It’s 2008. The plastic instrument craze is at an all time high; I’ve skipped out on the Spring trimester at the University to maybe drop out for good. My hair has gotten long enough to be doing the hippie dreadlock thing, and I’ve got a crew of four that I’ve known since early Highschool days jamming to Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So.”
We’re in my mother’s basement. Everyone seems to be gesturing wildly, trying to feel the vibe between our band on tour — the drumsticks are noisily clanging against rubber slip-mats, our lead singer is swinging the plastic microphone a bit too closely to my head. I hear the clickety clack racket of my own jaded run on bass. It’s hot down here in June, so the screen door is pried open to allow the echoes from the T.V. speaker to drift out into the darkness.
I stare hard at my own reflection through the television’s glare. There’s a string of blue and orange chords coming up, a bit more quickly than I’m anticipating. Between the fast paced colors and the manufactured raucous energy, it almost looks like my bass girl is smugly laughing at us. She’s a Gothic Belladonna from London, and she’s bigger than everyone on stage. That almost sneering discontent peers back at me, her purple bouffant hairstyle bouncing in a drone-like rhythm along with the slightly off key Rivers Cuomo impersonation in the background.
I keep plucking away, without any earnest intent to be exceptional. The stage lights are alternating between wild neons and a black and white lo-fi effect as we hit our 4x groove. The plastic fret is strumming a bit loose, and reflects every missed note eagerly. Clack clack clack. The setlist in Boston was coming to a close, and nobody really wants to continue with Fall Out Boy’s “Dead on Arrival.” The four of us, in some sweaty faux rock communion, start packing up our “instruments.”
In the off hours between songs, I’d spent most of my time coming up with daring tattoo designs for my disaffected Belladonna. In some futile attempt to interject my own style into my character, we paraded around in Spikestress metal tops, zebra leggings, and Luchadore boots that screamed “FUCK OFF” as loudly as possible. The layered complexities of inked designs came only in black, and the dispirited bass performances were traded for wild punk rock sensibilities and creative wardrobe collaborations.
The band would meet up for plastic practice every couple of nights. Before the frenzied cacophony of our renditions of The Clash, I took pride in getting dressed for our performances. Feeling catatonic and aloof meant Melancholy Prom Goth garb, Marimbas on the feet, and Jackie O glasses. When it was time to yell, we wore Defiant leathers, Hip Huggers, and Devil’s Rope bracelets. The dress up game became more intriguing for me than the music — it was a chance for freedom of self expression, and for transgender exploration.
I got a cartilage piercing sometime later that summer in honor of my Rock Band Belladonna alter ego and her Punk 101 getup. My older sister called me “Avril” for the rest of the year.