disclaimer: the characters of K-On!, the basis for my OC's, band names and songs covered ARE NOT MINE. also, the joke that will be mentioned later was first heard in a Pork Chop Duo stand-up comedy routine (and translated to English from Filipino).
oh yeah, while most song and band names have been translated to English, names are still written in Oriental order (last name first).
Anxiety and Tea
Chapter Two - Present
This was not one of Tainaka Ritsu's good days. As to why it was shaping up to be one of the worst, the facts were these: Their little group had got themselves a little run going was now in this contest to find out which was the most talented high school band in Japan.
To After School Tea Time, describing the last few weeks as mind-blowing was an understatement. For all of their optimism (because they never really expected to go this far), Ricchan looked like the wind just got taken right out of her sails when she scoped out the competition.
There were several groups who had done well in their respective prefectures, but...
"...oh crap, it's THEM..." Ritsu muttered when her eyes swung around and found something familiar.
"Who's 'them', Ricchan?" the band's guitarist - Hirasawa Yui - asked her with a tilt of the head.
"Those guys," Ritsu replied, pointing towards a group of young men: the shortest one of them was flailing his arms wildly and making gestures as he told his companions something that seemed like a fanciful story.
The person who Akiyama Mio noticed was the dark-haired, purple-eyed youth, who just looked over at his friend's dramatizations with little more than an amused smile.
As she saw the twinkle in his eyes, she remembered... it was quite a long time back, before After School Tea Time - she saw and heard him sing. It was a heart-stoppingly earnest performance of "Just Another Day (Without You)", and as the memory subsisded and Mio returned to the here and now, she had to smile herself - remembering his performance actually brought her out of the pits after that infamous "striped" performance...
"I know that guy. Sarutobi Ryou, he's a casual acquaintance. Guy's pretty much a tornado of rage in the drums," Kotobuki Tsumugi said, pointing to the guy who looked like he stepped out of a fujoshi's made-to-order list, complete with sparkling complexion. "That's not a trick of the light, his skin really sparkles. A friend of his told me it was one really bad side effect of the medication he's taking."
"That's not the worst part of it..." Ritsu said. "Look!"
With that, she then procured a CD from her handbag, showed it to her bandmates, who all proceeded to gasp - THIS was who they were put up against in the finals? Ricchan actually whimpered, and Yui looked over at the previously gesturing young man, who had now grabbed a guitar and was going over practicing some sort of instrumental.
"...'Interstate Love Song', by the Stone Temple Pilots. From the album 'Purple'..." Yui muttered. "That guy... has great, though strange, choice of music."
Ritsu gave her bandmate a side glance. "Yeah, and more than that, Yui. Check this out."
"Ui-chan has this CD, too! I often borrow it from time to time, wait... they look familiar..."
"The reason they look familiar is because that IS THEM! We're gonna be squaring off against a four-star-rating band!" Ritsu said, brandishing a worn copy of a rock magazine, pointing to an album review - "Extemporaneous Spontaneity", by High Anxiety. 3.75 stars out of 4 - and she was five seconds away from getting into a panic attack. "Talk about not having a ghost of a chance in this contest..."
"Don't worry, Ricchan," Mio said, shrugging as the shock of their competition today wiped out the other shock she had a few weeks back of tripping, falling, and then showing off something striped for the audience as she was getting up. "We just have to do our thing. Whatever happens, we've got to do our best even if we're up against something like that."
"Yes, yes..." Mugi added. "We already have our set pieces, we've gotta do our last-minute routines. Let's not get too spooked by the competition."
When they began practicing, no one noticed that the stage manager had called on the purple-eyed member of their opposing group...
"So... let me get this straight: the front man of the band you hired got busted by the cops for puffing weed, the guitarist is a spoiled-rotten princess, the bassist is nursing the mother of all hangovers, and the drummer is fresh off ingesting what Bill Hicks called a 'heroic dose' of shrooms?" a flabbergasted Tachibana Ryujin asked the road manager.
"Yes, sir, that's exactly it."
"Sheesh," Ryujin replied, shrugging. Just 'cause you've made triple platinum doesn't mean you have diplomatic immunity. Hotel rooms you get away with trashing aside, music isn't politics.
(That does not mean we trash hotel rooms. We do, however, ogle the younger and cuter maids. Sarutobi had them throwing bras, panties, mobile phone numbers, Facebook account names and what have you at him wherever we went.)
"Sir, you're the only one we can call on at such short notice," he said.
"What about the management? I just came from the organizers' kiosk to be told that our group got DQ'd just 'cause we cut three albums already," Ryujin thought, thinking about how technically, it didn't count because the albums were cut as independent releases (they were more like party favors, people kept asking for them, etc. etc.).
"Don't worry about it, just make sure you can cover the set they vacated."
The leader of the band let out a surprised gap before taking a moment to think. "With songs my group chooses?"
"Hmm," Ryujin said, cupping his chin as he resumed contemplating.
Just short of a minute had passed before he finally declared that he would talk it over with his band mates and left the road manager to talk to the organizers.
"They want us to do what?" Ryou asked. "First they hit us with a DQ and then this?"
"I'm likewise not without my misgivings on this," Kenji said. "It's their problem, let them deal with it. We're out of the issue."
"Be that as it may, I prefer to think of it as an opportunity."
"Yeah, an opportunity to be a doormat."
"Guys..." Ryujin said, cutting the argument off at the pass, "Let's try to remember why we put High Anxiety together in the first place."
"'We play because we want to play. And because we need to,'" Kenji and Ryou said with the singsong enunciation of rote.
"And that what we do is greater than all of us. We won't deny our need to express ourselves over something as trivial as a contest, right?"
"You know, you're starting to sound like that bad stand-up comic routine I heard some time ago: 'We musicians have this old saying - never mind paying us, as long as you applaud, that's enough payment for us,'" Serge says.
"Then the other guy says 'Feel free to applaud him, but make sure to pay me,'" Ryujin added, finishing the joke, defusing the moment as the band had a laugh.
"All stand-up comedy routines aside," Serge said after the gust of laughter died out, "yeah, we feel your pain because we got disqualified, after all. But now, we've got a shot at playing out there in front of all those people and do what we love the most, right?"
Ryujin nodded. Couldn't have put it better myself, he thought.
"Let's go for it, then," Kenji said.
"Don't want to make all those rehearsals and sessions count for nothing," Ryou added.
Ryujin simply smiled.
Time to party.
Do you know what was really funny at that time?
We hired recorders - so that we could probably cut a souvenir disc for our classmates, friends, and that fledgling little fan club some music fans put up because of "Extemporaneous Spontaneity".
And what was even stranger was that the fans enjoyed the first two albums we made because OF "Extemporaneous Spontaneity".
I talked to the drummer of the band who was supposed to be here. Really swell fellow, level-headed and didn't seem to have the prima donna curse his band mates did.
Turns out I caught the whiff of hemp smoke and... something else. Guy was high as a kite - though he still managed to engage me in conversation as to why people went back to "Let Them Eat Cake!" and "Facts of Life" (Anxiety's first two albums).
What the drummer said was that "Extemporaneous Spontaneity" was like the punchline to a joke or the climax of a story. To understand why "Extemporaneous Spontaneity" sounded like it did, you had to go back to "Facts" and "Cake".
That was all I could get from him as pretty soon, because not only was he was totally baked and rambling about love and peace, I needed to go back to Ryujin and the others - so I discreetly made my exit.
"We'll do it - on one more condition aside from us playing our set."
"All right," one of the promoters said.
"You can disqualify us from the 'group' award. Just don't disqualify us from the 'individual' awards. We're still in the running as to Best Vocalist, Best Guitarist, et cetera, et cetera. Is that ok with you?" Ryujin asked the promoters.
After taking a few moments to ponder, the promoters agreed, and the show went on.
Tachibana Ryujin could not help but smile to himself.
"For our main event, we have a punk band from right in our back yard, performing here today! Ladies and Gentlemen, give it up for High Anxiety!"
I began using my trusty red RJ Stratocaster (rocks out three times harder, I swear to God) to create the grinding riff that was the backbone of our usual first performance.
With a pained grunt from our resident axe-wielder to signify when I should begin singing, I let my mind drift onto autopilot, to keep the riff going while I started to sing.
"Can't help my feelings, I'll go out of my mind," I began, and everything else went away.
Well, except the butterflies. During every live performance, even the most seasoned of performers have those butterflies to remind them that shit could happen at any minute.
Didn't worry me at all, it was just Murphy's Law at work - fortunately for this song, none of the sort happened. Just another intermission number, just another cover some of the kids and younger faculty in the audience knew, judging by their singing along to the chorus.
I chuckled. Serge really wanted to do that bend - pulled it off, getting a lot of pop for it - and yeah, it was rather awesome to see my friend bend backwards in a contortionist's intermediate pose, guitar in tow.
"...I've got my hash pipe."
And there's the last bit of that riff, I tell myself. "Thank you!" I say to the crowd, who was now applauding our performance and stagemanship.
Nothing really beats this experience - nothing.
"They're not just good, they're TOO good!" Ricchan went on. "If they get in a few other good songs, we're done!"
"That bend was interesting," Yui added. "How long do you think he practiced until he got the bend AND the riff right?"
"I don't know," I replied. Don't think about them, just focus on our own set. Just stay calm, composed. Just like that movie. I am the calm around which the craziness of the world revolves around. I am the Zen master. Or mistress, as the case may be. Yeah.
There might have been tears in the corner of my eyes, but I ignored them. I've got to get a grip...
My thoughts were interrupted by our sensei.
"Good news, girls! One of the bands here got disqualified."
"Which band, sensei?" I ask.
"Hmm, let's see here... 'High Anxiety', because they've already released three albums on the indie circuit."
"If they're already out of the contest, why are they still here?" Mugi-chan asked.
"The band the producers called on to perform today got into all sorts of trouble... so the promoters called on them to fill in."
I could almost see Ritsu's sigh of relief, as if a gigantic weight was placed off her shoulders - hers, as well as ours.
At least now, we could focus on performing... and winning.
I snuck a look at the other band who the promoters said would give us a run for our money in the individual awards.
Crap. I went on several dates with one of them. The one with the eyebrows.
Our eyes meet and she flashes the smallest of smiles at me before she turns to her band mates.
So this was what the great Kotobuki Tsumugi was doing these days... back in our last year in middle school, she had been exasperated of all the creepy kids of her father's colleagues and all the "meetings" which inevitably ended in Mugi getting felt up.
One of them, a kid barely thirteen, actually managed to sneak a peck on her cheek - it was cute, but when he said that "I kissed you - you now have to marry me!" it turned right back around to creepy.
How do I know this? Mugi asked her father to set her up with someone to keep her "off the market" until she finished that last, annoying year at middle school and could find somewhere to take up high school in relative anonymity.
Her dad knew my guardian, we met, and a friendship was formed in between all the forced dates to keep up appearances.
And right now, I'm amazed that Mugi has finally found something that she enjoys doing. ...anyway, all recollection of pasts aside, the girls play their piece - something original and safe they called "Light and Fluffy Time". I read through the list of the songs they had planned on performing, and hit pay dirt when I stumble onto one of the cover songs they selected.
Wouldn't you know it, we also performed that regularly in our gigs.
Even if we were still in the running for the "Best Group" category, it wasn't too hard to imitate Ricchan's "deer-in-the-headlights" look when the next song in our closest rival's set came on.
The band leader - before starting up the music - simply said, "this is our cover of a song by a little band called Sevendust".
And then they started rocking out so hard even Yui had to headbang along.
That was bad.
When the (relatively simple) instrumental came along, Yui was nodding along... and when I asked her why, she said that the blue-haired guitarist had such a bond with his guitar that it was more a means of expression than an instrument to be played. "Look at his face, it's like he's in another state of mind," After School Tea Time's guitarist had said.
That was very, very bad.
We'd coasted through the earlier rounds through basic stuff, really, but the way these guys had the audience eating out of their hands meant we'd better rock out harder than we'd ever rock out before.
Part of me was terrified, but a bigger part was itching to rise up to the challenge, to show these guys that After School Tea Time didn't get here through looks alone...
...though the looks did count for a lot, as did poor Mio slipping and showing off her striped underwear for the audience.
While Kenji and Ryo were taking a break, Serge and I were scoping out the competition.
JESUS, MARY, JOSEPH AND THE DONKEY.
These guys were good.
No... far from good... they were so good, they didn't even know it.
Last I heard they managed to get to the eliminations due to one of them slipping and flashing underwear to the audience... but this?
Apparently, After School Tea Time did not only take a page out of our book, but also turned that sucker up to twenty-two, if the rockabilly-inspired cover of that song was any indication.
Damn... the way they performed that Judy & Mary song was the complete and polar opposite of our version of "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". And as I could see the glint in Serge's eye, I knew that like myself, he was anticipating the last number in our set before we'd pull off our amazing gambit.
By the time our band mates returned, the final song to our series of performances was set.
"Oh my," Yui said as we were taking a break before our last performance of the contest.
At first everyone thought High Anxiety was a few strings short of a guitar with that opening riff, but then one of the longer-haired emo kids in the back shouted out "UP THE IRONS!" as the drum beat rolled in. That was when nearly everyone got the song this band was covering.
And damn if they weren't rocking out on an equal level to the original - everyone would have to match the intensity if they wanted to have a ghost of a chance in the individual categories.
Not to mention the lead singer - Tachibana-something-or-other - had the crowd in the palm of his hand and singing "I've just got to find my way" along the last verse. That was pretty much overkill.
"Ricchan, Mio, Mugi..." Yui said as they were getting ready. "We're gonna go with plan B."
"...we haven't rehearsed that song as thoroughly as we'd like," Mio replied.
"We'll be fine," Yui said, "the riff is easy. I'll carry most of the load."
Ritsu and Mugi were about to veto Yui's suggestion, but her burning eyes stopped them right in their tracks.
"Whatever you say, but Mio doesn't have the vocals down yet."
"Actually," Mio replied, "I practiced. Sawako-sensei told me to prepare for anything."
Everyone shared a grin before Sawako-sensei actually went into their dressing room telling them that it was showtime.
"...don't know if I can do the original justice, but if you enjoy it, thank you," Hirasawa Yui said briefly to the microphone before taking her place near Mio, guitar at the ready.
The drum beat start, and if my jaw dropped at their "Crazy Little Freckles" performance, you'd have to have Serge scrape my detached jawbone.
Hirasawa Yui was damn good.
Never mind Mugi switching over to a passable rhythm guitar now, Yui was the one turning heads. Put it this way - Tom Morello would be proud.
Mio pulling off both cute and grunge at the same time was also awesome. We had to hand it to them - they simplified the bass line enough for her to both play bass and sing without missing a beat.
I mean seriously, how often do you see a bunch of cutesy schoolgirls not only cover "Cochise", but somehow make the damn thing theirs?
It took me five minutes after the standing ovation had ceased to find out my hands were shaking in anticipation of what I had planned for their group and ours. If this was awesome, the next few performances were going to bring the house down.
Win or lose, this is going to be one for the ages.
Chapter 2: END
author's notes: A glaring lack of azu-nyan means this is during ASTT's first year. K-On! canon might be basically thrown out of the window at this point, but I might throw in a few nods here and there.
Besides, this story's more like a musical tribute to both the songs I like, and visualizing After School Tea Time proving that cute moe girls can also rock out so hard that the helmets can't withstand the level.
Not to mention, try to imagine Hikasa Yoko (Mio's VA) trying to do her best Chris Cornell impression by singing Audioslave's "Cochise". Go on, try it. :3)
High Anxiety's contest set list: Hash Pipe (Weezer), Black (Sevendust), Prowler (Iron Maiden)
After School Tea Time's contest set list: Light and Fluffy Time (original), Sobakasu (Izumi Mutsuhiko; a rockabilly (!) variant of the GF/DM version), Cochise (Audioslave)
Awarding and something special will come on the next chapter.