The Standalones

Chapter Twelve

Ken Preston

9 June 2024

Silhouette of a rock band against a spotlight and the words The Standalones

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Chapter Twelve

Chloe’s stomach had transformed into a home for several excitable butterflies. Had she ever felt this nervous before a gig? Maybe when she was eight years old and entered the school talent competition. She’d stood up and sung Tiger Feet, but she’d lost out to Sue Holt and her tap dancing routine.

Chloe had played several gigs over the last year or two, but never in London and never to a crowd this rough and ready looking. Oh, and never with a lion in the room, either.

Chloe swallowed. The crowd assembled in front of The Standalones didn’t exactly look like the typical fans of modern pop music. If anything, judging from the beards, the tattoos and the leather jackets, they were more like heavy rock fans.

And if there was a single woman in the audience, Chloe couldn’t see her.

But The Standalones were here now, ready to play their first ever gig with their new lineup.

No backing out now.

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The four of them had spent the afternoon unpacking all the gear from the van and setting up on the tiny stage. Even with just the four of them, they were cramped up there, but they had room. Just.

Scarlett had shoved the holdall stuffed full of money into the bass drum. They’d all agreed it would be a bad idea to leave it in the van. Then they had spent the rest of the afternoon rehearsing. Chloe had already learnt all of The Standalones’ songs before she had even met them and the rehearsal was simply a matter of the band growing familiar with how Chloe played, and her with them.

“Yes!” Chris said as they reached the end of their rehearsal. “We’ve got this!” He played a fast, jaunty tune on the keyboard, finishing it off with a flourish.

From across the room, sitting in her corner, Elsa roared her approval.

“Maybe we should get ourselves a lion,” Scarlett said, sitting behind her drum kit. “Wouldn’t that be cool, having a lion stalk across the stage while we played?”

“Yeah right, until somebody got eaten,” Matt said.

“Booorrriinnnggg!” Scarlett called out.

Now here they were, the rehearsals finished, on stage in front of a crowd of bikers and rockers. Chloe glanced at Matt. He smiled back. Had he noticed how often she looked at him? He was like a magnet, relentlessly pulling her into his presence. How could she escape? Especially when she didn’t want to.

Chloe shoved all these thoughts to the back of her mind. Time to concentrate.

Time to perform.

Their first song of the night was Beat Up, Beat Down. Chloe would start with a rhythmic beat on the bass, with Scarlett then joining in on the drums, followed by Chris and Matt on keyboards and guitar. But as Chloe prepared to hit that first note, a bearded man in a scuffed, black leather jacket jumped on the stage and stuffed a piece of paper into Chloe’s hand.

“Read that out, would you?”

Chloe looked at the paper. A message had been scrawled over it with a leaky pen. Chloe looked up at the audience. The man stood right at the front, nodding at Chloe as though encouraging her to get on with it. What was she waiting for?

Chloe turned to her band members. They were all staring at her with puzzled expressions.

Chloe turned back to her audience and read out the note. “Um, sofa for sale. £5. Ask at the bar for Benny. No time wasters.”

She let the note fall to the stage and went straight into the opening notes for Beat Up, Beat Down.

Scarlett Rage smashed the drums and the cymbals. She was like an animal when she got behind that drum kit. Matt thrashed his electric guitar and Chris joined in on the keyboard.

Chloe opened her mouth to sing the first notes when she noticed someone else jumping up onto the stage and thrusting another note at her.

“Would you read this out?” he shouted.

“What?” Chloe yelled, her fingers still travelling over the guitar strings, the rest of the band playing along, waiting for their cue to move into the first verse.

“Read this out, like you did that other fella’s!” The man held out the note at arm’s length. “I’ll put it down here,” he said, when he realised she wasn’t going to take it off him, and placed the torn piece of paper at her feet.

Chloe sang the first line of the opening verse and they were off, the magic happened and they were a tight team, working together, making music. It was a feeling like no other.

Except, in the back of Chloe’s mind, she couldn’t help wondering, were people going to keep handing her notes to read out?

Were The Standalones there for little more than making announcements about second-hand furniture?