The Never-Ending Rock Show

Courtney Heffernan | February 7, 2016

One writer’s response to last week’s prompt: write about what your upstairs neighbor is doing


I am the downstairs neighbor of middle-aged musicians. I have seen my neighbors just a handful of times in the one year I’ve lived in my apartment, to the extent that I’m not even sure how many men live above me.

However, as the relationship between upstairs and downstairs neighbors requires, I hear them almost constantly. Almost constantly, I say, because they keep hours like the raccoons in the nearby park. I hardly hear a sound from them before two in the afternoon and I often hear them late into the night. They are the building’s evening entertainers, providing the soundtrack to what would otherwise be an ordinary weeknight.

What I find most incomprehensible about my neighbors’ lifestyles are their schedules. Either their jobs are such that Tuesdays are their Saturdays, or they are simultaneously unemployed and passionate about keeping routines.

“Just wait until Tuesday,” my roommate said when I moved in. “You’ll hear a lot from them.”

I appeared at my roommate’s door on a Tuesday night, asking if he too could hear what sounded like a violent attack and a verbal assault. He calmly explained that they play first-person shooter games on Tuesday, sometimes Monday if the weather is right and the Canucks aren’t playing. I commend my neighbors on their commitment to the game; they turn Call of Duty into a performance piece and my apartment on an urban Vancouver street into a post-apocalyptic war zone.

Sometimes out of the silence of a weekday night I hear the sounds of blistering heavy metal. I’m in my living room eating hummus and listening to Julien Baker when suddenly the building is rocked by “Raining Blood” by Slayer.

Several times a week, my neighbors’ acoustic cover band provides the soundtrack to my day. The band has improved a lot over the last year. This I know because I can hear the entirety of their five-hour long practices. When they added “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop to their repertoire, they practiced variations on the song for three straight hours. I still hear them singing “La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la” in my nightmares.

A few months back, I ran into one of my neighbors while he was making his way to the building’s second floor. I asked how his band was doing, and complimented his arrangements of David Bowie’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” and Nick Cave’s “Rye Whiskey.” He looked at me in surprise, his dyed burgundy hair blowing out from under his beanie. I feared I had broken the neighborly code by identifying the sounds of performances that were meant to go unacknowledged. He thanked me for my praise and promised to invite me to the band’s next show.

Perhaps he doesn’t realize: every day is their show. I’m in the best seat in my house listening to it unfold.

Collage and GIF by Emily Zirimis.