The floorboards shake; all hands are in the air.
And when the cigarette lighters finally flick on, swaying to the medley of a slow rock ballad, it is the culmination of what could be a perfect rock performance.
But for fans of the local Fort Collins rock band, "In the Red," catching these high-energy performances, such as last Saturday night's Hurricane Katrina benefit show at the Aggie Theatre, might be the only way to experience the rising rockers as they try to move forward with the promotion of their recently released demo CD.
"In the state that music is in, being signed to a major label might not be the best thing for us," said 21-year-old "In the Red" lead singer, Matt Luizza. "(Major labels) have a lot more control over the profit, but with independent labels, you have a lot more say. (The music business) is a really shady business because it's all about timing. You have to be in the right place at the right time."
When "In the Red" began their Front Range tour two years ago, the foursome wanted to make a name in the music business, climbing up the promotional ladder minus a major label endorsement.
"We're completely self-managed," said 26-year-old bassist Rusty Quinlan, who, along with guitarist Matt Simms, 21, is a music major at CSU.
After composing their first demo CD, with the help of Coupe Studios in Boulder, Colo., the group could vaguely anticipate the amount of work it takes to book venues, purchase equipment, and manage school and a job all at the same time, said 21-year-old drummer Branden Vandenburg.
"When we would get booked, we would do gigs at least twice a week," said Luizza, a history major. "You're really doing a juggling act."
When self-management equals middle-of-the-night drives to Denver, while scribbling out homework underneath the beam of a handheld flashlight in the passenger seat, on top of dishing out pocket money to buy equipment, it is no wonder the group leaned toward the fitting name of "In the Red."
The title, Quinlan said, appropriately described the financial dilemmas an independent band must go through in order to obtain the necessary equipment and promotional materials to make it big. Without a major recording label there to shell out the necessary funds, the four band members were quite figuratively, "in the red."
Despite the struggle for name recognition, the band says the Fort Collins fan base, especially, has been extremely loyal.
"It's been kind of shocking to us to see there's a good (fan) response," Luizza said.
This past June, in its largest show to date, "In the Red" opened for "The Fray," a Colorado band that just signed with Epic Records.
When the floorboards at the show start to bow, band members say the experience and the energy are enough to keep the band going regardless of sponsorship.
"It doesn't matter if there's nine or 900 people. You got to play your hardest for that show," Luizza said. "When you have gigs like that, you can't help wanting to do this for a living."