Chapter One

Organizers have announced that this will be the last-ever summer-long Warped Tour, and I’m torn. The industry is moving forward and times are changing, but the youth of America has found their tribe year after year at this beloved festival. Despite a few instances of bad behavior, the positivity spread by concert goers, nonprofits, and the musicians has never been replicated. I will be checking out a few dates on this last hurrah, and I hope to capture the magic.

 

“DID YOU see this?”

Los held up his phone and displayed it like Vanna White in all her glory.

“New Guru?” Silas asked, his heart rate making the jump to lightspeed.

“‘The Last Warped Hurrah.’ He’s coming. You’ll for sure get to meet him.” Los wiggled his eyebrows at Silas, who tried to play the whole thing off as though he wasn’t ready to start jumping on the couch and doing back flips.

“That’s cool,” he said, hiding his excitement. The possibilities…. He’d had his hopes up that he might meet him two years ago when they played Warped, but the Guru never said what show he attended. Silas had analyzed his posts to see if he could get any idea where it might have been. Ridiculous. Tons of dates, a blur of venues, and thousands of screaming fans in the hot sun—it was hopeless. The guy didn’t answer private messages either. Because he’d tried that.

“Says here he’ll be posting about the shows,” Los said, still reading through the blog while waiting for his hair dye to set. Jordan volunteered to be their hair maintenance person because he’d gone through barber school before he became a rock ’n’ roller.

“Dude, stop moving,” Jordan scolded Los. He was trying to avoid getting black dye on his red T-shirt, but Los kept moving around.

“Sorry.”

“Man, it’s definitely time to touch up these roots. Must be tough being a blond Mexican and keeping your hair dyed black. How does that happen anyway?”

“When your Mexican dad marries a chick from the Netherlands,” Los said. “I fucking speak Spanish and Dutch. And I smoke excellent weed whenever I am visiting family.”

“No weed on the bus, Los. You promised,” Silas reminded him.

“I know. I didn’t bring any.” Los went back to reading.

Silas checked the tour schedule hanging at the front of the bus. “There are thirty-eight dates on this tour. He could be at any of them. It’s not like anyone knows what he looks like. All of his videos are animated.”

“Maybe he’ll post about the different shows, like who he sees. And Brains is doing his workshops. Dude—”

“Dude, why are you guys being so loud?” Billy Brains climbed from his bunk on the tour bus and stretched his lanky body in the narrow hallway. The band had held its final run-through last night at their rehearsal space in Oakland and was headed to Pomona for the opening date of the show that weekend.

“Because, bruh, Silas might finally get to meet his crush.”

Silas threw a rag, but Los dodged it and was reprimanded by Jordan for moving again. It could have had anything on it, but they were just getting started on their tour, so the likelihood it had already been tarnished with some sort of bodily fluid was low. By the third or fourth leg of the tour, you never knew what kind of funk it could be contaminated with.

“Just let it go, Los.”

“Why?” Los asked. “You’ve been sprung on this guy since….”

Silas knew it was hard for all of them to talk about it and they still tended to trail off whenever the topic was brought up.

“He did a beautiful piece about Gavin,” Brains said softly as he slid into the booth next to Silas and rubbed at the stubble on Silas’s freshly shaved head. “Unlike the rest of the press. If I never have to talk to another reporter….”

Silas dropped his head on Brains’s shoulder. “You won’t have to.” Brains was right. The press had crucified the band after Gavin’s death, and they’d all agreed only Silas would give interviews from then on. There were several news sources that were persona non grata with them. Brains was their drummer and truly their rock. Without his determination, songwriting talent, and experience in the business, there was no way they would have made it through the last two years. “Sorry we woke you up. It’s Los’s fault.”

“It’s all right. I wasn’t sleeping. I was watching one of Chris Motionless’s makeup videos. I fucking love how he does his eyes.”

Brains loved makeup and had a huge obsession with shows on horror- and fantasy-inspired art. He’d brought his kit with him to the table to experiment. Silas often let him practice on him. His stage makeup creations were badass.

Los threw the rag back and Silas caught it. “He’s got to meet him,” he insisted. “It’s the last Warped!”

“How do we make this happen?” Brains asked. “Oh, I know. Let’s hit the socials. Spread the word out that we want the Guru to come to my TEI workshop. We’ll send him a free ticket if he’ll come.”

“Yeah, put it on your Snapchat story, Silas,” Los said. “You have an assload of followers. Someone is bound to see it.”

“And what do I say, huh? ‘Gee whiz, Guru. Pretty please, come to my drummer’s workshop for a meet-cute’? That’s lame.”

“Wait, isn’t he always claiming that no one can beat him at Mortal Kombat? Challenge him to a duel on our tour bus or something,” Jordan chimed in. He finished Los’s roots and took his utensils to the sink to clean up.

“No one knows who he is for a reason,” Silas said. “Just forget it.”

Silas didn’t want to get his hopes up. Again. He needed positivity. This tour was going to be hard enough. It was his first time touring without Gavin, and while he was confident the album was a great showcase for their new guitarist, Jordan Barrett, and held enough of Gavin’s spirit to be a hit, he was on edge. They needed this summer to be huge, or else it was time to wrap up Hush and move forward in his life without his true loves—music and his best friend.

“If it’s meant for you guys to meet, it’s gonna happen,” Brains said as he looked in his lighted mirror and smeared foundation on his face. He did a powder overlay and then pulled out his liquid eyeliner. The dude was smooth. Chicks everywhere envied his application techniques.

“I don’t know. You really believe in that kind of fate shit?”

Silas wanted to. Oh, how he wanted to. But the next part of that wish was that the Guru was just as incredible in person as he was in his writing, and that was probably pushing his luck.

“You know I believe it,” Brains said, finishing his eyeliner. He used some dark eyeshadow in midnight blue and deep bruise purple and then lined his eyes with a glitter liner that looked stunning. “Fate has always kept me going. It’s what brought us together, right?”

True, the formation of their band had been a sort of kismet. Brains, Los, Gavin, and Silas had all been in the same place in their lives with all the magical elements that made their music stand out among their metalcore brethren. If Brains wanted to chalk it up to some mystical force, Silas could buy that.

“Fate is a powerful thing,” Jordan said as he wandered back over with a beer. “You never know when it’s your time, am I right? I never thought I’d end up with you guys, and here we are.”

Los fist-bumped him. “Damn right and a-fucking-men for that.”

Brains and Silas joined in the fist bumps, which turned into some weird, obscure Wonder Twins Power references, and pretty soon they were all cracking up.

Yeah, Fate had been fickle with Silas and his band. She’d given them the world on a platter, then yanked it away. Everything had crashed and broken into pieces, but she was slowly putting them back together. Would she continue to grace them this summer?

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

KRISH’S FINGER hovered over the Play button.

What if it’s not enough?

Krish sat in his bedroom. His last final was this morning, meaning he’d unceremoniously finished college. He came straight home from school to start his new adventure. But before the insanity started, he had something very important to listen to—an album he’d been waiting two whole years to hear. The band was Hush. The album, Sunrise, was their fifth studio album since their founding in 2008.

It would break his heart to give a negative review to his favorite band. His alter ego, the Guru, was known for his brutally honest metal reviews. He had a million subscribers on his YouTube channel, where he posted weekly animated shows, five hundred thousand Twitter users who followed his musical and political rants, and his blog posts were often mentioned on such popular sites as Metal Hammer, Loudwire, and even HuffPost. He owed his readers an accurate review, even if he was conflicted.

What if losing their guitarist meant the end of Hush? He’d loved them since his brother introduced him to music—specifically metalcore—and though he loved them best, he tried to be impartial to all of the bands he reviewed, from live performances and new albums to whatever he felt the need to riff on.

And then there were his posts about social issues, namely mental health and the LGBTQ community. Those tended to get really personal, and after Gavin West committed suicide, his love of music and his personal life intersected. The blog he wrote about Gavin’s death was his most viewed ever and the one he almost didn’t post.

“Krish, darling, did you want anything to eat? You didn’t have lunch, sweetheart. I am worried about you.”

Krish’s mom stuck her head in his room and found him in the same position—earbuds in, finger over the button, and holding his breath.

“Is it the new album from Hush?”

Krish nodded.

“How is it?”

“I’m afraid to play it.”

His mom patted him on the shoulder. She knew how devastated he had been by the death of one of his favorite musicians nearly two years prior. She’d cried alongside him, just as she had a year before that when they lost his brother.

“Whatever they’ve done, it will be beautiful. They’re talented boys.”

Krish smiled up at his mom. How he managed to land the coolest Indian mom on the planet was a mystery he’d yet to solve. She indulged his every passion, from music to politics to books and his guilty pleasure, video games. Her own childhood had not been so free, so she was determined her boys would be able to do whatever they wanted with their lives. For Vivaan, that meant joining the Marines after college. For Krish, it meant a career in music journalism, and now that he’d finished his degrees, he was anxious to get started.

“Have you finished packing?” she asked him.

Krish swallowed hard. Warped Tour. The other benefit of his blog was that he’d caught the attention of Alt-Scene magazine. Their assistant to the editor in chief had arranged for Krish to join the tour. He’d remain anonymous and only the tour office manager would know who he was and why he was there. To everyone else he was just her intern. He’d post his blog as usual but also work on a piece for the magazine. If the magazine liked how he covered the tour, there was a full-time position waiting for him at the end of it.

“Mostly. Jake’s not picking me up until Friday morning. That means I have one more day to stress over what I can and can’t fit into the one duffel bag I’m allowed to bring on the bus.”

She smiled at him and tugged on his shaggy curls. “A whole summer on a bus. I hope you made room for air freshener and hand sanitizer.”

“There will be women on the bus. I’m sure between them they’ll have something that smells nice.”

“It’s been wonderful having you home,” she said, her voice softer. “I’m going to miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too, but it’s only two months,” he answered. Krish had moved home when they received the devastating news about his brother, and he’d commuted to UC San Diego for the remainder of his time there, needing to be near his parents as they all worked through their grief. Now that he’d graduated, it was time to start the next chapter in his life, and he’d been given the opportunity of a lifetime.

“The first two months of the rest of your life. This is an exciting time for you.”

He heard the tears behind her voice. He couldn’t look at her or he’d be lost.

“I wish he were here,” Krish said quietly. His brother should be having his own adventures while cheering on his little Guru. But Krish was on his own now, and it was time to think about not only starting a career and leaving the nest, but standing on his own without his biggest supporter.

“I’ll come down in a second.” Krish hugged her waist and exhaled a shaky breath.

“I’ll heat up some dinner.”

“Is there any of that tandoori chicken left?” he called to her.

“I’ll heat some up for you. Don’t get lost up here. Just push Play.”

She totally understood him. “Thanks, Mom.”

She closed the door behind her, and Krish resumed his position. In less than two days, he’d be surrounded by the music he loved. He’d have his first shot at real journalism, reporting on the tour with one of alternative music’s biggest magazines, and he’d get to see his favorite band live almost daily.

I’ll love the album no matter what.

I owe it to them to listen objectively, and not just because of Gavin.

I’ll do it for you, Vivaan.

I miss you.

He hit Play and held his breath the millisecond it took for the first song to load.