The Edge of the Known – Book Five

Edge of the Known have emerged from their self-imposed stasis into a climate of musical stagnation and social unrest. The world is hungry for a new vision, and many people look again to the band that once brought it to them with passion and fury.

But as Brandon Chane leaps into his most grueling tour jaunt to date, alongside his group of soul-brothers, he questions, more and more, whether it is the creative or the destructive power of Dionysus that he has just unleashed.

 


Chapter One: Erasable Marker Board

They use their music to explore the frontiers of consciousness because they want it to embrace more than just a reflection of the world that surrounds them. They want to offer up a new vision of what could be.

The trouble is that the artistic vision often feels as impossible to live with as to live without. It's likely to draw the seeker away from the familiar, homey signposts where other people typically find comfort and companionship.

It has no champions and supporters because it does not yet exist. One is in the process of manifesting it, in the face of what is 'established'. And if the things that the artist is saying were already honored in the world then there would be no need for s/he to produce the work in the first place.

The Vision is a pathway that leads us away from the world for a time because the answers we seek are not within it. But the point is still to express it here; otherwise we would not have come. The Call of the Work is meant to enrich the world, not provide an avenue of escape from it.

For this world to find new ways forward (as it so desperately needs, now) it must learn to dream new dreams. Here the artists are, as they have always been, humanity's teachers.

- Drum’s Deep Magazine, “Edge of the Known: A New Breed of Dreamers”

               

 

Kyle Hearst had an epiphany one day while we were all in a stationary store. This was in Salt Lake City, and we were scarcely a week into our projected 180-date tour, the most extensive jaunt that either we or our road-mates Sendaline had ever undertaken.

We shuffled inside searching for various miscellanea: Jagged red-rock and desert postcards for folks back home; date books for Maureen so she could keep track of the itinerary and also the more mundane needs of both bands under her wing (she lived in panic of everything being wiped from her laptop and phone and thus insisted on writing it all down for backup); little journals that were handy for scrawling down lyrics, observations, remembered details of previous night’s dreams, etc.

And so Kyle discovered a marker board about as tall as a bar stool and the width of a medicine cabinet. He stared at it for a while, transfixed, his expression the kind of fascinated dread with which one might regard a rattlesnake in close proximity. Then, having arrived at some crucial decision despite his obvious fear, he snatched it up, along with a set of multi-colored markers designed to swipe clean from the surface, and made his purchase.

When our bus got underway in some nebulous after-midnight hour, carrying us away from a fairly triumphant gig, he called the whole gang of us over to the ‘kitchen’ area, where he’d taped the board to the standing cooler – and I have to admit, it fit as snugly as if this had been its intended home all along. Then Kyle explained his inspiration.

“So, we’ve got a year of all traveling together, right? I mean, we’re basically living like we’re all married from now ‘til next autumn, with just a few scattered days here and there to go off and diffuse. And I just had this thought that the one thing that could really disrupt the whole vibe is if things come up and we don’t communicate, so that stuff’s just bottled up; and it ferments.”

“Or festers, even,” Tommy put in, with the merest crease of a smirk.

“Yeah,” said Kyle, reacting good-naturedly to the sarcasm, “or even gets like water that’s been left for weeks too long in the canteen. Anyway, I got this –” He slapped the board - “thinking we could write out any of our reactions or worries as soon as we notice them, just put it up on the board and out it. And then, once you feel that that potentially disruptive energy has been diffused, you just swipe with this here eraser and it’s gone.”

No one knew what to make of this idea at first because we weren’t seeing what he was. We needed tangible proof of the vision. Mitchell ‘Blade’, Sendaline’s tattooed and muscular guitarist who came across as vaguely menacing until you actually got to know him, sitting there in nearly-disintegrated jean cutoffs and a black tank top, he says: “Maybe if you start it off right now; like, write your own confession at the top to give us all an example. Not to put you on the spot, but someone’s got to get this thing started.”

Kyle’s eyes darted at once to Maureen; and she, misinterpreting the gesture, shrugged and said, “Well, it is your idea. Who better to demonstrate?”

And so our guitarist mastered his trepidation with visible effort – now that I think on it, it was probably more severe than the pre-performance jitters -  snatched a blue marker (perhaps unconsciously wishing to ‘cool’ the moment) as if it was a dueling sword, and started scrawling.

There’s times when I feel strongly attracted to Maureen. I never fantasized much about older women, but she’s like the coolest lady I know. I get scared that she’ll pick up on this and feel uncomfortable around me. I’m scared Fritz will notice and get resentful towards me for it. Maybe even Brandon’s gonna get pissed.

He drew a deep breath as he finished and stepped back, as if he was re-emerging from a full minute underwater. Kyle set the marker down with the air of a man who’s about the turn and face the firing squad.

I was startled; and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in my reaction. But I doubt that the collective shock on the bus in that moment was so much provoked – as I’ve no doubt Kyle feared – by the content of what he’d written. Rather it was a moment of reckoning clarity that said, yes, this is the path we’re going to have to take; we need to exist in this level of honesty if we’re going to see this mad quest through to its end. Am I ready for it?

Fritz disrupted this atmosphere of stunned stasis with an eloquent shrug. “You’ve got good taste, brotha. A damn fine woman she is indeed.”

This of course forced Maureen to reply, though she was markedly less relaxed and blushing furiously. “I’m not going to be uncomfortable, Kyle,” she insisted. “And I’m flattered. God, I had no idea! But I guess it’s natural – isn’t it? – that things like this come up when you spend so much time with someone in closed quarters.” Then her managerial backbone asserted itself. “Just so long as you understand that Fritz and my marriage is in no way an open one!”

Waving his hands in frantic repudiation, Kyle rushed to clarify. “Oh, no, it’s not that I’m wishing for something to happen at all! You’re an amazing lady, that’s all. If it shows on my face sometimes… I just don’t want it to be awkward.”

Silence again. Kyle seemed surprised, maybe even disappointed, that there wasn’t more pronounced general reactivity. “Fuck it, then,” he muttered; and to our astonishment, he erased what he’d written, grabbed the marker and scribbled down a new revelation.

I get angry at Tommy sometimes because it seems like he’s always going to treat me like the rookie of the band just cuz I’m the youngest and I joined late in the game.

Tommy absorbed this in one glance and immediately sprang to the board. He inscribed his reply in red cursive.

I get possessive about my band sometimes because of my history in it. Sometimes a part of me even wants credit for “discovering” Brandon first. I think Kyle has picked up on this and thinks it’s directed at him personally. I feel bad about that. I hope he can better understand where it’s coming from now.

Then the two men stared at each other, glanced once more at their work on the board, back again… and after a moment’s hesitation they embraced in a way that utterly dissolved all tension in the room.

Mastering himself, Tommy waved at the board. “All right: That one’s done with, so you can erase it. You’re tied for my favorite guitarist in my favorite band. What more do you want?”

“Favoritist!” Mitch shouted, his smile showing all his predatory teeth.

James Crichton, our keyboardist, had been standing off to the side of our circle involving himself with various light yogic stretches. Now he had one foot propped against the opposite knee so that his legs created a “4” shape. He balanced like that, scarcely wavering, while regarding the marker board thoughtfully.

“So this is to be our confession stand?” he asked. “Couldn’t we just make it a point to speak up whenever we’re having some sort of reaction? This seems to be an unnecessary extra step.”

Kyle was undaunted. “I had a couple thoughts around that. Like, imagine it’s the middle of the night and you’ve got these pestering thoughts that’re keeping you awake. But everyone else is asleep, so you can’t get it off your chest in the moment. With this, you can set it down while it’s fresh, and maybe sleep easy knowing that you at least dragged that troubling influence out into the open. Plus, just having this up here can be our constant reminder that we need to keep clearing the air so things don’t… fester.”

This satisfied James as much as it did the rest of us. Sendaline’s drummer, Stuart Greene, approached the board next. Rugged, black, always wearing a blue bandana to tame his long ebony locks, he was the quietest and most introspective guy in the group and also (I surmised) the most discerning, maybe even more so than Fritz. He wrote:

I feel like all the joy and satisfaction I get from playing in this band oftentimes gets clouded over by the fear that Fritz might quit the whole thing at any time. And without Fritz there’s no Sendaline, far as I’m concerned.

That provoked a quiet and meaningful glance to pass between Fritz and Maureen, his wife. It was laden with so much that’d been discussed in private but never shared. Then the tall-tale of a man said, “Ah, hell, Stuart, you know I’m not gettin’ any younger; and I’ve made it a point not to give empty promises to nobody. I never said forever, and I ain’t sayin’ I’m jumping ship tomorrow, either. Look, if we’re gonna keep our heads in this tour then we’ve got to focus on enjoying the moments. Ain’t nothin’ else guaranteed for us. This bus could run head-on into a semi tomorrow. ‘Edge’ isn’t working off of a five-year plan and I don’t think we should be either.”

And Stuart, with the grace of a sage, acknowledged that, yes, he needed to stop living poised between nostalgia (he was getting on in years too) and fear for the future.

There was companionable chaos in the kitchen for a while after that. The space wasn’t designed for nine at one time in the first place, and half our group were taking turns with the markers and the other half were processing what had thus far been revealed. Enthusiastic commotion ensued. An unusually somber Fritz was hugging Stuart; Kyle tried to ease Maureen’s mind with needless elaborations…

“I wonder if you guys really think I’m prissy, weird and eccentric, possibly gay and not at all cut out to be in an edgy rock band.” That was James; and now it was obvious why he’d resisted the idea of the board in the first place. I decided to leave it up to the members of Sendaline to reassure him, and after several declarations to the effect that they’d snatch him up in a minute if we ever fired him James seemed set at ease. Bassist Jake fetched him a beer from the cooler, christened his head with the top frost, and our keyboardist was officially initiated into the gang.

At this point I forced my way through the press of bodies and jostling elbows. I took up a black marker, started writing about my fear that Maureen would find it too taxing to keep both our bands under her wing. I didn’t think I could stomach the world of record industry bureaucracy anymore; and where would we ever find another soul so congenial towards - and perceptive of - our shared vision? But I erased this disclosure halfway through. I’d already confided all this to Maureen. I drew a breath for courage and then named the true diabolical beast that had the power to destroy not only this tour but also my entire plunge back into musical pop mythology.

 I used to believe that I could walk through the fire and bring everybody with me. Every song was another chance for people to find healing and reach for their own version of enlightenment. But I’ve already failed my sister and now I’m failing my son, leaving him behind so I can pursue something he can’t possibly understand. Oftentimes I can’t fathom what I’m even doing in this business.