems to be one of your most popular. Is it one of your favorites?”

“I’m too close to it and it’s still too new to say.”

“The chorus in particular catches me,” he continued. “Loyalty is hard to find / When being on top is top of mind / Don’t bother running, there’s nowhere to hide / Cuz it’s a lose-lose situation when you’re always jumping sides. Can you talk about your inspiration behind that? Is this about someone in particular?”

I smiled to defuse any initial reaction on Will’s part.

“No one in particular, no.” I ate a fry and sat back in the booth. “The inspiration is,” I breathed out, “chess is a common analogy. There are people who try to stand above the board, influencing all of the pieces to their will. They want to play God. And when you’re not God, it doesn’t end well. Focus on your side and execute your strategy to the best of your ability.”

Will simply nodded as I snagged another fry from my plate.

Nearly six hours later, I stood 50 feet outside the back door to The Green Room after the sound check breathing in the chilling air. Jenna faced me while leaning against the brick wall, waiting for me to speak or move.

“There’s still time to call it off,” she said in a hushed tone.

I gave her a side smile and ran my hand through my hair. “No stopping now,” I answered.

“And you don’t want to know who?”

I shook my head. “Better not to. Let’s keep some mystery involved. And you have the notebook and recordings for after?” This time, it was Jenna’s turn to nod and smile.

She wrapped her arms around me before I could say anything else, which I assumed was so I couldn’t see the tears welling in her eyes.

“Hey, they’re going to remember our names after today.” Jenna nodded, but I could tell the doubt lingered.

Time crept on at a painfully slow level. There were so many things I wanted to do that were out of the question. I wanted to write Bryce a note to explain that he wasn’t going to win this one. And maybe offer one final Fuck you. I wanted to call my mother and tell her this wasn’t a failure, but rather a triumph. I settled for a final text that said Love you and one last rum and Coke.

Eventually, it was showtime and we huddled up for our pre-show routine. At the last minute, I held up my hand and stopped the gravitation toward the stage.

“Everything up to this point has been a building point to this,” I said.

“Arenas here we come,” D.J. yelled.

“Tonight is the cementation of our legacy,” I finished.

Ladies and gentlemen, the emcee announced, give it up this time for Every Time.

I inhaled through my nose and held in my breath until the last moment before becoming drenched in spotlight. Ryan kicked off the opening riff to Always Right as I grabbed the mic stand and smiled, scanning the bouncing crowd for a face that looked out of place.


Kyle Davis is a marketer and journalist by day, telling stories in a series of publications, and with the rest of my free time not claimed by my two boys, I follow my true passion of fiction.