A wall of sound came from the stage of The Bullingdon Arms, a brutal, uncompromising noise drenching every corner of the auditorium. The massive, distorted guitar, a frenetic bass line, a pounding kick drum, all drove the music forwards, brooking no resistance and taking no prisoners. Almost swamped in this bleak musical landscape came the wailing, angst-ridden scream of the singer, his hair a great mane of black, face streaked with sweat and mascara as he strained to invest every note with the poignancy of his tortured soul.
In all, a majestic performance, marred only by the fact his mum and dad stood right at the foot of the stage, full of the embarrassing enthusiasm only ex-hippy parents were capable of. Mum had even fished out her old tie-dyed T-shirt for the occasion.
The one-hundred-and-fifty-capacity venue currently held an audience of thirteen--the sound engineer, the four members of the band, the singer's mum and dad, two teenage girls and the four members of Corduroy Peach. Thirteen, an unlucky number. One of the guitarist's strings broke but he kept on playing. It didn't make a lot of difference to the overall sound.
Marcus, Danny-boy, Dermot and Paul stood at the rear of the room, their backs up against the wall. Mum and Dad grimaced slightly from the noise but did their best to nod their heads and tap their feet in time to the music. Marcus glanced sideways at Dermot, catching his eye and pointing at the shameless pair. Dermot grinned and rolled his eyes. The noise made actual conversation impossible.
The girls in the corner, lanky, leggy things in tight jeans, didn't look as if they appreciated the band's best efforts. One of them gestured with her thumb in the direction of the exit. The other agreed and they quickly finished their drinks and made their way out. As one, Marcus, Danny-boy, Dermot and Paul turned their heads to watch the girls pass. The boys were only looking. No harm in looking.
The music reached a crescendo. Up and up it ratcheted, the singer contorting his face, pouring his soul into the microphone. Clearly quite upset about something, the exact details of his heart-breaking predicament were difficult to discern as he chose to convey them by repeatedly and inexplicably screaming, "Buckaroo."
And then it was over, the final crashing chord, the microphone flung to one side, the singer's emotional energy spent. A brief hum of feedback gave way to silence. Mum and Dad clapped enthusiastically, Dad even managing a few whoops. Marcus, Danny-boy, Dermot and Paul exchanged glances and joined in half-heartedly, clapping one hand on their wrists so they could keep hold of their pints in the other. The lights came up and the sound system came on, playing songs from Kylie Minogue's Greatest Hits.
Danny-boy put his pint on a nearby table and started to extract earplugs from his ears.
Marcus watched the band begin to pack away their gear. "His guitar's a bit cheap, innit?"
Mum and Dad were now on the stage congratulating the singer, who at least had the decency to look a little embarrassed.
"Well, not everybody's got the money to buy a flashy, custom-made guitar like yours, Marcus." Danny-boy pulled out a small plastic box and carefully placed his earplugs inside.
"Well, yeah, it's custom-made, but I made it."
Dermot raised his eyebrows. "What, you made your own guitar, mate?"
Even Danny-boy seemed impressed for a brief moment.
Marcus shrugged. "Well, yeah. Nothing to it really once you've got the right tools."
Danny-boy closed his box of earplugs and put it in his pocket. "Yes, well, I've thought about doing the same thing but it's a time thing, isn't it?"
"Yeah, my arse, Danny-boy, like you could make a guitar," snorted Dermot.
"As Marcus said, it's just a matter of having the right tools."
Paul raised his eyebrows and leered. "You got the right sort of tool then, have you, Danny-boy?"
"Please don't call me Danny-boy, Paul. I really do find it very annoying."
"Yes, but your tool, Danny-boy. You got the right sort of tool, have you, eh, boy? Eh?" Paul moved around in front of the other three, smoothing his comb-over into place, evidently pleased with his crude double-entendre. He had a habit of swaying from side to side as he spoke, especially when excited, and he did it now. Marcus felt giddy watching him. Paul was like a metronome, albeit one which couldn't keep time.
"Be quite a trick if he could make a guitar with his dick, eh, Paul?" Dermot rolled his eyes at Danny-boy and Marcus. They both smiled back as Paul roared with laughter.
"Well, what do you think of them then?" Marcus nodded in the direction of the stage, his tone of voice implying he didn't think much of the band.
"They've got something there, yes." Danny-boy stroked his chin sagely. "A certain sort of raw talent."
"Yeah, yeah, I thought so too. Yes." Marcus felt obliged to agree with Danny-boy. The argument just wasn't worth it. "I thought they were great."
"Ah, they were bollocks, mate," cut in Dermot.
Danny-boy folded his arms across his chest. "Whatever you say, Dermot, they have a certain charm."
"Charm? Bollocks." Dermot grinned mischievously. "If they were so good, why did you have earplugs in?"
"I merely wish to protect my ears. Look what happened to Pete Townsend."
"He went deaf, didn't he?" Marcus tried to remember the details. "Didn't he start appearing onstage in a plastic box or something, because of his tinnitus?"
"My point precisely." Danny-boy looked defiantly at Dermot.
"Well, you just look a bit of a dick with those things sticking out your ears, that's all I'm saying," continued Marcus.
Danny-boy picked up his beer. "You can laugh all you want. If we're going to spend a lifetime gigging, we've got to take care of ourselves." He glanced crossly at Paul for a moment. "Could you stop doing that please, Paul?"
Danny-boy reached out and put his hand on Paul's shoulder, stopping him from swaying. "You're making me feel seasick."
Marcus ran his finger around the top of his pint glass. "The thing is, Dermot, me old mucker, bollocks or not, Lazarus' Kiss have got a gig here in The Bullingdon Arms and we haven't. So, if they're so shite, where does that leave us?"
"We'll play here." Danny-boy leant back against the wall and raised his pint to his lips. "We'll play here, you mark my words." He took a sip. "When we get going, we're going to blow this town away. Listen, boys." He paused, waiting until he had the undivided attention of the other three. "Seriously. We've got a great set of songs. Better than this lot. Better than anyone else on the Oxford music circuit at the moment. We can almost play them through now without any mistakes"--Danny-boy looked at Marcus--"and we just need to work on our image a bit." He glanced at Paul. Paul's comb-over was securely in place, stuck there by the sweat from his forehead. He began swaying again. "We just need to get a handle on those two things and we've got it licked."
Marcus, Dermot and Paul nodded, taking in Danny-boy's words of wisdom.
Danny-boy ran his fingers through his hair. "We are seriously rock 'n' roll."
"We're Rocktastic, Danny-boy." Marcus smiled. "The Rocktastic Corduroy Peach."
Danny-boy looked patiently up at the ceiling. "Could you please stop calling me Danny-boy?"