Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Microstory 1883: Air Band

I was just playing around at a college party once. Somebody put on a record with a song that, in my day, we called my jam. I started pretending I was playing a guitar to the music, and since I knew the track so well, people got really into it. Pretty soon I was up on the coffee table, entertaining everybody. I, by no means, invented the air guitar. I did, however, do it my first time without having seen anyone else do it before, nor even having heard of it. Either way, I had no intention of turning it into a career. It was just for fun. I suppose it snowballed into it when I found myself at party after party, being asked to do it. I started having to bring my own records, so I would be better prepared to make it look real good. Not long after that, I was practicing in my apartment; all for the chance to please a few kids who would laugh about it while it was happening, and then go back home to not give it much thought anymore. During one of my weird and fun performances, a guy jumped up on the counter next to me, and started lip-syncing the vocals. It was a particularly voice-heavy song, which was my bad, so I was relieved he went up there to keep the energy up while the guitar wasn’t going. I would normally just keep dancing on my own, but it felt great to have a partner. After we were done, we left the party together to talk. He told me about his life, and I told him about mine. We both loved music, and were enamored by rockstars, but we weren’t musicians. Like, we were both really bad, there was no hope for us. Or rather there was, because as it turned out, there’s money to be made in pretending to play an instrument on stage. No joke.

This story does not involve a down-on-his-luck talent agent who discovers us at one of our not quite impromptu gigs, and decides to take us under his wing, even though his contemporaries laugh at him for it, but he believes in us, or truthfully, he believes in the cash that’ll be coming to him if he plays this right, so he gets so greedy that it nearly destroys us, but we come back stronger than ever, and go down in history as legends, and eventually end up in a sensationalized documentary. No, none of that happened. But we did start a band. We found ourselves a drummer—who was an actual, real drummer, by the way, so we never totally understood why he walked this path with us when he could have joined a legit band. We even got someone to pretend to play bass. It was my job to dance around and look pretty, while he always stayed lowkey. It sounds kind of stupid, but we made it work, and he was a pretty big draw for some of our crowds. And we did have crowds. Our rise to fame was shockingly parallel to what real bands go through. We started with small audiences, which grew bigger and bigger, until we were nationally famous, and then internationally so. Big in Japan, as my air vocalist liked to say. It still amazes me that any of this went anywhere. I guess it happened during the perfect time period. It was late enough for rock to be loud and showy, but before internet video, which might have saturated the market too much for us to make a name for ourselves. I don’t think we had much of a hand in developing the art form. Plenty of others were doing the same thing as us, though mostly as solo acts. We were just kind of this niche act that only made us enough money to keep doing it, but not do anything else with our lives, at least for as long as it lasted. The novelty wore off within a decade, and we each had to find real jobs. We remained good friends, though, and even played a final reunion gig a year ago before our bassist died. Yep. It was a wild life.

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