At the Cripple Creek Roadhouse, a biker bar in New London in Stanly County, Chris Marks remembers getting a bad feeling.
The more the beer flowed while his band kicked out one country song after another on stage, the rowdier the crowd grew. He'd been around long enough to know conditions were ripening for a Saturday night bar fight.
They cut short the set, broke down their speakers and packed their SUV in the pitch-black darkness of the parking lot. The squeal of tires that came nearby and loud bangs that erupted soon after helped them load up and hotfoot it back home to Concord that much faster.
Come most Monday mornings, when his coworkers are sharing their weekend events, the kids' soccer game or a great movie they saw, no one ever has a story like Marks does.
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But the 38-year-old office manager at UNC Charlotte knows other people like him, who work a day job to pay the bills and live for weekends, when they get together with their bands to play the music they love.
"It entertains people," said Marks, who sings lead in the band that shares his name, a local Concord group put together in 2006 and made up of six other guys.
"It gets them away from their day and their frustrations, and it's a release to me and the rest of the guys to do that."
Once a week, the guys trickle into Marks' basement, filling it with enough speakers, microphones, amps and chords to drown out any mundane memories from the work week. Only small reminders, like the bottle of laundry detergent set on the pool table, remain as evidence of daily domestic life.
Another band, Exit 54, named after its most popular venue, Afton Village's Party on the Plaza off Exit 54 in Concord, is made up of 50-somethings who get together for many of the same reasons.
On Monday nights, Dena Ayers, 52, leaves her job at UPS, where she's worked for the past 35 years, to meet her husband Tim, 50, in Mike Robertson's Poplar Trails basement. There, she'll pick up a tambourine and sing backup to the four-lead vocalist band.
It gives them an outlet they could never enjoy before.
"Our kids are both married and out of the house, so it gives us a chance to do something together," said Ayers.
Robertson, 57, a mechanical engineer, helped put the band together, something he had wanted to do ever since his college band drifted apart years back.
"Like everybody else, you get married and have kids, and you kind of set that aside for awhile," he said. "Then you reach our old age and you go from there."
Despite the economy, business has been good for both bands, each averaging 30-35 gigs a year. The Chris Marks Band has played everywhere from Childress Vineyards to last month's Charlotte SpeedFest.
Exit 54 has a standing gig once a month from April to October in Afton Village for Party in the Plaza. They're often hired for festivals and private parties, ranging from audiences of 50 to 500.
As long as it's fun, they'll keep on, said Robertson.
"We do this for a hobby," he said. "We didn't expect to be famous or rich out of it, and we haven't gotten either of those. It's just something we do because we like doing it."