Not three hours beforehand, the grasses underfoot had been long, lively and willing to push back against any crushing intruder. Since the gates had opened, both to the set-up staff and to the eager public, their spirit had been quashed. If there had been a fight here, nature had lost it already. Contributing to the degradation of the greenery, Mercy followed behind her boss and the closest thing that she had to a friend here. Cooper didn't seem at home. This was made all the more evident by the fact that he kept stopping to introduce himself to people. Either nobody knew who they were, or he just loved telling people his name. Mercy kept those opinions to herself.
After a number of steps that didn't even match the amount of pauses, Mercy allowed the crowd to begin slipping through the gap between her and Cooper. She was grateful for each muttered excuse me', and even for each impolite barge, as it grew the gap between them until Mercy felt quite happy to let her feet diverge her from the path that he had chosen. Following her employer around all day was in no way to Mercy's tastes.
There were multiple rows of people in front of the stage now, but that was never going to be an ideal position to take photographs from. Slipping through the ranks and files with the ease of an accomplished crowd dodger, Mercy considered her options, but the covers weren't even lifted yet. Objective Insanity were likely still clearing room for the first act. Thoroughly annoyed to be feeling adrenaline pumping through her before the acts had even started, Mercy decided that the best thing to do would be to go to the chill-out tent and get herself a nice cup of tea; so that's exactly what she did.
The chill-out tent was a different sort of idea. It was located at the far back of the compound, away from the blasting volumes presented by the main and dance stages. Inside, a collection of people somewhere between being stoned and being completely asleep were the staff. These chosen few exercised their authority by lounging on the battered old sofas, playing around with the play lists of the calming music that they had been instructed to play, and generally lazed about in ways that denoted talent and experience in the field. Anybody else who wandered in was encouraged to follow suit, and this was the whole point of the place.
Having been here before, Ben, who was serving behind the counter, spotted Mercy coming in and set about preparing a cup of tea for her. He did this very slowly, and yet it looked as though it took great effort; as though a customer should feel guilty for having disturbed somebody in such a deep state of relaxation. Ben was a thin man, though tall and a little gangly. His hair had been forced into dreadlocks for the occasion, though it didn't seem all that happy about it. He had dark eyes and well tanned skin, though Mercy mostly liked him for how he made her feel; lazy, apathetic and meaningless. These feelings were essential to combat the rush of responsibility outside. This tent was going to be home.
No words were exchanged. Ben placed her full cup onto the makeshift counter and, where he would normally hold his hand out for money, he simply pointed towards the lanyard around her neck, then sat back down again and put on a pair of sunglasses. Mercy wouldn't have been surprised if he had simply gone to sleep. She added a touch of milk and a liberal amount of sugar, then found herself an empty seat on one of the couches and sank into the dense harmony. This tent was arse-based heaven.
Mercy had only managed three sips before somebody she knew wandered in. Roy Spencer, a bear of a man by any regards, was the announcer for the main stage. He owned one of the local clubs, and acted as a bouncer more often than as a manager. Tall, muscled and hairy beyond words, his movements and his appearance set him out as some sort of caveman figure. Mercy could just about imagine him with a club and a small creature for dinner dragging behind him, but thankfully this wasn't the case just yet.
Howdy, Red, he called over to her, which created something of an awkward moment when he happened to be the only person in the entire tent talking, despite the popularity of it. His voice was deep, and carried far. Great minds, eh? Pretty boys are still settin' up. I ah a laugh too. Objective Insanity, right? As he spoke, Roy drew in closer and, avoiding the counter, took up the seat on the sofa next to hers. They introduced emselves just by initials, which is oh, aye'. That made me chuckle.
This was actually quite funny, but Mercy didn't let it show. She had known Roy as far as an introduction between herself, Roy and Cooper, so conversation topics were instantly sparse. Shouldn't you be out there getting ready yourself? she settled on, eager to respond somehow.
Not yet, he responded, watching the movements of people outside of the tent. I can slip backstage anytime. Wanted a sit down and then I can just work my way up to it, you know? We've got a whole weekend of this; need to be prepared. Sides, that'd mean going back on stage, and that prick Alan Jones is still up there trying to coax more management jobs out o' people.
More hatred of Alan Jones made Mercy's heart leap a little. You're not a fan of his either?
Tried to drown him once. Turns out the slippery bugger can swim.
Well, that's a shame.
Yes, it is. Roy turned to face Mercy, and she took the opportunity to take a quick photograph of him as he did so. In the picture, he had quite a jovial and mischievous smile, as though he had been about to whisper something truly evil into her ear, but after the picture was taken, he looked more like he was pouting. You gonna be doin' that all day? he asked, clearly hoping for a negative response.
It's why I'm here, answered Mercy, reviewing the picture that she had before turning her camera off again. I'm here to capture the good, the bad and the ugly.
And which of those am I?
The bad, hopefully. Roy wasn't much of her type, but Mercy wouldn't consider him ugly. She was far more repulsed by her own thighs of late than by most of the men she had met so far. You are talking about drowning somebody, and that sounds pretty bad to me.
And you wanted me to succeed, surely? Roy teased.
Well, I'm bad too. I suppose I should really get back to work and on stage to take pictures of the first band up.
"Chill out, Red," said Roy. "We're in a place where chilling out is important. I'm the guy who has to be there to announce 'em, well before the cover comes up or anything. You could at least drink your tea before it gets too cold. We've still got all sorts of wirin' problems out there to fight with. Things aren't going smooth just yet. There's a lot of work to do."
The reminder of her ignored cup of tea was a welcome one. It might have been sunny and warm outside, but the relaxing properties of good old fashioned tea were always welcome ones. Her mobile phone, attached to her wrist in its own little bag, was not buzzing, so she could be sure that Cooper wasn't desperately trying to give her a fresh task to get on. Perhaps he was still introducing himself to people, or perhaps he had returned to providing the website stream. He did have a tremendously busy collection of jobs to do. Then again, she was in the chill out tent. Perhaps she could just relax.
Mercy sank a little deeper into the sofa seat and released a long exhale. It was at this point that her phone began to go crazy, vibrating wildly to get her attention. Withdrawing it from it's bag, she could see the little read-out telling her that it was Hannah Little, a friend of hers, calling ahead. She answered eagerly.
"What's the problem?" she asked by way of greeting. "I thought you were just going to come in and set up, no questions asked?"
"Yeah, but we need some help," Hannah shouted down the phone. The sounds of passing traffic were recognisable on the other side. Three of Mercy's friends had come in a car, bringing their own tent and some much needed supplies. It was always nice to have alternative options. "We've got a ton of stuff to unpack, and we're going to have to make another trip. If we drop off the tents and the beer, can you come and stand guard while we go back and get the food and sleeping bags and stuff?"
"I can't, I'm working," explained Mercy. At this point in time, she wasn't of course, but that didn't mean that she had no work forthcoming. Cooper had an odd habit of having immensely complicated tasks for her as soon as she was busy with something else. "The first band will be on in no time."
"Well we can't just leave everything here and go off, you need to come down here and sort this out," was the response.
"Well there are three of you, why don't you just stay with the beer yourself and I'll meet you as soon as I have a free moment?"
"You're such a pain in the arse sometimes Mercy," Hannah complained before hanging up completely.
"She sounded nice," muttered Roy, offering a quick reminder that he had been able to hear the entire conversation. Judging by the general lack of talk in the tent, there was high chance that everybody had heard it, with the possible exception of Ben. Ben was still either fast asleep or pretending to be.
Mercy slipped her phone away quickly and drank as large a mouthful of her tea as she could. The urge to be relaxed and at peace had vanished almost completely. She muttered a quick goodbye to Roy, citing her need to prepare her camera settings in the open air, then left the tent as fast as she could.
Outside, the compound had become thicker and fuller with people, travelling around their preferred stages, indulging in the donuts, the burgers and the beer, which was easily the most popular tent there. People were stocking up ready to get so drunk that standing would become an issue. As Mercy passed the beer tent by, she noticed the member of the security team who had attempted to accost her earlier. He had something of an ugly leer on his face. There was a man who looked both bad and ugly. She passed him by as quickly as she could; thoroughly annoyed that she had already made eye contact.
Cooper was in fact still setting up the streaming section, while the light and sound technicians were standing patiently, ready to perform as soon as it became the priority. All was comfortably in place. No music had started up on the dancing stage yet, but this wasn't much of a surprise. The main stage had to be the first one to start up. Everything else required nothing but patience until then.
Mercy evaded the crowd once again, aiming to slip backstage one more time. She paused at the side of the stage, on the stairs that led in from the side, and looked out over the expectant crowd. They had started to clap, slowly and demandingly. It was a moment worth capturing, so she spend a few doing just that, taking snapshot after snapshot of the waiting and determined masses. It wasn't until Roy Spencer asked her to shift out of the way that she realised just how long she had been there. The first band were ready.
The cover was removed, unveiling the standard hard rock attire and line-up of the first act; Desperadoes. Mercy was on the stage too, hidden just to the side, where the walls stood strong to support the structure. As Roy came up to the microphone, to the cheers and roars of all of the people there, she started taking more pictures of him. In these, he showed himself to be on the good end of the spectrum.
Ladies and gentlemen, he shouted into the microphone, it's time for all of us to get started. His voice, so recognisable from his own club and just by nature of how tremendously powerful it was, brought about a response from everybody there. They wanted to get started. They wanted to get things going. It is my pleasure, continued Roy, his arms held high, to announce the first act of many to come. We have almost a hundred DJs who will be performing in the dancing stage. We have thirty-six performers who will be providing for all of your acoustic needs, and we have twenty-seven hours worth of show time for you right here on the James Frapman stage. Are you ready?
He shouted the last words out over the huddled masses, and they shouted a resounding confirmation straight back at him.
The Desperadoes guitarist began playing right there, which was obviously set-up, but no less effective because of it. It was a clear intro, and nothing more, but it was pushing all of the amplifiers to start showing the people what they were made of.
If you're here to party, let them know. Here come the Desperadoes, and they are leading the pack tonight. So, get your beer, get your fatty foods, and get your music right here in the name of Fire Brand Records. I'm your host, Roy Spencer, and, more importantly, these are the Desperadoes!
In came the drums, a desperate rush of energy that slid firmly into rhythm just as Roy vanished from the sight of the crowd to come and stand next to Mercy. Don't neglect the crowd shots, he whispered in her ear, and stay out of the way.
With a wide smile, and a new friend, Mercy knelt down and brought her camera up to her face.
Copyright Tom Colohue 2010