For an hour, the long-haired, chain-smoking Englishman has been scribbling notes and carrying on a conversation in a dingy booth at the downtown bar Benders. Except for the loud music that makes it necessary to shout and the beer sloshing out of glasses on the unsteady table, you'd swear Ashman was leading a discussion not at midnight in a rock club but in a university seminar or the hushed halls of a science institute.
Galactic evolution. Stellar chemistry. Star-cluster collisions. The expansion rate of the universe. The fate of everything.
For a guy who looks so much at home in a grungy dive bar, Ashman is surprisingly clued in to the secrets of the cosmos.
But then comes his close encounter with perpetual motion personified, Venus Starr, the guitarist for the three-chord punk band the Stretchmarxxx, and Ashman's nature shifts.
He revels in her attention as Venus wraps her arms around his neck. Her hair, only slightly blacker and more unkempt than Ashman's, stirs the smoke from Ashman's Marlboro Light.
Then he ducks her gravitational pull to join his mates on a stage that's literally just a plywood deck laid on a pool table. Ashman shoulders his bass, and the Lawrence-based band he plays in, the Hefners, fires up a set of 1960s-inspired speed rock. In the darkest corner of the small stage, Ashman appears to relax.
"We know the fate of the universe," he had shouted earlier, not because he was excited but because he was yelling over the bone-jarring noise of another band. "It has theological implications, social implications. People don't seem to get it."
People don't always get Ashman, either -- not all of him, anyway.
Some, like Venus, worship his bass chops, his appealing accent and his eternal search for a good time. "We ended up at his house one night, me and Camille [Hendren, bass player for the Stretchmarxxx] did," Venus says. "There was a little shindig, if you will." One bartender at the Replay Lounge in Lawrence calls Ashman her "cleverest lush."
But that's just one Ashman. The other can tell you that in the distant reaches of the universe, there are double-sun systems called binary stars spiraling into oblivion -- one a red giant, the other a superhot but small and dense white dwarf.
Because of its density, the white dwarf is sucking material away from its huge partner. It will keep doing so until both stars explode, propelling light and heat out into space. Called a supernova, this stellar disaster briefly outshines whole galaxies. Just in the last few years, observations of these catastrophes have answered some of mankind's longest-held questions about the expansion and future of the universe.
Exploding binary stars have told us, finally, whether the world will end in fire or ice.
But it baffles Ashman that people don't seem to care.
Perhaps that's part of the reason the one-man astrophysics department at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a man responsible for some of his field's most original research in the past decade, struggles with his own dual nature. Scientist and university professor. Anti-authoritarian product of London's working class and, at heart, overgrown punk rocker. Sufferer of bipolar disorder, which motivates him to drive fast and drink hard one week and hide under his covers the next. Popular teacher. Dedicated musician.
He may, in fact, be the closest human equivalent of a binary star.
Keith. James. Larry. Bryce. The guys in the Hefners would love for their fans to think they're the lost love children of Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, and they joke about one day filing the first-ever class-action paternity suit. But they're actually the sons of different fathers (and mothers). Besides Ashman, who took over the bass only last summer, there's Larry Brinkman on guitar, James Fowler on drums and Bryce Billings on keyboards.
Brinkman started the band in 1996 after a stint on a pirate radio station, KAW 88.9, playing 1960s rock records. His new band had a psychedelic '60s sound with a punk flair and Brinkman's garbled lyrics over the top. It was cool enough to score the group a European tour after only its third show. A German label, Middle Class Pig, headed by University of Kansas grad Erik Bauer, signed the Hefners to a deal that produced three albums.
Between European tours and gigs in Lawrence, the band began an obsession with the board game Trouble (with the Popomatic die-rolling bubble), which became a favorite downtime distraction. The group embellished the board game with drinking game-like rules. "You always had two winners," Brinkman says. "Somebody was way more stoned than anybody else."
Brinkman doesn't remember meeting Ashman. "Lawrence isn't really like that," he says. "[People] just kind of slowly make themselves known."
But Ashman had fallen for the Hefners, and he put out the word that if their bassist ever died, he wanted in. His offer came at the right time. The Hefners, Brinkman says, were ready to part ways with their bassist. Ashman, meanwhile, was playing with a couple of Brinkman's friends, who pronounced him "badass," perhaps not realizing that their endorsement would lose them their own bassist. For his part, Ashman felt that his former bandmates didn't really want to leave the garage.
Ashman's audition in the Hefners' rehearsal space over the Lawrence Antique Mall went fine, but Ashman figures his day job may have had something to do with lining up his new gig. "Somebody told him I had a real job," he says. "I had a bank account."
Brinkman insists that money wasn't a factor, but no sooner had Ashman joined than the Hefners booked studio time to make their fourth album, which they plan to release in January.
Though he turns forty this month, Ashman's personality has fit in well with his twentysomething colleagues. "You have James in the band, he's kind of young and maybe sometimes acts it, and Keith, who is kind of old but never acts it," Brinkman says. "I think they kind of even each other out."
And the younger musicians claim to be in awe of Ashman's romantic exploits, which are prodigious even by rock and roll standards. "I've seen some stuff that was mind boggling," Brinkman says.
"He definitely adds some spice to the band, or a different sort of attitude than there was before," Fowler says. "He's always talking about something that happened, you know, twenty years before I was born about so and so in London who tried to pass a wooden nickel on him and he stuck him with a shiv, something that sounds like Dickens. He's good at playing music, too."
Ashman has in turn embraced the band's favorite pastime, dutifully keeping a tally of who has won how many games of Trouble. One recent assessment had Bryce dominating the field by winning 31 games to Brinkman's 17, Fowler's 18 and Ashman's 16. Ashman whipped out a pencil and calculated the odds that Bryce's streak would continue at the same pace through his next 31 wins.
"He's a bit of a mad genius," Fowler says. "The other three of us are college dropouts, and he's a professor of astrophysics. That's a pretty big gap, I guess."
Ashman was introduced to the stars by his grandfather, Stanley Job, a carpenter who rolled his own cigarettes with wide fingers and whose abilities and interests went far beyond wood. Ashman remembers his grandfather baking bricks to repair a corner of the family's duplex after a car crashed into it. He also gardened, turning the tiny English backyard in "one of the less attractive parts of Tottenham" into the family's private produce section. And he was able to put meat on the table every Sunday, an impressive feat in the working-class London of the 1960s, when England's economy was still recovering from World War II.
One of Ashman's earliest memories is of being in his grandfather's garden staring up at the moon through London's haze, tinged orange by the sodium-vapor streetlights. Ashman's five-year-old brain contemplated what he was seeing: There are people walking on that.
Then they went inside and watched the broadcast of the moon landing on a tiny black-and-white television the family had just bought that year. Job would later present Ashman with his first book on the stars, Dr. H.C. King's Book of Astronomy. Ashman remembers reading it straight through, understanding only one out of ten sentences. "Dearest Keith, A very happy 8th birthday -- Love 'Buppy' 1971," his grandfather wrote in the front.
"He was really the only strong, male role model, the only authority I respected as a kid," Ashman says.
Ashman never met his father, a bigamist who dumped his mother before Ashman was born. "My mother thought she was married for a time," Ashman says. "When she got pregnant, he pointed out he had another family and three kids, and this wasn't going to work out too well."
His mother's second husband was a compulsive gambler who dropped by the nearest bookie every day. "He'd bet on anything," Ashman says. "He'd bet on the changing of the seasons."
Ashman's mother was a volatile personality who would bake cookies while cursing radio commentators.
"His mother is one of the most verbally abusive people I've ever met in my life," says Ashman's second wife, Tina Bird.
Ashman's mother would have good weeks and bad, and Ashman believes now that she suffers from bipolar disorder, though she's never been diagnosed. Ashman can see it in the handwriting in her letters. It changes depending on whether she's in a manic or depressive phase.
Ashman knows the signs because he shares the illness. When he was young, he turned to school to help even out his mood swings.
At age eleven, Ashman aced an entrance exam to get into St. Alban's School. The private prep school educated the children of cabinet ministers and CEOs. Through a government scholarship program, it also extended its curriculum to bright children from poor families like Ashman's.
Ashman did well at St. Alban's for the first few years, but he was not cut out for a school so conservative that it would hold an assembly so a member of the country's military could explain why Britain should allow American cruise missiles within its borders. Ashman belonged to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a group that adamantly opposed such a move. A confessed "mouthy little shit," Ashman sometimes let his rebellion escalate to vandalism. "At lunchtime, things would get thrown through windows," he says.
Ashman's departure from St. Alban's at sixteen was something of a mutual decision.
He moved in with a twenty-year-old woman named Dawn Gillions, whom he would eventually marry when he was 23. They divorced a year later.
By then, Ashman had discovered the Sex Pistols.
He was introduced to the punk group by an infamous television appearance. He remembers Johnny Rotten in a fuzzy angora sweater with his hair standing straight up. And he recalls that the band members said "fuck" a lot. Not long after, Ashman heard the first Buzzcocks album. "I never heard music like this before," he says. "Shredding guitars and people singing about orgasms."
Ashman was hooked. He joined the devotees who lined up for shows outside the aircraft hangar-like Electric Ballroom, the ornate Lyceum Ballroom and the Marquis. Ashman saw the Buzzcocks and became a fan of the four women of the Raincoats and the punk-pop hybrid sound of the Stern Bops.
He doctored expired bus passes to raise the £30 (about $60) he needed to buy his first electric bass. He and a friend formed their own band, Olly and Koy. The group's crowning moment was headlining an outdoor music festival at Brighton Polytechnic.
But Ashman hadn't lost sight of the stars. Enrolled or not, English teenagers can still qualify for the country's university system by taking certain tests. Ashman did well enough to enroll in 1982 at Queen Mary College, a part of the University of London system. He studied physics and excelled.
In 1989, Ashman was chosen to be part of the European contingent of scientists who would oversee the soon-to-be launched Hubble Space Telescope at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland. "My Ph.D. thesis was thoroughly mediocre," Ashman says. "I just got lucky."
But his anticipation soon turned to dread. "Within months [after the 1990 launch], there were rumors that there was something seriously fucked up," Ashman says. "Then the terrible words spherical aberration started being bounced around."
A mirror on the intricate telescope was flawed. The images coming back from the Hubble were blurry, and no amount of focusing could clear them up. As a theorist, Ashman had no real role in correcting the problem. He could only console those who did. One English colleague collapsed outside his office from the stress of 22-hour days.
Ashman remembers the meeting about two months later at which he and other Space Telescope Science Institute staffers were briefed on what was wrong. "We were basically told first not to talk to anyone about it and second that we were fucked."
Though the telescope wouldn't be fixed until December 1993, Ashman made use of his time in Baltimore.
He was riding elevators with "people who had laws named after them," he says.
He also was riding with other young astrophysicists. A brief elevator discussion with Johns Hopkins graduate student Steven Zepf would begin a long-term research partnership. While they waited for the Hubble to be repaired, Ashman and Zepf came up with a new idea that turned one of astronomy's more ossified assumptions on its head.
Their research involved globular clusters, strikingly beautiful groups of between 100,000 and 1 million stars bound by gravity and traveling together through space. About 200 of these clusters orbit our Milky Way galaxy like so many electrons around an atom's nucleus. Other galaxies are surrounded by their own families of globular clusters.
One of the most famous science-fiction stories takes place in a globular cluster. In Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall," a civilization is thrown into chaos when its six suns finally all set at the same time -- something that happens only once every 6,000 years. When the light of the world's suns is extinguished, the inhabitants, for the first time in their lives, see a night sky ablaze with the million bright stars that surround them.
It's a famous and well-loved story, but any astronomer would immediately tell you it's unlikely; globular clusters are made up of ancient, metal-poor stars that shouldn't have Earth-like planets orbiting them, let alone civilizations living among them. Like age-old sentinels, the globular clusters were thought to be remnants of the early universe, silently circling galaxies where the real action of stellar evolution was going on, where newer stars and heavier elements were churning and creating things like planets and -- in this corner of the galaxy, at least -- life.
It's that notion -- all globular clusters are old -- that Ashman and Zepf challenged while they waited for someone to fix the Hubble.
The two scientists suspected that when galaxies collided -- a common occurrence -- new, more metal-rich globular clusters might be created. They published their theory in 1992 and waited for the fallout.
"We weren't exactly senior people with lots of other results to our name," says Zepf, who now teaches at Michigan State. "There were times where we sort of wondered whether we were getting ourselves in too much hot water."
But the pair didn't have to wait long before the Hubble, finally repaired in 1993, was capturing images that proved exactly what they had predicted. Their paper has become one of the benchmarks of the field.
A "landmark," Jean Brodie calls it. Brodie is an astronomer who teaches at the University of California-Santa Cruz. "It actually predicted [young and old color signatures] of globular-cluster systems before they were actually observed. The rest of us came up with scenarios after the fact. It's got to be one of the most highly cited papers ever written in the field."
Citations are a sort of yardstick for scientists. They can track the influence of a particular paper by the number of other scientists who refer back to it in their own work. The Ashman-Zepf paper has been cited more than all but the top fraction of a percent of papers from 1992.
"Keith and Steve did do a lot of the best work on summarizing properties of globular clusters," echoes Tom Abel of Pennsylvania State University. "They have very promising ideas of how they formed."
The partnership has continued. Together, Ashman and Zepf have been awarded about $1 million in grants over the past decade. And they have succeeded in bidding for precious research time from the Hubble itself. "The Hubble really has pointed where we've told it to several times," Zepf says.
Ashman met another important person during his time at the Space Telescope Science Institute. During a dark-matter conference in College Park, Maryland, he stopped to talk to one of the participants. Tina Bird remembers being struck by Ashman's "George Harrison kind of vibe." Also, he was wearing the brightest white tennis shoes she'd ever seen.
"Mostly it was the accent," Bird says. "I'm a real sucker for accents of any kind."
Bird was a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, and the two carried on a long-distance relationship before getting married and moving to Lawrence in July 1993. Bird had lined up a postdoctoral position at the University of Kansas, where Ashman hoped to teach. "It was sort of finish my Ph.D., get married and move someplace we could actually live together full time," he says.
They made an eclectic pair. Ashman still played in bands, and Bird had her own avocation as a belly dancer with regular gigs at the now-closed Georgia's in Overland Park and Café Cedar in Parkville.
"We had this very technical, high-powered mental side and also this very nonintellectual performance side," Bird says. "This was one of the things I think worked out in our disfavor. I think there was an element of competition in that relationship."
Ashman did get part-time teaching work at KU. Though he boasted an impressive research résumé, he took to teaching.
"Everybody loves Keith," says Adrienne Juett, who took a couple of physics classes from him at KU beginning in the spring of 2000. "I was going to be an engineer until I took Keith's class."
Juett is now finishing her Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
She remembers Ashman's classroom personality as funny and irreverent, which was in turn reflected by his students. One set up a Web site devoted to Ashman's quotes of the day. Inspired by Ashman's streaks of blue, Juett dyed her own hair. "He was very proud of me," she says.
Ashman was playing then with a band he'd founded called the Switch. He would announce his gigs in class, and Juett was among his devoted following.
"It was funny to see what students came out," she says. They included his clutch of student drinking buddies, the music devotees and "that group of kids who kind of wanted to brown-nose."
Lectures that didn't hark back to the old country often included Ashman's big, black cat, Zoot. In Ashman's lessons, Zoot has spent quite a bit of time at the edge of black holes and flying through space at different speeds.
The technique worked. UMKC education student Shannon Falcheck remembers the Englishman standing on desks and gesturing with an apple stuck to the end of a yardstick last semester.
"You were learning without really realizing it," she says.
At home, the imaginative teacher isn't always so upbeat. There is a message spray-painted on Ashman's living room wall. An orange tapestry is not quite big enough to cover all of the 6-inch-high letters: "There is no Love in this World anymore."
Ashman can remember painting the Buzzcocks lyric with a can of Rustoleum. "So it's never going to come out," he says. He remembers doing it, though he can't explain why. "At the time, I felt I was really going to enjoy looking at that," he says.
Because Ashman has bipolar disorder, he has manic weeks when he wants to stay up all night reading and researching or playing music and partying. During those times, driving his Mitsubishi Eclipse at 130 miles an hour to Joplin for the weekend, at the invitation of a woman he's met once sounds like a good idea. And he did it, despite the fact that he had spent the weekend before on a marathon minitour with the Hefners to Akron, Ohio, and Detroit; and despite the fact that the next weekend, he and Zepf would be turning in an application for a $300,000 National Science Foundation grant. "It was fun," he says.
Ashman also has down weeks when he doesn't want to get out of bed at all, when spray-painting a wall sounds like a good idea.
Bird says the illness doesn't interfere with Ashman's career. It actually drives him to work harder, she says.
"Work, both music and his astronomy career, became a coping mechanism. I suspect they still are," she says. "It's very easy to lose yourself in your job. It's very easy to use dealing with all the various things that come about through work to sort of avoid the fact you feel like crap."
Ashman acknowledges that his summers without classes and schedules can be trying.
Bird says Ashman's professional persona was always welcoming to students and colleagues, maybe too much so. "He's not secure enough to believe people wouldn't really like him if he wasn't onstage all the time," she says. "He is one of the most charming and entertaining people I ever met, but, well, we got divorced now, didn't we?"
Bird and Ashman divorced in 1999. She now works in computer security at Stanford University.
"I don't quite understand why he's still there," Bird says. "I left. I didn't really like living in Kansas very well."
Ashman apparently does. And he personifies a Lawrence cliché -- the overeducated person who came to the college town for vague reasons and just never left. His elbows are somehow perfectly suited to the bar rail at the Replay Lounge, his gastronomic chemistry ideally mixed to draw maximum nutrition from the Free State Brewery's fish and chips, his stride seemingly designed to guide him stumbling home after a late night on Massachusetts Street.
Thankfully, his 1910 house in east Lawrence is well within stumbling distance. The house itself is neatly maintained from the outside, its cute little porch and steep roof typical of the neighborhood's narrow, cracked-guttered streets.
Its interior is indistinguishable from the crash pads of his male, undergraduate students. He has a papasan chair and a tiny, rust-orange sectional couch. The carpet in front of his modest television is a collage made up of his guitar, CDs that seem to have leaped from his black CD tower, and the Reader's Digest guide to home improvement. His dining room is sparse, with a futon and nothing else, a runway for the two spunky kittens that annoy what may be his one true love, Zoot the cat, a black mass of fur. Like his grandfather, Ashman has planted a garden out back.
From his London punk roots, Ashman has tried to adapt his music to his adopted home. He's played in a handful of Lawrence bands over the last decade.
Steve Buren was part of the Switch for a couple of years, beginning in 1999. "I always thought, well here's a fish out of water," Buren says. "Gosh, does he miss his English friends? Does he miss drinking beer at room temperature? Does he miss cricket? He doesn't at all."
Ashman has not sought U.S. citizenship. He's a permanent resident, which means he can work and pay taxes, but he can't vote, something that nags at him. "Every July 4, I get so hacked off I throw a tea bag in a puddle," he says.
"I love London and miss it, but it's always there," he says. "I don't know if I can separate going back from going backwards."
For now, Ashman is comfortable drinking his Guinness in the glow of the Replay's pinball machines, commuting to UMKC in his titanium-gray Eclipse and hosting the occasional gathering at his house. He is not lonely for social companionship, but he is a long way from the nearest astrophysicist.
Asked why he'd want to be a one-man department at UMKC (a school not known for astrophysics) in a field that normally calls for much collaboration, he gives a quintessentially Ashman answer.
"I have a problem with authority," he says, and smirks.
In the age of digital imagery, astrophysicists no longer put eyeball to lens to look at the heavens. In that way, Ashman isn't suffering for his heartland locale.
But he is missing a certain amount of creative density, says Bruce Twarog, a physics professor and former colleague of Ashman's at KU. "You want to have that environment where you can walk down the hall and talk to somebody," Twarog says. "The issue that people like Keith and we at KU face isn't necessarily equipment but a matter of being in an environment where you are having more and more people to talk to."
Big programs such as those at Michigan, Texas and Cal Tech have ten to fifteen astrophysicists, four or five postdoctoral students and a hundred graduate students. They host seminars and colloquia that draw even more minds into the mix.
"I would find it quite challenging to work in isolation, but Keith is very smart and self-propelling," says Californian physicist Brodie. "He is very good at identifying interesting problems, and he certainly knows what to do to solve them. Thus, he can be independent and effective on his own."
With his time at the Space Telescope Science Institute and his oft-cited 1992 paper, Ashman's résumé carries more punch than that of a typical adjunct professor at a school like KU.
So in 1997, he was offered a job at Baker University that evolved into a tenure-track position. The small liberal-arts school leaned on him for teaching and then as a voice on more and more faculty committees. The tasks kept him from his research, and with new data flooding back from the Hubble, it was no time to be out of the loop.
"There is probably diamond hail falling through the atmosphere of Neptune. There may be fish on Europa [one of Jupiter's moons]," Ashman says, throwing out a couple of sexy suppositions. "It's the geeky, nerdy side of me, but I really care about this stuff and love it."
In the summer of 2002, UMKC offered Ashman a full-time job that allowed time for research. He and Zepf are continuing their exploration of globular clusters. The National Science Foundation grant would allow them money and time to better understand how clusters are formed. (Ashman says they'll learn whether they recieved the grant next spring.) And the two scientists are now trying to prove that besides young and old clusters, there exists a population like them, just entering middle age.
Meanwhile, teaching remains important to Ashman -- in part, he says, to help students understand what big questions scientists can now answer.
There's the fate of the universe, for example.
Astronomers feel certain now that the universe will continue to expand forever and that all stars will eventually burn out, leading to a frozen and completely black universe that will go on growing, dark and frigid, for eternity. Life, no matter how successful its spread through the galaxies, will be only a temporary and relatively short phenomenon in the history of the cosmos.
Ashman says he knows this discovery can be a troubling one for those raised to believe in a less bleak view of creation.
Though he was raised Anglican, Ashman calls Christianity a "remarkable case of hubris."
"I think people are really neat," he says, "But on a cosmic scale, we take up a very tiny portion of the universe."
Ashman sees astronomy as a gateway science -- something that makes thirteen-year-olds think Ph.D.s are cool -- and he isn't sure why the recent revelations haven't generated the kind of mainstream attention lavished on, say, Dolly, the cloned sheep. Of course, unlike the Scottish biologists who engineered Dolly, the astronomers who proved that the universe is ever-expanding couldn't show the media the product of their calculations napping in straw. Rather, the newest theories of the cosmos came incrementally over years of unglamorous study by many scientists.
"There wasn't a 'Eureka!' moment," Ashman says. "There wasn't a day when we knew that the universe was going to expand forever."
There remain some big questions to answer: Are we alone? Why is there a universe instead of there being nothing?
Maybe the closest thing humans have to a purpose is "to ask questions and figure stuff out," he says. "We seem to be compelled to do it."
Ashman believes science will expand into areas in which it had no voice before. Particle physics, he imagines, could be used to explain why people fall in love.
During the recent tour with the Hefners, Ashman gave his bandmates a vivid example of how physics could be used to inspire something like love.
The band was staying in a friend's apartment on the second floor of an old house. They were visited by the brunette who lived upstairs and happened to be a physics graduate student. The disclosure put a smile on Ashman's face and a look of horror on everyone else's.
"It was like watching butterflies mate, something you just don't understand," Brinkman says.
Ashman jokes that the incident has given him the title for his next paper, playing on the name of a famous Cal Tech lecturer known for his humor: "How R.P. Feynman Helped Me Get Laid -- Which Is Pretty Good for a Dead Guy."
Science gives Ashman a rush that he can find in only one other place -- rock and roll. "There is nothing more immediate to get that sort of, 'Wow, isn't life amazing?' than standing in a smoke-filled bar with a guitar and having someone spit at you."
At Benders on a late weeknight, Ashman's worlds collide. Waiting for the Hefners' turn to play, he settles into a booth and fields questions about the state of astronomy.
He is asked about the anthropic principle, a hot philosophy being debated by scholars trying to decide whether the universe was created for humans or whether humans evolved to fit it. Outyelled by the band, Ashman resorts to writing his answers on paper.
He writes concisely, explaining that some scientists dismiss the anthropic principle as a sort of self-evident paradox: "We're here because we're here." But others hold out for a stronger belief: "We brought the universe into existence."
"Bullshit," he scribbles. "The answer is the MULTIVERSE," he writes, referring to the notion gaining popularity with some theorists that our universe is just one of many.
Asked outright whether there is a god, Ashman laughs and then writes, "I'm a scientist. I don't believe in anything."
Having a second thought, he pulls the notepad back to add, "No, of course not, we invented her."
"Gotta load," he says, ending the lesson and getting up from the booth to help his bandmates retrieve their instruments and amplifiers.