The Ghost in You by Graham Wynd

The bass thrummed like a distant heartbeat from deep in the earth, as if a long-buried temple called forth its adherents from slumbering death. Frazer didn’t even have to look up from her drum kit to know the band were swaying as one to its tempo. Even Pike who could barely exist without flapping his lips—improvising, scatting, even humming when he had no words to sing—seemed content for a space to just lean into the beat as Jones stretched the chord out on his guitar and the room rolled with it—hypnotised, in the music’s thrall like zombies called by its chant.

You could wield a guitar like a weapon—and sometimes Jones surely did—but tonight it was a kind of repository for all the energy in the room, taking it, swirling it around and sending it back threefold to start the process again.

Keeping the pace on the kick with the precision of a metronome clad in Chuck Taylors, Frazer threw a glance at the bass player. Godfrey was new but it was clear from the moment they lurched into the first tune that he fit in like no other bassist had in the long string of losers they had meandered through. He was a pro for one thing; turned up on time, not drunk, not reeking or strung out. For once there was no need to turn down the amp or throw sticks at his back or shout out the chords. He actually listened to the drumming and he played like madman, filling in the spaces with the occasional manic riff but never losing the rhythm, never kicking out the knitted skein of the song to draw attention to himself. Less is more is less: no more grandstanding or incompetence.

Instead they were here: one with the crowd, such as it was, one with each other and at last at last the feeling that Frazer had known all along could be there—the bliss almost forgotten of a song hanging together, a crowd vibrating to the tune and a taste of what magic there was in the music that made all the late nights and the fights and the bleeding fingers and the shouting matches all worth it. This communion, this glory, this moment of being all together as one with the audience too, and they knew it—they all knew it and they all loved it. It might be no major gig, it might be no major venue, most of them will have forgotten it by the time they put sweat-soaked heads to their pillows that night or morning—but some, some few would know, would remember, would say what it was, what they felt and hold a bit of the magic because it was nothing short of that.

It was in the songs; Frazer had known it but had begun to doubt anyone else might know it.

They might be nobodies from nowhere but after tonight, maybe just maybe they were going somewhere—floating in that shark-filled sea of music life, sure, but sailing on the raft of the songs they wrote.

Songs I wrote mostly, Frazer thought.

But as they whipped the song up to its final crescendo even that didn’t so much matter, because the group really worked, they all pushed the songs and something that had just been words in a notebook and snatches of tune became a god-damned bona fide song when they all joined together in moments like this. Frazer closed her eyes as she pounded out the final beats and nearly collapsed on the kit. They all grinned at one another as the song ended.

There was a moment of silence, just long enough to made them frown and then the crowd went nuts. They screamed like they were on Top of the Pops and the cameras were rolling. The band all laughed and clapped back at the crowd because it was just a perfect almost childlike moment of delight. It worked. They worked. The song worked. And maybe it was just a small hall in a small town all too far from the big lights, but it was a start.

From moments like that great things began.

At least in the past they had from the sweat dripping Cavern Club to the mosh pit of CBGB’s or working men’s club in the north. Surely even in the most unlikely of venues—like this one—legends began. They had to start somewhere, right?

GRAHAMWYND NOIR

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