This isn't Oliver Twist. And no, you whiny little bastard, you can't have any more gruel. It's just a band, for the love of melodrama. Bands come. Bands go.
Of course, the party line is that this isn't any band. We're talking about Ultimate fucking Fakebook. Kansas success story. National tours. Major label. David putting a boot in Goliath's loincloth. A gang of musicians who take their craft -- but little else -- seriously. Humility in the face of success. Hometown boys done good.
The story is older than the Pope and just as sickly. Bands form, rise, hit high tide, crest, dissolve, play reunion shows and then repeat the cycle until they either turn into immortal rock gods or limp to cul de sacs and become real estate brokers who play "Stairway to Heaven" in sports bars on the weekends.
It's premature to assume either fate for Ultimate Fakebook just yet. The band members quietly announced their retirement as a touring act earlier this month. They planned a farewell tour, starting with Davey's Uptown and ending on March 6 at the Bottleneck. They would go out with a bang. Throw up some rock fists, then hang up the microphone. Unplug the amps. Load the gear. Tip back some shots. Pass the tissues. Move on.
But despite the self-indulgence of a nearly two-month farewell tour that hits Kansas City, Manhattan and Lawrence twice each and Little Rock, Arkansas (waaaaaah?), once, Ultimate Fakebook really isn't just another carcass tossed into the mass grave of bands past. The difference?
This one made it.
Rather, it got pretty freaking close. Like rubbing-elbows-with-Celine Dion close. Which, granted, may be a little too close. But what began as three guys playing a Halloween party in 1996 almost became something huge.
Ultimate Fakebook's fizzy pop-rock quickly ingratiated the band to the rabid legions who worship at the altar of geek idols such as Weezer, Jimmy Eat World and the Get Up Kids. It didn't really matter that the band's influences ran more along the lines of Kiss, Cheap Trick and the Cure. What came out was good. And memorable. And fun.
Suddenly, Ultimate Fakebook was among the gaggle of bands grappling for Next Big Thing status. Bill McShane, Nick Colby and Eric Melin gave the odd impression that Rivers Cuomo, Mr. Clean and Generic Slacker Dude had started a band for the distinct purpose of playing raucous live shows with radio- and party-friendly sing-alongs. The formula won over fans from coast to coast.
You blinked in 2000 and suddenly the band had signed a contract with Sony/550 Records. Blinked twice and the label was dropping them. Blinked three times and the band had toured the globe, released three full-length albums and performed with the Get Up Kids, At the Drive In, MxPx, Good Charlotte, Dashboard Confessional, Nada Surf and dozens of other lifers. Blinked once more and the band was playing sweaty, sleazy Davey's for the beginning of the end.
It was nearly 2 a.m. on January 24 when McShane, Colby and Melin wound their way through the crowded din of Davey's and onto the stage. Last call was ringing out all over Kansas. Luckily, Davey's is in Missouri. The night had just begun.
A raucous reception greeted the band in front of the stage. Many in the late-night crowd were top-heavy with booze and swaying dangerously, sloshing drinks and mouthing the words as McShane, Colby and Melin provided the frenzied soundtrack. There were no tortured souls, no weeping anthems, just three guys playing rock and roll and bouncing across the stage happily and naturally.
This wasn't the end after all. All three band members are hovering around age thirty. And they clearly don't take what they're doing seriously enough for it to be the end. There will be solo projects, other bands, other shitty part-time jobs, other smelly tour vans, other albums, other fans. Then there will be the reunion shows and the jam sessions and "Stairway to Heaven" at Coach's Bar and Grill ad infinitum until stardom, death or domestication.
No, this really wasn't the beginning of the end. It was just the end of the beginning.