It was their first ever encore. The others wouldn’t have paid attention but Frazer had been waiting for such a moment to come. Ego, yeah. So what? You had to have an ego to get out there every weekend and play to the punters who seldom care if you lived or died—actually, most of the time they’d preferred that you died so you would just shut up and they could fill the jukebox with coins and play Van Halen or Katy Perry over and over until their ears bled.
But not tonight. Tonight was magic and the crowd called for an encore. The crowd, the audience: not just Pam and Janet, the girl friends of Pike and Jones. The pair were always there, the gruesome twosome they called themselves. Sometimes more happy to chat to each other than to pay attention. Admittedly they heard the songs a hundred times or more, nothing new. They were great at getting the drinks in and even better at cheering the spirits of the lads on bad nights. There were always bad nights. But the two of them were always full Macca thumbs-up for the band. Not like Olive. Remember Olive? They all remembered Olive.
The people you surround yourselves with have a lot to do with the quality of your life. Doubly so if you were trying to make something, do something beyond your dead-end job that you forgot once you were punched out and out the door.
An encore, a real encore. Pam and Janet were cheering away but it wasn’t even them that started chanting, ‘More more more!’ How do you like it, how do you like it, well they liked it just fine. They felt it too. They wanted more.
Frazer looked up, sticks in hand, in wonder. Pike caught the grin on her face. Did a double take. More more more! The chant was real. And louder. Some feet stamping. They had a hit of it and wanted more. Wanted the high to last. Pike collared Jones, who’d already slung his Gretsch over his back, plucking his sweat-soaked shirt from skin. He stared in wonder at the crowd. Godfrey shook his head, not a no but a kind of disbelief.
There was a moment of swaying disbelief. It might have all got away, but Jones swung the guitar back around, looked at Frazer and grinned. They didn’t have any songs left that they hadn’t done already. It was a thing with them all that they never did covers. All original songs, live or die.
But now was not the time for purity.
Pike stretched out the first word so long Jones had to stumble to hold back the next chord and we were all grinning like maniacs but we were together, a unit, in sync. And the audience was too. They had let out a whoop at the first notes so loud we might have been the Kinks themselves on stage or as near as was going to get here in the back end of nowhere tonight anyway. They sang along, shouting out the words as if their lives depended on it and howling at the chorus, shrieking to punctuate the lines.
Frazer nearly collapsed on the kit with the final bash. A sudden wave of exhaustion hit her. They had worked that night. Good work. Sleep would come. No restless obsessive thinking about what to do next time, what had gone wrong, why could Pike never hit that note quite right and did it really matter, should the song change or the singer until it was three and the night too short.
Pike was hopped up now and caught her eye. He wanted more. Frazer shook her head though. They weren’t going to turn into a cover band. It was a little gift for the audience who had been so good to them but no. No more covers. It felt good to belt out something familiar, shared, a little ragged—they had only ever fooled around with it to warm up—but play another and that’s what they’d remember. A cover band.
They took the applause with gratitude. Even bowed with an ironic Beatle formality before laughing and punching one another in the arm. This is what it could be, Frazer thought. This is what it will be if I have to drag them all kicking and screaming into the future.
The high survived leaving the stage. They just about floated into the little dank chamber that served as a dressing room. Pike jabbered a mile a minute whilst Jones nodded enthusiastically. Godfrey just grinned and shook his head as he put the battered two-tone Fender back in its case after wiping the strings and the body with a soft cloth.
Frazer made a quick change of her top, which was wet through and threw on a hoodie for good measure. Her arms ached in a good way. Probably worth icing them before bed; hot bath tomorrow. At least there wasn’t a band on after them so she didn’t have to rush out and break down the kit immediately.
‘They really liked the new one,’ Godfrey said.
‘Yeah!’ Pike agreed. ‘It’s got a good hook.’
‘That’s all Jones,’ Frazer said. She knew it wasn’t just the hook, but it didn’t matter as long as they all liked it, too.
Jones threw his arm around Frazer and Pike. ‘We fucking ruled the night.