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"We're starting the worst band ever," she said. "Want to join us?"

"Worst band ever?" I asked. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"We're not going to try to be good or win awards or anything like that. We're just going to hang out and sound terrible."

"And the purpose of this is..."

"We're just going to hang out and sound terrible," she repeated.

"Well if you want me to sound terrible with you all, it would be an honor."

"Great, I was hoping you'd say that," she smiled. "Now I know you play the keyboard - that's why we can't put you on keyboard."

"What?" I asked. "What am I supposed to do then?"

"How about lead vocals?" she said. "I know you sing pretty out of tune."

"Are you serious? You want me to make a fool of myself every time?"

"Well, this is the worst band ever, after all," she said. "Do you think we should audition our members and find the worst singer among us?"

"Yeah, that might work better," I replied, secretly hoping I'd be able to sing better than some other poor sap among us, who would then be pushed to the front. "Maybe I could play lead guitar or something," I offered. "I have no idea how to do that either."

"Maybe," she said. "We'll see."

"I think what we'd want is for everyone to eventually switch roles all around the band," she continued. "Eventually, our lead vocalist is going to start getting good at it from all the practice, so we'd have to switch them to drums or something."

"I guess if this goes on long enough, we'd all end up doing everything in the band?"

"That's what I'm thinking," she said.

"Well, I'm not looking forward to being frontman," I said, "but as long as everyone's doing it..."

"That's the spirit!" she laughed, backhanding my shoulder.

Later that month we would all meet at her house. And that was the beginning of our regular practices.

The cast of characters was always changing though. We had a small group to draw from. Not everyone could make it every time, so we'd just grab the worst musicians out from the group that did manage to show up, and put them behind instruments with only enough instruction to not break anything. I suppose it was more comedy than music that we were producing, fueled more by alcohol than anything more sophisticated.

Eventually we did have performances, but nobody went into them with great expectations, except perhaps to witness someone else sincerely attempt something they were not capable of, and fail. Maybe it was therapeutic in a way. Maybe they all just wanted to be reminded that failure wasn't just something that happened to them alone.

We did get more inquiries about joining our band than we expected. We had a strict auditioning process though - not in terms of musical ability, but in terms of how comfortable the rest of us were around them. We had spent so many weekends together that we were essentially family at that point. And admitting new members into the family was no small task, and always came with a period of anxiety about whether they would get along with everyone else, and not feel out of place among those who had been making bad music with one another for years.

Interestingly enough, or perhaps predictably, we all managed to eventually gain some small measure of competence in everything we did, and were forced to rely on new band members to provide the level of failure our fans expected from us. Some even began more serious musical projects with other bands, where good music was the actual goal. Those who improved their abilities too much had to be banned from their instrument of choice, and were sometimes relegated to roadie duty or procuring refreshments for everyone else.

They never stopped coming though, even those who eventually found real success with serious music. This was their refuge from a demanding world, this was their old home, this was where they could do the opposite of what the rest of the world wanted from them.

Eventually I would leave though, but not completely. A few members from the band were leaving for another city, and I asked if I could go with them. We started a new chapter 500 miles away, and a new chapter in our lives, but the previous chapter was never closed. We would regularly go back to our roots, or some of them would come visit us. And we would continue to make bad music together.

And when chapters started in other places, we would visit them too. I suppose at that point it wasn't really about the music anymore. Maybe it never was. But we still all pretended that was why we were there. That was the glue that held us all together, though it was a pretty arbitrarily chosen glue. Then again, aren't all families held together in the same way?

It was a place we felt we belonged, a place we could point to and tell one another that nobody outside really got it, that we were separated from the rest of them by a joke that only us insiders could understand, and yet it was something everyone else wanted. It was pretty pointless though, but how many associations weren't? We enjoyed it while it lasted. I suppose that was what turns bad music good, even while it was still bad.

So we're starting the worst band ever. Want to join us?