The Spirit Of Mercy. Part One

The brief and oddly demanding calm before the storm for music photographer Mercy Ensworth.

Ultimate Guitar

Usually, watching any musician performing to a crowd of people was a sight to excite, but the usual goose-bumps and butterflies were absent right now because none of the equipment was turned on and the accrued crowd was, at this point, only staff. All of the paying customers were still locked outside and setting up their tents and marquees. Mercy, acting as the photographer and special guest of Matthew Cooper, was standing on the grass, camera to her face, inside of the compound. The main stage was packed with life - crawling across it like ants making ready for their queen. It was a sight worth a thousand words, but as it was preparing, they were also bringing down a cover to hide activity from those gathering outside.

The set-up was immense. Rows of tents could be seen as far as the eye could see beyond the compound, while even now the management were still setting up the dancing stage and running wires back and forth between the stages and the generators. Everybody was rushing; everybody was panicking. Matthew Cooper was overseeing the set-up of the live stream, but he, like Mercy, looked completely at ease. It was part of their job to remain calm and focussed, regardless of anything that might have been going on in their heads.

Thus far, her camera had been only marginally filled by images of the high sun overlooking the people in the camping areas. She had taken numerous shots of people setting up their tents, messing around with acoustic guitars and even, for the more well prepared of the campers, people playing poker and breaking out the alcohol to be ready for the event. Multicoloured and multicultural, the people did not match their multicoloured and multicultural tents at all. The yurt had been something of a surprise, especially when it turned out to be filled with people who were obviously from Liverpool. This had earned quite a picture selection.

Cooper had been quite clear that, since he would end up reviewing these images, he would delete any that contained him, but Mercy had taken a few anyway while he had been setting up the stream. In every one of them, he had looked disapproving. The job at current was just to take pictures of each tent during set-up, so Mercy was taking her time, strolling across the compound in her boots, taking pictures of anything that wasn't likely to escape in the next minute or so. It was an idyllic situation; walking through the grass with the sun bathing her face in heat and not even the slightest wind to disturb her flared skirt.

Unfortunately, this happy delusion of a warm and highly spirited life was soon interrupted by a tap on the shoulder and, before she could even turn to review the guilty party, it was talking to her.

Hey babe, you staff here? it said to her with a deep tone and an early morning drunken slur.

Of course, it was male. The shaven head, the lecherous eyes and the bulky arms even proclaimed it textbook. The sleeves of it's t-shirt left plenty of room for the muscles to show, since it had obviously spent years honing them into a shape reminiscent of creatures burrowing under it's flesh. It was also just tall enough to cast Mercy in shadow, which she was in no way a fan of.

Yes, I'm staff, she answered briskly. The nametag, which read Anne due to the lack of anybody else in the world named Mercy, might have been a giveaway, but since it had also completely missed the bright red lanyard hanging from her neck, she didn't expect much. It was over her breasts and he hadn't spotted it, which was strange. It's own lanyard proclaimed it security, which would explain the black dress code in bright sunlight.

Oh good, otherwise I'd have to carry you out, it said with a laugh. Obviously this security team member was either new or ridiculously stupid. To even touch her would result in inverted testicles. Can I just ask what you're up to?

My job, responded Mercy, waggling her camera at him. I'm the Fire Brand Records photographer, she added when he seemed to miss the point of her actions entirely.

The smirk that it coaxed it's face into showed that it knew it was being patronised, but didn't care for some reason. That's a big job to have at your age, and a lot of responsibility. What are you? Fifteen? Sixteen?

Despite being little more than seventeen, Mercy still found reason to frown because of this query. It is a big job, and I have to go and do it now, she explained slowly, hoping to sound as patronising as possible. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to-

Mercy, we need you over here! Cooper shouted across from the sound and lighting tent that had been set up to the side of the main stage.

The security guard made to say something else, but Mercy had already slipped easily out of the way and started a quick march towards her boss. The man that she was going to was actually a man. The one behind her was more of a thing.

Stop flirting with the help, Cooper told her with a smirk as she approached. Hold this, he followed, handing two wires over to Mercy, then turning around and moving back into the tent.

Do I-

No, wait there, he told her.

This was one of Matthew Cooper's odder habits; forgetting why he wanted somebody. Holding on to two wires, connected to something inside of the tent, was not Mercy's idea of helpful, but he returned fairly quickly with a pair of wire cutters.

There's a bit of excitement coming up soon, announced Cooper as he began to cut the wires to his desired length. We're starting sound check, and I'm sure you know this is going to be a fairly big photo opportunity for you, so I want you to slip onto the stage ready for it before we have too many people here.

How many more are coming? asked Mercy. There are a lot of tents out there, and I'm not all that sure how much room is left. This isn't a huge festival, you know?

It's big enough for us, for now, he responded, distracted. There's still plenty of room to fit sleepers in, it's why I thought it best for us to get hotel rooms under the business account. We're both business commodities, after all.

Oh yes, we are very important.

Of course, said Cooper with a wink. This was one of their many games, but today had to be a little more serious than not. You will have to keep something of a respectful distance from our sound check band by the way, but I'm sure you know how to do that. The stage is fairly long, but a little thin, so you'll have difficulty getting across it without getting in the way while they're performing, especially during the active ones where they decide to bounce around like mad people.

What's the name of the band? Mercy inquired, following the more professional tone.

It's Objective Insanity doing our sound check.

This made Mercy's entire brain pause for a second in pure awe. Objective Insanity were the local big boys, with a record deal worth close to hundreds of thousands and a discography that spanned continents. The fact that they were coming home for a small time festival had been incredible news for everybody involved, but Cooper had kept it to himself that Mercy would be the one taking their pictures, especially now, in the light, before their massive headliner set.

When her brain came back to life, she found that Cooper was still talking to her. -six shots or so of each - we don't want to be biased or anything. It's a shame Taylor couldn't make it; he would have been colossal for this event - quite the showman.

That the one I met last weekend?

Only if you happened to be in Fuse last weekend, but I didn't exactly spot your style amongst the underage crowd, he told her.

Mercy had been in Fuse, due to her minor collection of fake IDs, she'd just chosen to look as different as possible due to Cooper's preference for attending shows there. It was almost as if he enjoyed that type of music, but his musical tastes were not something that he often revealed. She had donned the make-up, thrown on a pair of battered old jeans rather than her usual skirts and intentionally stayed out of his line of sight. She had met Ronnie Taylor; she had wanted to get to know him, but had not been given the opportunity because of his extremely important reputation. Mercy had also been rather drunk at the time.

In her mind, being this sober right now, at a festival, was not an ideal situation.

How many pictures do you want? she asked next.

How many do you have in that camera of yours? Cooper replied smoothly. This, being one of the bigger bands, would undoubtedly be one of the major subjects of scrutiny to come under the view of her camera lens. Why are you wasting time holding wires? They're slipping behind the stage cover now to run the sound check before they start letting people in. Go now.

Quite suddenly aware that she was no longer holding onto any wires, Mercy gave her boss a quick nod before turning towards the main stage and setting off at a brisk pace. The gates backstage were comfortably guarded, but she just flashed the nametag on the end of her lanyard and they let her pass through without a word. She was Fire Brand staff in a Fire Brand funded festival; there was nowhere and nothing forbidden to her.

Her hopes of getting to know Objective Insanity a little were dashed virtually the instant that she arrived on stage and found herself being accosted by their manager, a drab, dull and dumpy man named Alan Jones. They had met before, briefly, and he had proved every part an annoyance as he did this time by steering her almost exactly to her shots, all the while talking in her ear about the obvious skills of his musicians. Cooper had been very insistent that Mercy get along with people this time - a trait for which she was not known, so she offered the briefest of smiles and moved whenever the wretched man's eyes seemed determined to lock onto her chest.

The band themselves were every bit the professionals, but she had no chance to really communicate with them beyond the pictures that she was very consistently instructed to take of their singer. All of these musicians were already on file, but Mercy had been determined to ask a few names and shake a few names herself. This chance was not offered in the entire time that Objective Insanity were testing the amplifiers, speaker set-up and the active PA system. They rushed through a jazzed up rendition of one of their least popular tracks a couple of times, each time adding a little more artistic flair, but Mercy's ears were still being constantly harassed by Alan Jones.

By the time Objective Insanity had stopped playing, Mercy was actually just glad to get our from the claustrophobic little stage. While the cover was still up at least, it was boiling hot and enclosed, despite being moderately roomy lengthways. She had captured a good seven images in the sixteen minutes available to her, of varying styles and hues, but none of them spoke of clear and obvious talent to Mercy. Abruptly aware of the very low number of people that she actually knew at this event, Mercy took the obvious option and decided to head back to see Cooper.

Thankfully, this was made much easier by his presence inside of the security gate. To Mercy's surprise, the sight beyond him was completely different to the one that she had left for one clear and distinct reason: there were people now, and no small count at that. In the sixteen minutes that Mercy had been gone, there were now at least four hundred people gathered outside of the stage, waiting patiently and talking loudly. At first, she was surprised with herself for not hearing them, then a passing thought towards her ears revealed the tremendously loud buzzing that was going on in them. Carrying no earplugs had been a bad move.

How ready are you to get out there? Cooper near shouted at her, though Mercy had to struggle to hear barely a whisper.

Not ready, she tried to whisper in response, though this also did not go to plan. I don't think I'd really like being mobbed. Why, what do I need to do out there?

You need to take pictures, answered Cooper, with his mad smile of the pleasured psychotic. They're letting people in because the first band have ten minutes to set up. From this moment on, things are going to get seriously hectic. Keep your phone turned on and, whatever you do, don't miss a single Fire Brand band. Now, Miss Ensworth, I think we'd best be going to work.

He stepped out through the backstage security gate, shaking hands with the security staff as he did and wishing them a safe and enjoyable day. Mercy followed in his wake. Quite suddenly, she felt that her task might well be a little more daunting than she'd expected.

11 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Lemoninfluence wrote: Inspired by a certain festival in a very dark pool?
    I'm in no way going to hide that.
    Equivalence wrote: This seems very promising, keep it up!
    Eh.., if you say so..right out of the box a big time repititous typo. Long winded description of a sound check that should have been 2 paragraphs. Maybe 3 with the character references. We'll see.
    Eh, pretty clunky prose. Disbelief and Rock Stars read better. I appreciate the little easter eggs-Objective Insanity, Ronnie Taylor-and the like. But mm, hopefully this improves.
    abbydaddy03 : Equivalence wrote: This seems very promising, keep it up! Eh.., if you say so..right out of the box a big time repititous typo. Long winded description of a sound check that should have been 2 paragraphs. Maybe 3 with the character references. We'll see.
    Speaking of typo: It's spelled repetitious. I think that you will find that the main point of what was written here was not to get to the point of describing a solo in Aminor mixolydian on his gloss back fender strat with the little bit of enamel off on the one side. It was to get into the world of the photographer. And, btw, that is very much how a photographer's day goed.