CIVILIZED CANNIBALS raged in a living room in Doomston, a small town an hour southeast of Sweetville. Couches, recliners and end tables were stacked against the walls like Legos that didn’t quite fit. Mace Akers savaged his guitar with inept grace, his fingers bleeding, the broken high E string dangling and whipping through the air. Between three-chord faux-wanking, awkward posturing and making Popeye faces, Mace managed to squeak out some raw vocals into the dented microphone of the practice room-sized Public Address System. A half-full beer can soared through the air, barely missing his head. Droplets freckled his face and merged with his sweat.

“Do that again and I’ll chew your ear off. I prefer my booze in the bottle anyway,” Mace said. “Aluminum’ll give you Alzheimer’s. This is the last song, you fuckos. It’s about the hypocrisies of our American legal system. Yeah, you over there by the coffee table, with the crappy homemade circle-A tattoo. You know what the fuck I’m talking about. Back up your beliefs with actions. This song’s called ‘False Jurisprudence.’ ONE-TWO-THREE. GO!”

Steve London shot Mace a confused look, clicked his sticks four times, thrashed his kit in rapid fire 4/4 time like a shirtless man possessed. He made Animal from The Muppet Show look professionally trained. His arms blurred so quickly across the toms that they appeared to be softly coasting.

Christopher Faith barely kept the bass guitar portion of the song from falling apart. The notes he hit rang true due to sheer muscle memory. He was lost in a musical vortex, playing with his back to the audience. All anyone in the crowd could see of him was the image on his t-shirt—a blurry photo of children near water, smokestacks looming behind, sandwiched by the words “All the Waste I See, All the Waste I’ll Never Be.” Remnants of a black X, weathered away by sweat and fury, marked the tops of each of his hands. He did not need the audience, only the ferocity of the sound.

The sparse crowd ate up Civilized Cannibals’ short set like a five-course meal. The living room could only handle so much, but still allowed for a modest circle pit. The final song ended abruptly. For a few obnoxious seconds, unintentional feedback seared through the space. Mace kicked the side of his amp with his combat boots and the feedback ceased.

Civilized Cannibals packed up their gear without missing a beat, and the toothy kid who set up the show handed Mace twenty-five bucks that had been collected in a hat—five of which turned out to be Monopoly money. Outside, from the back of their van, the band sold five home-dubbed demo tapes and eight patches for a dollar apiece.

“Hey guys,” Mace said, counting their stash. “We made out like gangbusters. Let’s fill up the tank and grab some grub before we head home.”

“Sounds good to me,” Christopher said, wiping his sweaty hair out of his face.

“Okay,” Steve said. “I gotta piss first, though.”

The house party pressed on long after they hit the highway.