Chris dropped off two cold beers and a basket of hot wings before attempting to wriggle out of his windbreaker.
“Got the new shirts in today,” he said, puffing out his chest and pointing proudly at his latest design.
Although the bold, white lettering across the top was at least an inch high, Jon needed to squint through four tequila shots and two beers to read his friend and former band-mate’s black T-shirt:
GUNNAR STEEL FOREVER FOUNDATION
“Nice,” Jon said, grabbing a wing with his long, skinny fingers. “I can’t believe you found those old photos. Those are epic, man. Epic.”
Beneath the title were two shots of Gunnar taken from the best–and worst–night of their lives nearly 30 years ago.
Chris reached for his beer and, as he chugged it down, wondered how much longer it’d take to get over it all. These monthly gatherings were comforting when the Steel Thorns crew could barely squeeze themselves into the back of the bar. But, now that it was down to just the two remaining band members with an occasional Crazy Sherry appearance, drinking at Earl’s just felt depressing.
Back in the summer of ’89, Steel Thorns impressed a gum-rubbing agent at a warehouse party enough to score a spot as the opening band for Satan’s Loincloth. At the time, no band was more influential in the metal scene. But, like many influential metal bands, they also had a dark reputation for drug use and destruction.
Despite the fact that Gunnar had chiseled abs, a voice like a banshee and guitar-shredding skills that once made a grown man cry, the Steel Thorns frontman still felt like he needed more of a rock star’s edge to fit in with the big players. Unfortunately, he didn’t just find the edge … he fell off of it.
Chris was the one who found Gunnar with a needle in his arm and a silent heart in his chest a week after the show. He’d gone over to tell him they’d been offered a contract and could move to LA. He’d left with confirmation that the deal was too good to be true.
Chris still couldn’t decide if it was good or bad that he once set the stage for Devil’s Loincloth. To feel success like that–that’s something musicians live to feel. The cheers. The screams. The sounds of your biggest hit echoing off of the dome and out from the mouths of thousands of sweaty, writhing bodies in front of you. And he’d felt it. And he’d seen the future of private jets and music videos and headlining. And, just as quickly as it was given to him, it was all taken away.
Chris polished off his beer and clinked it against Jon’s empty bottle.
“Yeah, man. Sounds good.”