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08 December 2014 @ 12:12 pm
LJ Idol Season Nine: "Not With A Bang..."  
Not With A Bang…
lj idol |week 30 | 931 words
Critical Hit

x-x-x-x-x

It was a YouTube recording of Triangle Puppet that launched Jeffrey Waring's career. One day, he and his band were playing county fairs and high school dances, and the next, they were getting airplay and a blurb in Hot Pipes Weekly. It was the kind of lucky break that every would-be rock star hoped for.

The band itself was a revolving door of backup musicians, as Jeffrey had a tendency to be fickle. He also had no marketing sense whatsoever— back before Triangle Puppet made them famous, he used to change the band's name whenever they lost or gained new members, or on long afternoons where he simply got bored.

"You can't keep renaming the band," Bango Yevitz, the band's drummer, had said. "How can we build a reputation if nobody remembers who we are?"

Jeffrey had countered with, "Well, I don't think Wombat Circus is really 'us'."

"That's what I said last week, when you brought it up!"

Jeffrey and Bango were the band's only permanent members. That probably had more to do with the fact that Bango had been Jeffrey's best friend since childhood than with his impressive skills as a drummer. The week that Triangle Puppet became a hit, the band's name was Cyclone City, so they were stuck with it. Compared to some of the previous names, it was a blessing.

It was only a couple of months before interest in the group's song began to fade. Cyclone City needed another hit to keep them in the spotlight. Jeffrey turned over ideas, searching for the right combination of memorable melodies and drama that had defined Triangle Puppet, though it was hard to find new themes that fully captured the timeless ache of being the other man in a relationship (not the one who steals away the girl, the one who winds up alone in the end, which even heartless womanizers believed would someday be them). After a week of poking through ideas that would make a soap opera seem like Shakespeare, he gave up and tried another approach. He tossed around titles instead of themes, hoping to find the answer by coming at it from a different direction.

"Proletariat Holiday?" Bango said. "Seriously? That's gonna go way over the heads of, like, everyone."

"What about Mystic Turtle Sunrise? Or Esmerelda's Revenge?"

"Dude," Bango said. "The Sixties are over. And what the hell have you been reading? Or smoking?"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

The band did manage another hit, a surprising little breakout tune called Lemon Yellow Lunchbox. It was light, it was catchy, and it left Jeffrey undecided as to the kind of image he wanted for the group. The band was touring by now, and he tried one tactic after another, until Bango was forced to stage an intervention.

"You're wearing makeup," Bango said. "That is definitely not cool."

"Lots of performers do it. It's called 'guy'-liner!"

"It's embarrassing, is what it is. And what's happening with your clothes? It looks like you've raided a grade school Lost and Found box!"

"They're a little tight, sure. But chicks dig that."

"Only if they like dating toddlers who can't dress themselves."

In a compromised between emo and flannel, the band took to wearing black jeans and a variety of matching colored t-shirts that featured the band's logo. Bango said it was good for branding, but what did a guy with a name like that know about image and the consumer mindset?

Jeffrey went back to working on new songs. He tried light, he tried serious. He tried feel-good, speed metal, and fusion. He took a disastrous run at stadium rock, which the lead guitarist found so hilarious that Jeffrey fired him on the spot. Nothing seemed to gel.

The venues got smaller and smaller, the fans stranger and much less enthusiastic. Jeffrey practiced prodigious levels of denial, while the other band members began to reconsider exactly what it was they were doing. It was Bango who rendered the killing blow:

"Hey, this has all been great, and I totally appreciate you taking us along for the ride. But you know I've been dating Becky, and she's not comfortable with the traveling and the groupies. I think she's the one, though, and she won't marry me until I settle down. Plus, I kind of miss working as a cook, if you can believe that."

"Wait," Jeffrey said. "You're not…"

"Yeah." Bango nodded. "Sorry, man, but it's time. I'm leaving the band and going home."

Over the next few months, the other players left too. Jeffrey hired replacements, but it wasn't the same. All Cyclone City had left was a couple of hits and a name that used to mean something, back when all of it was real.

Bango went on to raise a family with Becky, and eventually become a chef. He still saw Jeffrey every couple of months, when they could manage it. They reminisced about old times, from the band's glory days all the way back to their early years together and things like the unfortunate second-grade incident involving frogs.

Jeffrey refused to be beaten, and kept trying to write something as successful as his two earlier hits had been. He continued to tour, accompanying himself on guitar after he could no longer afford a backup band. Sometimes he wondered whether he should have faded away gracefully instead of riding out the lingering dregs of fame.

But for now, as long as he could still get a gig playing a Holiday Inn or even a coffee house, he would keep his dreams of stardom alive.


-- / --


No voting this week—it's a Gatekeeper round. However, you can find all of this week's entries here.

 
 
 
reckless_bluesreckless_blues on December 9th, 2014 03:49 am (UTC)
Guyliner is the shit. Let him alone, Bango.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 9th, 2014 04:28 am (UTC)
Hey, unless you're going for the emo/goth look, most guys are going to consider it out of bounds.

OTOH, though.. flannel? Plaid? Kill it with fire!
reckless_bluesreckless_blues on December 9th, 2014 04:35 am (UTC)
This is the sex that needs gendered yogurt products. I'm sure somewhere, right now, there's a guy who doesn't wear underwear because he thinks it's too gay, but then worries that not wearing underwear is also pretty gay.

Though, that guy who got deported from Saudi Arabia for being too handsome was wearing kohl and look where that got him.
rayasorayaso on December 9th, 2014 01:58 pm (UTC)
Getting deported from Saudi Arabia for being too handsome is now on my "to do" list. Since I doubt I can make it on the merits, perhaps the US Consulate can help.
Didn't want to beanyonesghost on December 11th, 2014 07:39 pm (UTC)
Nah, haven't you heard? Everything old is new again, and the internet's already coined the term "lumbersexual" for these folks. Especially if it's combined with a fantastic beard.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 11th, 2014 08:42 pm (UTC)
Oh, Jesus. Lumbersexual? Actually, I think that's a Monty Python skit...

That's a look that leaves me completely cold. Yikes.

Though TBH, so does emo!
rayasorayaso on December 9th, 2014 02:03 pm (UTC)
This was wonderful, with so many good lines that made me laugh --
"only if they like dating toddlers who can't dress themselves" was wonderful! This was a great portrait of an inept "band." It made me wonder how they managed even one hit song. Some people know when enough is enough, others just play Holiday Inns -- the ultimate death. I loved this!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 10th, 2014 06:55 am (UTC)
This seemed like a band that wasn't good enough to wind up at the Hyatt or even the Ramada Inn. Hey Peter Frampton was at the Hyatt level 10 years ago.

I do wonder what's worse, though-- Holiday Inn or non-Vegas casino? A casino has an added sleaze factor, but is more legitimately likely to offer musical entertainment.

The bigger question is probably, "Good God, don't you people have any _pride_?"
rayasorayaso on December 10th, 2014 01:54 pm (UTC)
It's all about the music, man. Frampton should be working Sweet 16 parties.
i_17bingoi_17bingo on December 9th, 2014 04:07 pm (UTC)
He took a disastrous run at stadium rock, which the lead guitarist found so hilarious that Jeffrey fired him on the spot.

This made me laugh a little. The whole thing is just sad and hilarious. When I was a teenager, I was pretty obsessed with Nirvana, and by all accounts, Kurt Cobain was almost as bad as Jeffrey.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 10th, 2014 07:20 am (UTC)
:D Probably more talented than Jeffrey, though people in bands so often let things go to their head. Once you're demanding that people sort your M&Ms by color, you've gotten too wrapped up in your own reputation. :O
kick_galvanic, zagzagael, skull_theatrebleodswean on December 9th, 2014 04:57 pm (UTC)
Hahahaha! Funny but really not funny at all. I think I KNOW this guy. You really captured that tendency the immature dreamer has when creating - all the band names, the song names - the attempt to just PRODUCE something original.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 10th, 2014 07:49 am (UTC)
I think that little bit of success just makes it all worse, somehow. If you never quite get off the ground, it's harder to delude yourself that Fame and Fortune await you. But even just a taste of it is both addictive and can also convince you that you are All That. Even if you're sorely mistaken. ;)
Jemima Paulerjem0000000 on December 11th, 2014 05:49 am (UTC)
Aw, poor dude. So close, and yet still so far.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 11th, 2014 07:20 am (UTC)
This is probably the story of a thousands of other people. Enough talent to become noticed, but not enough (or enough luck) to stay at the top for very long.
Didn't want to beanyonesghost on December 11th, 2014 07:40 pm (UTC)
Y'know this reminds me of ... what was that band's name ... you know the one, right? That had that hit that went "baa da ba da ba ba ba" and then the guitar solo?
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 11th, 2014 08:43 pm (UTC)
Hahahaha!

I almost made these guys One Hit Wonders, but I felt they needed a little more success before abandoning Jeffrey completely. :D
lriG rorriMlrig_rorrim on December 11th, 2014 09:47 pm (UTC)
Ohhh man, the hopeful desperation is almost tangible in this. It smells like stale beer and cigarettes at places whose names you don't bother remembering, where your shoes stick to the floor when you walk and the manager pays you in fives and charges you for drinks even though you're what's keeping the crowd happy.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 12th, 2014 02:18 am (UTC)
Hee! Your comments are an intersection story in and of themselves!

Hope and a _little_ bit of talent are a destructive combination. :O
Elizabethwatching_ships on December 11th, 2014 10:33 pm (UTC)
Bango. Ha. I enjoyed this :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 12th, 2014 02:20 am (UTC)
Thank you! My son was reading this over my shoulder while I was writing it, and normalized that name into "Bongo" (as in, drums), and then halfway up the stairs said, "The drummer's name should be Bango instead of Bongo."

"It IS Bango!" I said.

Wombat Circus got his attention, too. His sense of humor is very similar to mine. :D
☾witches on December 11th, 2014 11:57 pm (UTC)
this was so entertaining!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 12th, 2014 02:20 am (UTC)
Thank you!
ArmagedDanhosticle_fifer on December 12th, 2014 12:27 am (UTC)
This started out pretty funny, and had a graceful descent into that sad sort of has-been depression - all in a good way. I liked your band names, too, it's hard to nail the right combo of alt-rock "out there" and "somebody would actually name a band this". I could think of a couple neat album cover designs for Cyclone City.

Good stuff!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on December 12th, 2014 02:22 am (UTC)
Really, in the 60s, all bets were off. "Strawberry Alarm Clock" really says it all, though that LSD influence was pretty heavy. But given that my daughter likes Vampire Weekend, which sounds like some sort of awful Twilight-based event rather than a band, I think things have circled back around again. :O

Thanks for reading!

Edited at 2014-12-12 02:22 am (UTC)