From Aural Innovations #42 (May 2011)
They say that a fool and his money are easily parted. That they're prone to being easily influenced. And that they tend to be easily deceived by those with evil intent.
They also say that money is the root of all evil. Roots that spread very quickly. Growing and flowering in the garden of crime.
It had also been a particularly ominous week across the pond. Word was quickly spreading like a global pandemic: England's Judge Trev was no more. He had died and a glorious era was coming to an end along with him. But it wasn't about to go without a fight. His followers had started to gather. Pledging loyalty to their fallen hero. They planned to take to the streets and take the country by storm.
Meanwhile, there was a hint of a silver lining in Cascadia. The rains had let up momentarily, exposing a galaxy of sparkling points of light. They reflected off the surfaces of the streets as cars sloshed through the standing water. And innocent bystanders dodged the spray as they navigated the intersections. I was wearing my trench coat and black fedora. Beneath my comfortable twentieth century exterior was my ill conceived attempt to try to blend into this century. I reluctantly switched from the pinstriped suit and tie for something a bit more up to date. A black Hawaiian shirt with a hint of Aloha Ankhs mingling in a tropical pattern. And a white pair of cargo pants. They had more than enough pockets to stash my gear.
I was armed with my Canon. It was concealed under my trench coat. Safely tucked away in its shoulder holster. I was also packing a new weapon in my arsenal - a digital derringer. I was ready for just about anything tonight.
The doors of the Mt. Tabor Theatre opened at 8 PM. A band was scheduled to play early on in the evening inside the Mt. Tabor Lounge. Probably around 9 PM. At least that's what the ticket indicated for the start of the show. But what event ever really starts on time? There are always delays. And these delays tend to make the punters antsy. Fuelling their anticipation of the event even more. The headlining band and their main support would be playing later on in the main concert room.
It had been quite a while since I had been at this venue. Back then the Mt. Tabor Lounge was know by a different name. It was called The Sideshow Lounge. That was when Helios Creed and his cronies had come to town providing a diversion for a UFO to make a midnight run on the nearby open water reservoir. If the citizens hadn't been seeing little green men before, they certainly were seeing them after they drank the water.
I strolled up the hallway and made a lazy left into the antechamber leading into the lounge. It looked almost exactly the same as it did when the lounge had its curious fascination with freaks and carny acts. It was still no less intense than it had been back then. It was truly a sight for sore eyes. It was a hophead's dream!
The name had changed but much of the old decor and charm had remained the same. The antechamber between the hallway and the lounge was still painted in mind altering red and green Day-Glo art. Comical renderings of sideshow freaks confronted you as you made your way around the walls and into the side entrances to the lounge.
Once inside the lounge the hallucinations mellowed out considerably. There were still two huge wall paintings remaining on either side of the sunken dance floor. Over on the left wall there was the Tattooed Lady. A movie screen covered the wall dead centre. And over on the right wall there was the Two-Headed Camel. And that was as far as the old trappings went. The numerous displays of framed carny poster art of freaks had been removed from the lounge walls in the upper section of the lounge.
The upper section of the lounge was separated from the sunken dance floor by a black iron rail. A set of steps led down to the dance floor at the middle of the lounge. A bar was located at the back of the lounge with two exits set further back on either side of it. Tables lined the side walls. And a few tables stood helter skelter in the remaining floor space.
I had barely taken in all the sights when a dame dashed into the room. She rushed over to the stairs and caught the attention of the DJ in the lounge. She had that confident stride of someone that belonged here. She also had a laminated pass. And that told me exactly who she was. Brandi from the Ozric Tentacles. She was just telling the Dj that she liked the music he was playing when I approached her from behind.
She turned to face me. "Yes?"
I handed her an envelope of photographs. "This is what you did last year in Portland."
Her face took on an expression of total surprise.
I added, "Doug Buckley couldn't make it. But he asked me to say Hi."
She responded in a friendly manner. Saying "Hi" as if Doug were standing there right next to me. Invisible and mute. But there all the same. Brandi was very excited when she took the envelope from me. Then she looked down at her hands with concern. And handed the envelope back to me.
"I need to wash up. My hands have chocolate on them. Hold onto these for now. I'll be back very soon."
I grinned, "Down the hall and to your right."
Brandi gave me a blank look. So I filled her in. I cased the joint earlier. The loo's down the hall to your right." She nodded and dashed out the exit.
It looked like I'd have a little time to kill. So I bellied up to the bar. The bartender asked me an open-ended question, "What would you like?"
"Something dark. What kind of dark beer do you have?"
"The only thing we have is Guinness."
My heart sank and I rolled my eyes in resignation. "Oh well, I haven't had anything to eat yet. Might as well have a pint of Guinness and make a meal out of it."
"Always good to eat your drinks, I think."
I nodded absently as he poured me the frothy pint of Irish muck. Wishing that they'd had something more tasty to drink like Terminator Stout. Or Black Butte Porter. At least then, I'd be supporting the local Cascadian brewers and not supporting the myth that the Action Man might be an Irishman.
The bartender set the pint down in front of me. "Four Dollars."
I handed him a fiver. "Keep it. It's yours."
"Thank you, Sir."
Oh, swell. I've just been knighted by a bartender. The next thing you know the Black Watch will turn up in their leather kilts. Silver chains attached to their wallets. Keeping them safe from pickpockets lifting their stash from their sporrans. Luckily, I don't run across many of them very often. They tend to be rather testy and always looking for trouble. I attribute their behaviour to numb balls.
I sipped my dark brew and gazed around the room. I was making myself familiar with the faces currently residing in the lounge. Brandi breezed back into the lounge with Silas Wynne travelling close behind in her slipstream. Silas was wearing a striped sweater. He was tall and thin. Clean shaven. and had long dark hair flowing down past his shoulders.
Brandi came to a stop right in front of me. She held out her hands for me to inspect.
"Hands all clean. Chocolate removed."
I handed her the envelope of photos and asked, "Is that a new instrument you've been playing lately, Chocolate?"
Brandi laughed. She gazed quickly around the room. Spotted a free table over at the South wall. And made a beeline straight to it. Silas and I followed her over to the table and sat down around it. I selected a chair at the wall. It provided me with a full view of everything and everyone in the room. And prevented the chance of anybody sneaking up on me from behind.
I started with the pleasantries. "Doug had lots of snow in Spokane. He would've liked to come see your show. And knowing him, he probably would have gone to all three of your shows in the Pacific Northwest."
Brandi smiled. Then started laying the photos down on the table after she studied each one of them. It wasn't quite a Taro reading. But one could easily get that impression watching how she handled the photos. Laying them out in what appeared to be a Lovecraft pattern. I enlightened them about photos. "I take them for the Hell of it. Mostly to see what I can capture on film.
She continued looking at the photos. Laying them down in that odd pattern on the table. And making a few candid comments to Silas about them.
I asked Brandi, "How was the concert in India?"
"It was cancelled just three days before we were going to play it."
"I'm surprised you're only playing a few places in North America."
"We planned to do only a few gigs in North America. There are so many places scattered all over the continent where nothing exists for miles and miles. So we decided to only play a few places in the Pacific Northwest - in Cascadia."
She smiled and added, "I think we have a good lineup on this tour. Silas has just started recently in this lineup."
I noticed that Brandi was constantly gazing all around the room. Taking it all in as we talked. It was like watching a bird trying to decide if it was going to suddenly take flight. Like a caged animal after a long stretch in stir suddenly freed but not sure where to go. Just drinking it all in. Giddy with freedom and wonder. And there was plenty to wonder about where we were. Cascadia was not exactly a free country. There are vultures and spies everywhere.
I pulled out a small black notebook and started jotting down a few observations. They watched me intently with quizzical expressions while I wrote in the notebook. Then I glanced up at them.
"Oh this. It's something I do to help piece together details. It's much better then just relying on a few photographs."
Brandi smiled, "Do you write reviews or stories?"
"You could call 'em that I suppose."
"What do you call them?"
"Trouble. They tend to get rather involved."
Brandi looked puzzled. So I gave her a bit more to mull over.
"I investigate bands."
"You mean interview?"
"So you can write a good review?"
I chucked. "That's putting it mildly, sister. I go into a lot more detail. I see what I can dig up."
Brandi looked dreamy and wistful. "Wouldn't it be nice if someone wrote a book about us? Or made a movie?"
I gave her a serious look. "Something like that could take a long time. They'd probably have to live with you. Have access to all your private moments."
Brandi shook her head. "No. That would take too long."
I wasn't too surprised to hear this. They tended to play rather long stretches of music. Why wouldn't their private moments be just as long. Or maybe they had something to hide. Brandi made a sour face and scaled down her dream.
"Maybe a short film."
I drew my lips back from my teeth and lisped. "Maybe a car... toon."
Brandi and Silas started laughing. I pointed at Silas. And gave him a finely focused stare. That kinda stare you get when something odd filters through. I had that gut feeling. That feeling that tells you something just isn't right. It was Silas' voice that triggered it.
"How'd you get that American accent?" He looked totally gobsmacked.
"I don't have an American accent."
Brandi quickly came to his defense. "He's quiet, and he doesn't say much."
She had a point. I'd never known Americans that didn't say much. They were always shooting their mouth off like Gatling guns.
I nodded. "Okay, maybe I didn't hear enough of his patter to pin it down." Silas relaxed. laid a rolling paper down on the table. And got to work sprinkling a horizontal mound inside the white boundary. and rolling it up. Nice and tight.
Brandi frowned. "Where are you from?"
"HERE and THERE."
"No. Mostly from THERE."
"What brought you Here."
"It's where I ended up after being exiled from THERE."
"Let's just say I skipped a few decades and leave it at that."
"Who do you work for?"
"Myself mostly. Sometimes The Cascadian Government... when they apply enough pressure."
Brandi nodded and switched back to an earlier topic. "If you did happen to write something about us, what would you write?"
"Could you be a little more specific?"
"Sure," I chuckled. "I write reports that tend to tell a story. Generally dealing with crime."
"What's that got to do with bands?"
"Nothing if they're clean."
"Are we... clean?"
I pointed at her hands "You just washed them. So for the time being... you're clean."
Brandi glanced over at Silas. "I almost forgot, we better go outside and check up on things."
Silas grinned knowingly.
Brandi returned her gaze. "Thank you for the photos. I hope you enjoy the show."
"I'm sure I will."
They stood up and left the table. And quickly vanished from the lounge.
It wasn't long before the first band turned up and started to play. They were called Tellakinesis. They were a cool band. Laying down some funky music that had a spacy rock edge to it. I sat and listened to them as I took my time drinking the pint of Guinness. I was in no hurry. I had a lot to reflect on. And the music was opening up new vistas of thought.
The screen on the wall behind them was a fluid swirl of colours and indistinct shapes. Flowing across the screen like oil and water.
Those Day-Glo masterpieces of the Tattooed Lady and the Two-Headed Camel painted up on the sidewalls just made the atmosphere in the lounge ultra cool. And light years beyond the space age bachelor pad music that lava lamps melted to.
The rhythm of the music just lifted you up and carried you off into dreamsville. It made you think a bit more abstractly. Maybe I wasn't all that far off about the Ozric Tentacles. Maybe I was right on the money. A cartoon would suit them to a tee. Yeah, something like a Space Rock Fantasia.
Over time The Mt. Tabor Theatre went through a few modifications. This room was altered so much that it no longer resembled a place where movies had been shown at all. Now it was a place for people to gather and enjoy music.
There was a stage standing at the front of the room on the right hand side. A sunken floor was over to the left of the stage. There was a pool table down there that a couple of hard core cases were playing with little interest in anything else going on around them. They just kept right on playing.
A vast open area occupied the centre of the room. It was gradually starting to attract people anticipating the start of the main event. They were filling up the free floor space in a Swiss cheese pattern. Leaving plenty of pockets open for anyone to select as a nice place to watch the band from.
There was a platform spanning the back wall. Stairs led up to this raised area. And a few chairs were set up on top of it for people to sit. But it had the look of temporary seating for a specific function. Reserved for those who might be involved in said function. Or for those who felt they were special enough to be able sit above the general riffraff.
I spotted a tripod up there. It was standing at the front of the platform with a video camera aimed directly at the stage. I had a hunch that somebody was going to be manning that camera later on. Getting a nice quality recording of the event taking place. Be it support band. Headline band. Or both.
The bar was up against the wall over on the left side of the room. To the East as the crow flies. The wall behind the bar had sparkling silver stars covering it. And there were wide bands of black and silver that ran vertically down the wall behind the stars.
I had arrived early with a plan clearly in mind. Quickly case the room. Size up the audience. And place myself in an ideal location to quickly move in on the Ozric Tentacles when they came out on stage. And keep them in my sights throughout their set. If anything went down tonight, I was going to be Johny-on-the-spot.
But first there was the support band to deal with. Mars Retrieval Unit. I had heard of them but had never seen them before. What I had heard about them came by way of a contact back East. The band had headlined the Space Rock Mountain Melt festival in 2010. An outdoor festival near ZigZag, Oregon at a place called Skyway. Tonight would give me the chance to find out just how they fit into the scheme of things.
I decided to move in on Mars Retrieval Unit when they walked out onto the stage and took up their positions. I strolled down to the front of the stage. Gave them a good going over. And got ready for action.
I made several mental notes as they played. Chances were that they'd end up in my report. So I might as well collect whatever I could on them and try to positively ID them later.
Mars Retrieval unit: four male caucasians. One female caucasian. Their music sounds impressive. It's smooth and very tight. With a tendency toward long songs that contain quite a bit of jamming. They can sound spacy. Jazzy. Funky. And yeah, they sure can sizzle. All in all a very cool sounding band. And an ideal opening band for Ozric Tentacles.
The dame was a real canary. She sings and swings. Plays saxophone and flute. She had raven-hair. Was wearing long, dangling earrings. Was dressed in slacks and a shoulderless top. She was vivacious and a real live wire. She might be a femme fatale. Approach with caution.
The keyboard player had dark hair. He had a set of headphones perched on his head. This gave his hair a lanky, straggly appearance. He knew the keys well and how to make them dance under his finger tips.
The drummer had himself hidden behind his drum kit. He was wearing a ball cap. And played smooth and easy on the skins. But he might be a loose canon when he cuts loose. A stuffed Marvin the Martian was mounted on his drum kit. If you're a martian, do not turn your back on this man.
The bass player had long, light-brown hair. He was wearing a pair of cheaters to see with. He sported a thin, well groomed beard that ran closely along his jaw line. He was wearing a denim jacket and black t-shirt. And had a tendency to rock and bob along with the music.
The guitarist had that pretty boy look about him. Birds probably throw themselves at him and swooned if he gave them the time of day. Yeah, he was the matinee idol type. He had collar length, dark hair. A five o'clock shadow left over from the day or two before. He was wearing a black shirt with sleeves rolled up above the elbows. He played a black guitar with deadly precision in an offhand casual way.
A light show was in progress. Beams of light fanned out. Flowing across the stage in a colourful display. And there were spacy projections displayed on the West wall to the right of the stage. It was impressive and greatly enhanced their stage presence.
I removed my Canon from its shoulder holster. Went down on one knee at the canary's feet. And shot her point blank. Then I pulled back a little ways. Aimed. And took a shot that covered both the hot canary and pretty boy.
It seemed to me that a group shot was in order. I would need to positively ID the band later for my report. So I pulled back a little bit further. And shot the whole lot of 'em. I turned around to get a clear view behind me. The audience was standing several feet further back. There was this huge empty space between the band and the audience. And the only living sole in it was yours truly.
The canary had also noticed this and encouraged the audience with a few words. "You can come closer, we won't bite." I took that as my cue to fade from site for a little while. I wanted to do a little research. See what I could dig up. And let the audience know I didn't totally own space. It was up for grabs.
I wandered to the back of the room. Found the merchandise stall and flagged down the short dame working it. She walked over to see what I wanted. I pointed at a CD, and gave a nod toward the stage.
"Yes. It's their new CD."
"Fine." I held up my hand and made the appropriate gesture. "I'll take two of 'em."
I planned to study one. And send the other back East to have a ballistics test run on it. Money and merchandise exchanged hands. And I got a smile free of charge.
I moved to a spot near the back of the room. Opened one of the CDs. And pulled out a pen light. It was time to find out just who these jaspers were.
The CD was titled "Two Sides". It was a brand new release. Recorded at Superdigital, a local place. And a local band. The rest was all right there above the band photo. A shot of them inside the concrete Stonehenge at Maryhill, Washington. On a bluff along the river in the Columbia Gorge.
I moved the pen light over to the right and looked at the CD. There seemed to be a photo under it. I removed the CD and studied the photo. It was a full band shot. I looked up at the stage and back down at the photo. I was comparing faces and associating names to the faces.
The canary with the saxophone was Chelsea Luke. Pretty Boy on the guitar was Rob Sipsky. The Bass player was Joel Davis. The keyboard player was Joshua Birns-Sprague. The drummer didn't match. The drummer in the photo and on the stage were two entirely different individuals.
I replaced the CD and closed the cover. I removed a scarf out of my trench coat. Placed both CDs at one end. Rolled them up in the scarf. And tucked them safely in one of the pockets of my trench coat.
I grinned and headed back to the front of the stage. The empty space between the band and the audience had decreased considerably. It was a little bit more cozy and intimate. And not so much of a shooting gallery. That was about to change.
I pulled out the Canon and went for another shot of Chelsea and Rob with those colourful lights right behind them. Then I returned the Canon to its holster. I needed to conserve on the 35mm film. The rest I'd need for my Ozric Tentacles stake out.
I reached into my trench coat and removed the digital derringer. I set it for HD video mode. Then waited for a break between songs. This would provide far more background information than a few photographs.
I started filming when the break came. Chelsea was the main focus. I followed her movements. Catching whatever habits and mannerisms she was putting up for display. Then I shifted focus to each member of the band.
It wasn't long before I discovered that I'd taken on a bit more than I could handle. The song kept going. And going. And going. It felt like it was never going to end. My arm started to tingle. I feared that it might go numb if the song didn't end soon.
The song finally ended after I'd shifted the digital derringer back and forth between my hands several times. Now I knew why the video camera at the back of the room was fixed to a tripod. I wasn't going to make this mistake again. I stashed the digital derringer back in my trench coat. From here on out I'd just watch and observe.
The audience was getting into the music. Swaying and smiling. The band started another song. It sounded peppy. The type of song that effects you like a jingle. Its words taking you over swiftly and without mercy. And soon you find yourself either singing along or totally brainwashed. With the words having full control of your thoughts. It was a song about outer space.
Chelsea was raising her hand and doing a countdown with her fingers as she sang the numbers out. She was doing a bit of everything during this song. Singing. Playing the sax. Playing the tambourine. Even crouching down low to the floor and giving her top a tug upwards. Probably to prevent a wardrobe malfunction.
The music was in full jam mode by this time. And sure enough, the drummer cut loose on the skins. Proving to the audience that he had the right stuff. I listened for a few songs more. Then made a move to head out of the crowd and have a drink at the bar.
I was halfway to the bar when I heard the classic beginning notes of a Black Sabbath song. The audience erupted into a loud cheer. I stopped dead in my tracks and turned around to face the stage. My jaw had gone slack. They were playing "The Wizard". And it sounded totally brilliant. Yes, this was a band I'd have to keep a close eye on. I was sure there was more to uncover if I dug deeper beneath the surface.
I drifted back toward the stage after the Mars Retrieval Unit had finished their set. Rob was removing his equipment. It seemed like a good time to go fishing.
"This is the first time I've seen your band."
Rob looked up as I continued talking.
"You sounded great."
"Glad you like us."
"Yeah, I bought the CD. Can't wait to hear it and listen to you and the drummer again."
"He's not on the CD."
Rob was staring at my camera as he filled me in on the drummer.
"We got a new drummer now. Jon Barber. He's from Intervision. Only been with us a little while."
"A month or so. In fact, if you have any photos of us tonight... we'd love to see them. We don't have many with Jon in them at the moment. Maybe you were lucky enough to get him on film."
"Sure, I'll send you what comes out."
Rob shook my hand, "Great."
I loitered around the area while the stage was being cleared off. When the equipment for Ozric Tentacles started being set on the stage I made my move. I was taking up a position and starting my stake out. Now it was only a matter of time.
There was a small step on the floor where I was standing. It was used for moving equipment on and off the stage. And it was a perfect place to station myself while I observed the band. I had a clear view of the stage and nobody seemed to want to get too close to me. They could sense that I had an agenda and a need to be where I was. I was cranking up the Danger Man vibe.
My plan was simple enough. I would try to get a few clear, sharp shots of each bandmember to satisfy The Cascadian Ministry Of Defense. And Something suitable for "Framing" if something actually did go down during the set. I couldn't very well ignore any unusual incident after having spotted that video camera at the back of the room earlier. And I had no doubt that The CMOD had an agent planted in the audience somewhere keeping tabs on me.
There was a loud cheer as the Ozric Tentacles walked out on stage. The bandmembers took up their positions. Ed Wynne over on the left-hand side of the stage. Brandi roughly in the centre of the stage. Silas at the synth rack over on the right-hand side of the stage. And the drummer was sitting behind his drum kit at the very back of the stage. I thought the drummer might be the same one that they had last year, Oliver Seagle. But I wasn't fast enough to properly ID him before he ducked out of sight behind his drum kit. Getting a clear shot of the drummer was going to be a problem. Especially with him situated in one of the darkest areas of the stage. I modified my plans to suit the existing conditions. I would go for the three closest bandmembers first. If an opportunity presented itself to shoot the drummer, I'd pick him off then.
Out of the three bandmembers closest to me, Ed and Silas would be a piece of cake. Brandi was playing hard to get. She was drifting back and forth on the stage where the lighting wasn't as good. I'd have to keep an eye on her and shoot when she entered a better area of the stage.
As the band got into their groove, the audience quickly fell under their spell. The music was spacy and trance inducing. It was a contact high that went straight for the pleasure centre of the mind. It wrapped its tentacles around it. Inducing a state of euphoria and bliss.
I kept Ed in my sights. I focused. Aimed. Fired. And pivoted. Then I aimed at Brandi. Fired and pivoted back to take aim at Ed again. I found myself bouncing back and forth like a crazed skeet shooter. The music was starting to get to me. I'd have to take preventative measures.
I lowered my Canon. Fished inside my trench coat. Found the vial that the CMOD had provided for just such an emergency. I uncorked it. And drained the faintly green fluid in one swift swallow. It tasted like licorice.
I raised my Canon back up to my eye. Brandi was smiling as she moved forward toward the mic. The light show was smiling on ED. I shifted my attention back over to him. Focused, aimed, and fired. I was convinced that I was nailing a few great shots. Ed was standing in a good, well lit area and I could do no wrong. If crime did enter into the equation - I would capture it all on film and file my report.
I glanced around to see how the audience was reacting to the music and the light show. I saw a few dames were grinding against their partners. I saw their partners grinning with glazed over eyes. I saw some dames dancing in place with their arms making slow serpentine movements in the space around them. And I saw a chap step forward right next to me. He was getting a closer look at the band.
He was an older chap. He had short grey hair. Wore glasses. Was wearing a black leather jacket. And was cheering the band on.
He faced me and asked, "Where are they from?"
"That's okay. I like them. They're good."
I nodded and he let out another loud roar. Waving his fist in the air like an empowered protester. After he regained his composure he leaned in toward me and held out his hand.
"My name's Steve. What's Yours?"
"England, you say. Well, let's hear it for the Brits!"
He gave me a hard slap on the back and let out several more loud, enthusiastic outbursts. I couldn't quite make out clearly what he was yelling. I was distracted by my stinging back and the music that was drowning him out. But it sounded like he was yelling "God Save The Queen!" and something concerning tea. I was hoping that he'd move on to some another area. He was getting to be a distraction. And interrupting my investigation. It was just my luck to run into a fanatic loudmouthed American.
I tried to ignore Steve as best as I could and just carry on shooting. The music continued to enthral the audience as it meandered along in what seemed like an endless wave of intense jamming. It felt as if time itself had also become totally entranced.
Suddenly, Steve reached into his back pocket and pulled something out. Now he had my full attention. Something was about to go down. And I was right there on the spot - ready for action.
Steve was holding his wallet in his left hand. He reached inside. And started tossing money out on the stage. He was like a human ATM. Dispensing cash willy-nilly. The flash of cash erupting from his wallet was a legal tender explosion of priceless confetti. Yeah, he was digging deep into his wallet. Pulling out bills. And tossing them out onto the stage without a care. Ones. Fives. Tens. Twenties. It didn't matter one iota to him what they were. They were just random green pieces of paper fluttering across the stage like migrating butterflies gathering at the Ozric's feet. It wasn't long before the band was standing on a carpet covered in Cascadian cash.
Silas stared bug-eyed as he watched Steve shower the stage with greenbacks. One of the bills fluttered down beneath his synth and he peered down at it in utter amazement. It was a twenty dollar bill - a Samuel L. Jackson. Silas looked up and stared directly at me with that What's-going-on look. As if he suspected that I was somehow personally involved and had arranged the odd turn of events.
I shook my head. Shrugged. And mouthed the words, "I have no idea." Brandi was laughing. She picked up several bills and tried to hand them back. Steve just shook his head and refused to take them. So she left the pile on the stage floor and returned to playing her bass.
As the Ozric Tentacles' set continued to wow the audience and increased the cash flow to the stage it was apparent that the money was having a definite effect on the band. They would sometimes bust up laughing while they played. They would shake their heads in disbelief. And they would watch the people down front in the audience. They were starting to bond with those standing next to the stage.
Brandi walked up to the mic and said, "There's always a first time for everything." Steve wadded up a twenty and flung it across the stage. It sailed by Ed when he wasn't looking. It landed on his keyboard and sat there on the ivories like a big green toadstool. When Ed turned around to play his keyboard, he looked down at the twenty sitting there and grinned with glee. Then he glanced around quickly with a guilty expression. He carefully picked it up and gently set it down off to the side. With his keyboard free of expensive litter, he returned to playing the music that had attracted it in the first place.
The light show cranked it up a notch to number eleven. Yellow beams fanned out highlighting the background behind Ed. This was what I'd been waiting for. I raised my Canon and started shooting the band enhanced by the light show.
Brandi was suddenly silhouetted in blinding yellow beams. She stepped into the network of interlocking beams. And was swallowed up in a yellow haze. As the beams danced around her, the neck of her bass passed in front of the light source. The tip of her bass eclipsed it. This was an ideal shot that just presented itself unexpectedly. And I wasted no time in taking advantage of the situation.
I riffled off several more shots in quick succession, hoping to get that one that would be the shot to die for. I was determined to shoot her standing in the penultimate place on the stage. Hopefully, capturing her with a brilliant aura emanating around her. Like a butterfly transforming into an angel with psychedelic wings.
I unleashed a volley of shots and then my Canon froze. I had expended all 3 rounds of Fuji film. I flipped open my trench coat and shoved the Canon back into its shoulder holster. Then I removed the digital derringer from an inner pocket. I set it to HD video mode. And waited for the next soundscape to begin. I was going to get the goods on them. As much as I possibly could. You could call it overkill. But I called it lethal dedication to details.
Fractal patterns flashed on the screen to the left of Ed. He was standing next to his keyboard jamming while Brandi prowled the stage. Silas was bobbing and swaying at his synth. Letting his fingers do the talking. The lights in the background pulsed. Fanning out into rotating yellow beams of light. Turning like props on a squadron of Spitfires. This went on for ten minutes.
The next soundscape found Ed at his keyboard. Brandi walked over to Silas and said something to him. Then Ed started noodling with the keys. There was a burst of fog on stage. And the screens erupted in rapidly changing psychedelic images.
I panned over to the wall to the right and watched members of the audience dancing. Watched people swaying. Watched fractals expanding on the wall. And heard voices ejaculating, "WOW!" And "YEAH!" This lasted for nine minutes.
I went for one last soundscape with the digital derringer. The images on the wall and screen were flowing psychedelic spirals pulsing in vivid Lifesaver colours. Geometric designs. And Etch-O-Sketch doodles tripped out on acid. They were creating neural road maps of the inner mind. Road maps that led deep into the Ozric Zone. Fog leaked onto the stage once again. And pulsing lights transformed it into a haze of colour. It was like Armageddon mushrooming at the edge of time. I clicked off the digital derringer after the soundscape ended. Tucked it away inside my trench coat. And just stood there watching the rest of their set. The music continued on its long journey through space. Eventually, it played itself out. After a very lengthy jam infested encore.
Brandi approach the mic when the set ended. She said, "We have a new CD coming out soon - check the web site. Thanks for coming!" She made a final attempt to give the money back to Steve. He still refused to take it. So Brandi thanked him for his more than generous donation to the cause. And headed backstage with a huge pile of bills resting in her hands.
Steve turned to me and said, "I'm happy to give them the money, man. They deserve it!" I nodded as I turned. And started to work my way through the audience.
It was now 1:45 AM. The place was slowly starting to thin out. But drinks were still being served at the bar. A guy approached me as I emerged from the crowd. He handed me a business card. "Could I have some Ozric Tentacles photos?"
I shook my head. "No. I'm here on official business. The photos will come in handy when I write about the band."
His eyes lit up. "Oh, a review."
I nodded and mumbled, "Yeah, something like that."
I continued out of the room and into the Hall. I had some time to kill before I confronted the band. And I knew just where I wanted to kill it.
Inside the lounge I found a unique gathering of individuals. They seemed to have a lot in common. They were all dressed in black. The music playing in the lounge was pulsing with a techno-like sound. And the sunken dance floor was jam-packed with dancers. It kinda looked like a 60s discotheque. But they were dancing to an industrial beat. The movie screen no longer had psychedelic images displayed on it. Now there was an actual film playing on it. Something that was definitely strange, macabre, and haunting.
I glanced back toward the bar and started scanning the people loitering around it. Their faces had a pasty-white appearance. Except for traces of black mascara. And all the dames I saw seemed to favour black lipstick. I had stumbled onto something. But what? I quickly ruled out a Kabuki convention.
A dame in a black belly dancer outfit had caught my eye. There were several large silver discs covering her halter bra top. They were generous like her breasts and they totally surrounded them. But there was more to her than just her devilish figure. There was something unusual about her smile.
I kept watching her. Waiting for a chance to spot just what it was that had caught my eye. What it was that made her seem unnaturally different. When she opened her mouth to speak it became painstakingly clear. She had long, sharp fangs.
As a few chaps walked by me, I took note of their faces. They had a lite dusting of white make-up covering their faces. This gave them a pale ashen look. And some of them had dark mascara around their eyes that gave them a sunken appearance. Yeah, I had stumbled on a gathering of Goths.
I noticed that they were giving me the once-over and keeping their distance when they walked by me. I guess I stood out like a slumming saint wearing these white cargo pants. I certainly wasn't dressed for their occasion.
I walked over to the black iron rail overlooking the sunken floor. I just stood there watching every last one of them going through their dance routines. I felt like a hired voyeur getting off on their private ritual. As I tried to guess just what their deep dark secrets and personal kinks were.
A tall blonde dame was dancing down there. She was decked out in a white blouse. Black vest. And black slacks. At first I thought she was a he. Another dame was moving very slowly. Doing some sorta Tai Chi style slow grind. She turned from time to time to face my direction. She was dressed more for the bedroom than the ballroom. Fishnet stockings with garters. Short leather hot pants. And a blouse that could best be described as a black embroidered nightie. Her hair was raven. And her expression was a study in sultry boredom. She was a hottie. But her emotions were as cold as ice. Maybe she had a black heart to go with the black outfit she had on.
A short blonde dame standing next to me was busy nuzzling a chap's throat. She backed up and bumped into me. And her eyes went wide with shock as she stared up at me.
"Oh, I'm so sorry. I'm sorry. Really I am."
"That's alright, angel."
She took a couple of steps back. Her expression taking on an element of terror. "No, No, Honest. I'm sorry."
"No harm done, sweetheart. You just brushed up against my pants."
The chap she was putting the bite on just looked bored. He took her hand and led her over to a table off to the side of the room. She sat there occasionally glancing at me to see if I was still in the lounge. Glances of suspicion. And glances of dread. I just shook my head. Imagine that, an overly polite Goth.
I spotted the DJ that was in the lounge earlier in the evening. I caught his attention. And signalled him over to join me.
The DJ walked up to me and asked, "Yes?"
"So what's with all the Bela Lugosi types?"
He smiled, "It's Saturday night. It's something new we started a little while ago."
"Aiding and abetting the creatures of the night?"
"They needed a place to go."
"So you accommodated them."
"We took them on as temporary guests."
"Only on Saturdays?"
"Yes. And only at night. We call it DEMENTIA."
"I call it potentially risky. But I'll give you this, they're certainly interesting to watch."
"And very well behaved."
"So I've noticed. I may have to return sometime and see how this all works out."
He smiled. "Please do. We have nothing to hide."
I nodded. "Yeah, nothing at all." I glanced around the room taking in the spectacle. Then I returned to the black iron rail. After watching Miss Tai Chi for several minutes, I finally made a move out of the lounge. Exiting the haven of graceful Goths, vampires, and nocturnal misfits.
I wandered back into the main concert room and spotted the Ozric Tentacles on stage slowly removing their equipment. It wasn't going to be a very fast getaway. They were looking very
relaxed and mellow. I headed toward the part of the stage where Ed was standing.
He turned to face me.
"Great show. I gave Brandi some photos from the Club 2410 show you played last year in Portland."
He smiled, "Thanks."
"I'm surprised that the North American tour only had three gigs."
He corrected me, "Five gigs."
"Five? Where are the other two?"
"That sounds like Montana."
He nodded. "And some other place ever further away." He made a silly confused face. I was pretty sure he wasn't the one doing the driving. Geography didn't seem to be his forte.
"Everything is far away over here. Even more so in the United States."
"I saw you at a festival in the UK. It was at Bramdean near Winchester. I think it was around... 1987."
Ed was totally blank. It didn't register. It was probably too obscure of an event for him to recall. Just a field full of hippies surrounded by a lot of hip cops. All of them watching Hawkwind and the Ozric Tentacles playing at a free festival.
I tried something much larger in scale to see what reaction I'd get. And if that would trigger his neurons.
"I also saw you a few years later. It's a place I call... Tree-Orgy."
Ed's jaw dropped. And his eyes registered amazement. "You were at Tree-Orgy?"
"Yeah, it was great!"
He repeated it again. "Tree-Orgy."
His face beamed and he started to grin, real friendly like. I got to the point. "I took photos of your set tonight. How would I get them to you if anything interesting turns up?" To my amazement, he became very clear and focused as he replied, "Check the web site. That would be the best way to make contact."
"Swell, I'll do that!"
He gave me a friendly wave and watched me as I turned to leave. I could almost read his mind as I headed toward the exit.
I left the main show room and walked down the hallway to leave the building. I spotted a familiar face as I walked down the carpet toward the Lobby. It was Steve. He was standing at the ATM - Reloading.