“Now, you’re sure we’re not getting in trouble for this?”
“Pff, Nelson, it’s just the cafeteria. Not the archives or anything.”
“Still…” Nelson shifted the bass guitar, part of him wondering when on earth they had felt so heavy. But he’d mostly kept to average physical fitness since college. Weight training hadn’t been an FBI standard per-say. “What if we wake somebody up?”
Eddie turned to him with a grin, “Dude, that’s the best part about this place!” He opened up the wide doors and led Nelson further in with a hand on his back, shutting the doors behind him, the normally chaotic and crowded cafeteria emptied out for the night, “The acoustics are top notch, but it’s also far enough from the dorms that nobody is gonna hear us!” He considered a moment, then tapped his head, “Least not from the ear part, but you can think pretty quietly, right?”
Nelson’s eyes widened, looking down at the floor while he clutched the guitar strap, trying to think if he could think quietly, which just got him thinking harder, which then-
Eddie clapped a big hand on his shoulder, “Dude. I was joking.” He turned once Nelson looked less like he was having a panic attack at the idea, going for one of the set-in tables in the center of the room to grab a seat on the bench, “See, this is exactly why we’re doing this. You need a chance to unwind, Nelson! Chance to express yourself!”
“I feel like I do plenty of that.” Nelson took the seat opposite of him.
Eddie raised a brow, “You know I’m talking about expressing yourself outside of picking better words to fit the crossword puzzle, right?”
Nelson sat up at that, his brows knit into a rare irritated look from the man, “Look, it's not my fault ‘obligate’ fit way better then the first choice.”
“You whited out two of the black spaces to make it happen.” Nelson seemed to consider answering for a moment, before he pulled the guitar off his back to set in his lap, figuring it wiser not to. Eddie set up the mini-amp on the cafeteria floor, “The point is you need a sec to chill out, and this is gonna help. Even if we do wake somebody up, maybe they’ll enjoy the show?”
“Maybe…” Nelson gripped the bass neck, “Or maybe they’ll consider my playing so bad they’ll fire me on the spot.”
“Orrr, so sick they’ll want you at events!” Eddie offered, tuning Clementine till she purred when he strummed lightly.
Nelson blinked up at Eddie, “The Psychonauts do events?”
“Hell no! But you could change that! Alright, c’mere-” He shifted closer, showing his beloved Clementine towards Nelson, “So how much do you remember from college?”
“That is...a very loaded question.”
Eddie snickered, “Like you were a party animal-” He looked up, “Wait, you weren’t, were you?”
Nelson felt over the neck till he got up to tuning it right, looking up at Eddie, “Not as far as I know.” He strummed a few chords, startling at the volume the amp provided, setting his hand on the strings to quiet them, “I think the hardest thing I did in college was a few solo cups of whiskey.”
Eddie whistled, “Oohhhoho...Clearly an out of control party fiend.” He said with a grin, “Okay, so you should remember a lot of this, right? You got your chords: C A G, E D F, so on and so forth, right?” Admittedly, even if he did, it was still a bit intimidating. The guitar Eddie had handed him was bigger then the one he’d dealt with in college, still vibrating from the strings he’d plucked earlier. Eddie was looking at him expectantly, looking like he’d just finished explaining over the chord process, “Think you got that?”
Nelson went rigid a moment, realizing he’d been spacing out. He gave a few quick nods and a nervous smile before looking down at the bass guitar. He breathed in and let it out slow, flexing his hand as he mentally thought over the chords. Something simple, just to make sure he remembered…
He watched Eddie’s grin widen as he plucked a few chords, then gradually drop into a look almost akin to disgust the longer he played, finally raising a hand to wave at him as he went, “Stop, stop… Ugh… dude.”
Nelson paused his playing, “D-did I do something wrong?”
“I mean, not musically, just…” his brow set down low, voice tinged with regret, “The four chords of pop ? Dude. ”
To a non-metal head like Nelson, it was somewhat lost on him how four chords could be so disdained, “...It was sounding fine, wasn’t it?”
“Well, yeah!” Eddie brought his hands up to his face, “It also sounds like just about every song
alive in the whole universe
. Like okay, check this out-“ He waved a hand towards Nelson, rolling his wrist for him to keep going. Nelson set to getting those four chords again as Eddie adjusted his own guitar, the flying V easily longer then Nelson’s torso, yet plucked as swiftly and easily as an apple on a sapling. It was clear he was an experienced player even to a novice, and that the chords he struck sounded very familiar the more he played. No matter what he played, it all sounded very, very similar as Nelson kept up with the four chords.
Country Roads? Driven. Take on Me? Took that one. Don’t Stop Believing? Oh you better believe it sounded the same. When it clicked between squinting down at the chords, Nelson’s head popped up with a pair of wide eyes, glancing from the bass and up at Eddie while he contemplated it with a quick clearing of his throat, “Ahem… Okay so it’s a little basic…”
Eddie raised a brow.
“It’s very basic.” Nelson corrected, setting his hand over the strings to stop their vibrating, “So what’s wrong with them?”
Eddie hummed, “Well it’s fine . I mean it gets the point across with a song and it’s catchy, so folks tend to stick with it longer.”
Nelson blinked. That all sounded like generally positive reception. “So...it’s a good thing?”
“It’s safe. ” Eddie ran his hand through his hair, settling his gaze on Nelson, “Predictable, and...I get it. You haven’t played since college and all, gotta go for something comfortable-but there’s a whole lot of directions you can go with a bass guitar.” He got up to a stand, one foot up on the bench as he adjusted Clementine in his grip, “If you really wanna loosen up and enjoy the music, you can’t just follow some guidelines to keep it safe. You gotta feel it.” When he said that, he put a hand on his chest, clutching the guitar by the neck.
“So let’s try something a little different.” He rolled his shoulders, cracked his neck, and started on a few chords. It was strange to watch compared to the songs he had replicated earlier. What felt like watching a man in control of a tool now felt like someone in charge of an animal. The guitar almost felt alive, leaning into his grip and purring each heavy rumble and growl that passed through her. His motions were almost too loose, shoulders free of tension as he played her as sweetly one might a beautiful woman.
“If you wanna play a bar mitzvah, it’s totally cool and fine and great -but me?” He grinned and threw his hands down on the strings, sending out a riff hot enough that Nelson had to check his eyebrows, in case they’d been singed off, “I prefer to rock. ”
Nelson barely had a chance to steady himself before Eddie, in the throes of musical passion and a clear desire to show off, went into a sick guitar solo. The air got hotter Not painfully so but it was warm, like being stuck in a crowd-enough room to move and breathe but feeling the beat and excitement of a hundred hearts heating up the room. He seemed so confident and happy when he played, so full of life that it radiates off of him like beams of sunlight. A rodeo man who knew every twist and turn this bucking bronco was out to take him and loving it.
How could he compete? Nelson on the other hand had tensed up when he played, so focused on playing right that he couldn’t even remember if he’d liked playing it...what would happen if he played it like he enjoyed it? Let his mind wander and just...leaned into the flow like Eddie did?
He rolled his shoulders, popping a stiff vertebrae in his back, and loosened his posture, leaning back on the table as he stared down at the bass. Come on, come on, just...flow of consciousness. First thing that came to mind. He breathed, shut his eyes. Tentatively, his fingers found the strings.
It started slow. Five notes, four notes, then five again. Space some of them out, let the note linger, but move to the next one before too long. He felt like he’d gone into this expecting to just do a backing bassline-his fingers starting slow and evenly, but the further in he got playing, the more it began to change. The bass seemed to get louder, deeper, as his fingers naturally picked up speed.
The way he’d played before, the bass had just been that-a bass. He’d been thinking about the heavy weight of it against his chest, the strain in his shoulders from holding it up, his brain focusing hard on remembering and making sure the chords were exactly alike. Now with each chord, it felt like an extension of his arm. He wasn’t focusing on what chords to play or how heavy it felt: he was just thinking about what would sound best, moving smoothly from it to the next chord, then another after that.
Eddie cracked open an eye, then both to glance Nelson’s. There was a funny look on his face as Nelson played, his solo seeming to quiet as he steadily transitioned to more of a backing riff. Nelson still had his eyes shut as he focused, following the melody along whatever path it led him. He hadn’t realized his own bass had overtaken Eddie’s guitar until he opened his eyes at the soft creak of wood. Eddie had settled back on the bench now as he played, guiding Nelson into a slower fade out, letting the last few notes hang in the air. He still had that funny look on his face, eyes on Nelson as the other man eased the bass guitar onto his lap, glancing up and giving a sort of nervous smile, “Was that alright?”
“...was that alright??” Eddie stood up quickly, “Was that alright??! Nelson!!”
Nelson’s eyes widened, gripping the guitar like one might hold a shield, “I-I get that I’m rusty, but-“
“That was AMAZING DUDE!” He had very little time to prepare for the spine-cracking hug Eddie swooped him up in, a massive grin on his face as he laughed and got Nelson in what could only be described as “an affectionate noogie”, “Look at you!! Mr. Oh “I haven’t played since college”! You are so full of shit!”
“I-er-thank you???” He pawed for a grip until he could pull himself mostly out of it with one hand on Eddie’s meaty arm, “Was it good??”
Eddie laughed again, “Dude. I can’t remember the last time someone got me out of a solo with a bass line riff . That takes some guts! You should have told me you were more of a funk guy! I mean if you can go that fast, maybe I oughta let you try out Clementine sometime! Really get something shredded, you know??”
“I-I mean, I don’t think I could do it like you-“
“That’s what makes it awesome dude!!!” Eddie set him down and got closer to his eye level, hands on his shoulders, “Do you know how much metal would suck if every solo sounded exactly the same? That’s why folks love live concerts!” He seemed to pause, considering an idea, and looked back at Nelson with eyes just about on fire they burned so bright, “You should tour sometime!!”
“I should what???” Nelson blinked, wondering if the amp had been up too high. He didn’t hear him right, right?
“The band I’m in!! Well, roadie for anyway!” Eddie offered, bringing his hands back to place them flat on his chest, “If our bassist calls out you’d be a shoe-in to fill the spot! Though we’d have to get your wardrobe updated-and how good at you at screamcore?”
“I don’t think one bass riff qualifies for me to fill a bassist’s role, Eddie!” He yelled as one last defense.
Eddie put both his hands on his shoulders, “Which is why you shall now consider me your teacher. The two of us shall forge out on the path of melting faces and getting loads of hot chicks to scream your name.”
“Just think-“ Eddie put an arm around him and pulled him in close, the other open-palmed, waving across the sky, “-you as the padawan, and me as your sexy, radical sensei. The two of us giving one crowd the night they’re gonna pass on to their great, great grandchildren when they’re, like, brains. In robot bodies.”
Nelson slowly raised a brow, “Did you smoke before coming here tonight?”
Eddie made a non-committal hand waggle and a soft “Ehnnnnuhnaaahyeaaanaaaah-“ noise in his throat, before clearing it, clenching his fist as he pulled it back, “Look, I just think it’d be worth a shot! One of these nights I’ll get you on a stage.”
Nelson gripped the bass neck, gently wringing it between his hands, “I think you are giving me a lot more credit then I have any right to.”
Eddie gave a shrug, moving off to set a foot down on his amp, “Well keep telling yourself that, cause when I’m done with you? You’re gonna wish you could show off!” He adjusted Clementine in his grip, “Alright, now show me what you did to get that riff?”
“I thought the best performers didn’t sound exactly alike.”
“They don’t! But I gotta know how you pulled off that sound.” He held his own at the ready, looking down at Nelson, “Think you can do it again?”
Nelson was still a little unsure about the whole thing. He honestly couldn’t even picture going up on stage and performing for a crowd as rowdy as Eddie’s must get. He’d probably decline if Eddie actually asked him to go on stage for a performance, he’s positive he would. But Eddie’s enthusiasm was definitely infectious. And he really did want to re-learn bass if it got his body feeling this loose and calm for once in a long while.
He breathed in and adjusted the bass to better fit his grip, “Okay, so I think it kinda went like this…” As the melody flowed and he did his best to slow his fingers down so Eddie could watch, he kept glancing up at his unlikely friend… and admittedly, if the crowds grinned at him like Eddie did as he watched him play, maybe a crowd performance wouldn’t be so bad.
At a bar or club of course. No way would he ever, ever do a big stadium. Not a chance.
...course he’d also fail to realize he was putting on a concert that night. The red tips of pointed hats would be far out of sight by the time he glanced to the cafeteria window.