Before everyone knew who Passing Standard was, there was just the Passing Standard that just kind of…was. They were big around town, everyone knew them, once or twice they got some big shows to play, I think once they even played a few shows out of state.
Ryan had been with my best friend Ali for…I'd say at least two years before Passing Standard won the Get Out Of The Garage Games. Nick was practically my older brother, especially since Aaron fled the scene. Phil was Phil. Alex was fun once you convinced him to talk, cuz he was pretty quiet but had a sense of humor. Kyle…I just hated the boy. Could barely even be in the same room as him.
I can't tell you how many times I was on Passing Standard's MySpace, returning comments as one of them. I can't tell you how many times I changed guitar strings, hunted down guitar picks, played girlfriend to keep the some of the genuinely psycho fans away.
I can't tell you how many times I had to go on stage and adjust amps and speakers and stuff mid-show cuz their tech guy was slacking (They ended up getting rid of him). I lost count of how many nights I stayed up listening to Nick rant about Alex rant about Phil rant about Ryan rant about someone.
I now cringe every time I hear the word 'autograph' or see a camera flash go off. Being backstage at concerts is a given to me, not a privilege or a once-in-a-lifetime-thing. I can get autographs whenever I want. I have Passing Standard songs on my iPod that have never been on iTunes, never been on a CD, never even been released.
And now I sound like a conceited bitch.
Let me tell you how it started.
Once upon a time…
Basically, what happened was, someone (For some reason, I want to say it was Alex) had a part-time job somewhere, and said job had fliers going around for the Get Out of The Garage Games. Alex saw said fliers, remembered he was in a band, picked one up, and brought it to the next band practice. They entered, made it through auditions and got into the Top 100. They then progressed to the Top 50, cuz I, again, voted for them about three million and eight times a day, and the five of them sat there and voted online, and Ali voted and we went through each and every single one of their MySpace friends and told them to vote. I guess they did, because by the end of the three-week voting period, Passing Standard had gone from 92nd to 4th.
And thus, they were in the Top 50. They got dragged on tour, all across the country by MTV, who was sponsoring the Get Out of the Garage games.
And then, it finally ended in Chicago.
The lights dimmed, plunging the stage into blackness. I squinted, not sure if that was stage crew or someone from a band on the stage. Probably stage crew.
"Oh my God I hope it's them, can you see, was that Nick, I can't tell can you?" I asked just to be safe, poking my best friend Ali in the arm.
"Gah! Stop it! You're so obsessive!" Ali snapped, moving her arm away. I looked at her. "Kidding. I'm kidding. I know how much this means to them."
"Yeah…hey, you got us backstage passes, yes?" I asked. "That one drummer was sooo hot." Ali and I finished together.
"How many more times are you going to tell me the same thing?" Ali laughed.
"TILL HE'S MINE!" I said, a little louder than I had intended to. Most of the people near Ali and I turned to look at us.
"Oh, God, Cass, why am I friends with you?" Ali buried her head in her arms.
There was a squeal of feedback from one of the mics on the stage. The crowd got quiet and stared at the guy on the stage. "We seem to be having a little problem with the…" He cleared his throat and shifted awkwardly, obviously not liking the attention that comes with standing on the Allstate Arena's stage."So…"
"He never finished what they were having a problem with."Ali pointed out.
"…in a few minutes, when the TV crews are ready after this commercial break, I'm going to turn you over to CHRIS WISE!" The crowd roared. Ali and I simply looked at each other.
"Whoo." Ali said, waving a finger in the air.
"So you never answered. Backstage passes, yes?"
"'Course not!" Ali said. "I know Ryan's my boyfriend, but…"
"He really didn't get you…"
"KIDDING! Yes, Cass, of course I got backstage passes!" The two girls in front of us turned to look.
"One of them's your boyfriend?" The taller, blonder one asked in awe.
"Yeah, Ryan." Ali showed the girl her ticket, pointing at all the autographs. "Ryan, Nick, Phil, Kyle, Alex."
"Oh my God, Passing Standard Ryan?" The second girl gushed. I tried to refrain from choking myself. I mean, yes, it's awesome my best friend since practically pre-birth was going out with a rock star, practically, but it still gets a little old.
"Yeah. Passing Standard Ryan." Ali was just as over the attention that came with going out with a almost-rock star as I was. Even though I have yet to get myself a boyfriend, famous or not.
"That's so amazing!" The first girl gushed. "Can…" There was another feedback squeal and the crowd turned their attention to the stage.
A spotlight on the stage came on, and the host, Chris Wise paused a little in the sudden light
"Hellooooo and welcome back to the Get Out of the Garage Games, hosted by yours truly, CHRIS WISE!" Everyone always yelled his name, like if you simply spoke it, it wouldn't be the same person. The crowd cheered like it was the first time we have ever heard this speech. With the Games televised and everything, we heard this speech more or less after every band- lead singer would thank all the fans, remind everyone to vote, and then the band would leave the stage, stage crew would clean up, get ready for the next band, and then, "HELLOOOOO AND WELCOME BACK!"
"Ok, okok!" Chris Wise cut the crowd off. "So, today, as you know, is the FINAL PICKS, the FINAL OUTCOMES, of the Get Out of the Garage Games! Last night was your FINAL CHANCE to vote for your favorite band, and a lot of you voted, more than ever before, actually. Out of the 100 bands who originally made it through auditions, we narrowed it down to the top 50, and during these last few months, we've been on tour all over the US and Canada with them! It's like a giant Warped Tour!
"It's been amazing, traveling with everyone. Well, it has been for me, I'm sure it was for them too." Chris paused, looked at the crowd like he expected cheering, then continued his speech about touring the US and Canada.
"Snore." Ali yawned, then pulled her phone out of her pocket. "Ryan says hi."
"Ask if he knows how they did," I requested, too lazy to pull my phone out of my pocket and text someone from Passing Standard myself. A few seconds later, Ali's phone buzzed and she flipped it open.
"Not sure yet dot dot dot hopefully pretty good." She read. "Aww, he must be so nervous!" She quickly texted back."Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" Ali yelped a few seconds later, looking at her phone.
"Huh?" I leaned over her for a better view.
"No, I just put my hand in a large wad of gum," Ali looked disgusted. "Sorry." Just gimme a heart attack, why dontcha.
"So anyway," Chris Wise was finishing his monologue speech, "These last few months, definitely major awesome, but we gotta get started announcing these results. But first, we have our first ever tie for a FINAL POSITION! Haha, this is the first year this contest has happened, of course it's our first ever tie…" Nobody laughed.
"Who picks these people?" Ali moaned, banging her head against my shoulder, just as someone yelled at Chris, "GET ON WITH IT!"
"Right, so!" Chris Wise said quickly. "We've got a six way tie for first, which is def the most important spot. 'Why, Chris', you ask…"
"We do. We do ask, 'why Chris!' Who hired you?" Ali muttered.
"Well, let's go over the prizes! Fifteenth through eleventh get a thousand dollars per band. Tenth, ninth, and eighth get five thousand a piece, and sixth and seventh get ten thousand. Fifth gets fifteen thousand. Fourth place gets a year contract deal with 10:43 Records, and five thousand dollars in new stuff. Third gets the same thing but an extra thousand dollars to do whatever they want with. Second gets a year contract with 10:43 Records, five thousand dollars worth of equipment, and five thousand dollars to spend as they choose!
"And FINALLY, the number one band gets a TWO-YEAR deal with 10:43 Records, five thousand dollars to spend freely, five thousand five hundred dollars in new stuff, AND a headlining tour opened by bands two, three, and four!" Ali and I said along with him. It was the exact same speech using the exact same hand gestures using the words every time he said this. The crowd still cheered like we hadn't heard this every day for the last forever.
"And today, you in the crowd are so, so lucky because you get to watch this all take place. Right here, you get to watch the crowning of a champion!" This was new, so Ali and I both cheered. "As I was saying, as I was saying, we have a six way tie for first, so we'll have those bands out in a moment to compete again, and then we'll hand out prizes fifteen through eleven, let you all go for a bathroom break or whatever," he paused as the crowd laughed politely, " then we'll get on with it and hand out the FINAL! TEN! PRIIIIIIIZES!" Everyone screamed hysterically.
After a couple of minutes for the stage crew to rearrange the stage a bit and build suspense, Chris Wise came back on, waited for his signal, and gave a variation of his 'hello welcome back!' speech.
"Ooh, new speech!" Ali laughed. "Must be getting paid extra for that."
"So now," Chris Wise said finally, "we have our six way tie for first about to come out and perform." Ali looked petrified.
"It's ok, I'm sure Passing Standard made at least tenth. Tenth outta one hundred is good," I said. Ali buried her head in my shoulder.
"Can't listen!" She moaned.
"Ali, Ali, look at me." I said, sighing. "What did Chris Wise tell them?"
"Theavealean'ey'ere'oin far." She muttered like she was embarrassed about this.
"Can't hear you."
"That they have talent and they were goin' far." She repeated. I nodded.
"They'll do fine." I said confidently. Ali nodded, bouncing up and down.
"Will the following bands please come up on stage?" Chris Wise began, and the crowd immediately went completely and totally silent. A stadium full of twenty thousand silent people is actually scary. "In no particular order…" Chris Wise began. "Next Plane Out…Acid Wire Heart…" He paused after each name, letting the crowd scream hysterically and the band get on stage. "HalfaChance…Half of Infinity…Promise Mars…and…"Chris paused. Ali looked like she was going to throw up. "We'll be back!" The crowd booed, one or two of the bands on stage egged them on. Ali laughed.
"Security's gotta love that." She laughed, referring to HalfaChance's little crowd surfing incident last time they got too close to the edge of the stage. The cameras on stage swiveled around for some crowd shots, and then the little red lights on top of the cameras went out and it was officially a commercial break.
Ali beat her head against my shoulder, repeating, "I knew he'd do that, I knew it," Over and over, obviously slightly less than happy with Chris Wise.
"It's ok, it's ok." I repeated. "PS'll make it, I promise."
"How do you know?!" Ali wailed.
"I know everything, Alicia Conoley." I said with a straight face. The bands on stage that were part of the six way tie were still on stage, signing autographs and tossing guitar picks and their used, empty water bottles to the crowds.
"You know, we should start stealing Nick's drum sticks." Ali said, watching the screaming fangirls in disgust. "We could be millionaires."
A stage manager finally came out and rearranged them all under a separate spotlight. The lights turned down. One or two of the smartass guys left their spots to keep throwing stuff to the crowds. The lights came back on. The stage manager stormed back onto the stage, flailed a bit, and then sent them back to their spots. The stage lights went out a second time. There was no motion for a bit, like the stage manager was waiting for them to move again. They didn't, and then Chris Wise came out on stage. The spotlight on him turned on, he gave his, "Hello Welcome Back," speech, the crowd screamed at all the right spots, laughed at all the stupid jokes.
Ali and I weren't watching.
"Ryan needs to work on his ticket-getting skills." Ali muttered, leaning around me. "He's f'in with a band, he should get like, first pick. We should have floor tickets."
"At least we got tickets." I said, thinking back to the huge crowd of people that had been standing outside the Allstate this morning for tickets. They'd been sold out months ago, before anyone even knew who the finalists were. Anyone who thought they'd be getting tickets are the door were either mentally special or…really, there was no alternative that I could think of.
"I can't see!" Ali complained.
"We got backstage passes, Ali, how many GA people do you think got those?" I asked, because I can guarantee you, even if you bought all the general admission tickets, you weren't getting a backstage pass.
"Shut up, Cassie."
"Cass." I corrected. I hated it when people call me Cassie. The only two people that can get away with it are my brother and my neighbor.
"Can't see!" Ali complained, dropping the 'n't' in can't, so it came out closer to 'Cassie!' than 'can't see!' I sighed but didn't correct her, because I was trying to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. I was.
Tapping Ali, I pointed to the side of the stage, because if you looked closely, you could see the sixth band being directed onto the blacked out stage.