Ex Post Facto

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By Joseph Visconti
Contributing Writer
Published: August 30, 2007

This is a story about rock ‘n’ roll.

Courtesy of MCT Campus

New York City is a crucible. Dreams are forged and broken here. My dream since the day I picked up a guitar has been to play here. Last year, that became my life to a degree I could never have known before. A youth spent in suburbia reading every music weekly from Australia to London, studying the cycle of life that applies to all bands, I thought I would be ready for what might happen.

 

I’d decided to join a band after, upon self-examination, I found that I didn’t have the resources or inclination to start my own. The ones in high school never required “resources,” just a desire to make an unholy racket in someone’s garage or basement. But New York City was intimidating. The Velvet Underground, The Ramones, Sonic Youth, The Strokes… I had no business trying to bring about a band to compete with those monoliths of rock. After a couple of days, multiple e-mails through Craigslist and reading an inspiring article on the Clash (“Here’s a chord- here’s two more. Now go make something!”) I found what I was after. This band had a good looking site and really good songs. I could see myself onstage, playing this music. Their response to me was equally excited. A young, talented bass player living in Manhattan, looking for an aspiring rock band? A match indeed.

I met the singer and the drummer (and his girlfriend) one afternoon at the Guitar Center on 14th Street in Manhattan. Zander, Andy and Natalie. My first reaction was that these guys were way too fashionable for me. Designer clothes, styled hair, boots for God’s sake. I looked like I was in junior high. Then they said they both modeled on the side. Jesus. BUT, they had legitimate musical influences and goals. And of course, they had recorded the songs I had liked so much. I put my Zoolander references away as we talked about Zeppelin and the Who.

Several nights later, my two best friends came with me to watch Monument perform (for the last time with that bass player) at Sin-É on the Lower East Side. Just an hour before we got there, I bought myself a fake ID on McDougal Street. I wasn’t even 19 yet. We were all impressed with the show, and I knew I could play better and with more style than the guy up there.

Fast forward a few weeks. I had adopted the band’s style toward my own and had re-written some of my ideals about rock music to suit my role. Even though the standard of political awareness and of giving back to your supporters wasn’t ever brought into the fold, my reasoning was that we were not “at that level.” I was at a curious junction of awe and overconfidence. I was excited, still a bit nervous and even a bit proud. We got drink tickets at every show. With girls, I could always play the band card as an ice breaker. I felt what I was doing had some meaning.

As I became more comfortable with my place in the band, I started going out with our singer a lot. We were able to get into all the best clubs for free and ahead of the whole line because we were in a band and knew promoters. My initial confusion at how it all worked gave way to a bizarre sense of entitlement. Whereas once I wondered how I could be let in ahead of anyone else (do they have any idea I’m 18? Or that I have to go to class in seven hours?), I started to wonder how we were going to get into more high profile places.

What was happening with the band would evolve into my reasons for leaving. The singer had an ego the size of Manhattan, the drummer was unreliable and tethered to his girlfriend, and the guitar player was a cokehead. My grades had been steadily slipping since I’d joined the band, and I suppressed the apprehension within myself that I might not recover the same financial aid next semester. Every performance or night out felt like a good reason to get really drunk. Even though I realized that my place in the band was only as the bass player, not as a true friend of any of them or a person to be judged on their thoughts and principles, I stayed on because of the hope that we would make money.

The lure of money was a very real one at that time. Two major record labels had sent A&R men to see us on several occasions, and one of them had gone so far as to take us to dinner. It seemed that any day, we could be approached about a recording contract. We had also received a “donation” from a hedge-fund manager who took interest in us. This came in the form of a $10,000 purchase of equipment from that very same Guitar Center. I felt compelled to hold on to my position in the hope that we would see some of that go into our bank accounts.

Ultimately my school year ended with me living on the singer’s couch in Murray Hill, sleeping late and smokin’ tea, as Aerosmith said. We had been through three guitar players since December—the attitude of the singer being that if they didn’t commit 100 percent, then they were gone. That didn’t bode well for me. There was no allegiance that couldn’t be severed, no camaraderie. With the last 20 dollars I had, I left in the early morning for home and wrote a letter ex post facto, citing my school career and my family as my reasons for leaving.

But I haven’t given up on music. My resolve to play music for the rest of my life, in some capacity or another, has only been strengthened. Getting my financial aid back will be the first goal.