Battle of the Bands (Finale)

battle of the Bands--Twisty Road Cafe

Let the games begin

Let the games begin

When Rip ‘N Time entered stage left, it felt more like they were in a boxing or wrestling ring; the Tarborgs were in the far right corner and the master of ceremonies—none other than Dr. Tarborg himself—held a microphone coming down from ceiling. It was as if they were in ‘Vegas and Rip ’N Time was about to go fifteen rounds in a championship bout with the TARBORGS.
“Let the games begin,” Riley thought.
Then Dr. Tarborg announced in his best ring announcer voice; “In this corner”- and he gestured towards Rip ‘N Time. “Weighing in at . . . ”
“Oh crap, I knew I shouldn’t have had that last apple slice,” said Akemi.
“No time to be joking, Akemi!” said Riley.
“I thought this was going to be a Battle, not a smackdown,” said Langston.
“Not good, not good at all,” said Vincent.
While Rip ‘N Time were talking, Dr. Tarborg had given their collective weight and he continued announcing, “ . . . with an average height of 5’ 7”, is the all human metal band, Rip ’N Time and in the right corner weighing in at two and one half tons, with an average height of fifteen feet, are the Tarborgs.”
He then motioned Riley and the lead Tarborg towards the center of the stage/ring and he summarized the ground rules of the battle. “No hammer-ons or pull-offs above the neck, no dive bombing below the belt, no pinched harmonics behind the ears . . . .” After all the rules and regulations were explained in excruciating detail, Dr Tarborg gestured both the Tarborg and Riley to come closer to each other. He then told them to shake hands. The disparity in size between the two combatants/performers was so obviously disproportionate, that even Dr. Tarborg realized the ridiculousness of his request, so he said in an aside to Riley, “Just bump fists ,my dear . . . it’s all for show, good sportsmanship, you know.” When Riley still balked at that idea, Dr. Tarborg said, “Oh well, I guess we can break with tradition this one time-heh heh. Uh, just fight er . . . play fair, and may the best guitarists win.”
The initial part of the Battle unfolded typically. That is, the two bands traded their respective sets without any major surprises and the crowd responded in the usual fashion. Rip ‘N Time played their cover sets quite well and the crowd cheered wildly (with a requisite smattering of boos). The Tarborgs played, as expected, perfectly—not a single mistake. The crowd cheered them on as well, and even the great Tarborgs couldn’t escape a small group of boo-birds. This is how it went from 8:00 to 8:31:59.
At precisely 8:32, things went horribly wrong. Rip ‘N Time had just played their last set and the Tarborgs seamlessly segued into the final part of the Battle. They didn’t hesitate- they went straight for the jugular– they smelled human guitarist blood. It seems the Tarborgs had been holding back and now they were taking the Battle to another realm.

Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg

The Tarborgs played with a blinding speed and a controlled technical proficiency, and their technique was at the service of their sound. The Tarborgs employed a six-hand tapping technique to slide chromatically up and down their fretless guitar necks–creating Schoenbergian 48 tone, just intonation, Frankenstein monster-scales of the Milton Babbitt/Harry Partch variety. Their biologically attached guitars made it possible to dive bomb without whammy bars; the Tarborgs simply bent their guitars. In fact, they were twisting and turning their guitars as if they were made of rubber. At times there were as many as twelve guitars bending and twisting their dive bombs, with a total of 72 different harmonics being played simultaneously. The dive bombing, pinging harmonics sounded like invisible meteoric sound-showers combined with icicle slivers on shards of glass. Pythagorean equations were being translated into sensuous and seductive sonorities. The Tarborgs were not only bending sound, they were bending minds!
The crowd seemed to be under a spell– totally mesmerized, captivated and yes, maybe even hypnotized by the Tarborgs. The crowd wasn’t just cheering now—it was a wild uncontrollable mob frothing at its collective mouth. Not a single boo was to be heard, for no one had ever witnessed such guitar wizardry before.

 Groaning Zombies and Laughing Ghouls

Groaning Zombies and Laughing Ghouls

To Riley it appeared that the crowd was no longer human but a sea of loud, groaning zombies and laughing ghouls. Riley was frozen in fear. Her hands were stiff, as if they were no longer attached to her body–let alone her soul. A dizziness and disorientation was starting to overtake her. Langston was unable to speak—his beautiful four octave range voice cowering in a corner of some distant part of his soul. Akemi stood motionless, staring at the two sad tears that glistened on her once-shiny bass. Vincent’s drum sticks seemed fused to his unresponsive hands, as if he were trapped in a Freddy movie.
.
Riley started to think, “What is happening? The Tarborgs seemed to have stolen Rip ’N Time‘s game plan. Have they somehow co-opted the advice of the Seven Legends?–have we been sold out? Has this been an elaborate set-up?” It did seem that the situation did not auger well for Rip ’N Time. And yet—and yet. Riley then thought, “No! Don’t succumb to paranoia. This is just another Tarborg trick, a mind game—we can win this Battle. We can beat them–not at their game but with our game. Let’s do it!” She looked each member of Rip ’n Time in the eye and they knew that Riley was now truly in possession of the seven entities’ power. They then began to play the Playing Her Guitar Suite.
At first you could barely hear what Rip ’N Time was playing–it looked as if they were just silently going through the motions. And the crowd, hardly noticing Rip ’N Time, was still in the grips of the Tarborg’s mind control. Then something quite magical happened: Langston sang with a courage and confidence like never before—Akemi played with pure emotion and feeling, and Vincent played smart. The dreamy metal sounds of Rip ’N Time were starting to be heard above the Tarborgs. It wasn’t a question of volume levels – the Tarborgs weren’t playing softer –Rip ’N Time wasn’t playing louder. Rip ’N Time’s music was simply replacing the sound of the Tarborg.

The momentum started to shift around the second chorus of Playing Her Guitar. It was at this point that Rip ’N Time had overtaken the Tarborg. Langston’s powerful voice cut through the din as he sang,
She likes playing her guitar.
She likes playing her guitar.
She just likes playing her guitar!
The bridge quickly followed, and the ethereal choir-like voices singing,
Playing her guitar!
Playing her guitar!
coupled with a chunky heavy metal riff, signaled that the tide had definitely turned.
Technical wizardry notwithstanding, the Tarborg could not answer in kind –they had no mouths! Rip ’N Time could sing. They had voices!
By the time they had started the first verse of Twisting Road, Riley was in the throes of a supernatural state. She had completely surrendered her soul to her trusty Explorer and she let her fingers do what they will. Riley and her guitar became as one. She truly was a vessel now, bypassing thought– channeling every great blues guitarist. This time was different than the rehearsal. Pinched harmonics combined with perfectly tuned ghost bends and pre-bends, created a soulful journey of which she was barely aware. Just as they had rehearsed, they gradually fake -faded out — Riley wailing in the highest part of the fret board—and the entire band gradually slowing down all together in a dramatic high register climax. This time however, just before they were going to end the song–as the last chord was fading out–Langston started doing his palm mute, chunky-metal-rhythm riff . . . softly at first and then gradually increasing in volume. “OK . . . OK! Nice, I like it I like it!  Well let’s return the favor . . . how you like me now, Mr. Langston?” said Riley and with that, Riley broke into a tongue-in-cheek, sassy and impromptu wah wah pedal solo. Langston and Riley were smiling now so broadly at each other that they were almost laughing—they were just so happy at this surprising turn of musical events. Well the song is called Twisting Road, right?–they both seemed to be thinking.

Smiling Crowd at Twisty Road

Smiling Crowd at Twisty Road

By this time the crowd had transformed as well. As Riley looked out onto the audience, all she could see now was a sea of beautiful people—wonderful, guitar-loving human beings—smiling smiles of joy and warmth. It was pretty much over for the Tarborgs. Riley had played with so much heart and so much passion that . . . well . . . one by one, the Tarborgs fell down to defeat.

Tarborgs Fall Down to Defeat

Tarborgs Fall Down to Defeat

There would be no premature celebration for Rip ‘N Time though. Riley thought of the countless horror movies in which the evil monster makes a shocking last ditch attempt to kill, and the equally countless situations in championship sporting events when the likely winner lets their guard down. Riley said, “No way–close ‘em out—make sure–don’t take any chances. Let’s finish this battle as planned–with the final song in the Suite.” And that they did.
The dreamlike, lush, choral and orchestral guitar playing in the aptly titled Suite Dream, provided the perfect finale and was indeed necessary. Rip ‘N Time was not piling on– they weren’t padding their lead. The Tarborg now knew that it was hopeless to win by musical means, so they resorted to brute violence. Even as they lay on the floor, they thrashed about with their gigantic arms and legs. Their intent was simple and obvious – they wanted to kill Rip ‘N Time by any means they could. Eventually however, even the last, twitching Tarborg succumbed to the beauty of Rip ’N Time’s musical message of dreamy metal love. Suite Dream calmed the savage Tarborg as they lay peacefully in gentle repose. It was as it should be, for Rip ‘N Time had never had any intention of killing the Tarborgs –only to prevent them from destroying human guitarists—that’s all. But there would be no award to commemorate the event—there would be no official trophy-giving ceremony, for Dr. Tarborg had left the building. He had disappeared into oblivion, and Rip ’N Time was just grateful to be alive.
The outcome is not surprising if you think about it for one tiny little second. How could it be any other way? The inevitability of the Curse and Legacy made it so. Of course, the story has endless variations, even though the outcome is always the same. This time the threat to the guitar’s existence was defeated by simplicity itself. You see, with all of Dr. Tarborg’s meticulous design of the Tarborgs, he left out the most important component of all —heart. Therefore, the Tarborgs were simply incapable of playing guitar with any feeling.
So once again, guitar players throughout the world have been saved —this time by one extraordinary girl by the name of Riley Ripintyme and her band with the similar sounding name, Rip’ N Time. The Curse, the Legacy and the on-going story of Playing Her Guitar Suite ensures–for now—that human guitar playing will survive.
“Are you ready to go home, Mr.Snugglewhumps?” asked Riley.
“Oh, yeah,” said Mr. Snugglewhumps.

Tamboura

Tamboura

One more thing–the sound of a filtered tamboura magically appeared, then gradually faded into a nebulous ambience, and from some distant place beyond the walls; whispered repeatedly–ever so softly–came the words, “Riley! . . .  Riley! . . . Riley!…”

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