With my foot pumping steady on the bass drum, my arms flew in a frenzied flourish over the toms and cymbals, sending a deafening thunder throughout the auditorium. As stinging sweat threatened to blind my eyes, I quickly swiped my arm across my forehead and then focused on the song's encore and my third solo of the evening. Jake and Brayden's echoing harmonies had ended only moments before, and now it was a battle between the metal and drums on our most hardcore song to date, Ride the Pale Horse. Their guitars screeched to a halt, and then it was me, and only me, pounding out the rhythm. As the house lights flickered in a mosaic of colors, I felt the beat echoing deep within my chest. Although I loved any excuse to show off, I knew the importance of solos to my band mates-we were only as good as our last show or our last album. Even though I was in a stadium with twenty thousand people, moments like these always took me back to when I was a kid and was learning how to master the drums from my Tio Diego.
Just as I finished the last beat of the crescendo, everything went black in the auditorium. It took only a millisecond for the audience's approval to begin as a resounding roar. For a full minute, we remained in the pitch black until the house lights slowly came back up. As I took off my headset, whistles, cat-calls, and applause stung my ears. I rose off my stool and made my way out of the drum set to join the guys at the front of the stage. During the blackout, roadies had taken Jake, Brayden, and Rhys's guitars. I, on the other hand, stood twirling one of my drumsticks between my fingers.
Standing toe to toe with each other, we waved to the crowd before doing a united bow. Jake passed each of us the microphone so we could say our individual goodbyes. Once Brayden returned it to him, Jake grinned. "Good night, Oklahoma City! Keep it rockin' til next time!" he bellowed, his voice echoing throughout the auditorium. With a final wave, we started jogging off the stage. When I got to the edge, I turned back. I kissed each of my sticks before chucking them out into the crowd. It was a wonder, after all the times of doing it, I hadn't managed to poke someone's eye out or inflict some other heinous injury with them. The potential liability and lawsuits were something that 'legal-eagle', Rhys, loved to remind me of constantly.
Security quickly escorted us into one of the backstage rooms where we'd gotten ready earlier in the evening. The members of Jacob's Ladder-Jake's fiancée, Abby Renard, and her twin brothers, Gabe and Eli, lounged on the over-stuffed couches, awaiting our arrival. With sweat pouring off of me, I gladly took an ice-cold water bottle, along with a towel, from one of the roadies. As I guzzled down the water, another guy thrust a clean shirt in my face. It was t-minus five minutes till Meet and Greet time with lucky fans.
"Ew, Jake!" Abby squealed. I glanced over my shoulder to see that Jake hadn't bothered to towel off or change shirts. Instead, he was rubbing his sweat-soaked body over Abby's glittering stage dress. When he nuzzled his face against her neck and whispered something in her ear, she grinned and didn't seem to mind that her appearance to meet fans was getting shot to hell.
"Get a room," I teased, as I whipped my old shirt over my head.
"We may have to call the room on your bus tonight," Abby said with a giggle
I groaned as I pulled on the clean, skin-tight, black Runaway Train T-shirt. "I thought the whole point of you two buying a separate bus was so you could keep it rockin' without us having to know."
Wrinkling her nose at my description of their activities, Abby replied, "Yes, but since Lily is with us for the next three shows, we want to give up the bed to her and Bray."
Jake rolled his eyes. "Let's rephrase that, babe. You want to give the bed up, not me."
Abby smacked his arm playfully. "But the roosts can be awfully fun too, you know."
A wicked grin curved on Jake's face as if some elicit memory had just been rekindled in his mind. "That's true."
Just as they started to engage in some serious lip-lock, a knock came at the door, signaling it was time to start the Meet and Greet. Running a hand through my sweat-soaked hair, I tried to steady myself. Don't get me wrong, I loved the hell out of our fans-they made us what we were, but I preferred pre-show Meet and Greets. With the pre-performance energy adrenaline pumping, you really could give to your fans what they deserved.
But the suits and event planners never quite understood that. So, after days of touring and hours spent playing your heart out has sent exhaustion prickling over your body like nicks from a razor blade, it was hard finding the energy after a show to give your all to each and every person who came by-especially the over-eager women who wanted more than you were willing to give. You're too tired, and you let your guard down, which results in having your ass and junk unwillingly grabbed.
A flurry of movement came from the doorway indicating the eager fans had arrived. Abby and Jake quickly rose off the couch and then went their separate ways with their respective bands. The line remained steady, and my face felt frozen in a smile as I posed with different fans. I signed so many shirts, CD's, and body parts that my hand cramped up so bad that I thought it would never recover to play in tomorrow night's show. Rhys and I were now the only guys who signed breasts. Brayden had been out of that game practically since we started, and now that Jake was engaged to Abby, he was refusing too. In his absence, I was happy to oblige.
We only had about ten fans left when Kylie, Lily's younger sister and sometimes nanny, poked her dark head in the door. Before she could open her mouth, Melody's high decibel scream echoed throughout the room. "DADDY! I WANT MY DADDY!"
With one hand signing a program, Brayden used the other to beckon Kylie. She hurried into the room, trying to muffle Melody's cries by cradling the fifteen month old to her rack. But Melody pulled away and reached out for Bray. The moment he took her, Melody quieted, wrapping her arms around Brayden's neck.
He gave an apologetic smile to the fans. "Excuse me, but it seems my daughter needs her daddy. I hope you all won't mind if I duck out?"
Since it was only women left, they practically melted into a freaking puddle in the floor at Brayden's words and actions. A chorus of "Aw's" coupled with "What a good father you are" rang through the room. As Bray left with one of our jacked-up security guards, Kylie didn't follow him. Instead, she hung around, talking to Abby, while cutting her blue eyes over at me.