From Aural Innovations #33 (March 2006)
They say that things are not always what they seem. That all events can be viewed from several different angles. And that no two witnesses' accounts will ever totally balance with each other. They will see things from their own personal perspective. Tainting the facts to conform to their own past experiences and biases.
They say that justice is blind. Blind to the facts. Blind to reason. And blind to common sense. Justice does not know what the truth is. It doesn't care. Justice is nothing more than a crap shoot - a game of chance. Where the privileged few in power make all the rules. And the average Joe is left to fend for himself.
The search for the truth boils down to two main questions. How far you are willing to go? And what risks you are willing to take? Once you've answered these questions, you're ready to start digging deeper beneath the surface. And find out just where the truth really lies.
The forecast for the weekend was dark and foreboding. The weather wizards were predicting the worst of outcomes. Deep inside their doppler radar crystal balls - a storm had manifested itself off the Oregon coast. Waiting to slam into the Pacific Northwest. Ready to unleash its angry winds and unrelenting downpours of tropical rain.
Off in the distance, beyond the core of downtown Portland, there were tiny blood-red spots flickering and glistening like rubies as they randomly blinked on and off. They were set in clusters on steel lattice masts that towered above Skyline Drive. Sprouting from the crest of the West Hills. They reached up toward the heavens. Lancing the roiling stew of dark angry clouds - the brooding emissaries of the advancing tempest.
I angled over to the curb. Straightened out. And slowed to a full stop. There was a tall, lush, green hedge flowing down the block - and several strapping trees growing next to the kerb. A tree trunk was blocking the passenger door.
It was extremely damp and gloomy at the corner of Northeast Ash and Ninth Avenue. And for good reason. There were absolutely no streetlights located on the side streets in this part of town.
The old desolate Pine Street Theatre was just a darkened husk against the cloudy skyline. Standing kitty-corner over on the next block. It had seen much better days under the guise of La Luna. Back when the likes of Nik Turner's Space Ritual, King Black Acid, Sky Cries Mary, the Dandy Warhols, and others of their ilk graced its stage. Packing 'em in with their aural delights. It was a mecca of music. The final frontier. Now it stood empty and forgotten. Just another relic of the past.
I switched off the headlights and windscreen wipers. Killed the engine. Switched on the map light. And started leafing through the pages of a local weekly rag.
I stopped when I came to a dramatic looking photo. I ripped out the page. And studied the four grim faces in the lineup. Two of them were former Bella Low gang members. The hoodlum on the right was the most menacing looking of the lot. He was known as - The Duke.
After I finished burning their mugs onto the back of my retinas, I folded the page and filed it away in the glove box. I snapped off the map light. Stepped out of my puddle jumper. Flashed the headlights twice. And swung the door shut.
I turned up my collar. Tugged the brim of my fedora lower. And headed north up Ninth Avenue toward Burnside. Toward the venue listed in the article. I walked pass shuttered doors, full dumpsters, broken glass, and razor wire fences. It was hardly a working-class neighbourhood.
Only a few blocks west of this location was where the illegals gather to wait for offers of casual work. They loiter around a convenience store and a vacant lot. There were two pay phones located there that served as their makeshift urban office. This was also where they waited for cars to pull over to the kerb to negotiate their terms of employment. Sometimes they found work. And sometimes they found more than they'd bargained for - murder. COLD BLOODED MURDER!
I wondered what kinda jaspers I would run into at the venue on a night like this. It was hard to tell for sure. That rag had heaped an awful lot of praise on these shoegazers. Their long awaited second album was being touted as the cat's pyjamas. The best thing since the repeal of prohibition. High Praise in deed!
I reckoned that the joint would be packed to the gills. The threat of an impending tempest wouldn't detour the faithful. They'd flood the joint like frenzied lemmings. All hopped up on the euphoric bliss provided by The High Violets.
I popped a red capsule and soldiered on in silence.
The Doug Fir Lounge was definitely a joint to see and to be seen in. Open for roughly a year, it quickly started drawing some pretty snazzy indie acts down in its subterranean music bunker. It was located beneath a diner. At a very distinctive plot of land. A building stood on the corner of Ninth and East Burnside like most buildings do. But what struck you straight away was the glaring yellow glow reflecting off its sandy stones. Stones of all shapes and sizes. Rising up from the glistening rain soaked sidewalk - forming a bright yellow beacon. Like some jagged slag heap aspiring to be a temple on the mount.
A large panoramic window faced north toward East Burnside. It was dark inside. But not dark enough to hide the lurking figures sitting at tables - in gigantic brown booths - beneath large classic chrome ball lamps dripping thick amber pools of light. They were drinking in the intimate atmosphere. Getting to know each other better. Eating. Imbibing intoxicating elixirs. And engaging in all known varieties of social intercourse. They could do this continuously from 7am until 3am. Seven days a week. Or until their money or their livers gave up the ghost.
The driveway sloped upwards from the street. Heading up into an open court. It was surrounded by eerie walls illuminated in stark pale-blue light. Light that was leaking from sporadically spaced cylindrical porch globes. These sombre walls housed the distinctively unique rooms of The Jupiter Hotel. A budget priced boutique hotel that was an eclectic place to mislay your head when the sandman did it in with his magic bags of shifting slumber. It was also the portal to and from Portland's indie-rock scene.
Yeah, it was one of those rare venues where you could go see a show and literally make a night of it. Practically crashing right where you saw the show.
For some reason, the harshness of the stark pale-blue lights made me feel like I'd ventured into a doppler-shifted red light district. Well, it was only a few blocks away from the Burnside Bridge - the gateway to OLD TOWN. Where vice sometimes had its virtues. But that's another story. A story that had slipped down between the cracks that line the mean grey streets of the Ashcroft jungle.
I hung a Louie. Breezed into the foyer. And stopped at the stairs leading down to the lounge.
The girl at the till looked up at me.
I fished out a ticket and passed it to her.
She took my ticket and stamped my wrist. I could hear the first band playing as I ventured down the stairs toward the lounge doors. I entered and just stood on the landing - gazing around the lounge. To my right there were a few short steps that led down to the dance floor and stage.
The floor was covered with balloons. Multicolored balloons. They were gathered near the centre of the floor. Beneath a darkened mirror ball. They were slowly moving around the people standing on the dance floor. The balloons appeared to be patrolling the lounge. Some of them had migrated to the edge of the stage over on the south side of the room.
There were about 75 people in the lounge. More than I would expect this early in the evening. That meant that it was going to be packed by the time the High Violets hit the stage. I gazed over to the left of the landing.
The High Violets' drummer was standing guard next to the merchandise closet. Patiently waiting for some pigeons to come his way. He was blocking the passageway to the restrooms. It was a cleaver location to sell merchandise. Everyone would eventually find themselves over there sometime during the night.
I strolled over to Luke "The Duke" Strakota. He was just like his image on that page in the weekly rag. With a mug that would feel right at home in an old James Cagney classic - Public Enemy.
I tried to make myself heard over the loud music and pointed at the stack of freshly minted CDs in the merchandise closet. I asked him how much the CDs were going for. His lips moved like in one of those old silent movies. He held up ten fingers - spread wide - so I could see 'em all real easy and plain like. As plain as a white picket fence round the tellers cage in the Cascadian Nation Bank. Just like I had him covered with the business end of a smoking gat.
I nodded and said "Fine."
He reached into the closet and handed me a copy of the new High Violets album.
I gave it the once-over and held up two fingers.
He shot me a stern glare and defiantly held up ten fingers. And shook them in my face.
Did he really expect me to haggle over how many copies I should buy? At least he hadn't curled his fingers into a tight fist. I reckoned he could pack quite a punch if he put his mind to it. Perhaps with enough force to drop an opponent with just one blow - and send him skidding helplessly across the floor. I slipped him a double sawbuck and held up one finger. Just like the coppers do when they give you a sobriety test.
"Okay. I'll take one more." He peered down at the bill. Squinted at the green face of Samuel L. Jackson. Then looked back up at me. His eyes went wide. And his mouth quickly formed an apologetic "Oh."
I waited politely.
He grabbed another CD and surrendered it to me.
I raised both jewel cases up to my ears and struck the pose of a wise monkey. Hear-No-Evil.
"Yeah. One for each ear."
The Duke beamed like he'd just won the Irish sweepstakes.
"Thank you... thank you...."
I nodded and walked pass him before he had a chance to go into an acceptance speech. I needed a drink. And I needed it fast. But first I needed to step into the Gents Room.
Once inside, I studied the CD. It was titled "To where you are" in a small, white, cursive font. The track listing on the back was in a bolder, black, cursive scrawl. The CD was on the Reverb Records label. An Irish outfit that had a soft spot for shoegazers.
I unbuttoned my topcoat. Removed my scarf. Wrapped it around both CDs. And stuffed them in the outer left pocket. I readjusted my shoulder holster - and stepped back out into the lounge. I strolled casually across the luminous tiled floor that surrounded the bar. It glowed a harsh shade of white that bore a faint tinge of yellow. I squinted at the beer taps. Thought over my options. And settled for the lesser of all evils.
I made eye contact with the barmaid. Flagged her down with a fin - a crisp green Lemmy. Then ordered a pint of Black Butte. I ducked around the side of the rectangular bar - all the way around to the back wall. And sat down in one of the padded black stool-chairs. There was a good clear view of most of the lounge from here. And everyone had their backs to me. This gave me total privacy while I sorted out a few fine details and kept a diligent eye on the crowd.
I reached inside my topcoat and withdrew my Canon from its holster. It was time to get down to business. And get ready for some real action.
I moved to the far corner where I could get off a clear shot. The wall was made up of hand peeled pine logs. They had a slight gold tinted, lacquered appearance. Maybe it was the lighting. I didn't know for sure. I'm no lumberjack.
There were people seated in a cosy little area - like a miniature corral at a dude ranch - just beyond the luminous floor tiles. A bench lined the wall over there and a few chairs were standing around three small glowing tables. The tables were frosty-white opaque cubes. Glowing with a numbing intensity. Like gigantic radioactive dice - sans the distinctive concave ebony spots. The only indication of their value were the number of cocktail glasses they supported.
The cubes had come to rest as: 1, 3, and 2. Was this a new variation on Sixie from Dixie? I wouldn't bet on it myself.
The dame sitting at the table closest to me was a brunette. Her hair was shoulder length. And she was wearing a silky-black, bare-backed dress - with no visible means of support. Her shoulders were totally bare. Soft, smooth, and very white. Like cream cheese. She certainly wasn't a Little Phoebe. And she definitely wasn't a preacher's daughter. Not by any means. She was one hot number. With a figure that could blind a certified accountant.
An orange balloon was nuzzling the corner of the glowing cube she was leaning over. I half expected it to blush or burst. It did neither. It maintained its curious probing and prodding in the cube corral. As if it had an intelligence all its own.
I raised my Canon. Aimed. Shot the scene. And advanced to the next round. I figured I might as well capture a bit of the joint's anomalies, distinctive decor, and unique atmosphere while I was gathering information. It might prove useful later on.
A yellow balloon rolled around the corner of the bar. It was working its way slowly toward me.
I returned my Canon to its holster.
The balloon stopped advancing.
I moved away from the corner. Cautiously stepped around the balloon. And relocated to the front of the bar. It was time to mingle with the beautiful people. The people that had turned up for the show. The beguiling charmed ones - who came to see .. and be seen.
Some of the dames had dressed to the nines. Most had dressed up a bit to reflect their eclectic tastes in fashion. And there were a few jaded souls that had been inspired by a five-and-dime. The average Joes were not so fashion conscious. But a few had decided to dress real snazzy like. Most dressed casually. But a handful of the real hard cases - were still serving life sentences - at Woolworth's.
One of the classier dames shot me a smile and closed in. She was wearing an eye catching blouse with a vibrant floral pattern. One of those technicolour extravaganzas. And she was doing it real proud.
"What's with the camera?" she cooed.
I drew my lips back from my teeth.
"I'm gonna shoot a few people, sweetheart."
Her eyes lit up.
"Oh. Have you thought of going multimedia?"
"Nah, I'm strictly old hat. I just shoot 'em. Someone else can slab 'em."
"Well, think it over. I'm just around the corner. The name's Bonnie Vox."
She giggled. "Bonnie." Her eyes twinkled mischievously and her voice cooed, "Bonnie... Vox."
"I'll think about it."
"You do that." She flashed a pretty mean smile. And turned in full profile - showing off the finer points of her figure. Her predatory eyes scanned the room. She was already searching for another potential victim. She was multitasking.
Miss Vox was a maneater. She was on the prowl. She was on the make. And she wouldn't rest on her lethal laurels until she'd bagged a live one. Hooked on her line, flashy lures, and tantalizing charms. Smiling as her quarry squirmed under her sharp talons. Cooing as she slowly peeled away their social camouflage like so many thin layers of onion skins. Until only a small core and an stinging trail of tears were left behind.
Miss Vox was staring out over the dance floor - looking directly at the stage.
"Oh, look at that," she cooed. "You really must go down there and take some photos of all those beautiful colours!"
I drew my canon and smirked.
"Yeah. I suppose I should at that."
She gave me a cute little wave of her hand. And flashed those pearly whites one last time. She'd decided to cut her losses. I wasn't biting. I raised my glass. And liquidated the contents. It was time to get back to work. Duty called.
I took a few shots of the Digital Dolls to warm up. Then I decided to take a few more shots of the decor that made this joint so unique. The woodshed style cross sections lining the bar - stacked above and below its counter top. The old-growth log cabin style walls. The luminous floor tiles. And the glowing cube shaped cocktail tables. all those things that gave this joint that Daniel Boone meets Matt Helm appearance. Familiar and yet somehow grossly out of place. Like somebody's tripped out idea of a futuristic truck stop out in the wild frontier.
The Digital Dolls were still playing. They were not exactly my idea of a riveting band. They are a bit too mellow. And very young. Give them time. They'd shape up. Most bands do.
A chap with a trumpet joined them on stage. Suddenly their music sounded more like New Orleans blues with a dose of jazz thrown in for good measure. I must admit it was a vast improvement. Creating an atmosphere much more to my liking.
I leaned up against the jagged white stone wall at the end of the stairway landing. Just killing time. Searching for familiar faces in the crowd. While I waited for the main event to take centre stage. And for them to begin this beguine.
Something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. A minor commotion of some sort. I gazed over at the merchandise closet.
A dark haired individual was standing over there chatting with the Duke. He looked a bit like Jsun Atoms. Another former Bella Low gang member. I wasn't positive it was him. But if it was, it sure would be a mighty interesting coincidence that he should just happen to turn up tonight. I'd have to see if I could get a better look at him when an opportunity presented itself.
The Duke was glad-handing him real palsy like. Being very warm and chummy. Making him feel right at home.
The individual in question had a sly smile. Short dark hair. Was clean-shaven. Except for a small soul patch growing under his bottom lip. And was wearing a light-brown leather jacket. He projected a casual aural of cool. You could say, he wore his street cred well.
Jsun Atoms wasn't someone you'd find listed in a periodic table. But you just might periodically run into him. I did. About a week ago. In the Lola's Room-- just beneath the Crystal ballroom. He was fronting his latest incarnation - The Upsidedown.
I didn't know the significance of the name. Perhaps it was an obscure reference to the state of his spinning electrons. Or maybe it was simply his own personal outlook on life as compared to that of the average Joe. It's hard to say for sure. But he did strike me as the type who just might trust in electricity.
I decided to move in a little bit closer and get a better look at him. I wanted to satisfy my curiosity. I wanted to know just what I might be getting myself into.
If you really want to get a better look at someone - just concentrate your thoughts at the back of their head and will them to turn around. The real trick is to quickly drop your mental broadcast and just blend in with the crowd when they did respond to your suggestion.
I wasn't quite so lucky.
The individual in question grinned as soon as he laid eyes on me. He had recognized me instantly. And he seemed to know exactly who I was. It was probably an odds on favourite that he also knew why I was here. And what I was up to.
Yes, my hunch was correct. He was Jsun Atoms alright. And he was a person of interest. One of several on my client's list. At least I now knew for a fact that he was lurking somewhere in the background. What part would he play in all this? Would he just hang with his mob? Or would he put his former colleagues wise to my sudden interest in their affairs? This added an increased element of risk. The watcher had now become the watched.
I decided I better play my part to the hilt. Be seen doing all the things one might expect a photographer on assignment might do while covering a special event.
I drew my Canon from its holster. Checked the settings. And headed down toward the stage.
Hypatia Lake was playing. They were a four-piece band from Seattle. Other than this, I knew very little about them. I only knew what I could see and hear. And that seemed to speak in volumes.
The bass player was standing over on the left-hand side of the stage next to a keyboard. He was playing a white bass. Had mopish light-brown hair. Was wearing a short-sleeve black T-shirt and had several tattoos running down the length of his right arm.
The drummer was sitting at his drum kit at the back of the stage. He was wearing a brown trilby hat. And sported a full beard. His appearance conjured up an odd image. An image that was a beatnik version of Inspector Clouseau. But that is where the similarity ended.
A guitarist was standing way over on the right-hand side of the stage. He had short dark hair. And was wearing a white T-shirt and Levis.
The frontman had a guitar slung around his shoulders but was playing a keyboard. He was located at the front of the stage - right at the centre. He was clean shaven with short dark hair parted to the side in a thick thatch. He was singing with a mellow voice as he played a melodic melody on the keyboard.
They quickly shifted gears. And it wasn't long before their music sounded hot, heavy, and loud. They rocked hard and went full tilt when they jammed - going all out. Their echo effects and keyboards provided a spacy edge to the sound of their music. It blended nicely with the stage lighting.
The stage lighting was supplemented by projectors. Film and coloured patterns were aimed at the stage. And unleashed in a visual blitzkrieg assault. The light flowed over the heads and shoulders of the audience and washed over Hypatia Lake. Creating a sea of colours that splashed across the stage as it surged toward the back wall.
There were distant horizons projected on the back wall. Sky and pastoral fields. And old country roads and highways raced across the stage. These images changed quickly and constantly. As if a schizo projectionist had hijacked the visuals. But couldn't quite make up his mind just what to show next.
The images suddenly changed to deep green circles. Then switched to solid blocks of colour. And rich solid bands of red and yellow. Occasionally, these patterns were interrupted by pulsing shotgun blasts of chromatic snow and static. All intense. And all the visuals were dramatic journeys into the realm of extremes. Just as wild and as untamed as the music of Hypatia Lake.
I drifted toward the front of the stage taking in the spectacle. Taking random shots of the band. And making a visual record of their set. Hoping to satisfy and reassure anyone that might be observing my activities.
Let them wonder what outfit had sent me to cover this event. Let them think the best or the worst. Let them wonder if I'm representing some entertainment rag that nobody's ever heard of before. That's the general scam that the collage types try to pass off on the unsuspecting. You'd be surprised just how many punters will fall for that type of con. Cascadians can be a very gullible lot. Jumping to their own fanciful conclusions that have absolutely no basis in fact. It must be all this rain. It tends to warp their common sense.
I glanced up at the red digital clock fixed overhead in the ceiling - facing toward the band. It was closing in on the High Violets scheduled time. I fished in my pocket. Removed another red capsule. And wolfed it down. I wasn't about to let the High Violets catch me unprepared!
Hypatia Lake's frontman pick up a beer bottle. I watched intently as he ran the neck of the bottle up and down the his fretboard. Using it as a slide while he jammed wildly with the rest of his band.
Yeah, Hypatia Lake was launching into yet another vigourous bombastic assault on the audiences' senses. Jamming was in their blood. It kept them alive and they revelled in it. It caused the audiences' pulse to quicken and race right along with the restless music. Racing toward the precipice. The audience was being worked up for the coup de grace.
I turned around and gazed over the sea of heads. Up toward the bar. There was no queue back there at the moment. This would be the best time to catch a fast drink - while the getting's good. Then I could drift back down the other side of the lounge and position myself while the stage was being torn down and setup for the High Violets. Just when everyone else was heading in the opposite direction. During the break between bands.
I noticed a guy with a hand held video camera standing over by the right-hand side of the stage. It seemed like a very unusual position to choose to film a live show. Especially if he was planning to stay put for the entire show. I'd imagine he'd probably decide to drift back and forth during the set. At least to capture a non-static view of the band going through their paces.
I glanced over at the middle of the dance floor.
Jsun Atoms and his mob were prowling boards. There were about three guys with him. All of them checking the faces in the crowd. Eventually, Jsun's eyes found mine and his lips formed a sly, sinister smile. He nudged the torpedo standing next to him.
Mr. Torpedo was of average height and build. His hair was kinda grey, but his face was youthful. He was dressed all in denim - including his Greek fisherman styled cap.
Jsun leaned in toward him and said something. Then he Glanced my way and started chuckling.
I tugged the brim of my fedora down a little lower over my face and tried to lose myself in the thickening crowd down front. Zigzagging around people as I made my way toward the stage. I crouched down real low in the gap between the stage and the people next to it. The gathering masses should create a thick buffer zone between me and Jsun's mob. I'd try my best to keep a low profile. And stay well out of sight.
It wasn't long before the High Violets filtered out onto the stage and took up their positions.
The Duke settled in behind his drum kit at the very back of the stage. He'd be hard to pick off in a close tight shot due to his distance. Then there was all that equipment surrounding him that he could easily duck behind once I started shooting. I might have to shoot him with a wide open shot - catching him in the background - while I'm shooting someone else.
Aaron Overstreet homed in on the right-hand side of the stage. He picked up his bass and slung the strap over his shoulder. He stood straight and tall. But he was standing over in a very dark corner. This might make him a harder target to shoot clearly. I'd have to pay close attention to the lighting in his corner if I hoped to get him at all.
Clint Sargent came to rest over on the left-hand side of the stage. There was a collection of effects pedals gathered together in an intricate network of ominous electronic gizmos run amuck. Looking a lot like a setup you'd expect to find inside a mad scientist's laboratory. Clint was also another former member of the Bella Low. Perhaps the big cheese himself.
The Bella Low had reorganized several years ago - after the heat came down real hard on them. That's when Clint had come up with a brilliant plan. He brought on board a classy canary - one he'd liberated from the Bar of the Gods - to front for them. Then they changed their name to The High Violets. Soon they were back in business once again - under a brand new alias - and with a totally clean slate. No one the wiser.
Kaitlyn Ni Donovan walked out slowly. She headed to the front of the stage - dead centre. She was wearing black boots. A long skirt. And a long-sleeve brown blouse with red stripes. Her hair was long and raven. It was tied in the back but draped down the sides of her face - spilling down around her shoulders. She looked like a modern day shoegazing Cleopatra. Or perhaps a Celtic Queen. Haughty. Regal. And mysterious. Peering from beneath her silver eye shadowed lids. She gazed out over her subjects. Sizing up the crowd that had gathered at her feet.
You could say that the High Violets were unique. They were a shoegazing band. Think of the British pioneers - RIDE and SPACEMAN 3. Now add in a strong dose of angelic siren song. This was just for starters. It gets even better. They would then weave melodies that totally surrounded you like a warm comforting embrace. Lifting your spirits above the maddening crowd. Transporting you into lush soundscapes of pure idyllic bliss. Triggering images in your mind's eye of dreamy utopias. Basting your ears with their powerful aural narcotic. So potent that you couldn't get enough of their contact high. You were left constantly craving more. And before you knew it... you found yourself hooked.
Yeah, the High Violets were trafficking an elusive state of mind. One that threatened to undermine the well established cloud of melancholy and menace that hung over Cascadia like a suffocating shroud of impending doom.
You could say that the High Violets had taken the shoegazing style and created a hybrid that was much more accessible to the general public. They had blended it with pop. And they had managed to retain a heady outer space quality. They mixed etherial vocals with amazing guitar work and laced it with catchy pop hooks. Their music was extremely well crafted. They had forged a classic sound that effortlessly captured the soul. There was no doubt about it - it was downright beautiful. It was the stuff of dreams!
I started shooting with my 50mm lens from a low angle at the lip of the stage. I was moving back and forth. From left to right. And right and left. Constantly on the move - coving the full stage. I was trying to keep below their radar. And trying to stay well hidden from Jsun Atoms' mob who were lurking somewhere further back in the crowd.
I was mostly shooting natural light scenes. Only using my flash to record details that were masked behind the coloured veil of illusion. My main objective was to obtain closeup shots of Kaitlyn. Hopefully, with light beams swirling in the background behind her. Capturing what the audience was actually seeing during the performance.
Flash photography tended to ruin the atmosphere established by the stage lighting. It was a cop out. Sacrificing atmosphere for an easy shot that required absolutely no skill at all to take. Point and click. You could train an organ grinder's monkey to do that for you and get the exact same results. Natural light was the only way to go - if you're planning to go out in style.
I would shoot the other band members when the lighting conditions presented a golden opportunity to pick them off in some dramatic style. I wouldn't know when that would be. But I would know it when I saw it. I would have to remain vigilant and ready to pivot at a moments notice. Focus. Aim. And squeeze off several rapid shots - preferably at point blank range.
I removed my standard lens and switched to my wide angle 28mm lens. I wanted to get better coverage of the stage. To see more of what was going on. But it didn't take me long to change my mind and switch back to the standard 50mm lens. It was better suited for low light conditions. It was a much faster lens. And I decided that tight closeup shots of individuals would look much more impressive than vast wide open spaces. It would look much more intimate. Like you were right there with them. And see everything that they were doing - in fine minute detail.
On the left and right-hand sides of the stage there were black, cylindrical light mortars spraying fountains of white light on the ceiling and against the back wall. There were white outlines of shot glasses rotating and drifting across the back wall - in a lazy carefree style. Tranquil and pleasant. Peaceful and calm. Trance inducing hallucinations that could have been conjured up from the pickled and addled subconscious mind of Errol Flynn.
To the left of The Duke there was a big bulky black rectangular contraption - a Gatlin gun of sorts - shooting bursts of coloured light from an array of frosted glass panes. A colour wheel was turning slowly inside of it causing the light it emitted to shift through a series of rainbow colours. I tried my best to keep that gizmo behind the band members I was shooting. The bright beams tended to overwhelm my light meter and totally dominate the scene. Turning everything else in my view finder into animated silhouettes or living dancing shadows.
I was crouched on the floor. Staring up at Clint. When I noticed the lights increase in intensity - This was when I made my move. I quickly refocused my lens. Leapt up to a full standing position. Took aim. And shot him at point blank range.
Clint's eyes glanced up from his shoes. He found himself looking down the barrel of my lens. He wasn't expecting to be picked off so suddenly. And he sure as hell didn't feel like staring me down and waiting for the next shot to come. He diverted his attention. Trying to ignore my intrusive lens. And just get on with his performance.
I advanced the round. And just stood there with my canon trained directly on him. Following his every move. Watching his fingers dance across the strings of his guitar. Waiting for just the right note to time my shot. When it came, I squeezed the trigger. Advanced the round and dropped back into a low crouch. I scuttled back and forth like a crab exploring the tide pools on a rocky beach during low tide.
I noticed Kaitlyn smiling. Glancing over in Clint's direction. She seemed amused by something that was going on. Something that I wasn't aware of. I wondered what it was all about. Suddenly Kaitlyn struck a powerful chord with a dramatic twist of her body and a thrust of her guitar. Diving into a powerful surge in the music.
It wasn't long before I became aware of a presence.
Occasionally, while I was shooting, I thought I felt a tapping sensation on my shoulder. I'd turn around and find nobody standing there. It was very strange and peculiar. Nobody was within arms reach of me. I could only see the occasional balloon sailing out over the audience. Some of them were headed toward the stage. A couple of them had actually made it. One of them touched down and rolled over to the set list resting on the stage next to Kaitlyn's mic stand. It stopped there and started trembling. Like it was slowly bouncing in place. Or undulating gently like a jellyfish - up and down - in calm, cool green waters.
I scrambled back over toward Clint's side of the stage and stumbled. I went down on all fours. Something had tripped me. I blindly thrashed around in the dark - struggling. But I couldn't regain control of my feet. Something seemed to have a hold on them.
That's when I noticed the armada of balloons.
They were all over the floor in front of me. They were like a vicious pack of miniature Orson Wells shaped piranhas at an all-you-can-eat diner when the starting gate is raised.
The balloons kept getting under foot. Swarming around me. And blocking my path to where Clint was standing on stage.
I glanced up just in time to see Clint take action.His foot was moving away from his arsenal of effect pedals. He had just tapped one of them. His fingers started dancing across the fretboard of his guitar. The music soared. And the balloons went into a feeding frenzy.
Suddenly I realized the startling truth - Clint was controlling the balloons. He had stopped me dead in my tracks. And had made me a prisoner.
I remained there. Watching the High Violets' performance. Unable to continue shooting. So I just listened to the remaining songs. I didn't recognize very many that I knew. They must have been concentrating on all the songs from their new album. The only song I had recognized so far was "WHEEL". After that they sailed back into uncharted waters. Where it was exciting to explore and experience something totally fresh and new.
Finally, the High Violets made an announcement: "This is our last song."
They put everything they had into it. Sending the crowd even further up into the stratosphere. When they finished playing the song, they simply put down their instruments. Turned. And left the stage.
The audience went into a state of shock. Then they started yelling and screaming for more. Withdrawal had already begun to set in. The balloons also seemed to be effected. When the music suddenly stopped, they released their hold on me. I was now free and able to move around. Free to continue searching for the facts.
I straightened up slowly. I was a still feeling a bit shaky from my struggle with the flock of rubber wind bags. I gripped the edge of the stage and gazed down in a daze. I was trying to gather my thoughts together. That's when I spotted it. Clint's set list was right there in front of me - within arms reach. Right next to his arsenal of effects pedals.
I reached for the sheet of paper. And pinched it. Being very careful not to brush my hand against any of the pedals in the process. I didn't want to set off armageddon.
The set list was written on the back of a flier advertising tonight's show. There was a black-and-white promotional photo of the band. The same photo I had seen in the weekly rag - but much larger. It was 8 x 10. And had the legend "Reverb Records" and their logo down in the lower left-hand corner. Slightly above this and over to the right was the message:
THE HIGH VIOLETS TO WHERE YOU ARE
RELEASED JANUARY 31 2006.
I flipped the flier over and glanced at the set list. It was written in black biro and read:
NOCTURNAL / LOVE IS BLINDING /CHINESE / WANT YOU / INVITATION / WHEEL (KAITLYN TUNE) / COOL GREEN / FA / SUN BABY / JULIA / X / 44 DOWN.
I only recognized a couple of the song titles. The rest must have to be songs from their new album. The set list might prove to be very useful. Not only did I have the list of songs they played - I had a handwriting sample. A clue to the personality of the individual that written it. Of course, I realized that I also had a potential DNA sample as well.
I folded it up and filed it away in the inner pocket of my topcoat. I wouldn't turn it over to my client. I would keep it for my personal files. I wouldn't want to run the risk of having it fall into the hands of Ebay.
A few minutes later the High Violets came walking back out on stage for an encore. They played one last song. To thunderous cheers. I was wondering if Clint would miss his set list. Apparently not. He played as if it never mattered at all to him.
After they finished playing the song, they retreated from the stage. I continued my investigation.
I moved over to the centre of the stage and located another set list. It was resting beneath a balloon next to Kaitlyn's mic stand. I carefully reached over. Gently waved the balloon off of the set list. And lifted the sheet of paper from the stage.
I gave it my full attention. A careful study might prove enlightening. Maybe it might even put me onto something I'd overlooked. I was now in possession of two set lists. Kaitlyn's set list was also written on the back of a flier. Hers advertised their show at the Doug Fir Lounge. It screamed in big bold red letters: THE HIGH VIOLETS.
In a more subdued colour it added: CD RELEASE PARTY.
And the date: FRIDAY FEBRUARY 3RD.
All this information was written across a fluffy grey cloud. the cloud was a storm cloud. It was unleashing white lightning bolts. They flashed down from the sky - pointing at the names of the special guests.
The set list written on the back of the flier was exactly the same as the one written on Clint's list. It was the same in every way imaginable. It had the same word phrasing. It was written by the same hand. And with the same biro. But whose hand had guided it?
I folded it up and filed it away with its companion.
A guy standing to the right of me let out a sigh of despair.
"Oh, I wanted that."
I turned toward him and arched an eyebrow.
I drew the set list back out of my pocket. And held it at arms length.
"Well, if you really want it--"
He shook his head. "No. That's okay. You can keep it."
I returned it to my pocket. He glanced down at my camera. A curious expression crept across his face.
"Who are you with?"
"Myself. Strictly solo. Coppish."
I slid my Canon back into its holster. And buttoned my topcoat - concealing it from view.
"I work with Aaron...."
I frowned and quickly glanced around the room. Aaron wasn't to be seen anywhere. I noted that Jsun Atoms and his mob were also MIA. Hm, this was a very cleaver move on their part - Bait and switch. They'd sent a friend over to pump me for information while they made their getaway.
"Day job, eh?"
"So you came tonight to show your support."
"Yeah. He's been talking all about the music. Bringing some samples of his music to work for us to listen to."
"And you decided to check it out - live."
"The set list would have made a nice souvenir."
"Yeah, that's right. It would have." Pause. "Ah, what'd you want it for?"
I narrowed my eyes and cocked a finger at him.
"That'd be telling."
My comment seemed to have rattled him into a sudden state of silence. He just kept looking at me with a blank expression.
I chuckled, "Just wanted to know what they played. I reckon it might make for a handy set of notes... should someone decide to write about the show." I winked at him.
I raised my right hand up to my eye and formed a circle with my thumb and index finger. "Be seeing you!" I snapped my arm down smartly. I'd just given him a secret hand sign. One that he failed to respond to. He wasn't one of them. He was an innocent bystander. He just smiled.
"Yeah. Okay. Have a good one."
"Thanx. I already have."
I turned on my heels and dashed up the stairs to the restaurant foyer. There were a few people milling about at the reception desk. Waiting for a table. The restaurant was full and the bar was doing a just dandy. It was full as well. I didn't recognize any familiar faces at either location. So I pressed on.
I continued down the passageway - along the side of the bar - until I came to the Fireplace Room. A metal veil hung down over the entrance like a silver chain mail curtain. It was made up of several strands of silver ball bearings. Or pinballs. All threaded together like rosaries in transit.
I parted the strands and peered inside. The room was filled with patrons sipping cocktails and warming their bones by the fire. Jsun Atoms wasn't one of them. My client's individual of interest had flown the coop.
I strolled out the restaurants entrance. Stepping out into the dark, damp night. Turned up my collar and followed the side of the building down around to the corner of Ninth and Burnside. A white, late '50s Volvo PV544 was parked there. A couple inside the car were busy trying their damnedest to steam up the windows.
I stopped walking and removed my silver cigarette case from my inner topcoat pocket. I planted a Chesterfield between my lips. Struck a match. Cupped my hands around the flame - and puffed a glowing cherry into existence. Took a long drag and released a slow lazy stream of fog.
A resounding CLICK greeted my ears. I glanced up and discovered the source of the sound. The passenger door of the Volvo had been locked. The couple inside the car were huddled together. Way over at the far side - giving me the evil eye. Apparently, it's considered bad form to smoke before you consummate the act in public.
I grimaced. Flung the match down at the wet pavement. It released a sizzling gasp as it was snuffed out by a small puddle.
I made my way slowly down the dark side street and veered over to my jalopy. Pausing briefly to look around before unlocking the driver's door. There was nobody in sight. I climbed in. Swung the door shut. And make myself at home in my mobile office.
I switched on the map light. Opened the glove box and reached inside. The page I'd ripped out of the local rag was missing. In its place was a sealed envelope.
I removed the envelope. Tore the end off of it and let the contents slide out into my hand. The contents were mostly green. What was mostly green were legal tender Cascadian notes. A couple of George Hamiltons. And a six-pack of Lemmys. Fifty smackers. Twenty-five dollars a day plus expenses.
What wasn't green were tickets and a business card. One ticket was for a Hells Belles show. The other was for a Sky Cries Mary show. The business card was blank.
I dug out a match. Stuck it. And held it next to the business card. I let the flame do its dirty work. Moving it back and forth along the face of the card. As it slowly took on a brownish tinge - a faint message started to materialize.
"Report via the usual channels."
I waved the match out and dropped it into the ashtray.
My mysterious client wished to remain just that - mysterious. But I was becoming more and more convinced of one thing. Eventually a pattern would emerge. And the mystery would gradually fade away with time. Like an old forgotten flier that had weathered one too many seasons. Its urgency and gritty allure - washed away by the endless rain.