The entrance to the nightclub was a nondescript grey door next to a shop. We walked up stairs covered in worn red carpet and into a large dark room that stank of stale cigarette smoke and alcohol. When my eyes adjusted to the light I could see a bar to one side, a stage to the other and people standing around in the semi-dark.
I heard LJ’s voice first. ‘Good, you’re here, the band’s out the back.’
He appeared out of the darkness and kissed us on the cheek and then took Lucy and me to the greenroom. The band was sitting around smoking and drinking whiskey.
‘Oh cool, feral’s here,’ said Dog.
My eyes started to sting from the smoke.
Lucy introduced herself and then Robbo said we should start rehearsing. I took off my coat and their eyes bulged.
‘Wicked,’ said Dog.
I posed and showed off like the little exhibitionist I was.
We went out and the stage lights went up. LJ introduced me to a couple of people he said where from the record company. They were polite but indifferent. I was to learn they were affecting a totally fake cool attitude. The band had already rehearsed their other songs so we concentrated on my part. As soon as I heard the amplified music I was into it. I didn’t have any difficulty remembering the part; we just had to decide what version I would do and it was agreed I would tone it down. The rest involved staging and where I would stand.
It was five when we wrapped and LJ, Jane, Lucy and I went out to get a coffee and meal. Lucy’s mood had changed. She was smiling quietly to herself and I guessed it was because she was with both her mother and father. I was happy for her but I was sad for me. It made me think of my father and everything.
Over a meal of kebab and felafel LJ spoke to me softly, ‘I want you to give your best performance. Don’t hold back for the band’s sake. It doesn’t matter if you steal the show. There’ll be a number of important people there just to see you and you need to impress them.’
‘Yes, I made a few phone calls.’
It was then my nerves got to me. My stomach tightened. When we got back the room started to fill with people. Jane and LJ recognised some of them and started to chat, so Lucy and I went out the back. I could sense the band was nervous because the conversation seemed forced and hyper. Lucy started talking to Dog and Robbo took me aside and whispered in my ear. ‘There’s been a change of plans…’
‘But the rehearsal?’
‘You’ll be fine. Dog and I decided to do an extended version. We need to prove to these cunts that we can really play. Just follow my lead and do your thing, give these pretentious shits a dose of real rock.’
I nodded. I knew I didn’t have a choice.
I grabbed Lucy. ‘I need to piss,’ I said as I dragged her to the toilet. ‘I can’t do it,’ I said as I dropped my knickers and sat on the toilet.
‘What? You have to…’
‘I feel sick.’ I tried to pee but my anxiety had tightened my bladder.
‘You’ve got stage fright,’ said Lucy.
‘No, something else is wrong. I’m sick. I’ll throw up.’
A voice called. ‘One minute.’
‘Come on Bliss, finish peeing, you have to get out there.’
‘I’m not up until last. I can’t.’
Lucy looked at me and shook her head, ‘fucking pathetic.’ She stormed out.
I sat on the toilet and shook. A minute later LJ walked in with Lucy. He pushed open the door and stood glaring at me. ‘Get up now Bliss and get out there.’
‘I need to piss, fuck off.’
‘You don’t, you’ve got performer’s bladder. It’s just plain old ordinary stage fright.’
I looked up at him. He wasn’t going to give me any sympathy.
‘I’ve thrown up before a performance many times,’ he said. ‘You never ever let it stop you.’ He grabbed me and hauled me up from the toilet. ‘Get out there or you go back to the valley and never come back.’
‘They’ve changed the song. We’re not doing the rehearsed version.’
‘Shit, little pricks, okay, well that happens, you’ll just have to go with it now.’
I started to cry.
‘Bliss, do you want this or not?’
I nodded my head.
‘So stop being such a weak little pussy and show them what you’ve got…’
I heard the music start. I became angry with myself. The pressure in my bladder left.
‘Fuck it,’ I yelled. Then I screamed, walked forward and fell flat on my face. I had forgotten to pull up my knickers. Lucy thought it was hysterical and I did as well. I rolled around wracked with laughter as I tried to pull up my knickers. LJ just shook his head and went red with amused embarrassment at the sight of me flailing around on the floor in hysterics and inadvertently giving him a full view of my bare arse as a scrambled to get up.
I felt completely different as I walked into the main room. The music hit me like a wave and swept me along. I stood to the side and danced and played air guitar to each song. I wanted to push Robbo aside and take his guitar from him. I couldn’t wait to get up there.
My cue came. I walked on stage and was introduced. I looked out at the audience and glared defiantly at the eyes looking me up and down. Billy said you had to either fuck or fight the audience and I was going to do both.
The band played a fast and hard version. Dog looked at me to see if I was okay and I nodded. When my part came I ripped into it. Dog looked startled but he responded with a boost in his vocal. I was supposed to stay behind the mike stand but it felt wrong, so I pulled the mike out and started dancing seductively around Dog. I knew what the song was about and imagined I was fucking him. I was conscious of not being too provocative but at some point the energy of the song took over. Dog struggled to keep up but Robbo could see what I was doing and ripped into his guitar solo. I was getting frustrated because I knew intuitively that I had to hold back to keep the song tight. If I took control it would spoil the point of the story. Dog had to regain control and the only way that was going to happen was for me to let him. I started shaking and converted my orgasm into a wailing, convulsive vocal climax and sank to the floor as my character died.
Robbo was ecstatic but Dog was furious. Most of the audience clapped politely, but there were at least a few whistles and yells of genuine enthusiasm.
‘That was fucking fantastic,’ said Robbo as he hugged me. Dog just glared at me because I had just upstaged him. I didn’t care. I had done what LJ had told me to do. Lucy grabbed me and was squealing about it being absolutely fantastic. She dragged me off stage and up to LJ. Jane was looking at me wide-eyed; LJ just looked pale. I don’t remember what happened next. It seemed nearly everyone wanted to meet me and I became overwhelmed with names and faces and compliments. When some rock journalists started asking me questions Jane instinctively went into action and distracted them with a promise of a story while LJ dragged me downstairs and into the night.
‘You didn’t, you know?’ he whispered to me as Jane hailed a taxi.
‘Yes, I’m sorry, did I embarrass myself?’
He shook his head. ‘No, it was brilliant.’
‘I had to hold back though. I didn’t go over the top did I?’
‘That was holding back?’
‘Yes, I could have, you know, again. It’s the music. I can’t help it.’
He shook his head. ‘Don’t worry, most of the people there know their stuff, it was clear Dog was struggling. My guess is that we saw the beginning of the end of the band. Robbo is already making noises. I suspect you got caught up in band politics. Robbo is pushing Dog for more, but that’s not your problem. It was a great performance, maybe a touch bratty and arrogant, but just a touch.’
We piled into the taxi.
‘So is she going to get a contract or not?’ asked Lucy as we settled in our seats.
‘What?’ I asked confused.
‘Lucy,’ said LJ exasperated.
Jane got in the front and gave the taxi driver directions.
‘What do you mean?’ I asked.
LJ sighed. ‘There were three record execs there who asked if you were signed. They’re interested.’
‘But we aren’t going to do anything about it.’
‘What?’ complained Lucy.
‘She’s too young,’ said Jane turning to give Lucy a warning look.
‘It’s best to keep them guessing for now,’ said LJ. ‘We have to have a long-term plan so that when Bliss is old enough there’ll be a bidding war. For the next few years the world gets only carefully measured doses. Besides, she’d get ripped apart now because she’s way too precocious. Not everyone there approved of her performance. It was way too provocative. She has to learn to get it under control…’
‘It’s okay,’ I said. ‘I know I’m not ready.’
Everyone looked at me.
I shrugged my shoulders. ‘I could have done the guitar better than Robbo as well, but I know I can be even better still. It was pretty basic thrash metal. I need to practice more and LJ’s right, I need to learn how to control it and focus it.’
LJ pursed his lips they way people do when they’re impressed. ‘Well, you’re full of surprises.’