Dozens of disaffected youths descended on the Neon Duck to watch the Band with No Name rock their socks off. Word was the group had been behind a riot up in Coppleton, and any act worth burning down a pub over had to be worth seeing. There wasn’t anticipation in the air, but there was at least mild curiosity.
Irvine Waltz eyed the audience through a gap in the stage curtain. In the dim, smoky light he could see Oscar Thenmayne III’s purple top hat bobbing through the crowd — and it was a crowd.
‘Good turnout,’ said a voice behind him.
Waltz turned to face Laina Gould, who was nursing a cigarette and looking extremely pleased with herself.
‘How do you just appear like that?’ he said.
‘In my line of work it pays to be invisible from time to time.’ She nodded at the curtain. ‘That Thenmayne boy will have everyone in the room high as kites by the time you play.’
‘They’re here because of that article.’
‘It’s a lot of people.’
‘For some. Do they make you nervous?’
‘Do I make you nervous?’
Gould laughed. ‘A little impetus never hurt anyone.’ She hooked her arm in Waltz’s and steered him backstage. ‘Is everyone ready?’
‘Theo, Bas, and Ray are good to go.’
‘Had writer’s block back at the hotel. He’s writing lyrics in a bathroom stall.’
‘A true bard.’
They turned into the green room - a windowless box dominated by a sofa that looked and smelled like it had been dragged out of a canal. This mattered little to Bas and Ray Sunshine, who had sunk gratefully into its cushions and were staring unblinking at the the ceiling and the wall respectively. Theo Stone sat in the corner nursing a cup of herbal tea and reading a novel.
‘I’ll find Alan,’ Waltz said, and left. Gould went over to Stone, who didn’t look up.
‘What are you reading?’ she said.
‘What’s it about?’
‘I don’t know, it’s postmodern.’
Stone licked a forefinger and turned the page.
‘Clever those postmodern books aren’t they,’ Gould said, ‘how meaningless they are and all that.’
‘Kind of like life, isn’t it.’
Stone frowned and turned back a page. The venue owner stuck his head around the door.
‘Five minutes, Laina,’ he said. ‘Good turnout for something so short notice. The place is buzzing.’
‘Thanks Otto,’ she said. ‘They’ll be ready.’
As Otto left, Waltz steered a sobbing Alan Hazard into the room.
‘We have a problem,’ Waltz said.
Hazard fell to his knees. ‘We have no lyrics,’ he wailed.
‘There was a mirror on the back of the cubicle door,’ Waltz said. ‘He didn’t stand a chance. We’ve got five songs and no words for them.’
Bas stirred. ‘Hhserryi ao iudaoiuttta,’ he said.
‘Read the book?’ said Ray. ‘What are you on about?’
‘He’s right,’ Gould said. ‘Sing what’s in Theo’s book.’
‘Are you nuts? It’s postmodern slop, it’s meaningless.’
Otto’s head appeared again.
BAND WITH NO NAME STRIKES AGAIN
The hottest act this side of Crickle Farm proved itself to be no one-off fluke last night, sending the Neon Duck crowd into a kind of mass scream therapy session.
Frontman Alan Hazard’s wordplay took listeners to another plane of existence. It was not an altogether pleasant plane, but otherly all the same. This reporter is comfortable saying Hazard’s words spoke to universal, ageless truths of the soul.
The rest of the Band with No Name were transcendent. Lead guitarist Ray O. Sunshine wept at his own solos almost as much as those in the audience. Drummer Theo Stone tapped into the pulse of the cosmos. Angels wished they played their harps half as well as rhythm guitarist Bas plays his Fender knockoff.
It was a gig for the ages. Before the final note had faded, the band was gone.