"We're ready to rock and roll," says Joel Frazee, 21. He's sitting barefoot on a couch in his parents' house. The lawn is covered with brown leaves and children's toys. Carved pumpkins sit near the doorstep.
Joel didn't sleep much last night. Neither did the rest of the Intent family.
"I turned on the radio at 6 a.m., and they were already talking about the concert," says Frazee's mother, Rose. "I almost started crying."
Rose's camcorder peeks at Frazee (drums and vocals) and eighteen-year-old bassist Mitch Peters as they sit in the living room. A pan of ground beef sputters in the kitchen.
"Geez, Mom, how many people you plan on feeding?" Frazee asks.
"Well, you said about fifteen people were going to be here."
"Yeah, that's about right ... but did you pick up the keg?"
"Joel Frazee! Keep talking like that, and I'll ground you to your room."
"It's showtime, boys," Peters announces.
Intent is wedged into a tiny space beside the furnace in the basement. Tyler Lyon, 18, screams into a microphone while Peters, guitarist Matt Watt, 22, Frazee, and his 18-year-old brother, Isaac (percussion), flail their instruments and jostle for position.
Upstairs, the racket rattles the floorboards. Rose fusses in the kitchen, oblivious to the thundering vibrations shaking the walls. "It's nonstop around here," she says casually. "The music is going all the time, so we're used to it. This is nothing."
Downstairs, the room looks like a violent collision of Twister and karaoke conducted in a walk-in closet. The rehearsal comes to an end, and the band members, already wearing their all-access passes, file out of the cramped, sweltering quarters. Peters breathes in the eau de locker room. "Ah, smells like testosterone."
"Joel and Isaac are the babies," Rose says. "All three of my boys are mama's boys, but Joel is the worst."
There are six Frazee children (and six grandchildren), and the worst of the mama's boys is standing shirtless in the kitchen, munching tortilla chips and answering his cell phone. Friends are calling to find out what time the band goes on and to ask for directions to the Kansas City International Raceway.
"Has anyone seen my belt?" Isaac asks. "I swear I just saw it."
The living room swells with brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends, girlfriends, managers, roadies-for-a-day and untethered grandkids modeling black Intent shirts.
Watt is having a Marlboro and a Coke outside.
"Everything we have done has just kind of happened," the guitarist says. "We only started to take it more seriously when we started winning competitions. Right place at the right time I guess."
"It's 12:40 guys. We gotta go," Frazee says, prodding his bandmates to scarf lunch and load equipment into a borrowed trailer. Lyon sips a honey-and-tea concoction and mulls career options as equipment is shuttled from the basement to the trailer.
"There is no other option," he concludes. "Music, that's it."
"OK, did everybody do a double check?" Frazee asks. "I did my double check, did you guys do your double check? OK, who wants a fade?"
Frazee is also the barber. He wields humming hair clippers with one hand and his cell phone with the other. The living room is crowded. The phone is ringing. But the band is loose. Isaac pokes needles into a Halloween mask. Peters shows off the smiley face he's shaved on his chest. Lyon practices cartoonish rock poses.
"Lord, we pray that you watch over these boys," Rose says, giving thanks and asking for guidance in a group prayer on the front lawn.
The group disperses into waiting vehicles with a chorus of slamming doors. Rose smiles. Her eyes are moist. "I love you guys," she calls after the retreating caravan.
"Hey, it's a Freakers Ball Thursday!" the radio announces as Intent arrives at the raceway. "For all you heading out to the eleventh annual Freakers Ball, gates open at four, and things kick off at five with Kansas City's own Intent!"
"I totally smoked his ass," says a pink-haired stagehand, regaling Intent with stories about drag racing a Z28. Several trunks labeled "Manson's Wardrobe" sit nearby, filled with black vests, nylons, corsets, go-go boots and a galaxy of beauty products for the former Brian Warner turned Antichrist Superstar. Leathered roadies in Iron Maiden T-shirts walk to and fro, carrying equipment, tuning guitars and dragging barriers into place.
Intent reassembles by the Frazee family van to package fliers and demos as other bands stumble from their gleaming tour buses with mussed hair and a "Where the fuck are we?" look.
"It takes practice, man," Peters says as he stands onstage trying to swing his guitar over his shoulder and around his back. He's having trouble. "I've done it a hundred times before," he says as a cord snags, a pocket catches or the guitar smacks into an amp behind him.
"Check, one, two. Cheeeeeeeecccckkkk!!!! Check, one, two. Ruuuuuunnnn!!!!! Check, check," Lyon's voice booms into a microphone. He alternates between a can-I-borrow-some-sugar Boy Scout voice and a bring-me-his-severed-head guttural roar. The band's youngest member puts the moment in perspective. "I came here two years ago to watch Sevendust and thought about how much I would love to play on this stage," he says. "It happens, man. Dreams turn to gold."
"I never get nervous," Peters says, clearly nervous. "Then again, we never play shows like this."
The gates open moments later and the crowd quickly multiplies. The band members get word that they've been bumped ahead fifteen minutes. Frazee ends his conversation with a trio of Barbie dolls in tight, Cloud 9 Gentlemen's Club T-shirts and rejoins the group. The band members' chain-smoking has hit a fervent stride. They huddle for a group prayer.
"Well, well, well, what the fuck we got going on here?"
The master of ceremonies provokes the crowd with welcoming banter and are-you-motherfuckers-ready-to-make-some-noise exclamations. It's time. Adrenal floodgates open.
"This is a band that worked their fucking asses off to get up on this stage!"
The band members exchange high-fives and bounce up and down with anticipation.
"It's about kicking ass, and this band knows how ... give it up for Intent!"
Intent bounds to center stage as the crowd cheers. Lyon grabs a microphone and coos: "Freeeeaaakkers Baaalll!!!" The band roars into its set with a maniacal hemorrhage of nervous energy, the guys whipping themselves into a frenzy as audience members bob their heads and throw up their hands to make signs of the beast.
"Intent! Intent! Intent!"
A growing amoeba of fans chants as the band exits with arms raised triumphantly. They rocked. And they know it.
They load equipment, give hugs, take pictures, shake hands, kiss babies, sign autographs, mug with other bands, smoke, drink, talk, laugh and relish the afterglow as the night spirals toward the surreal.
Minutes after the band leaves the stage, S.T.U.N. takes over, and Intent's set becomes a footnote to a concert that will end in clouds of pepper spray. The band's brief moment in the spotlight is already gone.