by Andrew Last
The question was whether or not the show would go on. George Porters-Longley, writing for http://www.pulse.com, stated that the situation was “unfortunate”, “less than desired”, “difﬁcult”. He stressed that there was a “duty of care” to the ticket-holders. They had, after all, paid a lot of money. It was their right to be “compensated, otherwise entertained”. TwerkWerks91, in the comments, was far less eloquent: “oi fuckhead his gf died.” It seemed that everyone had an opinion.
The band had arrived in town the night before. It was their ﬁrst time in the country since their sold-out tour a decade ago, their quote-unquote “farewell” tour. No one had taken seriously the possibility that they would not be returning. They were a billion-dollar industry, a machine. They had too much momentum. Of course they were back.
Dick Chippendale, father of four, lover of smallgoods, just wanted it to be over. He’d had to book his tickets twice. On the ﬁrst occasion, as the sale was ﬁnalising, he’d lost internet connection. Moments before, the computer program had randomly generated two front row tickets, the best seats in the house. It was too good to be true. He shouted down the hall to his wife, Laura, who had her ﬁst in the drain. “Baby! You can thank me later!” She pulled out a gunky salami wrapper; she wondered when he would ever thank her.
The seats were $179.99 each, plus $14.00 for the online booking fee. Dick didn’t have the money, not on a butcher’s salary, but this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. He clicked the green button. He lost his shit when the screen went black, an error bar appeared: you are not connected to the internet. Laura, in a ﬂash of rebellion, had pulled the modem from the wall; she was now halfway down the street, her face grubby with tears.
After taking out his anger on the bathroom mirror, on his children’s toy collection, on Trigger, the family dog, Dick returned to his desk. He tried clicking back through the pages but it was no use, the data had been lost. He composed himself with a deep breath, then started the order again.
Again the ticketing agency randomly generated two seats: Section 21, Row QQ, 55-56. The show was selling out fast. He let out a scream; he clicked the green button; the sale went through. Laura would be going to the show whether she liked it or not.
The lead singer of the band was world-famous for his ﬁsh lips, his peacock strut. He had inﬂuenced a whole generation to walk and talk in a particular way. He ran ten kilometres every day, usually before breakfast, and drank water, bottled water, or nothing. He was ﬁt as a ﬁddle, clean as a whistle. The rumour was that he had monthly blood transfusions. (It turned out to be a trumour.) He was a ﬁxture of pop culture, a larger than life character—a caricature, sure—but also a champion of human rights, of animal welfare, of the environment. When he’d stopped writing songs two decades ago, no one had seemed to mind. People were happy with what they got.
Regina Roberts had never been to a live show before. She was a dentist in training and tended to hang out with medical practitioners. Lloyd Dunne’s three-piece post-rock outﬁt wasn’t going places, but he liked to think that it was. He lived vicariously through other more successful bands, went to gigs the way his mother went to Church. He’d been courting Regina for six months, a story of ﬁrst appointments, follow-ups. “Hey, do you like music?” he ﬁnally asked. It was his fourth visit to Miles of Smiles. Regina shrugged. “I guess. I don’t really know who’s who.” Lloyd danced his eyebrows, gargled, spat into the sink. “Why don’t you let me show you?” The tickets cost the same as a new pedal and whammy bar. When they found out that the show had been cancelled, Lloyd and Regina went to the movies instead. They soon started seeing other people.
As for the lead guitarist, he was a walking pharmacy, a miracle of science. How he had stayed alive all those years on a diet of ethanol and the leaves of South American ﬂowering plants was a mystery. The wrinkles on his face were canyons of experience. He was the yin to the lead singer’s yan (Unless it was the other way around.) The bass guitarist and the drummer had personalities too, but people only knew them the way they knew the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, as colourful satellites orbiting two giants.
Brad Geary seemed to have a problem with the use of language. He took offence with what the media called her. The way they wrote about her, she wasn’t her own person, didn’t have her own story. She was his, she was the lead singer’s girlfriend. Brad thought she deserved better. He wrote a post exploring his feelings. It was part biography, part treatise. What he was asking for was empathy, people.
The post didn’t trend or anything, only got 45 likes, one or two retweets. In the comments Pfft wrote that the point of language is to describe the most information with the least effort. The media didn’t refer to her as “so-and-so’s girlfriend” because they wanted to be disrespectful, he said, they were simply doing their job. Brad read the comment over and over. It only made him angrier. It was one of those looong comments, the ones you ﬁnd in the backwaters of the internet. He had the option to read less … but ignored it and read more.
The lead singer’s girlfriend had been found dead in her New York apartment. She was a fashion designer, known the world over for seamless, skin-tight dresses that left everything and nothing to the imagination. She serviced Michelle Obama, Academy Award-winning actresses, the Danish Royal Family. She and the lead singer had been dating for thirteen years. She had been suffering from depression for decades, it seemed. Only her psychologist had known. The girlfriend’s death was an open-shut case: suicide.
Phil and Denise had tickets to the opening night. “The poor thing,” Denise said when a breakfast TV host told her the news. She was referring to the fashion designer. A man like the lead singer, so old, so experienced: he could cope. But the poor thing … she was so young, only in her forties. She must have been in a dark, dark space.
Phil, a retired scientist, agreed that it was a shame, but wasn’t so sure that it was water off a duck’s back. The lead singer was taking it harder than the man on the TV let on. It didn’t surprise Phil when the star piloted a private jumbo jet across the Paciﬁc to be with the fashion designer’s family. The lead singer needed some downtime, some metime. Understandable.
It became crystal clear that the show would not go on. The rest of the band lingered in the country for another week, then departed for the funeral. They wanted to thank their fans for their support.
Phil and Denise were walking through a run-down shopping centre, looking for paper towels, when they heard the music. The band, sans lead singer, were set up in the parking lot. They played for half an hour. The crowd, all ears, was 139 strong. It wasn’t a rooftop, but it would do. The lead guitarist took the microphone and said thank you, thank fucking you. “We’ll be back,” he promised, “we’ll be back,” and Phil and Denise took it as gospel that they all would be.