Fiction — March 2, 2011 12:26 — 0 Comments

The Faithful – Lindsay Lennox

Bad cover bands playing in bars with shitty sound systems are a priesthood, you think to yourself while stepping over the wires tangled at the edge of the stage. The music you play with such reverence, such fidelity was created by one of the deities of rock, flippantly, between groupies. Even so, you know yourself to be incapable of recreating that casual genius, so you do what you can – obsessively practice the solos, ritualizing every note, even the ones accidentally dropped in during a moment of inattention by the god who made it. It’s how you worship them, commune with them, but (like all priests) you need a congregation to witness, to testify, to partake of the trans-substantiation of your unskilled but faithful renderings into the holy stuff of rock & roll.

On a good night, it feels like you’re a conduit transmitting the pure love of music from the audience back to the heavens – your playing, however, is often not good enough, doesn’t even render faithfully, much less add to, but your intentions are enough in these clubs most of the time.

This isn’t even a good night – you’re happy your idols were busy elsewhere and didn’t hear tonight’s liturgy, dutiful and uninspired – and you’re looking around the bar, thirsty, as you break down your rig. A girl stands uncertainly near your amp – the stage isn’t even elevated but she won’t cross the duct-taped line uninvited; it’s a sacred space where some guys you might have seen at the bar a few minutes before drinking aimlessly become the band – we’re up here, and you’re out there, and you can do it with just some tape on the worn carpet to show where the stage stops and the rest of the world begins. So she stands around pretending to look at her phone, not sure if it’s possible or permissible to make contact yet, until you relieve her anxiety by saying something. Doesn’t matter what, Hey will do. She makes the perfunctory opening remarks – the set was great, she liked your solo in that one song – and you cross over into the world and let her follow you to the bar.

She’s slumming it tonight, you decide, looking over her artfully composed ensemble of jeans and vintage t-shirt. She’s leaning toward you on her barstool now with the self-assured curiosity of a sociologist not afraid to get right up close to the savage tribespeople she’s studying, their esoteric tattoos and unfamiliar odors be damned. That’s when you drop the line about bad cover bands being like priests; she eyes you suspiciously, as if you’d lured her in under false pretenses, and might actually be as disappointingly civilized as herself. You grin, imagining how she’ll sound in your bed learning that the priests of rock & roll aren’t celibate, but rather aspire to reenact the epic orgies, the storied saturnalias recorded in their holy writings. (By now you’re good at not thinking of how she’ll sound on the phone a week or a month later, after she’s figured out monogamy’s contrary to your religion too.) Your smile, predatory,  reassures her even as it makes her lean back a little on her barstool, tells her that you’re what she’s been looking for on this little expedition.

She pays for some drinks. You let her, because the usual roles and rules don’t apply here in the bar, not to the band. A band paying for their own drinks is a band that has failed in its most basic function – to become rock stars and thereby let the audience (even if it’s only the two bartenders) experience transcendence for a minute or two. If you did your job, if you gave them that temporary state of grace (damnation, maybe, if you want to be truthful) everyone wants to drop a few bucks into the collection plate. You realize it’s been a long time since you had to pay for a drink on a gig night, even a bad night. That’s the thought that makes you feel better, that reignites your faith, not the girl sitting at the bar with you, the girl whose field-notebook eyes are suddenly heavy on you, the intrusive gaze of the non-initiated.


Lindsay Lennox lives in Boulder, Colorado. She is a freelance writer of fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction, as well as a musician and songwriter; she is working on a novel about identity, heroes and rock & roll. Her work has been collected in a multi-media anthology designed for interactive teaching of English as a Second Language (ESL).

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

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