Ruby

I try hard not to hit the scroll of my string bass on the stairs on my way downstairs. The basement is beautiful. It’s all dark except for some tubular Christmas lights wrapped around the bright red drum kit. Wes,* the lead singer of my band, Llama Sanchez, is already there, and he tells me to put my bass down in the back corner near a small couch. I do, uncasing it and setting it beside the mic. I hear voices and follow them into the even smaller backroom with the TV and a stereo and a plastic light-up cactus glowing rainbows.

Wes and four other guys are sitting around on the two couches, and one is on the white rug in the middle of the floor. They’re listening to Amy Winehouse. I’m the only girl there. I know Wes, and our drummer, Kay, should be coming soon. I meet Kay at the door. As we’re on our way downstairs together, we’re suddenly hit by a weird herb-y scent. We look at each other, both a little panicked, then we get to the basement and relax as we realize that nobody’s doing drugs—Jake, the singer from the other band, is just lighting some incense.

Jake and Wes, the lead singers of the Burning Lights and Llama Sanchez, respectively, decide that Llama Sanchez should practice first as the Burning Lights watch, then switch. The purpose of this gathering, after all, is to compare the skill levels and music styles of our two bands to see if we could do a gig together, and for fun (also, maybe for Wes to show Jake how far he’d come since he’d left the Burning Lights and started his own band).

I set up my bass: I pick it up so it’s resting on the endpin, I tune it, I put it close to the microphone, I play a couple notes to test it out. I will also be doing backup vocals for our cover of Dispatch’s “The General,” so I set up a vocal mic, too. Maybe I should get some mics and amps for my basement. I know that Kay and Wes have them.

We start playing, and it all goes well. I prefer to keep my bass lines on the simple side for the most part. We’re fairly good and then we’re finished. It was our first time playing in front of any other people except for a few videos we put on YouTube. The Burning Lights clap.

Then my two band mates and I sit down on a tiny black couch while the Burning Lights go up. I am expecting them to be sort of folksy indie rock like us, but then they begin to play. It’s electric and heavy and fills the room. It fills the world. I can feel my bass vibrating next to my feet, and the sound moving through my entire body. Wes raises his eyebrows in slight surprise, and Kay looks like it’s the best thing he’s ever heard in his life. The bass guitar player is facing our couch, and we retain eye contact for the next 10 minutes or so. He’s really, really good—much better than me.

We can barely hear the lead singer, even with his microphone, but he doesn’t look like he’s struggling to sing over anyone. They know what they’re doing. They meant for it to sound this way.

They play some songs; each is better than the last. When they’re done, we just clap slowly, staring at them. That was incredible, and we all know it, and we all just shared it. That was music.

The feeling of lightness and connection lasts for the next few hours, after Jake’s kicked everyone out and my dad has picked me up. I keep thinking that I have been pretending my whole life to really appreciate music. I only wanted to make it because music’s cool and fun. But now I am much more excited to just be a part of it. To be part of the same musical community as this band I’d just watched for the first time, who are freshmen like me but who managed to blow me away, that feels big and new and exciting. I hope we have another practice soon. ♦

* I changed all the names in this entry to protect people’s privacy.