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Chapter 32: Good Enough
The first round of the
of the Bands had eight bands competing. Out of the eight, only four made the
cut: Avant Groove, a four piece jazz outfit called Billie’s Bliss, a funk/R
& B crew called Chameleon and a sextet called the Armada. Eric and Terry
were impressed by all three bands, but the Armada was the only one that bore
On a rare night off, Avant Groove went to Foxy’s, a club in the
Loop, where the Armada played regularly.
Terry looked around at the club while everyone got settled at a table. The main room was cavernous, the walls painted black with the Chicago Skyline done in white. A bar ran along the left side wall. The dance floor was tri-leveled with the D.J. booth to the right of it. The remaining space was filled with tables and chairs. The Armada was on the uppermost level of the dance floor, jamming on an instrumental groove. They all wore matching white shirts, black pants and vests. The lead singer decided to forgo the shirt and displayed a well defined, but extremely skinny upper body.
“I wonder if he’s gonna catch a cold up there?” Terry remarked.
“Does he think he’s sexy?” Lisa added.
“I hope not, ‘cause brothaman looks like Urkel,” Dom observed.
“I’m thinkin’ an uglier Raphael Wiggins,” Wanda said. After his initial remark, Terry started observing and picking the Armada apart. Eric was doing the same thing and asked Terry what his read on them was.
“They’re very good as a group. The standouts are the second guitarist and the keyboardist. They can jam, no doubt.” Eric focused on each of the people Terry mentioned: The guitarist was tall with light brown skin and dreadlocks and played with an easy mastery while the lone keyboardist traded licks with him. His bald head shone as brightly as the joy on his face.
“Why is that?” Dom asked Terry. Eric’s face said he didn’t appreciate Dom interrupting their conversation. Terry noticed, gave Eric a “back off” look and said, “The guitarist and the keyboard player are in tune to one another, almost like they can read each other’s mind.”
“The band’s weak link is the lead singer-slash-guitarist--” Eric stated, his earlier annoyance tamped down for the moment. “--Name’s Mike, he prefers Mikki, and he used to be in Avant Groove, but we fired him because he liked to grandstand and he was way too ready to take over the band for his own.” As if on cue, Mike started to play a solo.
Terry noticed that Mikki’s solo didn’t stray very far from the melody and he threw in some variations on the main theme. It was fairly simple, effective and allowed for plenty of flashy theatrics. Terry grinned. He could burn that poser off the stage easily.
“I, for one, am glad we fired him,” Lisa said as she gestured for a waitress. “He thought he was Prince or somethin’ and the brotha can’t even hold Prince’s jockstrap.”
Dom nodded as the waitress arrived and everybody ordered drinks and a couple of appetizers. The waitress, Sandra, according to the nametag, said she’d be back with everyone’s drinks.
“I see you ordered a Fuzzy Navel,” Terry said to Dom.
“Yeah, I did.”
“You’ve never drank before. Why the change?”
“It’s been a while since I had a drink,” Dom explained. “Nothin’ heavy and I’m not singin’ so why not?”
Don grinned. “You don’t drink at all do you?”
“Well, sweetie--“ Dom said as she draped her arms around Terry’s neck. “—I might have the occasional drink, but I’m not a drunk, okay?”
Terry nodded. He still wasn’t completely convinced. Dom was her own person and could do whatever she wanted to do, Terry realized, but he wanted her to abstain from drinking because he did. She didn’t have to do everything as he did or even think of things as he did, he realized. Terry didn’t like it, but he did realize it.
The emcee announced that the band was taking a break and the open mic session would start shortly. As the Armada walked off the stage, Terry noticed that Mikki had seen them and made a beeline straight for their table.
“Mikki’s comin’, Groove.” Terry said.
“Oh, Hell,” Lisa muttered.
“Just be cool, Lisa,” Eric said.
“Please, be cool,” Terry added.
“I ain’t makin’ no promises,” Lisa answered.
“Well, well, well. Avant Groove has graced us with their presence,” Mikki drawled.
“Hi, Mike,” Eric deadpanned.
“Call me Mikki,” He said. Lisa rolled her eyes and Rob stifled a laugh.
“So, what’s goin’ on…Mikki?”
“Y’know, how it is: A li’l o’ this, l’il o’ that. How you be, Terry?”
“Whassup, Lisa? Rob? Larry and Wanda?” They each raised a hand in response.
“Nice job at the Contest, Terry.”
“Thanks. Nice solo,” Terry grinned.
“I do what I do,” Mikki said, totally missing the sarcasm in Terry’s tone. “Y’all came to see how it’s done?”
“Nope,” Eric said. “Just checkin’ out the competition.”
“Don’t be intimidated, son. You know how we do.”
“We’re not intimidated,” Terry assured him.
“Aww, come on, Terry, you know that’s why y’all kicked me outta the band: y’all were scared I was gonna take over and make y’all look bad.”
The waitress arrived with everybody’s drinks. Terry took a long pull of his orange juice before he said, “No, we kicked you out because you were a know-it-all who constantly gave us problems and tried to turn the band against each other. Right?”
Mikki was dead silent and frowning. The frown changed to a smile as he said, “So, who’s the lovely young lady? A new member?”
“Yeah,” Terry said with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm. He introduced Dom to Mikki. He grabbed her hand kissed it.
“The pleasures all mine,” Mikki said.
“I’m sure,” Dom responded. She grabbed a napkin and wiped her hand off under the table.
“What do you do in the band, Dom?” Mikki asked as if he didn’t see her sing lead in the contest. Dom paused and looked at him for a moment before she reminded him.
“Well, you got the pipes for it,” Mikki purred. Terry didn’t appreciate the way Mikki’s eyes roamed the hills of Dom’s chest and he barely held back the desire to throttle him.
Dom crossed her arms over her chest and said, “Thanks, I think.”
“No problem. I hope y’all are takin’ notes.”
“Why? There’s gonna be a test?” Lisa asked.
“And you know this,” Mikki assured her. “My band’s gonna take y’all to school at the finals.”
“But, that requires a brain, Mikki,” Larry stated.
“I know you ain’t tryin’ ta jig, fat boy.”
“Man, go put a shirt on, ya bird-chested mufucka,” Rob spat. “Lookin’ like a dark-skinned Michael Jackson.”
“Rob, don’t insult Michael Jackson like that,” Wanda added.
“Muthafuck both a’ you bitches,” Mikki snarled.
“Fuck you.” Rob responded and stalked towards Mikki. Larry got between Mikki and Rob and kept them from coming to blows. Eric cursed to himself and told everybody to clear out and helped Larry herd Rob out of the door.
“So much for being cool,” Terry said.
“Shut up,” Eric responded.
“Don’t let me catch yo skinny ass alone, ‘cuz I’ma fuck you up,” Rob bellowed.
“I’m right here, Orca! Bring it on!” By this time, Mikki’s bandmates surrounded him and held him back. Fortunately, Avant groove got Rob out of the door before he could hear Mikki’s remark.
After that, everyone went their separate ways before the cops arrived. They all shared one opinion: Next time, Terry and Eric would scout out the competition by themselves.
“Was all that really necessary?” Dom asked.
“Not really, but I can’t blame Rob for how he reacted. Mike tends to bring out the worst in people,” Terry grinned. “He has a gift for it.”
“You don’t say?”
“The thing that really bothers me about him is that he’s in it for the money and the pussy. Pardon my French.”
“You’re excused,” Dom smiled. “But, honestly, you’re not even a little interested in the fame or the groupies?”
“Yeah, a little, but it’s always been about the music; playing it and how it made me feel when I heard it,” Terry grinned. “That’s why Eric and I got started in the first place: We just loved music. Mike came along when Eric and I were starting to take our music more seriously. He helped get the word out about us and helped us get some gigs, but he wanted absolute control of the band.”
“I know you and Eric weren’t having that,” Dom said.
“And you know this,” Terry agreed. “When Eric and I told him he was fired, he pitched a fit, but he was gone. After that, it was me and Eric for a long time until Lisa came along. She was a better fit for us because she loved music the same way we did.”
“Y’know, I wondered what was up with you three.” Dom said.
“What d’you mean?”
“I mean, it’s like you three are a little clique inside the band. When there’s a major decision, you three always discuss it before you come to the rest of us.”
“Basically, she’s a founding member of Avant Groove and she helped us get to where we are now,” He explained.
“Oh,” Dom responded.
“Even so, we’re not a dictatorship, we do everything by vote and everybody contributes songs.” Terry paused. “Hey, d’you wanna work on the music you gave me the other day? I have the tape with me.”
(c)2014 W.L. Sherrod