THE NOW have played three shows together, and at each show I've noticed that people don't seem to know who they are when the set starts; yet by the end the crowd is smiling and nodding along. People look genuinely surprised that a trio they've never heard of before can win them over with a 45-minute set. It's proof that all the rock clichés about performance and enthusiasm and talent are actually based on truths long-obscured. Until the Now.

The same thing about the Now that makes them such a knockout live -- their boundless energy -- makes them a real drag if you're trying to get information out of them. I had to ask several times how they met before I got a straight answer.

"I mean, we could tell the truth but it's just incredibly boring," warns bassist Pete Ortega. "Okay, this is the truth, the capital "T" truth, honest-to-goodness, no lies: I met Todd [Davis, the guitarist] on September 24, 1982. We were in school; we were in physical education together. We were jumping on springboards doing gymnastics, and he did this little Paul Stanley kick-thingy in the air, and I was a KISS fan and he was a KISS fan. He gave me an opening, I just took it. And so I said, 'Do you play guitar or do you just act like it?'"

Many years later, they joined up with Beatniks drummer Jon Bolton as part of a larger Cheap Trick tribute band.

Jon remembers, "The first time we practiced together we were so tight, [Pete] broke all the bass strings! But we were all working on solo albums. No one wanted to give up any creativity to anyone else because everyone was afraid, you know? And then we finally, one day, just decided to play a couple of Todd's songs and rehearse them instead [of the Cheap Trick covers]."

Hearing the Now chat, the chemistry between the three members becomes apparent. The most striking thing is that there is no leader, no frontman, no spokesman. They trust each other implicitly and they respect each other immensely.

Pete talks about the balance in the band. "I think that because there's three of us, and we all have our own distinct, individual style, we complement each other and contrast enough with each other. Well Todd, I'd say, likes the Eagles a lot, but it's more like hard rock Eagles. Cheap Trick-ish type of stuff. American. I mean, the chords that he uses, I can see it. And then Jon, his style is more melodic, British-influenced pop type stuff."

Todd adds, "What's important to me about our band is that we all get to do what we want to do. I mean, I'm doing what I wanna do. I'm writing my songs and they're sounding the way that I've always wanted them to sound. Any other musicians I've ever played with, it's always been, 'Well, this is cool, but this isn't how the song sounded to me in my head when I wrote it.' [With the Now], this is how it sounded in my head when I wrote it. That's what makes it even more, to me, seem like this is the way it's supposed to be. Songs that I wrote, they sounded exactly the way they sounded in my head. [Jon and Pete] even sang the counter- melody lines without me telling them what they were. I mean, that says something, I think. And the fact that we write our own songs, that we all are writers: I don't think there are a lot of bands like that anymore."

"We go out of our way to make sure that everybody has equal time," says Pete. "It's like, 'You've got a song, you've got a song, you've got a song. Okay, that's cool.' The sets are constructed that way."

"It's like three different approaches to songwriting, basically," explains Jon. "Todd's songs tend to be really complete and finished; he'll make demos at home. So his songs we might follow a little bit closer. For me, it's almost the complete opposite. I don't record anything except me singing into [a recorder]. And I hum it and count the syllables and write words to it. And so I never know what it's going to sound like, I just take whatever I get. 'Cause I know it's always gonna sound good with these guys. Complete faith."

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