Todd had gotten his lanky body on top of the van, and lounged in the sunshine. Justin came out carrying a jumble of grapes, apples, granola bars, and chips -- fuel for another long day of driving. Baker lay in the back with headphones on. His eyes were closed, but his fingers tapped on a crumpled box of CDs. The new power adapter had started smoking almost the moment he'd plugged it in, so the iPod would run until the battery gave out, and then he'd spend the rest of the afternoon talking above the van's scratchy audio system. Tonight it was the back of some kid's house in Orange County. Six months ago the band was hauling their frozen gear over the icy sidewalks of Edmonton; today the sky was blue and sunny and warm. But by the time Autonomadic finished their raucous set, the sun had set and a police chopper circled overhead, searchlights throwing psychedelic shadows on the crowd in the backyard. The band rushed to load out and Todd, the sober one, took the wheel of the van. He eased it out a side street as a couple of police cruisers flashed past, skidding to a halt in front of the house. Of course, not all Autonomadic shows end in an actual riot. It had begun with a trip to Wenatchee; then to Spokane, then to Vancouver. Soon Autonomadic was on their way to every punk-friendly bar or basement on the West Coast. They made new friends, toured fresh scenes, barnstormed with brother-bands like Motorama, Potty Mouth Society, Mr. Plow, or Fifty Fifty. They spent nights on the cold floors of friendly drunks, in dirty little motel rooms, draped all over the van in quiet parking lots; days in a smoke-filled bars, empty coffee houses, handing out flyers on the street, watching the lane markers tick by. But the shows -- thirty minutes of intense, sweaty, desperate gesticulations and frenetic cacophony: A manic shock of melody, rhythm, and raw emotion, with sometimes two, sometimes two hundred, shouting, dancing, pumping their fists in the air. Nothing held back: fingers bleeding, lyrics belted out, drums pounded; nothing left at the end of the night but broken sticks, broken strings, and slicks of beer. Every set like diamond shards, formed in spasms of agony and ecstasy, wrestled from the earth by three misfit kids, presented dirty, uncut, but pure. No apologies, no pretensions, just rock.
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