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Guitar Hero


Welcome back to SNAP JUDGMENT, the "Man On A Mission" episode from PRX and NPR. My name is Glynn Washington, and today we're exploring stories from people who truly believe they know exactly what to do. And no one knows confidence like SNAP producer Davey Kim. His story starts off in a high school cafeteria.

DAVEY KIM, BYLINE: So I'm on my acoustic guitar writing songs for this band I'm in. Me, I've got long hair and yellow highlights which I straighten three times a day, skinny girl jeans, torn up Vans, and I play guitar - lead guitar. That's when these sophomore girls walk by. They stop in front of me. One of them asks...

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Hey, are you...?

KIM: Is she talking to me?


KIM: Just like that, she walks away, giggling with her friends. I think I heard her say...

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: That guy thinks he's a shredder or something.

KIM: Wait, what? That's when I get a text. It says, we got the gig.

It's from my drummer. And by gig, he's talking about headlining our first big show at the No Future Cafe. Now, normally I would be pumped for this show, but two problems. Problem number one - the rhythm guitarist just quit the band 'cause...

(As rhythm guitarist) I just - I want to focus on my future, man.

By future, he's talking about his girlfriend and cross-country.

That's lame, man.

Problem number two - the bassist has been pissing me off lately. He keeps on saying...

(As bassist) Dude, the solo on that new song is - it's way too long.

Honestly, I think he's just jealous 'cause bassists don't get solos. So I say, listen here, I started the band, and I wrote all the songs, right?

(As bassist) Yeah, so?

So we're going to do it my way, and my way ends with that solo. And that solo ain't going to play itself if we don't have a rhythm guitarist backing me up, so chill.

(As bassist) All right, man.

After school, I recruit this guy named J.J. to teach him the rhythm guitar parts. Now, J.J. certainly fits the look, I'll give you that. He's got nice long hair and a pretty face, but...

(As J.J.) OK, so, like this?


KIM: No, no, no, no, like this.

(As J.J.) Oh, OK.

(As J.J.) Yeah?





KIM: J.J. can barely manage a basic riff. Every time he tries, he fumbles the pick.

(As J.J.) Sorry, sorry.


KIM: As the leader of the band, I force everyone to stay and practice until midnight. I make sure our hair flips the right way and we squat like crabs and heave our back into it. We do this over and over and over until, finally, it's the day of the show. We got the lights, sound check, merch table, and most importantly, our hair looks great. We're on stage, and the place looks packed. We've got fans over there. It looks like those sophomore girls are here, too. Now we just wait for J.J. to tune his guitar for, like, the fifth time. And with the cue of the drums, we start the show.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Warning, hardcore music ahead.


KIM: From the stage, I see my friends throwing it down in the mosh pit. Everything is practice perfect.


KIM: Just last month, I was dreaming of playing up here, and here I am. Our set is coming to an end. It's time for our last song, and the solo. I tap the guitar pedal for a solo boost. Then I climb on top of a stage monitor. I can feel the heat of the spotlight. I'm ready.


KIM: Then, I blank the [expletive] out. Why is this happening to me? All that time practicing for this - I feel another rush of panic as I scan the crowd, at the fans, the friends, the sophomore girls, everyone that I hope to impress. I beg my fingers one last time to move. But they won't listen. Then, from the other side of the stage, I hear a familiar melody.


KIM: I turn my head and see J.J.


KIM: He's on both knees, head tilted back, and from his amp wails my solo line.


KIM: Note for note, and he's crushing it.


KIM: Quickly, I back him up with the rhythm guitar parts, a part I've never played on stage before. And with that, the set comes to a close.


KIM: I try to slip off stage, but that's when I hear...

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Hey, you're that guy from the cafeteria, the guitarist, right?

KIM: I...

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: That solo - I liked how you and J.J. shared it.

KIM: I just nod. I'm still in shock. Before I leave, I go to J.J. He's loading his gear in his mom's minivan. I ask him, how'd you do that?

(As J.J.) Well, I really liked the solo, and I just practiced it by myself. Sorry, it wasn't perfect. It - I just...

KIM: J.J., it's fine, man. You were incredible. And maybe next time you should take that solo.

(As J.J.) Isn't it your solo?

KIM: Yeah, I guess it is. But it's OK. You can have it.

(As J.J.) What if we split it?

KIM: Yeah, (laughter) let's do that.

(As bassist) Hey, Davey, J.J., the guitar solo - still too long.

KIM: Nah.

(As J.J.) Nah.


WASHINGTON: That summer, Davey's high school band dropped an EP which was critically unacclaimed. They toured around their area code and that solo song was eventually called "Long March To Perfection," which it certainly was. Thank you, Davey, for sharing a story. Sound design, production and story by the triple threat himself, Davey Kim.


WASHINGTON: Glynn, I need more stories. I hear you. Listen to what I'm telling you. Subscribe right now for the SNAP JUDGMENT podcast. Take SNAP wherever you may go, snapjudgment.org.

This is not the news. In fact, you could go straight out of Compton, start a headphones company, sell it to Apple for a billion dollars, and you would still not be as far away from the news as this is. This is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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