By Joy Greenberg
In our upstairs family room/loft, the band is tuning up. Justin picks out riffs on his guitar, twanging them over and over. Next, Ryan kicks in, thwunk-thwunking and snarling out a litany of complaints on bass, soon joined by Blake’s crashing of cymbals. Before long, Drew has launched into song, although I use the term loosely, for the aptly named Blood Dumpster sounds more like a “thirteen-year-old girl being murdered,” as my eldest son says. Or, a “hamster lobotomized without anesthesia,” according to my neighbor who lives several acres away. For what Drew does more closely resembles shrieking than singing: each drum roll of Blake’s is punctuated by a high-pitched eek-eek-eek-eek from Drew. Although he does this with the volume set at eleven (on a scale of ten) on his amp, his songs are mercifully short, as is the band’s set of four tunes.
Blood Dumpster is a foursome of my teen sons’ friends who needed a venue after being banned everywhere else in our small Central Coast California community. I found out why, after hearing songs like “F-U George Bush” and others whose lyrics, not to mention titles, were indecipherable. But whatever the songs lack in intelligibility, the band more than makes up for in enthusiasm, for Blood Dumpster is nothing if not exuberant. How could I say “no” to them?
My late husband Chuck Greenberg, a Grammy Award-winning musician, would approve of Blood Dumpster as well. Chuck––no stranger to censorship––composed his first Shadowfax album for Windham Hill Records in 1981, on a baby grand in the living room of our Santa Monica apartment, prompting our nutty Hungarian landlord to complain about our “conducting a concert business against the rules of the rental agreement.” As a result, I have a soft spot in my heart (head?) for budding bands and the hardships they face.
Besides, I actually kind of like Blood Dumpster. There is an urgency, a belligerence to their music. They’ve got attitude. They make me laugh!
Furthermore, when Ryan said his mother––succumbing to complaints from her conservative friends––wanted him to change its name or quit the band, I realized that the First Amendment was at stake here. And if Larry Flynt can take a bullet for Free Speech, the least I can do is provide a forum for Blood Dumpster. So what if the band’s moniker offends the religious right of our community? Isn’t that what rock bands are supposed to do?
During a recent interview, lead songwriter Ryan shed some light on the band’s raison d’être for me. “I call it ‘power violence,’” he said. The lyrics of his first-penned composition, “Pay the Toll,” back up this characterization:
Cross the bridge
“Knee Deep in Barbed Wire,” “Charge of the Warriors” and “Sparkle Motion” are other songs of Ryan’s performed by Blood Dumpster. “Sparkle Motion” features contributions by the Blood Dumpster Dance Team as well. It was five minutes into this set at the Boys and Girls Club that their first gig was terminated; bands are no longer allowed at the Club. Desperate to play, the band members began calling their friends to see who would be willing to accommodate them. That’s when my home entered the picture.
My adult friends think I’m stupid or crazy, citing their own experiences allowing their children to sponsor bands whose performances inevitably degenerate into wild, drunken raves that end with trashed or stolen property. However, in contrast to their on-stage demeanor, Blood Dumpster is a group of polite young men who are always effusive in their appreciation for getting to play in our home. Only two items have been broken during Blood Dumpster performances: a wooden spoon that was requisitioned as a drumstick and a glass cabinet door that got too close to the mosh-pit. Fortunately, no one was hurt by the shards, but I did put the kibosh on moshing after that. Besides, the band paid for the replacement of the glass door. How could I complain?
On the other hand, I’ve gained new admiration from my sons and their friends. “I can’t believe you’re letting the band play here,” they say during these concerts. Many of them make it a point to find and thank me––not an easy task since I hole myself up in my room and rarely leave while the action is on. Yes, I have found cigarette butts and wine cooler bottle caps strewn about and someone let my pet snake out of its cage once. And there was the time I encountered a stranger emptying his unidentified drink into the aquarium, but the fish survived, and I figure this is a small price to pay for the high energy rush I get at the sound of the band warming up.
I never thought raising teenagers could be so much fun. Seriously. I expected surliness and argumentativeness, two traits which are well represented in the pantheon of my sons’ behaviors. After all, it’s only fair that my children should treat me as contemptuously as I treated my mom. What I didn’t expect was this feeling of aliveness that allows me to experience the best part about being a teenager all over again, without the concomitant angst. So, when Ryan tells me “thank you for letting us play in your house,” I reply, “No, thank YOU, Blood Dumpster.”
Joy Greenbergrecently completed her MFA in creative writing with a focus in creative nonfiction from CSU Chico, for which her first book, A Pause in the Rain, formed the final project. She is a certified high school English teacher who edits books and teaches online writing workshops.
Joy's previous contribution to VerbSap was No Long Goodbyes.
Top photo "Guitar" courtesy of Franco Giovanella.
Bottom photo "Band" courtesy of Dave Kahn.
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