FICTION: REVENGE CAN BE SWEET BY PAUL MATTS

‘You there yet?’ Daniel’s voice is coming through clearly on my new Nokia mobile phone.

‘Not yet mate. Just met Kush in McDonalds.’

‘Thought he couldn’t make it.’

‘Turns out he can. Now saying he wouldn’t miss it for the world.’

We both laugh.

‘We’ll see Jake inside I s’pose,’ I suggest.

‘Yeah, I guess. See you in a bit.’

‘In a bit mate.’

It’s early July and the sun is on the wane after a strong performance during the late afternoon. A strong performance by this summer’s standards, anyway. The summer of 2005. Leicester, England.

Me and Kush finish our Big Macs and cross the road. And turn right. The vacant grey concrete shop fronts of Granby Street are left behind as we stride excitedly passed a series of newsagents on Halford Street. It’s 7pm. All have staff still tied to their desks. Or hanging on their telephones.

No customers in any of the estate agents though.

‘No way I’m working in one of them,’ I announce to Kush. Whilst dribbling a empty Coke can along the pavement with both feet as we near Free Lane, and pointing to none of the estate agents in particular. But all of them at the same time.

‘None of us know what we’ll do, my friend,’ replies Kush, with an expertly timed tackle leading to the can being knocked into the road and thus, out of play.

Kush is the super friendly, ever smiling type. Quite different from the lad I met when we both arrived at De Montfort Uni a couple of years back. He was nervous, shy and withdrawn at that point.

He is an electronics student, like me. It is this that unites us. I also have been a long time underground music fan. Especially underground punk rock, such as that released on Household Name Records. We are in town tonight to see an example of such underground punk rock. It is to be performed by The Filaments on their farewell tour. The singer is leaving for America, see. Emigration can really mess things up for underground punk rock bands.

Kush wasn’t into anything when we met. Certainly not underground music. Well, maybe he was into cricket. And maybe football. But he soon started hanging out with me as I went in search of underground music in Leicester. I still don’t think he is really into the actual MUSIC, but loves being around people and makes friends whoever he talks to.

Never a bad word, as they say.

We take a sharp left onto Free Lane’s narrow thoroughfare. Young, and old, scruffy looking, spiky looking, studded looking, humanoids (punkoids, as we call them) spill out from the club onto the street itself. It is a one way street, with just about enough room for a vehicle to squeeze down it. It in cast in a shadow, which is a relief on a hot day like this. Black cut off t-shirts abound. Splashed with lurid pink, green lettering and symbols. Tight jeans, and girls in skimpy vest tops, are also in good number.

‘Love these nights,’ Kush grins, mischievously, looking at one such female punkoid.

I nod in agreement.

I can hear the DJ playing The Slackers. Another of my underground favourites. From NYC. We saw them in Leicester a while back. And they hung with us after the show. That is what I love about the Leicester underground music scene. Bands seem happy to drink with us. There is no us AND them. It’s a definite communal US.

We dodge our way through the punkoids sprawled all over the pavement. I am dressed in baggy shorts and a gig t-shirt. Captain Everything are the band emblazoned on it. My ‘look’ isn’t that striking I guess. No disrespect to Captain Everything. It’s a smart t-shirt. Not customized at all though. Not cut off at the sleeves, midriff or anything. All punkoids seem to have customized clothing. I’m a bit of a Mummy’s boy in comparison, basically nicely turned out. I’ve not even noticed what Kush is wearing. In a way that sums up his attire, I suppose.

‘Alright lads.’ Frank, the Geordie bouncer greets us.

‘Alright Frank.’

‘Gonna be packed tonight, it is. Already loads in.’

‘Great stuff,’ I smile, handing over my four quid admission.

‘Enjoy,’ Franks wishes us. And then puts the cash into his bag and thrusts it into his jeans. He’s sweating buckets.

To describe The Attik as scruffy and shambolic would be putting it mildly. There is no cash desk, for example, for Frank to sit behind and take the entrance money. He just stands there and stuffs it in his pocket. But we, and loads like us, love it. It has underground music, cheap drinks and friendly faces. And crap toilets. And it genuinely seems to heave when it is rammed with punters. Which it frequently is on nights when the Household Names bands play.

The black walls themselves seem to drip with sweat, and the upstairs floor appears to bounce with the crowd. It is the same on EDM (Electronic Dance Music) nights, which I also attend. And on drum n bass nights. Which I avoid.

The downstairs bar is already full with punkoids. The DJ has a small dance floor working, and the tiny bar has a three or four deep crush.

‘Looks like we’ll have to adopt plan b,’ I suggest to Kush.

He nods and beams back at me.

This means we order two pints of Fosters (the cheapest drink) each instead of one. I generally down the first one quickly. Kush does the same. Plan b means we already have our second pint with us. So we don’t have to queue up again. Genius.

When he first started coming it seemed to take Kush all night to finish just one half.

A hard slap on my back is accompanied with a familiar greeting.

‘Alright Stefan!’

It’s a red faced, sweaty, smiling, wide eyed Jake. About five foot six, with signs of a beer belly emerging. Short, spiked up dark hair. Daniel, a tall, (trying to be) cool customer, slouches up behind him. Thin, with shiny black hair. Side parted to the right. He also seems uncomfortably hot in the heat of a summer’s night in the bijou independent music haunt.

‘How’s it going fellas?’ Jake shouts, his ever widening eyes looking directly into mine.

He’s already been hard at it, by the looks of things.

‘Okay ta. You?’ Kush responds, looking at Daniel for clarification.

‘He’s a bit too okay, I’d say,’ Daniel smirks.

‘Piss off you toffee nosed..well, I better not be too rude. You keep buying me drinks.’

We all laugh. Jake, like Kush, hasn’t got a bad bone in him.

He just drinks a bit too much too often.

Daniel is easily manipulated by some folk. A bit too nice. Too generous. He comes from a wealthy family, and a few around the scene have clocked onto this. He had a girlfriend for a while, who rinsed him of his allowance. And then dumped him.

She is here tonight, drunk. And rubbing herself up against a couple on the dance floor, I notice. I tut and shake my head at Daniel. He smiles pathetically back at me.

‘How’d the gig in London go?’ I ask Daniel, immediately changing the subject.

‘Really well. It looks like a tour support or something may come of it.’ Daniel beams as he says this.

Daniel ‘manages’ a local band called The Gentlemen. Which means he is their dogsbody. He drives them to gigs, helps fund recordings and equipment, and ensures their rider is in place. Even if the venue doesn’t actually provide one. Which means he pays for it and provides it himself, I suspect. He is also, of course, their roadie. I’m sure he undertakes numerous other undesirable duties on their behalf.

They definitely take advantage of him.

‘The band are coming down here tonight,’ he announces.

Me, Kush and Jake look at each other, puzzled.

‘What, to see The Filaments? Decent music?’ I enquire, a little horrified.

You see, The Gentlemen are the latest in the Leicester conveyor belt of Oasis sounding wannabes. They describe themselves as the ‘new cutting edge indie Kings’. Ironic, as indie for a long time has been the new mainstream. There is nothing cutting edge about The Gentlemen, for sure. And nowhere near to even being decent, either. In my opinion, anyway. And they are a arrogant bunch of dicks with a over inflated sense of their own importance. Just saying.

‘No, to see me. Frank says he’ll give me a shout when they get here.’

We nod, glancing uneasily at each other. Inevitably, my gaze caught Daniel’s ex-girlfriend. And Daniel caught me doing it. Bollocks. I’ve been trying to be so supportive about this too.

Thankfully, right on queue, Frank appears.

‘Your Gentlemen are here Daniel,’ Frank announces.

And off, dutifully, trundles Daniel.

The three of us turn to each other. The door for the upstairs has just opened, which means the gig will start in a few minutes. The live gigs take place on the upstairs floor.

Skin, the sound technician appears next to us on his way to the toilets.

‘Might need my best turd polishing kit for this first lot, lads,’ he remarks on his way by us.

We all laugh loudly. To clarify, this is one of Skin’s jokes. You even get to know the staff here. Frank, Skin, the bar staff.

Skin’s joke is that the band is crap. The support band, that is. So no matter how hard he tries, Skin will not be able to make them sound good. So you can’t polish a turd, see.

A turd is a turd, after all.

‘Let’s go and see this turd then,’ Kush suggests.

‘Okay. They ain’t that bad, I’m sure,’ I know the guitarist, so I feel I need to be supportive.

‘I’ll just go and tell Daniel we’re on our way up,’ Jake shouts and lumbers towards the door.

A few seconds later he returns, just as we’re at the doorway heading upstairs.

‘You’d better come.’ For once, without any smile on his face.

We follow him to the main door. Frank points and ushers us towards Daniel.

Daniel is slumped on the concrete path. His back to a graffiti splashed wall. And he is opposite a large beige double door.

He is sitting, leaning forward. His elbows are on his upright knees. His head is in his hands.

He is obviously upset.

We look nervously at each other.

Kush goes first.

‘What’s up mate?’

The sound of the opening act can be heard emanating from upstairs. Well, more exploding from upstairs, really. They don’t sound like a turd at all.

Daniel slowly lifts his head from his hands.

‘Those bastards have fired me,’ he snaps loudly.

He sniffs. He blubs a bit, also. And returns his head to his hands, elbows still resting on his knees.

Nightmare. To be honest, I have often wondered what Daniel would do without The Gentlemen. They have given him a focus over the last year or so since he dropped out of uni. Daniel has had metal health issues. One time he overdosed. Deliberately I’m sure. On pain killers. Not enough to kill himself, as it turned out. Thankfully.

It was a cry for help though.

So being the manager of The Gentlemen has given an exciting focal point to his life. He has felt important. He has made new ‘friends’.

And now those arrogant bunch of dicks have done this.

We look at each other, raising eyebrows, puffing out cheeks.

Daniel lifts his head from his hands once more. He keeps his head still. His eyes are wide open. He stares ahead. But doesn’t focus on anything. Looking, not seeing. His complexion is clammy, and white. Life appears to have drained from his face. He is silent.

He is in shock, I would say.

‘Do you want to come and check out the band?’ enquires Jake.

I flash an angry glance at him. Right now, the last thing Daniel would want to do is watch a live band, I’m sure. I can’t believe Jake, even drunk, would think this is a good thing for Daniel to do at present.

Daniel does not respond in anyway to Jake’s question. He just sits there, numb.

Jake shuffles from foot to foot. Dumb.

The thing is the three of us have been looking forward to seeing The Filaments for months. We love them. This may be their last tour too. With the singer going to America. Bollocks. Talk about timing.

I settle down next to Daniel. I put my arm around him. I have nothing to say. I know what The Gentlemen mean to Daniel. He has ended up looking a bit gullible, to say the least. Loads will be laughing at his expense within The Gentlemen’s social radar, I’m sure. They all took the piss out of Daniel. With one exception.

As the row exploding from the upstairs ceases temporarily, I hear footsteps clicking. They are getting louder. I look to my left.

It is Terri. Short for Teresa, I think.

Terri is tall and elegant. With a cool 1960s-style haircut. Slightly mod-ish. She is dressed in red which compliments her dark hair and shades.

She removes the shades slowly and crouches down, so she is face to face with Daniel. She gives me a concerned glance.

‘I heard what they did Daniel. The bastards. I’m so angry with them.’

She throws me another concerned look, before focusing her big hazel, sympathetic eyes back on Daniel.

‘How are you, Daniel?’

Silence. I’m not sure her presence has registered with him. How he could fail to notice such beauty is beyond me. She seems really worried about Daniel.

‘Listen, I’m going to have a word with your friends. Then I’ll come home with you and we can have a cup of tea together or something. I want to look after you tonight Daniel.’

Daniel slowly turns his eyes to meet Terri’s. He nods slowly.

‘Good. Let me have a word with your friends.’

She catches my eye again and beckons me away for a word.

Terri is beautiful, kind and assertive She has brains. And a future, I’m sure. God knows how she has ended up going out with Kieran, the dickhead lead singer of The Gentlemen.

‘Kieran has told me they have sacked him as their manager.’

‘Why have they done this to him?’ I ask.

‘They are expecting a new manager to come to the show tomorrow night in the West End of town. They met him in London. They want Daniel out the way, basically.’

‘But Daniel did everything for them. They took his money and all.’

‘I know. I cannot stand to see Kieran treat another human being like this. He’s a self-centred prat.’

‘Daniel has got their gear in his garage.’

‘I s’pose they’ll go and get it during the day tomorrow or something,’ she sighs.

She then whispers..

‘Kieran says Daniel is an embarrassment to them. He doesn’t dress like they do, and isn’t cool enough for them. I’m ditching Kieran by the way.’

‘He doesn’t know that yet,’ she adds.

‘I’m in then,’ I think silently to myself.

‘Okaaay,’ is my actual audible response to this, though. Unconvincing, to say the least.

‘I’ll take Daniel home and stay with him. I knew this would hit him hard. He worships the boys. God knows why. They don’t deserve him, for sure.’

‘I’ll be round tomorrow morning to check on him. With Kush, I think,’ I state.

‘That’d be good. I’ve got work at eleven so I can’t stay with him all day. What’s your name, love?’

‘Stef.’

‘Here’s my number Stef. Text me and then I can have your number too.’

I WILL be in here at this rate. Normally getting a girl’s number is pretty well impossible for me.

Terri moves back to Daniel and puts her hands on his shoulders.

‘Come on you. Let’s go and get a burger and go home.’

Daniel just nods. And slowly drags himself up. As if he’s reluctantly going home with his Mum. No enthusiasm. I’m not sure he knows what’s going on.

They proceed to walk down the thoroughfare. Passed Frank, who nods sympathetically as they do so. Terri’s arm is round Daniel’s shoulder. He just walks, arms flopping by his side.

‘What’s that all about?’ asks Frank as we head back into the club in silence.

‘You know that band The Gentlemen?’ Kush begins.

‘What the band who want to be Oasis?’

‘Minus the talent, style or songs,’ I continue.

‘Yeah,’ laughs Frank. ‘I know ‘em.’

‘Well Daniel managed them. Did everything for them. Even paid for things,’ I explain.

‘What sort of things?’

‘Studio time, petrol for the van, riders.’

Frank widens his eyes in disbelief.

‘Well they went to London for a show. And now a new manager is coming to their gig in the West End tomorrow. So they’ve sacked Daniel and told him they don’t want him around no more.’

‘Bastards.’

‘Quite.’

‘He seems a fragile soul too an’ all,’ ponders Frank.

‘You don’t know the half of it. He tried to top himself once.’

Frank widens his eyes again. He does this quite a lot.

At this point a load of spiky, sweaty punkoids pile downstairs for the interval.

Frank’s attention turns to them.

‘Look after him lads,’ he shouts as we head towards the bar for much needed pints of Fosters.

The Filaments play a blinding set. The black walls of the club are streaming with moisture. The excitement levels are sky high. The shouty, boisterous choruses are sung (shouted) in unison and can be heard over the other side of town, I’m sure. A brilliant gig. One of the best. The Filaments are the best band on the underground punk circuit. The Attik floor seemed to bounce up and down for ninety minutes or so.

But I can’t give it my all. I am thinking about Daniel. I am seriously worrying about his welfare. He IS fragile, as Frank suggested. He can’t cope unless he is busy and focused. Now he will just drift, I am sure. To where, I don’t know.

I cannot believe he is on his own at home with Terri, either. Just saying.

‘I’m going to see Daniel in the morning to check on him,’ I say to Kush and Jake on the way home.

‘I’ll come too,’ offers Kush. I knew he would.

‘I’m at work otherwise I would too,’ adds Jake.

‘No worries. We could have done with your van to drop The Gentlemen’s gear off.’

‘It’d save Daniel dealing with it,’ explains Kush.

‘No way I’d help those bastards.’ End of conversation.

We all nod and enter a late night burger shop.

Cheap one pound burgers all round. Normal routine after a gig.

Eventually I make it to the house I share with a couple of other students. They are away for the summer right now. It is bare and empty.

It has been an eventful night. Not the night I expected.

No way it is alright for The Gentlemen to do this to my mate, and head off into the sunset. No way.

I am vindictive. It is a fault of mine.

I am going to hatch a plan.

 

The next morning I get up early in a determined frame of mind. I have slept on my plan.

I head for Daniel’s house, which is situated in the West End. Not far from the location of The Gentlemen’s gig this evening,

Out of the blue my phone bleeps. I have a text. From Terri.

‘Hi Stef. It’s Terri. Daniel’s parents are here and are to take him home to look after him. I’m here until 10.30am time so if you could be round for then that would be good. The band want to get there gear at about 2pm if ok? I need to give you the key. Terri. X.’

I’ll treasure that text for a while. No deleting it. Hardly ever get texts from girls.

Especially glamorous cool ones.

I reply swiftly. And in style. Kind of.

‘Alright Terri. That’s fine I’ll be there about half ten. Stef. X.’

On route I drop in on Kush, who lives in a typical 1930s student terrace.

‘Ready?’

‘Yep. Just get me coat.’

Coat!!? God knows why he needs his coat. It’s already sweltering. I’m in another smart gig t-shirt. The summer sun has thus far consisted of the last couple of days. Kush wears the same green coat when the weather is like Siberia, or San Tropez. Not that I’ve been to either place, incidentally.

‘Daniel won’t be there when we get round mate. He’s going home with his parents so they can look after him. Terri has been in touch.’

‘She stayed the night then?’

‘Assume so.’ We both have the same envious expression.

‘She’s asked me to let The Gentlemen in later on to get their gear.’

A short pause.

‘I want to get some sort of revenge on those bastards.’

‘Okkaayyee.’ Kush sounds unsure.

We don’t talk any further on the subject as we continue our journey. Instead we reminisce on how good The Filaments were, and how much we love the Leicester Punk scene right now.

‘A good mix of young and old, all looking out for each other,’ Kush suggests.

‘Exactly. All looking out for each other. Like we are Daniel.’

‘You alright mate? That sounded a bit aggressive.’

‘Sorry about that. Didn’t mean to.’

We arrive at Daniel’s place. Terri answers the door. She can’t hang around, sadly.

‘I’m going to ditch that prat Kieran just before the show tonight. He has to learn you can’t treat people the way he has treated Daniel. He’s the one behind this I’m sure. I cannot believe it has taken me this long to suss it.’

We nod. We have nothing to offer. No idea how to talk to girls. Especially in moments of high emotion such as this.

‘Hopefully it’ll mess him up for the show,’she adds.

‘Hopefully,’ Kush responds.

‘Yeah hopefully,’ I repeat. There, said something.

There is no sign of Terri’s anger having subsided.

‘How was Daniel?’ I ask, changing the subject.

‘Not good really. He hardly spoke last night. So I rang his Mum. They came down straight the way. Like they knew the impact this would have on him.’

‘He tried to kill himself once you know,’ I point out.

‘Doesn’t surprise me. Come to think of it, I heard Kieran and the lads laughing about that once. Bastards.’

And with that, Terri is gone. Seething.

Kush looks directly at me.

‘What revenge have you got in mind?’

Without hesitation I begin to explain my plan.

‘The bastards are coming to get their gear this afternoon.’

Kush nods, maintaining my gaze. Matching it in intensity, in fact. He’s in.

‘We could sabotage their gear. So the show doesn’t go so well in front of this new manager.’

‘It’d have to be in such a way it appears normal. We can’t just cut a wire or two. They’d spot that in the soundcheck.’

I know. They don’t soundcheck much, Daniel used to say. And they do have trouble from time to time with the guitarist’s instrument, he also told me. He only has one guitar, too.’

Kush nods.

‘So if his guitar breaks he’s knackered.’

I nod and continue.

‘So if we use our electronics know-how to say, do something to the input so the solder weakens significantly, it’d slowly keep cutting out. After about ten minutes there’d be no sound coming out at all.’

‘They’d look a bunch of prats.’

‘Also, it’s the sort of thing Daniel would have repaired in the past.’

‘Would serve them right if this goes to plan.’

‘Should have kept Daniel.’

‘Indeed.’

Daniel was also an electronics student until he dropped out of uni. Handy for repairing The Gentlemen’s equipment.

We get to work. It looks like the solder inside the input is about to crack anyway. So loosening the nut and cracking the solder further will make malfunction guaranteed. Inevitable, really.

‘Malfunction guaranteed’ sounds like a name of a punk band. Digressing now.

Just for good measure, Kush does the same thing to the bass player’s instrument.

Operation complete, we return the instruments to their cases.

‘It might not work, you know. They’ll probably be megastars anyway,’ Kush complains.

‘There’s no way those instruments will make it through tonight. They’ll start off okay, then deteriorate before packing up completely. The band will look like a bunch of prats. Then they’ll start falling out on stage.’

‘And finally they’ll look like the amateur, arrogant, shit dickheads they really are,’ I conclude.

About half an hour later there’s a rap on the door.

‘They’re here,’ Kush announces.

I answer the door. Very slowly.

‘Oh. Thought Daniel would answer,’ one of them reacts upon seeing me.

No sign of Kieran.

‘Well he’s had to go away for a while,’ I say coldly.

‘Oh,’ another replies, taking a puff from his cigarette.

And then blowing the smoke in my direction.

I smile back sarcastically.

‘Your stuff is in here,’ I state, pointing to the garage. I walk over to the blue, flaky wooden door and unlock it. I open the door and beckon them in.

‘You helpin’ us then,’ another of them asks, expectantly.

‘No.’

Clearly they’re used to Daniel doing everything for them.

‘Oh. Have to do it ourselves, then.’

‘Yep.’

I go back inside the house. No intention of helping this lot. It’s funny to hear them complaining as they load the gear in the van. Clueless how to do it efficiently. Clearly Daniel must have done all of this for them while they were lauding it up as rock stars. They even manage to pull away with the back door open on the van. One of the drums rolls out. Hilarious. It’s like ‘Carry on gigging’ would be if such a film were to be made. Which it should be.

Eventually they are gone. Kush looks at me.

‘Shall we go along tonight?’

‘Definitely. Should be a car crash of a gig.’

I smile to myself. And let out an evil cackle.

 

The sun has put in another strong performance this afternoon. It is now on the wane once more as we make our way to the gig.

My new Nokia rings.

‘You there yet?’ Jake’s voice is coming through loud and clear.

‘Not yet. Just met Kush in McDonalds. Ten minutes mate.’

‘Okay. See you in ten then. I’ll have a beer and wait in the pub.’

Me and Kush are jostling for control of another Coke can as we head towards the West End. It drops into the road and thus out of play as soon as I put the phone back in my pocket.

‘Don’t know if I’m looking forward to this,’ Kush confesses.

‘Me neither. We’ve gotta go though. We’ll never know how it went otherwise.’

‘Better not let on if things do go wrong though. Or right, from our point of view.’

We laugh. Wickedly.

‘For sure. Don’t say anything to Jake. Not until afterwards, anyway,’ I persist.

‘Probably not even then. Not sure I could trust him to keep his gob shut when he’s had a few.’

‘Good point. Total shtum then. Just between you and me right?’

‘Right.’

We emphasize the accord with a fist bump.

‘Hang on. Is that Terri?’

‘Where?’

‘Just there…near the burger bar. Just getting into the cab.’

‘Aah yeah…I see her now. Looks like she’s having a row with that prat Kieran.’

I smile to myself. It looks like the first phase of the evening’s events may be  happening.

‘WELL… SOD YOU! YOU’VE LOST THE CHANCE TO BE WITH A ROCK STAR,’ Kieran bellows as the cab pulls away. He then hurls his pint glass to the floor, punches the wall and heads back into the venue. Holding his fist. The idiot. Like he didn’t know punching a brick wall with his own fist would hurt.

‘It looks like she just ditched him then,’ summarizes Kush after a pause.

‘Err …yeah. Looks like it.’

I smile to myself once more. Karma, Kieran, karma.

And I have Terri’s number. Though the chance of me actually being successful if I ask her out are about as possible as The Gentlemen being able to write a decent tune. And then be able to play it with charm and appeal. Pretty low. Virtually impossible. Forget in then.

It’s not what’s important tonight though. It’s about Daniel. To equal things up a little.

We meet up with Jake in a pub about a hundred yards from the venue. A modern bar, with chrome everywhere. It also serves bottles of beer. Not pints. Everyone inside looks like they’re off ‘Big Brother’ or something. Trying to be famous.

Except us. And Jake. And his crowd of mates.

‘We’ve decided we ain’t going to the gig,’ announces Jake.

‘Don’t wanna give those tossers our cash,’ CJ explains.

CJ is Jake’s mate. Sometimes he goes to the Household Name punk shows. Looks almost exactly like Jake. Small-ish, with a beer belly on the way. Ginger hair though. That’s how you tell them apart.

Jake then positions his bottle of Becks a foot from his mouth, like a microphone. He eases me away slightly, to give himself space.

‘Plus…they’re SHH-IIITE!’ Jake bawls into his make shift microphone.

Queue much laughter. At Jake’s impersonation of Liam Gallagher. Quite funny, really.

We swallow a quick bottle of lager each, bid our farewells and head to the gig.

‘Seven quid mate,’ the doorman deadpans on our arrival.

‘What…seven quid!!?’ Kush exclaims. For the second time in twenty four hours his smile disappears.

‘They’re gonna be famous mate. It’s cheap.’

I give him a sarcastic smile. We reluctantly pay up and enter the venue. It’s packed, to be fair. Rent-a-crowd, but full none the less.

We get a Carling each and stand at the back. The Gentlemen saunter on to the stage more or less immediately.

I have a strange sensation in my stomach. Butterflies. Like just before an exam. Or a visit to the Dentist. Nervous tension. Me and Kush look uneasily at each other. And say nothing. It’s like waiting for a battle to commence.

I watch closely as the guitarist straps on his instrument. He strums it. It makes the usual ‘joink’ noise a mildly distorted guitar does as the player checks it just prior to the start of a performance. To ensure it’s still working, see. If he only knew what was about to happen to him.

Kieran the prat mumbles something inaudible into the microphone. The crowd cheer.

They then launch into the first number.

I say ‘launch’. It’s pretty turgid really. The guitarist jangles a distorted chord sequence, the drummer teases us with half a rhythm. The bass player checks he’s playing the correct notes, Kieran whoops into the microphone and they’re off. Into mid paced tedious indie monotony. The crowd love it though.

Actually, it has a decent chorus. People sing along to it. It’s pretty good, though I hate to admit it.

I begin to feel guilty. Have I misjudged the band? What if I am about to rob the public of the best indie band since Oasis? What have I done? And, if all goes to plan, I could have wrecked the night for everyone in the venue to boot. Didn’t think of that.

Too late now. I just worked from my own agenda.

And sure enough, the guitarist’s instrument starts to play up towards the end of the first song. I’m not sure many other people have spotted this. I certainly have. Ignoring his plight, the drummer immediately starts the second number. The guitar cuts out a little more.

The guitarist starts to look panic-stricken. Even his sixties hairdo suddenly looks on edge, somehow.

Kieran starts to glare with anger at him under his own David Beckham-style barnet. He looks furious.

Eventually the guitar cuts out completely, leaving only the bass and drums sounding. And the bass is starting to cut out too. Finally, it all grinds to a halt.

The drummer hurls his sticks in the air. Whistles and ironic cheers are immediately heard from the crowd.

Kieran the prat once again mumbles something inaudible into the microphone. I make out loads of f-words.

I am sweating. Panicking. I am also on edge. Like the guitarist’s sixties hairdo. This is my fault, remember. Extreme guilt creeps in.

The band come together in front of the drum kit. They are shouting at each other, pushing and shoving. Eventually the guitarist rips off his instrument and lobs it at the drum kit. Kieran slaps him round the face. He in turn launches himself into Kieran and before you know it, all four of them are rolling around the stage, punching and kicking one another.

The crowd cheer. But the cheers soon start to subside. Boos, hisses and more whistles soon take over.

The Gentlemen continue to brawl. In rock n’ roll history, on stage bust ups and violence at gigs are common place. Jesus and the Mary Chain, Sex Pistols, The Who. But those bands are legendary, great acts who earnt the right to have violence at their shows. Not so this mob. They just look pathetic.

Had Daniel been here, he could have fixed the problematical instrument in five minutes flat. Serves them right.

I look to my right. A gent in stylish clobber, and with a cockney accent, curses out loud. He finishes his drink. He slams his empty glass down. And heads briskly for the exit. As if his time had been wasted.

I clocked him as we arrived earlier. Possibly as being the manager who had travelled up from London to see these bastards. I’d be annoyed. Come all this way to see…an on-stage brawl. Not even a good one, either.

I look at Kush. He looks back. Both of us have glum, serious expressions. Inside though, my previous tension and concern has given way to euphoria.

This couldn’t have worked out better.

No-one, I repeat no-one, messes with my mate Daniel. Or any of my other mates.

People like me, and Daniel, and Kush may be quiet. You may not notice us. But when we plan to punch, we do so with devastation. We do it properly.

 

A week or so later I run into CJ in McDonalds. I’m on my way to meet Kush.

‘How’s your mate Daniel?’

‘He sent me a text the other day. Said he’s doing okay. He’s with his parents. No plans to return to Leicester just yet.’

‘I heard that band he managed have split up. That gig was a disaster, they ended up kicking the shit out of each other on-stage. So I’ve heard.’

I nod calmly. And look him in the eye.

‘Yeah it was a disaster. I was there. It was a real car crash of a gig. Shame.’

Maybe they had it coming. I heard they weren’t the nicest bunch.’

‘Yeah. Maybe CJ. Maybe…’

‘Okay Stef…see ya.’

‘See ya CJ.’

I turn to the counter to place my order.

‘Big Mac meal please.’

With a wicked serving of revenge. As a side.

Bio:  Paul Matts is the author short stories such as ‘Donny Jackal’, ‘One More Season’ and ‘Revenge can be sweet’. His debut novel ‘Toy Guitars’ is to be published in 2019. He promoted live Punk rock shows under the name 101 Productions and has been the guitarist and songwriter for the Incurables. He has also been a grass roots football coach for all his adult life. He lives in Leicester, England with his wife and children. He has recently started work on his second novel. See www.paulmatts.com for more information. And to subscribe to his mailing list and blog.

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