The Sunday after Superhype’s first show, Cynthia’s father, Takumi Foster, received a phone call from the restaurant owner, who thought the show was such a resounding success that he wanted the band to return again on the following Friday, only this time, he wanted them moved up to the second time slot, from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm. He then offered to pay then one hundred dollars for their performance, and offered the musicians free food and beverages as well. He closed his conversation by explaining that if their second show was as good as their first show, he’d be willing to offer them a weekly gig at the restaurant, taking the second time slot every Friday. The band accepted the gracious offer without really thinking about it, and after Takumi called the owner back, the band was booked for their second gig, with the possibility of more gigs to follow.
Later that afternoon, the band met at the Skylark Diner for an “emergency meeting,” to discuss the upcoming show and all of the preparations they’d need to make for it. The biggest issue, of course, was the length of the set list. This one needed to be twice as long as the set they’d played the previous week, but they only barely had one hour and three minutes of material. Loveless Summer still hadn’t been rehearsed enough to be played in front of an audience, and at a little over three minutes, it wouldn’t have added much content anyway. The problem wasn’t the immediate show, less than a week away, but any shows they might perform after that. They didn’t want to play the same material week after week, but that meant they’d need to develop some new songs as quickly as they could, so that in the seemingly-likely chance that they should land the weekly gig, they could present some fresh material and keep people interested in their music. Upon Kyle’s suggesting this idea, Ben, Cynthia, and Mark had decided, in unspoken agreement, that Kyle was the band’s de facto leader. Kyle didn’t know it, but he was pseudo-managing the band’s future from that point forward.
The other issue the band faced came in the form of transportation. The use of their two cars was too complicated and troublesome to be repeated, which meant the band would need to rent a U-Haul van, and perhaps even a dolly, seeing as how Cynthia’s Vox AC30 weighed around seventy pounds, and was very awkward to carry. The truck rental, filling it with gas, and getting insurance to cover it would end up devouring a sizable chunk of their pay for the gig, but none of the members of the band were really excited about the twenty-five dollars they’d end up getting out of it anyway. The real benefits of doing the show were experience and exposure, and the pay they’d receive was nothing more than an added, and reasonably small, perk.
Having finished all of the planning they could at that point, everyone went their separate ways, with Kyle and Cynthia returning to Kyle’s basement, where they broke out their acoustic guitars and started working on a few new song ideas. The plan for getting new songs developed was pretty simple; they’d be rehearsing four days a week from that point forward, every day after school, just as they’d done the week prior. On Monday, they’d run their set. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they’d work on new material, and then on Thursday, they’d rehearse the full set again, including any new material that was ready for the stage by that point. With any luck, this new practice regiment would help keep the band’s set list fresh each week, while keeping their older material sharp. But all of this extra work also meant that stress and grades would start becoming a factor, something that Kyle had been sure to bring up a few times that afternoon, to make sure everyone was keeping as level a head as possible.
When Kyle returned to school the next day, he was astoundingly greeted by people identifying themselves as Superhype fans. By the end of the day, he’d been approached by nearly everyone he’d recognized at their first show, and the compliments were nothing short of encouraging. His last band had achieved some small degree of local popularity, but he’d never met anyone as enthusiastic about his music as these people were. But this in no way prepared him for what would come the following day. Those who’d gone to see Superhype’s performance started telling their friends about the show, and on Tuesday, no fewer than nine people had approached Kyle asking about their next gig. Meanwhile, eleven people had also spoken with Ben, and when they returned to Kyle’s house for their scheduled band rehearsal, Mark reported that three people had approached him in school that day as well. The band also learned that Mr. Meier, Kyle’s and Ben’s health teacher, was telling his students about Superhype. At first, Kyle thought that the endorsement from a teacher would probably do more harm than good, but this opinion would dramatically shift by the end of that week. The next day, those twenty-three people had grown to thirty-eight people, in all, who’d asked the members of Superhype about their upcoming show, or had otherwise reported that they’d be attending. On Thursday, the number grew to fifty-two. And by the end of the school day on Friday, the day of their second performance, the number had grown to just over sixty people. The band’s popularity had skyrocketed in the course of a single week, and while everyone in the group was fully capable of recognizing this growth spurt, none of them could really process the significance of it.
That evening, the members of Superhype were wholly confident that the song Loveless Summer was ready for its debut, and after running it a few times just to be certain, they decided to play it on stage, mainly through Mark’s urging, who enjoyed having the opportunity to perform a number of rolls and fills during the breakdown at the end of the song. With their confidence soaring and a U-Haul van packed to the brim with equipment, Superhype drove off toward their second performance, unsure of what sort of audience they’d really be facing when they arrived.
At 7:26pm, Superhype arrived at the restaurant, but contrary to all of the people asking about them throughout the week, the parking lot was fairly empty. But when the group starting expressing their concerns over this, Barbara Winters and Takumi Foster were quick to dispel everyone’s fears, citing that people showed up late to their first gig. Sure enough, ten minutes later, Mr. Meier had arrived, and Ben’s boss, George Bellamy, pulled in directly after him. A few minutes later, a car full of Vestal teenagers arrived, and a car of Binghamton teens showed up moments after that. Soon, more and more high school kids were arriving, and even a few teachers that Kyle, Ben, and Mark had recognized were taking seats in the audience. But what really shocked everyone was the arrival of those same college kids that had watched Superhype’s first performance a week earlier, this time bringing a slew of friends along to see the band again. By 8:15 pm, Kyle’s parents had counted no fewer than eighty people crammed into the reasonably small restaurant bar, while Cynthia’s parents were estimating closer to one hundred people. This was nothing like their first show… something was happening, and Kyle wasn’t the only person that sensed it.
At exactly 8:31 pm, Superhype took the stage for the second time, igniting the crowd in a roar the likes of which none of them had ever seen, at least in a small venue like the restaurant bar was. Their exuberance made Kyle wonder if Cynthia would have another nervous moment on stage, but upon looking at her, smiling brightly as she had the week before, he knew she’d found her nerves, and that the stage had become her new home. With this, Kyle queued Mark to start the song Blind Mind, which they’d opened with the week prior, and after his thunderous percussion intro, the band’s second live show was under way.
Superhype blasted into their full set, pouring twice as much energy and passion into this show as they had in their first. With the finish of every song, the audience exploded in cheers and applause, probably deafening, or at least annoying, the diners on the other side of the business, or so Kyle found himself believing. But as their set wore on, more and more of the restaurant’s dining room patrons made their way over to the bar area, joining the growing audience of teenagers that were watching as Superhype completely dominated the stage. But when Superhype started playing Loveless Summer, something different happened. The audience seemed to calm down, quieting to a murmur before the end of the song’s first verse. Kyle looked around to his fellow band-mates, all of whom had also recognized the sudden silence from the audience, and in that moment, he started wondering if this, his masterpiece, was actually a terrible song. Still, the group drove forward, and as they performed the final note, you could hear a pin drop in the room if it weren’t for the loud rock music rattling the windows. In that instant, Kyle found himself heartbroken, devastated by the audience’s apparent disapproval of the song that he considered to be the best he’d ever written. But before he could finish that thought, the audience lunged from their seats and erupted with a degree of applause that made their earlier efforts pale in comparison. Kyle even spotted a few girls in the audience with tears in their eyes, though one of them was Jen Mays, who may have just been combating stoner’s red-eye. Even so, the band had to pause for a few moments before going into their final song, making way for the audience’s staggering show of support.
After the final song of the evening, Remorse, came to a close, the audience started chanting for an encore, but with another band waiting in the wings of the bar, eagerly hoping to show this tremendous audience what they were made of, Cynthia went on the microphone and thanked everyone for coming out that night, and with this, the group started breaking down their equipment and rushing it outside to load it into the rental van. As they did this, a few people from the audience followed the band outside, asking when their next show would be, and commenting on several of the group’s songs, most notably Loveless Summer and Remorse. One girl, an early teenager who was probably outside against her parents’ wishes, even asked Cynthia for her autograph, most likely stunned by the first live musical performance she’d ever seen.
After loading the van, and after the small crowd of people who’d come outside had dispersed, Superhype took a few moments to relax in the parking lot, taking a breather to chat about the show. Again, the audience’s reaction to their music had gone well above and beyond anyone’s expectations, but more shocking to them was the number of people in attendance. How did word spread so quickly about the band? Why were people so infatuated with the group after only their second performance? Everyone in the band felt that Superhype was special, that their music was great and that they had unique chemistry, but was it normal, or even plausible, that after only a single live performance, they could establish such an immense fan base? Did all of those people come to the second show on the merits of the band’s music alone, or should everyone in the band be buying lottery tickets before their luck ran out?
After the headlining act closed their set, and after a few more people approached the band to compliment their music and ask a few questions, everyone piled into their respective vehicles and headed to Kyle’s house, feeling equal-parts exhausted and astonished by their second performance. When they finally arrived at their destination, they unloaded the band’s equipment into the basement before piling into the Winters’ living room for some refreshments and a brief postmortem as they’d done the week prior. This was when Takumi Foster informed everyone in the room that the venue owner had spoken with him about Superhype during the headlining band’s set. They were indeed invited back the following week, and they were indeed offered the weekly gig, with the same terms that were discussed prior. But upon hearing this, some people, most notably Kyle’s parents and Cynthia’s parents, expressed their sudden displeasure in the arrangement. Superhype had something special. No one was really sure what that something was, but they all knew it was there. After discussing things for nearly a full hour, the band had come to the conclusion that they’d accept the weekly gig, hoping for an improved time-slot and better pay in the future. But the proper adults in the room had different things on their mind. Takumi Foster asked the other parents to join him outside, where he smoked a cigarette, and it was here that Barbara Winters, whose new-found love for her son’s musical ambitions was about to take another turn, had decided that a “parent’s summit” needed to be called. Joe and the Fosters all agreed on this, too. This band obviously had a future, or at least a firm and steady shot at one, but only if adequate planning was put into it. And planning wasn’t just Barbara’s “thing”… as a professional corporate events planner, planning was her passion.
The next morning, Barbara Winters went into full-on planning mode, starting the day off by ordering her husband to cancel his weekly Saturday golf game, much to Joe’s chagrin. Before she’d even gotten in the shower, she had called the Fosters, asking them to come over at noon, and shortly after taking her shower, she had called Ben’s parents, Ben Senior and Maggie Houser, asking them to also come over, though Ben’s father, a strict military man with very little respect for his son’s ambitions, declined the invitation, while “allowing” his wife to go. She then instructed Kyle to call Mark and get a phone number for Mark’s parents, and within the hour, she’d called them as well, inviting them to the Winters’ home. By noon, she had cleaned the living room, set out a massive lunch for her newly-arriving guests, and with the members of the band headed into the basement to work on some new material acoustically, Barbara Winters’ “war mode” was in full swing upstairs.
“Do you really think these kids are that talented?” Maggie Houser asked, sipping on a coffee and appearing as arrogant and full of herself as she always did. “I mean, I love my Benny to pieces, but my husband… well, Ben Senior thinks that maybe Benny should be pursuing… other interests.”
“Maggie, you need to see them,” Bethany Foster explained, hoping that her use of Maggie’s first name didn’t offend her somehow. “If you’d seen how the audience reacted that night, or if your husband had, you’d know what we’re talking about.”
“Yes,” Barbara began, “You really should come this Friday night. You know me, Maggie, and you know what I thought about Kyle’s music before this band. I’m telling you now, that view has changed considerably. These kids… this is special. I can’t think of a better word than that. And I think that with the right planning and the right supervision, these kids could make honest livings through their music.”
“That’s a significant change of heart,” Maggie replied. “It wasn’t that long ago that you were telling me you wanted this band to fail.”
Everyone in the room turned toward Barbara, who had stopped in place as if a cardboard cut-out had been swapped for the real deal, the ice in her iced tea shifting to inform everyone that she was not, in fact, frozen in carbonite like Han Solo. “That’s not really what I said…”
“Isn’t it? You said you hoped the band would fail because you wanted Kyle to have a `real career.’ Isn’t that what you told me on the phone?”
“I’m just saying, is all. They must be pretty good if you suddenly want them to turn their music into a career.”
“Well, yes, they are that good. I’ll admit, I wasn’t a fan at first. I wanted what was best for my son, and I didn’t see music as leading him toward anything good. All you ever see in the movies and on television is bands trying with all their hearts to amount to something, and they end up getting ripped off, or stolen from, or cheated. I didn’t want my son to endure that.”
“But now you do?”
“Again, Maggie, yes, I do… well, no… you know what I mean.” Barbara’s scowl informed everyone in the room everything they’d ever need to know about her relationship with Maggie. They were close at one point, but Maggie’s insistent nagging and her painfully obtuse outlook on life ended up driving them apart. Her husband was ten times worse, always riding young Ben about everything he tried to do, and ruining every social event that the Winters’ had ever invited him to. Still, at least one of Ben’s parents needed to be present for this, even if they wouldn’t be supportive, because it wasn’t right of Barbara, or anyone really, to discuss the future of a child without one of said child’s parents present. “I’m nervous about these kids getting successful. Who wouldn’t be? I don’t want to see Kyle on some Behind the Music special, drugged out of his mind and picking up prostitutes or something. But I’ve realized that these kids are really talented. This band is going places whether we want it to or not.”
“Oh, I get it.” Maggie paused to sip on her coffee again, her flair for the dramatic never ceasing to amaze Barbara. “You’re worried this band is going to get big and famous, but you won’t have control over your son, right?”
“Control?! How dare you, Maggie!” Barbara paused for a moment to regain her composure, doing so even as Maggie grinned at her own ability to uproot Barbara’s angry side. “For someone who spends more time at the hair salon than she does with her kids, you sure seem to be quick to offer parenting advice.”
Bethany tried to laugh, hoping to break the razor-sharp tension that had suddenly filled the air. Barbara and Maggie both laughed as well, their seething disapproval of each other seeping through their sarcastic, aggressive grins. Meanwhile, Joe remained perfectly quiet the whole time, glancing out the window as if something had caught his interest, and he wasn’t even aware of the heated discussion. He’d seen his wife and Maggie go at it in the past, and when he foolishly attempted to interject once, it was like standing between brick wall and a Ferrari moving two-hundred miles an hour, and sticking his hand out in the hopes of preventing an accident.
“Maggie… may I call you Maggie?” Takumi asked politely.
“Maggie, I’ve been a professional musician for a very long time. Joe here was also a professional musician a while back. I can say this from many years of experience, and I’m sure Joe would agree, that these kids have something really unique here. I think we’re both qualified to tell you if a band has something special about them, or if they’re just a run-of-the-mill act. We’ve talked about this before… these kids, `Superhype,’ are going places.” With this, Joe nodded to Maggie, and then smiled to Takumi for including him in his statement.
“Well, I’ve always thought Mark had a gift.” Angela Boon tried wading into the conversation, her feeling that she was a third wheel being apparent in her speaking. “And I’m glad that you all think these guys are talented. But, I mean, what are we doing here? I mean… I hope that didn’t sound rude or anything. But, like…”
“What my wife is trying to ask,” Mark’s dad, Steven, started to proclaim, “is `how can we help?’ What can we do as parents to support this band in their pursuits?”
Barbara perked up and sat forward, prompting some of the other parents in the room to follow suit. “I’m glad you asked that, Mr. Boon.”
“Please, call me Steve.”
“Okay Steve… I’m glad you asked that. First and foremost, we all need to show these kids our undivided support. Whatever we can do or say to encourage them to keep at this, as long as they want to anyway, we should do that. Most of us have just met, but I’m willing to bet that most of us are happy to support these kids in what they’re trying to accomplish here.” Her emphasis wasn’t lost on Maggie, who smirked briefly before returning to her coffee. “Later tonight, we’re going to encourage Kyle to leave his part-time job. We wanted him to get it because we felt he needed some real-world experience, but this band is far more important, so if he wants to, we’ll let him leave his job.”
“Are you telling me Ben needs to quit his job at the record store now? His dad will never allow that.”
“No Maggie, I’m just saying what we’re doing to help,” Barbara explained, seeing the other parents nod in approval, which helped drive her forward. “I know what you and Ben Senior are like…”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“What do they need moving forward?” Angela interrupted, hoping to get passed the tension and talk about something more substantive than Barbara’s and Maggie’s mutual distaste for one another.
“In the past week, I’ve been reading up on how bands earn success, and I’ve been talking with Takumi and my husband about it as well. What they need is exposure and more experience on stage, and they can get both of these things through their shows. In terms of exposure, Joe and I have been looking into getting the kids a website. We’re willing to pay for it ourselves, so don’t worry about that, but that’s only going to go so far toward building their reputation. If we want them to get more shows, they need a manager. Someone who knows the music business, and can look out for their best interests when they’re doing their shows. We aren’t always going to be around to help them with that, you know?”
“I do,” Steven replied. “I usually work nights, and I almost always work weekends, so I know I won’t be around for many of their shows.”
“I don’t think I could make it to them either,” Maggie announced, eliciting another scowl from Barbara. “I’m a very busy woman.”
“Well, that’s why we need to find the band a manager. Someone who can be close with the band, and who really knows the music business. And it needs to be someone we can rely on to protect them from anyone looking toward, you know… ripping them off. Surely, we must know someone between all of us who can help us with this.”
The room went silent for a brief moment, as everyone propelled themselves into contemplation, with the exception of Maggie, who started munching on a celery stick and muttering something to herself under her breath, most likely negative, as everyone in the room would have guessed. “I would do it,” Takumi offered, “but in my line of work, I might be called off on the weekends as well.”
“Mark has an uncle who used to be in the music business, but he lives in Arizona now,” Steven offered. “He’s the reason Mark plays drums, actually. But he wouldn’t be much help here, not now anyway.”
“I think I might have someone…” Joe offered, his eyes widening when his idea dawned on him.
“Who is it?” Barbara asked.
“Well, later tonight, you can meet him. I know he starts work at five, so we’ll head over there and have a chat with him about this.”
With this, the group of parents started discussing the band’s music itself, before the Fosters turned the conversation toward the size of the audience, and the audience’s reactions, from the previous evening. The Boons seemed rather hesitant about everything, and Ben’s mom was altogether dismissive, but by the end of the two-hour “summit,” the Boons had committed their financial and creative support to the band’s future, and Maggie budged herself toward at least giving the band a listen in the near future. With this, everyone started going their separate ways, with the band staying in the basement to continue hashing out their new songs. And when five o’clock came, Joe and Barbara headed into their car, Barbara’s curiosity over who Joe’s management suggestion would be leading her to wildly speculate over every person she could remember from that period of their lives. But when they pulled into the parking lot of this person’s place of employment, she suddenly found herself wondering if her husband was sane.
“What’s up, my ni…” George Bellamy stuttered, realizing that the tall African-American gentleman on the other side of the counter wasn’t amused with where his statement was apparently going. “uh… nifty new customer! What can I help you with today?”
“I’m looking for Johann Sebastian Bach… where’s your classical section?”
“Oh… I didn’t see that coming! Right over here, let me show you!”
“George?! You want to trust the future of our child’s chosen career to George Bellamy? Have you lost your damn mind, Joe?”
Joe Winters waved to George, who smiled brightly and started walking toward them with a vigorous pace. “Don’t you remember how hard George worked for our band back in the day? He was an excellent manager!”
“You better be right about this, Joe.”
“Hey,” George began. “Look at this sexy young couple!”
“Hi George, how’ve you been?”
“Pretty good! I have to say, the band was incredible last night. Kinda reminds you of the old days, doesn’t it Joey?”
“Well, about that,” Joe started. “That’s why we’re here. We wanted to chat with you about the band, actually.”
“Are you guys serious? Mister Bellamy? Ben’s boss?” Kyle wasn’t making any effort to hide his shock and disapproval over his parents’ efforts. “I’m glad you guys are taking this seriously, but… I mean, Mister Bellamy? Really?”
“Ben, you know how I used to be in a punk band?” Joe began, hoping his son would take a few moments to hear him out.”
“I was in college. Freshman year. We were doing shows around town, silly local stuff, nothing big. And then one night, we met George. He was managing some crummy Who cover band, and they broke up that night, right on stage. We had a few drinks with him, and after that, he offered to manage our band. We were hesitant about it… I mean, he hasn’t changed much over the years, you know what I mean?”
“But anyway, yeah, we took him on. He said he wouldn’t charge us a nickel unless we made money because of him. And I’m telling you, son… the guy delivered.”
“You know that Les Paul you’re playing? Did I ever tell you the story of how I got it?”
“Well, George had gotten us booked at a club in New York City, called CBGB. I know I’ve told you about that gig before…”
“Yeah, like a million times,” Kyle answered with a smile. “But you never said anything about the guitar.”
“Probably because this story is so hard to believe. So, we’re in New York City, right? Now, up to that point, I was playing on a rickety old Fender Strat. The thing was barely in one piece. The night before the show, I was walking back to the hotel, and the neck of the guitar case was sticking out in front of me, and a cab drove straight into it. That was that… the guitar was dead. So that night, we’re trying to figure out how I can replace it. We’re at a bar, I can’t remember what it was called, and we’re talking about maybe renting one or something. At that moment, in walks Sting… of the Police.”
“Get outta here…”
“It’s true,” Kyle’s mom admitted. “I was there.”
“So George… Mister Bellamy… hatches a plan. He very casually walks up to Sting and introduces himself, and I swear, all of those social problems you think he has, they flew out the window. The guy struck up a conversation like he was the star of a Dos Equis commercial. We’d never seen anything like it. Anyway, an hour or two goes by, and he tells Sting that I was able to pick up any girl in the place, before Sting himself could. Sting said he was in a serious relationship, with some girl named Trudie I think, but he accepted the challenge. So George looks around the room, right? Your mom had just arrived at the bar, seconds before this starts happening, and George points at her and goes `her, I’ll bet you my guy can pick up her, and leave here with her tonight, and you couldn’t get her phone number.”
“You have to be kidding!”
“No, this really happened Kyle,” Barbara again claimed, her face now sporting a grin. “It gets better!”
“So Sting comes over to me and says `let’s make this interesting,’ and I tell him about my broken guitar. So he says if I win, he’ll flat-out buy me any guitar I want. But if he wins, I’d end up babysitting his kid every day for a week. Needless to say, I won… I mean, it’s your mom, and we’d been dating for a long time, and when Sting let me go first, confident as ever, I explained it all to her.”
“Mom, you dog!” Kyle said with a laugh, watching as his mom blushed and smiled.
“So anyway, Sting lost. He got a bit angry and left, and I felt like I was ripped off. But sure enough, he comes back an hour or so later, carrying that guitar, in the same case you’re using today.”
“Are you serious? Sting bought the guitar I’m playing?”
“Not exactly, Kyle,” Barbara interjected. “Do you know those letters that are dug into the back of the guitar?”
“Yeah, `GMTS,’ right?”
“Well,” Joe proudly announced. “Those letters stand for Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner. He’s a Fender guy, but some record producer gave him that Les Paul in the early 1980’s. He said he didn’t know where the producer got it from, but he said he used it on a few recordings in those days. You’re playing Sting’s Gibson Les Paul!”
“You… you’re serious?!”
“Yes, I am. And if it weren’t for George Bellamy, neither of us would have ever seen that guitar. I’m telling you, son, you might think this or that about George, but when it comes to management, there is none higher. Will you give him a try?”
Kyle paused, not to think about his response, but to think about all of the times he’d lifted that guitar, and stared at those four letters carved into the back of the guitar’s body, wondering what they meant and who’d put them there, and realizing that Sting, one of the most famous and accomplished musicians in the history of music, had played that instrument countless times, himself never realizing that some teenager in Binghamton New York would one day wield it on stage. “Sure, we’ll give Mister Bellamy a try, why not!”