You may recognize Andrew Packer’s name. He is the former guitarist for Gypsyhawk, and wrote a tour blog for us during one of the band’s treks earlier this year. Andrew approached us with an idea — he wanted to write a serialized novel for GSA, about a fictionalized band. We agreed, so here now is the first chapter of Andrew’s “The Band.”
“Yeah? Well, when was the last time you even spoke to the promoter?” asked Leo, anticipating answers that would fuel his road rage as he pressed the gas pedal even harder into the floor.
“I don’t know,” said Peter, careful not to pick any words that might exacerbate the tension.
“Right before we left for tour. Things were square. He didn’t bring up anything about finding local support so I assumed he was taking care of it.”
Peter was the glue in the band. While Leo kept things moving Peter held it all together. He took great care to make sure they never veered off the path. “Could you slow down a little, Leo?”
“Typical promoter bullshit,” scoffed Roy, angry as everyone at the situation. “What is their job exactly?”
“Tear off drink tickets and fuck underage girls,” said Zack, taking a pull of whiskey and chasing it down with Coke.
“Next time,” said Leo, still throttling the gas, “check in with those mother fuckers every day until you know what’s what.”
“Man,” said Roy. “Fuck Wichita.”
The band took the night off. Tonight they were in a town they’d never been to before and when they got to the venue it was clear no one was coming. The trials of the road are tough on the strongest men and can turn the most optimistic young soul into a crotchety old wreck, bitter and broken.
This tour had been one of their better ones, but not the best. Some of their most loyal followers in their favorite cities like Reno, Houston, and Columbus didn’t show up. No locals to help with the draw tonight.
Had the promoter been there they might have let him know they were leaving.
They decided to see a movie instead. The paper said eleven o’ clock, roughly an hour away. Zack, of course, had to call his mother. The rest of the band used to make fun of him, but by now they had run out of jokes. They dropped him off at a McDonalds, Zack’s little red head inhaling Camel Lights as it moved back and forth across the parking lot trying to recount all the day’s worthwhile moments. The rest of the band conferred about the night’s fiasco and decided they needed to get in touch with the promoters of the upcoming shows to make sure everything was in order.
Two bad nights in a row on tour sucks. Three or more can be catastrophic to a band’s morale.
Leo was hungry, but didn’t want to eat McDonalds. “Fuck that dirty trash,” he said, feeling a craving for Taco Bell.
“You won’t eat McDonalds, but you’ll eat Taco Bell?” asked Peter.
“Yeah, dude. It’s got tomatoes and shit.”
By the time Zack was ready to go they had forty minutes to get some tacos and make it to the theater. The GPS on Peter’s phone said a Taco Bell was roughly five blocks north and ten blocks west. “That’s the complete opposite way of the movie.” But Leo persisted.
“Dude, it’s Taco Bell. It’s quick as fuck.” It turned out that this Taco Bell was closed. “Is there another one around here?”
“There’s a Burger King, like, eight blocks back towards the theatre,” said Zack, looking at his phone.
Roy was driving now. He liked to take the wheel when there weren’t many miles left.
“Well, that’s good because we are running out of gas.”
They almost hit empty before they got to an AMPM next to the Burger King. Peter didn’t like the lack of cars or lights.
“Looks like it’s closed, too,” he said.
Leo’s vision isn’t the best, but once he has his mind set on something there’s no dissuading him, and he was dead set on Whoppers. Peter always tried to keep things amiable in the band, listening to his band mates concerns and frustrations, making sure everyone was healthy and happy. But what he excelled at in diplomacy he lacked in Leo’s myopic self-assurance. Peter checked the time.
“Dude, the movie is starting soon. Don’t take too long.” It didn’t take long for Leo to return, but it took him a while to microwave the Big Bite burgers inside the AMPM he got instead, longer than it took Roy to fill up the tank. Once Leo was back at the van, Roy got a whiff of the burgers and decided it smelled too good to pass up. He pulled the pump out of the tank and stomped out his cigarette.
“How much were those burgers?” Roy wanted to know. Peter looked at his phone again. Christ. We’ll never make it.
They still had about 10 blocks to go and 15 minutes until the movie started. Once there they immediately found out where everyone in Wichita was tonight. The line to get into the theatre was at least 45 people deep, and they could see inside that they’d be lucky if they could get any popcorn. Roy shrugged.
“Good thing I got those Big Bites.”
They got their tickets with no time to spare. However, when they got into the actual theater where the movie was playing there were still so many people trying to find seats that the management decided to keep the lights on as the movie started showing.
Peter liked to sit in the very middle and insisted that’s what they all do. The guys didn’t put up much of a fight, but it was hard to figure out where the middle was. Directly in front of the entrance there was a hump of seats that obscured the view of most of the rest of the theater. The people facing them clearly had the worst seats in the house since the screen was behind them. They decided to split up
Zack went left, down some stairs that looked like they continued 300 feet or so. Leo went forward to zigzag through the seats up over the backwards hump. Roy and Peter went up to the right to try and circumvent it. They reached a path to the left and saw it was going down towards the center. Roy took it. Peter didn’t want to give up a higher position so he kept ascending to see if he could out flank the seemingly thousands of people also pouring down from different points above toward the center.
Peter eventually got so high up he couldn’t see the screen anymore. He looked back down and noticed Zack was still descending. From that vantage point he could tell that if Zack were to find any available seats they would be too low to see the screen, even if they stood up on the seats. That area didn’t make any sense, yet people kept filling it up. Peter tried waving at Zack whenever he turned to look down a row and see if there might be four empty seats, but Zack never bothered to look up to see where anyone was.
Leo was lost in the herd. After going over the hump he found his way to another aisle that lead to another section carved into the wall to the left. Peter thought it might have a good view of the screen, but he could see from his position that the volume of people in there would make Leo’s search futile. Peter tried to wave Leo over to the wall perpendicular to the cavern. It was so far away Peter couldn’t tell for sure whether it had any empty seats, but it’s distance from the screen gave him some hope that if there was an available section of this bizarre labyrinth it would likely be in there. Unlike Zack, Leo saw Peter, but headed straight up the stairs where his gut told him to go anyway. Peter shrugged then continued back up.
Maybe he could see where Roy headed down and hoped he still had a decent shot of finding the band a place to sit.
As Peter went up he looked across each row. People were standing with their backs to the screen, chatting with their friends sitting in front of them as the movie rolled on in the background. No one really seemed interested in what was happening on screen, but maybe that was because it was almost impossible to see from most seats. Peter was starting to wonder who designed this place. People from the Midwest are weird. He eventually hit the peak of the stairs that formed an arc with a massive sloping segment of more seats that sank into what looked like oblivion. There were some kids without parents running around, but the vast majority of the seats were left empty. And instead of facing the screen they faced literally nothing. A void of excessive loneliness was all there was to see. Yeah, not these seats either.
Peter turned back around. From where he was now he could see deep into the center of the theatre, yet so far up it was hard to be certain what was down there. It looked like a spiraling vortex of seats colliding in on one another. Peter could see Roy’s massive blonde hair on top of his Viking frame moving down pass all the civilians as he scoured the rows below.
Peter got a text from Leo: “I can’t find shit.” He couldn’t see Zack anymore and hoped that he didn’t fall into a void. He looked back toward the center for Roy. There was one solitary open seat and Roy ripped it out of the ground, slammed it against the floor, then threw it into the center of the spiral where it spun like a top in a blender for a moment before being sucked into its clenches.
They needed to get out of this M.C. Escher painting before gravity sucked them all into its eventuality. Peter had tried desperately to steer the band toward an agreeable conclusion, but it seemed like not one of them could pull themselves from the bowels of their individualism to arrive anywhere together. He decided to make his way back down the stairs.
Right as Peter’s left foot touched the first stair the theatre began shaking violently. Peter could barely maintain his balance. As if he were in slow motion Peter scanned the theatre to see everyone grabbing at each other’s clothes to brace themselves as others tumbled down stairs and over seats beneath them. Some clung to their armrests like epileptics having a bad episode. At first people were shocked, silent. Then people started screaming.
The ceiling began to crumble. The screen folded up on itself and fire shot out from behind, scorching whomever was lucky enough to find a seat in the front.
Chairs started hurtling up into the air smashing their occupiers into large slabs of falling wood and concrete.
Zack came dashing up the stairs in a crimson streak of survival. Leo bounded down from his cavern over chunks of ceiling and under geysers of moviegoers thrusted up and splattering into the ceiling above them. Peter spotted Roy. He was still in the middle somewhere. Roy looked up and saw the ceiling starting to cave in above him. He grabbed the kid adjacent and threw him up into the air to break the descending boulder, its crumbles falling around him like one large crashing rain. He looked up into Peter’s eyes, then leapt like The Incredible Hulk clear over the hump. The ground buckled beneath his landing.
The room got hot and the screams bled into the sound of the building shattering in on itself. Peter wanted to capture the moment on his phone, but the seats near him were glowing orange and started to melt.
“I need to get the fuck out of here.”
Peter thundered down the stairs, tossing aside any obstacle with legs. He careened into a couple of Juggalos, smearing white face paint all over Peter’s palms. A little league team was blocking the rest of the stairs so Peter ran up over them on their shoulders. He met the other three down at the entrance. They stared wide-eyed at each other, all desperate for breath.
“RUN!!!” one, or some, or all of them screamed. They bolted at top speed. The earth was cracking behind them just beneath their heels. Moviegoers unable to match the band’s speed were sucked into it. Clearly, there was no time to validate the parking ticket.
They broke through the front doors knocking over a mother with her baby, a couple holding hands in wheelchairs, and a marine with a crew cut carrying an old lady over his shoulder. They sweated in pain as the muscles in their legs gripped their bones with the passion of a steamroller. Peter snatched the van keys clipped to his belt and hit the unlock button. Zack slid open the door and they all dove in. The crack in the earth was still hot on their tail.
“Peter, get us out of here!” Leo shouted.
Peter slammed the key into the ignition, throttled the engine, and peeled out of the parking lot leaving exhaust fumes, tread smoke, and Big Bite wrappers in their wake. As he smashed through the parking lot barrier gates he looked back at the band. Everyone was packed into the font bench. Sweat poured form their scalps like a scalding shower. They ripped off all the leather and denim still enveloping their torsos.
Peter cranked the AC. In his rearview he could see the crack following close behind, and hoped he could get still save the band.
“Hold on, boys,” Peter said. “We still got a long way to go.”