- Posted March 27, 2013 by
St. Petersburg, Florida
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Weekends in America
Shane Handal has found himself at the inevitable fork in the road of life. At 23, a recent college graduate of USF, he hit the streets running under his father’s advice to find a job or find someone else’s couch to sleep on. He soon discovered that he was one in many, among the largest jobless force with a college degree this world has seen in years, and it only made sense to fall back on what he has only really known.
On a Saturday evening, Shane sits shirtless on his living room floor with his back against the couch. Currently, he is more intent on his Atlanta Braves earning a “W” in his MLB 2K11 XBox game that illuminates his television screen than carrying his amp and guitar downstairs and into his car. I push the subject a bit when I ask when he’s going to get off his can and help Stephen carry the snare and cymbals.
“Pat, that’s one of the stupidest things I have ever heard
you say. I feel sorry for you, bro.” he sighs.
Wearing nothing but faded cut off jean shorts and a pair of blown out black Vans on his feet, it’s safe to assume that this guy isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Nor are his Braves, apparently.
“Are we going shirts or skins tonight, Stephen?” Shane yells.
No response from Stephen.
“HEY!” Shane yells.
“Shteeeepheeennnnnnn!!!!” he screeches louder this time.
“WHAT!” Stephen rips back.
“Shirts or skins, tonight?” Shane asks again.
“I’m not taking my shirt off tonight, I’ll let Mark carry that torch.” Stephen insists.
Shane tosses his controller behind him onto the couch and falls limp onto the carpet. His body lay face down, motionless with his arms to his side, as I help Stephen load his equipment and Shane’s amp into the back of his truck outside.
We make it back upstairs, to hear Shane stumbling around the next room and a high pitch voice singing Natalie Imbruglia’s late 90’s hit, “Torn” sung by the man of the hour.
“I’m a little late…and my jeans are tooorrrrrrnnnn,” sings Shane.
Stephen grumbles, and leaves.
Shane now wearing a shirt, or what’s left of one, grabs his keys and his guitar, a toothbrush is jammed into the side of his mouth.
“Waiting on you, bro.” he exhales.
Inside the shop, Shane enters and drops a parcel of recently purchased Pabst Blue Ribbon beer next to a stack of vintage Playboy magazines. He stares out the window, across Central Avenue for a moment and then scans the working space.
“You want one? There’s only a few left,” he offers, as the fresh 12-pack of lager is torn open by his eager hands.
Two cans are fetched from the safety of their cardboard shelter. The first is flung over the drum set to Mark, and the other to Stephen. As I turn to look back at Shane, the can, held a foot from his face hangs in his grasp, emptying its golden contents through his head into his gut.
“Did ‘ya get it all?” I ask.
He struggles with the last gulp, holding back laughter and contemplating a quick reply.
“Never.” He says laughing.
Shane wipes the sour froth from his beard, slings his guitar strap over his shoulder and begins to tune.
“I forgot to remind you to bring ear plugs. It’s fixin’ to get loud, man. Want me to run and find you some?” he asks.
“Never,” I reply.
And so it begins.
Among a crowd of sweaty and buzzing 20-somethings, Set and Setting’s slow tempos of rolling beats, synched between the two drummers Mark and Stephen, make way for John’s bending bass strings. The moment of anticipation dissipates as Shane tears into a sonic distortion of guitar riffs that echo from these concrete walls and cleave the stale air. His audience’s heads bob and sway, while the rest remain still, focusing on the reverberation that drones in a sullen tempo, only to gain momentum and crash through the minds and senses that beckon for more. Shane leads his band and their fans into a world outside of lyrics or choruses, relying solely on the resonance of psychedelic instrumental fury, not to be heard, only to be experienced. Shane becomes the puppeteer of the Set and Setting show. He dangles the strings of his post-rock collaboration and twists them into a harmonic symphony of guitar sound unlike anything St. Petersburg has heard.
It’s 1am, and I accompany Shane on a walk down Central Avenue towards my place. Walking past Daddy Kool Records, I ask him about his recent venture in music promotion, Don’t Stop Collective. Don’t Stop Collective is a collaboration that he and a few friends started whose sole purpose is to market bands, schedule shows and promote as much as they can for the eclectic music scene in St. Pete and beyond. He reveals his concern for local promotion, and hopes he can do a better job at helping those who have helped him along the way. He’s quite enthused in discussing the matter and the response they have received.
“I have always wished that there were more solid bands around here. I know there are people with talent that just don’t follow through whether its laziness, lack of motivation, or lack of other motivated people to play with. Whenever a new band appears, and it’s totally different from everyone else, it just widens the repertoire, and possibilities of the local music scene. There’s often an eclectic vibe with shows in St. Pete. Most bands around here have an original sound that stands out from other bands, but in one form or another, it works together as a whole,” he explains.
Taking the initiative to promote bands and shows has revived his faith in music and opened his eyes to what he is truly capable of. If he puts his guitar aside (which he won’t, ever) and forgets all about his USF degree, he has that dream that no one can take from him. Whether it is on stage, plastering store windows with show posters, or setting up gigs for bands to play in the Tampa Bay area, Shane has faith in music, that’s something he’s not willing to cast aside.
Inside my condominium, it’s now 1:13am. Shane sits at our piano playing around with a few keys. He reveals that he’s never been taught piano, nor was he formally taught how to play the guitar he has always played from sound. A few moments later he wanders over to the cabinet to flip through my records, and jokingly quizzes me about my collection, as to which albums are mine, and which are his sister’s. I sarcastically ask him if the music makes the man. Not expecting much of a reply, Shane surprises me with something to ponder.
“I think that this is different for every person, even more so with musicians. It’s hard not to constantly be thinking about music. Even when I’m listening to music, I’m trying to learn from it for the better of myself as a musician and a person. It’s a constant thought that never really leaves, especially because we’re always surrounded by music, or the option to be. Music has always defined different time periods of my life, and has influenced the way I have grown as a person. It’s the most important thing in my life, so I think that it does define who I am. I don’t know what I would be like if music didn’t exist. I don’t think that this holds true to everyone though. Maybe, in the same sense though, the lack of music defines that person too though. I do think music makes the man.”
Shane is 23 years old. He sees life in a way that we can only catch rare glimpses of. Whether he knows it or not his destiny lies on those six strings and the heart that bends them.
In a world where nothing seems certain, and every decision made comes as a roll of the dice, Shane is a wayfarer with a wish to stay alive for a cause and for a dream of music.