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We're Not Listening

Rookie - Fire Motion, pt. 2

It’s a small world. The best friend you’ll ever have could be within ten miles of you right now. Your favorite song is out there, though there’s a chance you’ll never hear it. There are movies to watch, there’s knowledge to gain, and all of that could be in your very own backyard.

Sometimes you just don’t notice it. Or maybe you just don’t care. Maybe the odds just weren’t in your favor at that point.

There was another young man in Gainesville who was being brought up right at the same time as the other four guys mentioned before. He graduated high school in 1992, making him the same age as the oldest member of the little musical get-together, Gunner. The problem was that he went to a different school, and it’d be eight more years until he’d come into contact with his eventual best friends.

His name was Justin Bryant. He was a stout and stolid ginger guy who always covered the red curls on his head with a hat, and rumor has it that when he started growing facial hair at age 15, he never shaved aside from the occasional trim. He could sport the meanest mug one minute, and then the next minute he’d crack a smile and laugh at whatever stupid joke you threw at him.

He did a semester of community college and floundered around after that, living with his mom and trying to live up to the legacy his father had left before he passed away, a weathered navy veteran. Working a few jobs in retail had only driven him insane, and at age 20, he said “fuck it” to himself and decided to chase a dream he carried in high school.

So, he became a roadie. He hauled equipment from countless tour buses and vans for a limitless amount of bands ranging in infinite genres, and there was a certain amount of peace in his hectic life that gave him a reason to think that he could be happy. He worked hard, just like his dad, and even if he didn’t go further with his education, his mom was still proud of him.

One thing Justin learned from being a roadie for six years was to not take shit from anybody, especially when you can tell they’re just talking out of their ass. Some people think they piss gold, and when you encounter somebody like that, call them out. It could have been the sturdy backbone he possessed from years of various forms of discipline. It also could’ve been just his natural personality – a tad bossy, but always meaning well.

While he lived out his dream, the other men were doing the same: practicing in garages, fine-tuning the instrumental tunes that none of them were able to sing. It wasn’t so much that they were bad at singing – pretty vocal cords don’t always make a great band – it was just the fact that none of them really wanted to. Johnny and Sam wanted to focus on their guitar parts, Anthony already had enough on his plate as a drummer, and Gunner had a perpetual puberty-stained voice full of cracks.

And as any music critic will tell you, yes, Justin was a terrible singer. At times he sounded more like a dog howling through sandpaper while forcing out a turd or two. The vocal warm-ups that many singers do to prepare their voices for a long gig went mostly untouched by this man, and yet there was an honest sincerity to his crooning that lent to an overall realness of the band that would eventually become known as Fire Motion. Sometimes he blamed the fact that he played bass as well, but in the end, Justin didn’t give a shit about who called him awful.

The long-burning spark had ignited once and for all the day that Justin stopped by a record store back home in Gainesville to browse before a concert that night. When he walked in, there was barely anybody in there – a few hippy chicks, one guy with the longest and greasiest hair he’d ever seen, and the barely-awake cashier behind the counter.

There was another guy, Sam, sitting in front of one aisle, holding several flyers in his calloused hands. Dirty blonde hair a messy mop atop his head, he had a face of wearied apathy, holding his arm out to stop Justin in his tracks.

“Hey, big guy,” he greeted. “I’m in a punk band and we need a singer, maybe a bassist too. Our pianist is trying to play bass but to be honest he fuckin’ sucks, so…” He peeled a flyer away from his stack and handed it over. “If you wanna try out or if you know anybody who fits the bill, give us a call, alright?”

Justin took the flyer and squinted at the badly-printed information. “What’s ya’lls name?”

“Our band name?” Sam clarified. “We don’t really have one yet.”

“You’re kiddin’ me. How do you go about askin’ for more members when you don’t even have a name?” Justin grunted. “I’ll tell you what. I play bass a little bit, maybe I can try singing. I’ll see if I can try out.”

Behind his annoyed demeanor, Justin inwardly smirked at the way he had been able to at least reach for another dream of his. Sure, being a roadie was great, and getting to be a tour bus driver was pretty awesome too, though being a part of an actual band was another great opportunity that not many people would get to have.

It felt natural to have the “ginger beefcake” (as Sam affectionately called Justin) slap some bass with the rest of the band, to have his gravelly voice soar above the loud instrumentals and bring a beautifully rough edge to an otherwise-cowpunk quartet. Before long, there was a mutual realization between all five of them – this was something they were truly good at, and even if they never got a chance to play for thousands of people in an arena, just writing tunes over a few beers made it all worthwhile.
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Wee woo!