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Dirtscapes

Read. Suffer. Try to Enjoy.

Short Story - Impasse

The band let out a war whoop when they learnt that they had won the Amateur Rock competition. This was it. A chance to play in front of a proper audience for the first time ever. They would be opening for the biggest act in the city right now on the main stage of the biggest college festival. They went home after a great deal of partying. Happy and high.

The day of the main show was action packed. The organizers surveyed the scene with a great deal of familiar weariness. The last lap, the final frontier. Most of them hadn't slept in the last 40 hours or so... with events melting into each other. The worst thing to deal with was the rock show. For a lot of 'rockers', it was one place where one could high, and spend a couple of hours tripping. All it took was an Iron Maiden tee, and a proper level of inebriation. That was in a nutshell, the average visitor's profile. The music was almost secondary to a lot of the visitors. Managing the whole affair took balls of steel.

The amateur band was totally excited about the opportunity. Nearly 2000 people to take their music to. They had barely slept the previous night, and they were accompanied by 50 of their staunchest supporters for their big day. They knew for sure that the crowd wasn't there for them, so that made it all the more challenging. To get the crowd interested in their music was not going to be easy. A couple of popular cover songs, and then their originals. They were going to get 30 minutes...

The headliners strolled on to the stage in the afternoon, surveying the stage and sound setup. Another day in office. The same old cover songs, the same old stage act with faked emotions, the practiced 'reactions' to other people's lyrics. The same old crowd banter ("Do you guys want some bhangra in here? Or maybe some Indipop?"). The same old inciting the crowd to tear the place down routine. Not that the crowd wouldn't respond to good original stuff. But the fact was that they just weren't talented enough to write a catchy riff or a shout along chorus which would connect immediately with the audience and hook them from the first note. And they knew it. And so they stuck to doing what they did best. Being a good cover band. This weakness was masked with a carefully cultivated 'attitude', which drew a little bit of attention away from the fact that they did just one original in each show. For the most part, the ploy worked.

They spied the General Secretary near the stage, and beckoned to him. He ran over.

"Yes guys, what's up?"

"We want to play first!"

"But... that amateur band..."

"Nah man... we're gonna go first."

The amateur band was crushed to hear the news. But they were in no position to call the shots.

The crowds were swelling around the college gates, and entry was delayed by a couple of hours. The security checks done, the crowd started to trickle in. The heavily stoned newbies ran towards the bamboo barricades, and clung on for dear life. The older hands just wondered what the fuss was about, and sauntered around the middle areas, smoking and re-hydrating themselves. Some gloriously smashed ones were puking their guts out on the sidelines.

It was almost time for the show to begin. The headliners had disappeared and were nowhere to be seen. The organizers ran around to get them on stage, and found them in the guest room, comfortably slouched.

"Just a minute man, just getting warmed up here... give us a few more minutes alright?", slurred the vocalist, through a haze of thick, sweet smelling smoke which had a sharp, alcoholic tinge to it.

The cynic smiled. This was going to be good. As part of the organizing team, he had pretty much seen it all.

"We need some whisky in a plastic bottle on stage man... and a couple of packets of cigarettes."

The General Secretary said "Whatever you need, you got it... could you guys please start the show now?"

The headliners walked on the stage. And it was time for the sound check. The vocalist was first, with his usual
"What's up motherfuckersssssssss!!!" routine.

Then came the guitars and drums. One 4x4, and the drummer stopped.

"I don't like the way the snare is sounding here."

One snare beat.

"See?"

another.

"No good."

Everybody stopped, and stared at the sound guy. He started fiddling around with the console, and whatever he did, it didn't make the kings happy.

The snare testing went on for a good hour. Just one snare beat, and some deliberation followed by a proper conference. The crowd was restive, and the organizers were at their wits' end. It was a totally non-negotiable position... the band had them by their balls. The crowd had come to see them, and the money had been paid up in advance. All they could do was wait. The gate collections had been really good.

Finally after an hour and a half, with an 'Ah well, fuck it' expression, the drummer finally resumed his duties, and the headliners began strutting their stuff. The crowd could almost predict the order of the setlist, and were totally disinterested half way through. The same songs, in the same order. Can't they even mix it up a little now?

The headliners went on and on, unmindful. Till it was evident that the cops would be here any minute. It was dangerously close to the deadline, and the amateur band watched with growing dismay and frustration in equal measures.

The headliners wound up abruptly, with 7 minutes to go for the official deadline.

"Good night fuckers."

The amateur band rushed to the organizers...
"What the fuck was that man?!!! What was that all about?!"

The organizers pacified them as best as they could...

"There was nothing we could do, we never know they'd take a 2 hour sound check!"

The amateur band decided quickly on the spot.

"We've got 5 minutes. Even if it is one song, we are gonna play!"

They rushed on to the stage, plugged in, and launched right into their first song. The crowd was in no mood to listen to them, mauled as they were by the preceding act. The boos and jeers started off, intermittently at first, till they swelled into a deafening wall of sound. The band continued, braving it all, till suddenly the sound guy turned off the volume completely midway through the song. The cops had arrived.

The organizers rushed to pacify the cops, who were in no mood to extend the deadline. For love, booze or money.

The emcee declared the show over, and left the stage. Lights dimmed, the amateur band stood there, crestfallen.

The crowd disappeared pretty quickly, they were in no mood to hang around. Except the bunch of 50 fans who had travelled from all corners of the city, to see their favourite band. They stuck around resolutely, crowding around the flimsy bamboo barricades. They started chanting the band's name out loud. A steady cadence like chant, rising in volume and intensity with every passing minute.

The amateur band was watching this from the stage. They were still to get off. A whole day's worth of waiting in the hot sun, the dust, the adrenaline, and the sheer anticipation. Not to mention all those practice sessions. They weren't going to leave without a fight. The vocalist pointed at the group of organizers and volunteers on the other side of the barricades.

"Show the bastards!!!! Give it to them!!!! Fuck them!!!!"

The band name chants grew louder. The fans were shaking the barricades, rattling the sound console, which was being dismantled by the sound guy. He was scared as hell. This was costly equipment. The organizers were even more scared, because they would have to pay him in case there was any damage.

Some volunteers tried to pacify the crowd, only to be greeted with heckling and vile abuse. The jeering continued, as they started to pick on individuals. Anything to get the volunteers to attack first. They were in for a good brawl. The organizers had a tough time restraining the volunteers. A first strike here would be suicidal.

The cynic was tired as hell. This was getting a bit thick. Not how he imagined the fest to end. He fished around in his pocket for a cigarette, and managed to find one. Crushed, and bent. But it would do. He straightened it as best as he could, and lit up. A couple of deep, hungry drags later, he felt a lot better. Nicotine, that little temptress. Always hard to resist her charms.

The crowd was rattling the barricade violently now. The volunteers were scared out of their wits. They couldn't desert the place, till the sound guy had finished dismantling his stuff. Getting more people in here, was looking to be a necessity now. Just in case. The consequences be damned.

Suddenly, there was a lull in the bedlam. The organizers were slightly puzzled. Till they saw the reason. A lone constable sauntering along towards the stage. He had heard the ruckus, and had come along to see what the fuss was about. There was a curious smile on his lips. Hatless, top shirt buttons open, twirling his lathi. The fans saw him, and started to trickle out, one by one. The cop said nothing, did nothing. He just stood some distance off, watching them all the while. The crowd disappeared like magic. Till silence reigned supreme once again.

The organizers and volunteers clapped and hooted in joy, careful not to overdo it. The cop was still around after all. And they all wanted to study abroad. No jeopardizing that aspect, self respect be damned.

The cynic laughed loudly, as he took one last puff, and stubbed out his cigarette in the dust. This had turned out better than he expected.

He hummed "I know, it's only rock and roll, but I like it..." as he got up to cadge a cigarette from somebody.
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12:07 AM, May 24, 2007
Blogger SEV said...

RAIT inspired, I presume :) And the cynicism shines through.. which is just what I needed right now..    



11:27 AM, May 24, 2007
Blogger arpana said...

awesome o sarcastic scorp ... awesome .. seems true life inspired, but nevertheless; an excellent read.    



4:49 AM, May 25, 2007
Anonymous Supremus said...

A story, worthy of wait :) - awesome piece of writing!

S    



6:47 PM, June 22, 2007
Blogger Tapan said...

SEV,
DEFINITELY RAIT inspired...

Arpana,
Thanx...

Supremus,
Thank you...    



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