The room was empty. There were three people are two barstaff, that was it. This was where their first gig was going to be. They were to play second in this function room and Paul didn't like the look of things one bit. They had been together for months practising, bringing their least talented members up to speed and now it looked as though their first gig would be absolutely pointless.
He wandered back into the next room with a bitter taste in his mouth. The rest of his band were gathered around a corner table. This room was fairly busy, but he doubted anybody would leave it when the bands started playing, what with the football game on the big screen and all. Manchester United were playing, this place was full of the more hardcore fans in the area. It was a bar known for hooliganism and die hard team support. They had tried in vain to get a gig at one of the more music orientated bars or clubs in the area. They were all fully booked with the 'local talent.' Paul wasn't a fan. The Greenday, Nirvana and Fallout Boy pumping locals were all very similar. If it were only the one Paul would have likely enjoyed listening to them. However, of the three bands he listened to there was nothing to distinguish them. Two even played the same Nirvana song. Paul had taken it off their setlist.
Seeing that the rest of the band had already begin drinking their alloted alcohol Paul went to the bar and passed his ticket over in exchange for his first beer. Usually he wasn't keen on drinking before performing, even if it was only a practise, but today he needed a drink. He wasn't very surprised when his drummer Jace appeared beside him at the bar ordering his next double vodka.
"Where's the other band then?" Paul asked as his beer was handed to him. A round of cheers, followed by a collective sigh went up in concerns to the game. Paul ignored them. Despite being a Manchester United fan he just wasn't in the mood today.
"Back room," Jace all but grunted, now stuffing peanuts into his mouth, "name of Ska-core Legend. Egotistical kids."
"Not very old then?" Paul inquired.
"Lead singer's the oldest, fifteen. Does all this fancy crap with his hair and says how great he is. Told him our singer could raise his voice in perfect octaves each verse. He said he could raise his voice higher. Guitar's a girl. Amy something from the high school. Quiet little thing. Virgin I'd bet too. Was playing chords when I went in. Thought it was weird. Proper chords."
"With a third and everything?" Paul asked, fully aware that Jace not only had no clue what a third was in relevance to chords but also had absolutely no interest in learning.
"Suppose so. Bassist was the other girl. Looks about twelve. Doubt she can even hold the thing. Was playing along but didn't touch any frets at all. Just moved her right hand. Drummer was a guy though. Bit stocky but nowhere near as big as me. Got cocky when I said I was drumming, saying he could do all sorts of things. Tempted to whack him with my sticks."
"Ed and Adam still in there?"
"Yeah. You know what Ed's like. Scared them kids good and proper. Adam's a bit shy and all but he'll cope. We best get in there soon though. Reckon just by taking in alcohol we can get them to shut up."
"Alright. Sick of being in here anyway."
The back room was usually the pride of any drinking establishment. Any bar worth it's metal had lock-ins and poker games here, while the bands just generally hung out away from public view. This one however, seemed to have lost some of it's glamour. There were two couches, green and musty with rips and springs poking out. They were on opposite sides of the room facing each other with a tiny wooden table in the middle. The surface was absorbed with rings from cups and mugs and glasses. Years old judging by the rings on it. In the corner there was a small bathroom, grey instead of white due to lack of a cleaner and the landlord's high expectations of the barstaff. On one wall there was an old Deep Purple poster sagging off the wall. That poster had convinced Ed it was worth playing the gig, and he had managed to convince Paul due to sheer determination. Weird considering Ed didn't talk, but it was a talent he had.
'Ska-Core Legend' took up one of the couches. The girls were sat on the seats holding their instruments. One was fairly young with long brown hair. She was strumming her guitar easily and confidently. Her hands switching effortlessly between her chord shapes while soothing tones escaped the instrument. In comparison the other girl looked tiny. She was hitting her strings more than strumming them and she never seemed to touch a fret. Instead she played the same dull D note again and again. A thin, pale boy with short black hair sat on the left arm of the chair with his arms crossed. He looked angry, he was glaring at Ed. The other boy looked about a year younger, but was much more muscly. The boys were about the same height. This would be the drummer then. He greeted Jace with a smile and a nod as he came in. Obviously this band was far from in sync with each other.
The other couch was empty. Ed stood ignoring the stare with his white Fender Stratocaster in his hands. As he checked the tuning he played his tuning song. It was a relaxed little tune he had written himself that always sounded good, but always sounded better when perfectly tuned. It was a mix of the Major and Minor scale, played in C Major and A Minor. His hands were wandering all across the fretboard, making relaxing sounds that seemed to work very well with the chords being played from the other side of the room. In fact, Paul was sure that Ed was tailoring his tune to hers. His long black hair was tied back from his eyes. Ed was tall and fairly thin. His hands were small, but worked well with a fretboard.
Adam was sat on the tiny little table. His method of tuning was all about tension in the strings, though he seemed quite happy with what he had already. He checked his truss rod tension with a ruler and seemed quite happy with it. He had his back to the other band. His hair was short and brown, not gelled but free to fall into whatever messy pattern it dictated. Adam was tall with an average build. He looked up at Paul and Jace as they came in and smiled. He seemed glad to have his band members around at least, though the function room would likely change his mind.
"What time do we start playing?" Adam asked optimistically.
"Landlord said 'start of the second half'." Paul replied pessimistically. Adam frowned at him, clearly at a loss for what to say to that. The landlord knew what they were up against, the fact that he had still hired them was quite amazing. Where was the logic here?
The singer from 'Ska-core Legend' rose and started coming towards them with an angry look on his face. Paul scowled, aware that JAce had stepped into a defensive position behind him.
"We got half time," the boy began, a swagger creeping into his walk, "that's why we were hired. Can't understand why they'd hire somebody after that. You must be really crap to get such a spot. Or maybe you're just there to make us look even better."
Jace began to laugh in earnest, as did Adam. This put the youngster off, but not Paul, "I have a gig, I perform my best, as does the rest of us. We're top of the bill even if the bill isn't fabulous. You should sit down and shut up. Talking could strain your vocal chords for your singing." A half time band. That made sense. In fact it made perfect sense. A band for post half time was just ridiculous. What on Earth were they here for?
"You're not top of the bill. This is our bill," the boy began again, "my dad got us this gig every week because he works here and the landlord owes him big. We've never had somebody else on. Jimmy must really pity you or something. Who'd you pay to play here with us?"
"We're the performing band, we get paid to perform, not the other way around."
"Well I'll bet you we get paid more. If you even get paid. Bet you won't even get to go on stage. After they hear us play I bet you'll be booed off before you even get on."
"Right, I'm sick of this," Jace answered as he came forward from behind Paul and smashed his fist into the boys face. There was a sharp intake of breath from the girls before their drummer came at Jace. Paul had to give him credit, he was brave, but not talented. Jace had him down in two punches, even with Paul trying to hold Jace back. Adam leapt up to help restrain Jace as the boy drummer rose once again and came at them all with his full weight. He slammed into Jace, who teetered and, unable to get free of Paul and Adam, fell on the both of them.
As if previously planned, the door opened at that moment and in came the mean looking landlord, followed by a short, balding man with a towel over his shoulder. The two of them surveyed the scene with mild interest for a moment before the balding man yelled, "Thatcher!" and knelt down to cradle the head of the dazed singer on the floor. The landlord looked down on the boy with absolute disgust before turning to the balding man and saying, "right, I've had enough of this. Get your kids out of here. They're not welcome anymore."
The man, nearly crying, turned to the landlord furiously, "you're going to bow down to some hoodlums who'd do such a thing to my sweet little boy?"
"I don't much like hoodlums. I throw them out of my bar. Your kid's fought with every band I've signed. Get him out. If you want to badly enough you can go with him and not come back."
By this point Adam and Paul had managed to regain their feet. Ed was still playing in the corner. He had never been much of a hands on man, nor did anybody mind with Jace around. Jace had lifted the young drummer bodily from the ground and was currently commending him on a daring and strategic move. The band watched as the opposition filed out of the room. The brown haired guitarist came last. She stopped beside the landlord and said, "thanks for having us Jim. Sorry about Thatcher."
"No need Trace, no need," he replied earnestly, "you come back when you're legal."
"Of course. Bye Ed," she called as she went through the door. Ed gave her a wave which she didn't see, then returned to his instrument with a smile on his face.
"Sorry about that lads, should have fired him a long time ago," the landlord began, fixing his eyes on Paul, "so you can play half time then?"
"If that's what you hired us for in the first place then yes," Paul answered slyly. Something strange had just happened. Usually Jace would have been punished in some way, but he seemed to be getting rewarded. Still, if it meant the band was likely to get a good show he would not complain.
"See you out there lads," the landlord answered with a smile as he turned his back to them and left them alone in the room.
"The kid was named Thatcher?" Jace began with a broad grin, "no wonder he snapped like a twig."
* * * * *
After another twenty minutes they moved to set up their equipment. The match was just drawing to half way through and United had not been on the better side. As such quite a few people had already wandered into the function room, grumbling about referees and coaches and bad signings. The crowd watching them set up was only about thirty people, but the match hadn't even halted yet. Ed's amp was buzzing away happily in the corner while Adam changed his settings ready for their first song. Jace had spent a long time getting his drum kit and now was meticulously setting it up at the back of the stage. Paul was fiddling with his laptop in the corner, preparing backing tracks and closing unneccessary programs to make sure they weren't interrupted during play. Two single page setlists had been taped to the floor so that they could see what they were doing and they were ready with songs from Deep Purple for this place. They had agreed not to have many originals in this place and so had settled for two songs influenced heavily by Deep Purple. It seemed the way to go in this place as the only one they really needed to impress was the landlord, and he had the poster.
The room continued to fill as they set up, but Paul was not paying attention. He was busy with his backing tracks, mostly comprised of keyboards they could not do and second guitars, or a single drum that Jace had not yet been able to come across. In truth they weren't neccessary, but Paul liked having them around. He was even playing one or two games of Solitaire before he heard the rough sound of A Minor signalling him that they were ready to start. He grabbed his bass guitar from where it was leant against the wall and swept the strap over his head in one fluid motion as he stood up and raised his head.
As he looked up he very nearly fell over in amazement. The room had filled to a standard he had not even thought possible. There were over a hundred people in this little room, all crowded around the bar ordering drinks or crowded around the stage waiting for something exciting to happen. Ed was standing near the front of the stage, playing unplugged for the people who were early. Jace was all ready, sticks in hand and barely even in view for all the toms, snares and cymbals around him. Adam was looking at him, waiting to be told that they were ready to start. The two microphones had been set up a while ago. The PA system looked ready and waiting. Paul looked over at the landlord, busy wiping a glass while staring intently in their direction. He had obviously been waiting for a signal, so Paul gave it to him. He put the glass down carefully and wandered through the crowd onto the stage, where he took Adam's microphone in order to address the crowd. Adam quickly shooed him to the other microphone, which was set to a much higher volume and the landlord scooted over quite happily.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he began in his rough northern accent, "I am quite glad to say the old group are gone," this brought a cheer from the audience, which was quite a surprise to Paul, who had thought this bar to have enjoyed them, "so I looked for a new band to bring in and here they are. They claim to have a major influence from Deep Purple," again, a cheer. Paul was beginning to feel quite optimistic about this, "so let's see if this kid here..." at this point he pointed at Ed, who, seeing himself addressed, plugged his guitar into his amp, "...is as good as our Ritchie Blackmore shall we? Ladies and gentlemen, Disbelief."
Adam began playing as the crowd cheered in earnest. Whether it was because they liked Deep Purple or because they weren't 'Ska-core Legend' Paul wasn't sure, but he quite liked it. This was the part they had practised over a month for. Adam struck up the chord progression for Highway Star as Ed improvised a little solo over the top of it. Paul's fingers sought their desired places in an instant and his hands began the familiar movements. Jace brought in the drums and their two guitarists began to strike their chords in sync. Ready to perform. Paul smiled to himself as he was signalled in and began to sing.