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The Cocoon: "Showing Off"

You’re in 9th grade, and you’re in a pop punk band.

No, a pop-punk/ska band.

Make that a pop-punk/ska cover band.

You have a rudimentary grasp of your instruments. Well, most of you do. Your bassist bought his bass maybe a week ago. And your lead singer got that position because he’s the only one who can play his instrument without intensely focusing on his fingers, and therefore can theoretically make noises with his mouth at the same time.

Nevermind that he’s tone deaf. Those details are for later.

Now, it’s not like you guys don’t love music, but this band isn’t for the love of music. The entire purpose here is to try and lose your virginity.

Or at least get a handy under the bleachers.

Or a phone number. Or a kindly glance.

Really any of the above.

So: what would you call this band of yours? Think about it for a moment.

Think.

Do you have it? Good. Ok, say your band name out loud with me on the count of 3. Ready? 3… 2… 1…

THE FEZ MONKEYS.

Oh. Well, that’s the name we went with anyway. The Fez Monkeys. The band name, as well as our positions in the band, were decided over one lunch in our school cafeteria. From day 1, our goal was clear: The Battle of the Bands that happened every year in spring. And seeing as that was about 5 months away, we figured we’d have plenty of time to get into top form.

Our first practice happened that Saturday at our drummer Schuyler Linnes’ house, much to Mrs. Linnes’ dismay. We played our favorite songs from bands like NOFX, Less Than Jake, Bad Religion, No Use for a Name, and The Mad Caddies. And to be honest, we sounded… awful. We sounded utterly, truly awful.

But like I said, we had 5 months. Surely there was nothing to worry about.

In that first month, we played an astounding amount of Goldeneye. If skill at N64 equated to romantic prowess, I was Leonardo di Caprio circa 1998.

The second month, we started creating merch. Because that’s what bands do. We created Fez Monkey patches and sewed them onto oversized bowling shirts because that’s what was going to get us laid.

Around the third month, we actually started playing music again. Jason, our bassist, had each week promised to start taking bass lessons. He still hadn’t, and to this day, still hasn’t.

By the fourth month, we’d already suffered a near Yoko-Ono-level fracture within the band. Our drummer, Schuyler, had aspirations to play guitar. In fact, when he played drums, he’d do so with a guitar resting in his lap. Francis, our tone deaf lead singer, also played lead guitar, while I played rhythm guitar. We needed another guitar like we needed boat insurance. But we did need a drummer… and we needed Schuyler’s house to practice in. So we fielded his concerns by repeatedly telling him to shut up and play the drums.

Then, all of a sudden, it was time.

The Battle of the Bands was held in the very same cafeteria that our super group was conceived in, on a tiny stage erected by the lunch line. Yet it felt like Madison Square Garden to us. We were ungrounded with nervous energy, pacing back and forth “back stage” — which was just the kitchen where tomorrow’s sloppy joes were being defrosted.

When it came time for soundcheck, Jason still hadn’t arrived, so we soundchecked with another band’s bassist — a junior named Adam. He asked what key we were playing in, then proceeded to improv a bassline to the Less Than Jake song that was our opening number. And it sounded incredible! We had no idea what that beautiful rumbly instrument was meant to sound like. We begged Adam to play with us in place of our own delinquent bassist, but he politely declined. I can only imagine why.

Just as the show was about to begin, Jason finally showed up. Since we were the youngest of the bands, we were given the dubious opening slot, but we relished the opportunity all the same.

As soon as our name was announced, we rushed out on stage and played our little hearts out, jumping across the stage, swinging our guitars around on our straps, and doing all those rock and roll signature moves that you’re supposed to do.

So. How did we do?

Well, let’s put it this way. In the history of our school, we were the only band that ended up playing Battle of the Bands for all 4 years of high school. And the only band to have lost all 4. And no, we didn't get laid.

You could say that we lost Battle of the Bands, but we won our virginities.

In the end, I learned a valuable lesson: don’t start a band just to show off.

Become a DJ instead.

 

William Tran