You should play at The Corners acoustic night, everyone had said.
They’d been practicing all week. Gina and Greta had gathered quite a repertoire, covering songs by The Beatles and The Kinks, The Stones and Dylan. They rehearsed at Greta’s place. She sang and Gina played guitar. They performed together at parties and barbeques, desperate to start writing their own songs. People got them. They were good.
The Corners was on Argyle Street between two barber shops. It was a bar in Finnieston that used to be an old man’s pub, but now bristled with girls who cut their own fringes and young guys with long, crazy beards. When she stepped in, Greta took in the stripped-back stone facades and ironic pints of Bass Shandy. There was a fruity tang in the air from raspberry vapes. A couple in their twenties sat playing a card game from primary school, the one with Mr. Bunn The Baker and Mr. Ache The Dentist. The lights seemed very bright. There wasn’t a stage as such, only a corner of the room with a speaker, a microphone on a stand and a very laidback-looking host who’d occasionally glance at a tiny mixing desk when he wasn’t rolling cigarettes. A girl was reading a poem. She was extremely quiet and Greta strained to hear, wishing she’d speak more into the mic. The only word she could make out was ‘Pa-tri-ar-chy’… always said in four distinct sections like that, and often.
Everyone seemed to know each other. The poetry girl got a lot of applause. Other musicians included three ukulele players, a guy who whispered football chants like he was telling secrets and two boys that Greta recognised from the union. They harmonised very well, but were nothing special.
Gina said they’d only get one song. It would have to count. They were playing their own piece, written less than a week ago, called ‘Jeremy, No None Wants You To Come Home’. Tonight would be the first night they’d ever played it to anybody. As their turn grew close, Greta was chewing her nails. ‘But what if I forget the words?’
Gina put her arm around her. ‘Don’t worry. My teacher said that if you can sing a song five times in a row without making any mistakes, your gig will be fine.’
The host stepped up to the mic. ‘Let’s hear a big hand for Jack an’ his balalaika! Thank you Jack!’ Light applause. ‘Next we’ve got some Corners virgins. Give it up for Only Greta & Gina!’
The crowd clapped politely as Gina sat down with the guitar. Greta held the mic and closed her eyes. She let the calm settle, and they began.
First verse, first chorus. Were people getting it? Conversation was already ebbing back into the room. Something was wrong. The crowd weren’t reacting at all.
Hardly anyone was even bothering to face the stage now. And what was this? They were all far more interested in something else across the room. A Dachshund. It was brown and black and very shiny, waddling in on a very jangly lead and wearing a red neckerchief. It’s owner, a tall, thin man in canvas shoes and no socks, wore thick sunglasses even though it was night time.
Greta kept singing. There was already a big circle of people around the dog, petting it, fawning over it, ruffling its coat and speaking to it in that awful way people talk to babies. ‘Oh he’s a gorgeous little man!’ one girl said clear as day during the middle eight. ‘What’s your name little man? Faust? Oh I love it!’
Greta sang through gritted teeth. Faust? Seriously? She wanted to stop there and then and shout them all down, but that wasn’t an option. Got to remain professional.
Faust yelped all the way through Gina’s solo. She plucked away with her head down the entire time, losing her way near the end but pulling through. When the last chord rang out, the room held a very pregnant pause.
Gina went to the bar for her free beer. Greta didn’t bother. ‘Well done ladies,’ said the host back on the mic at last. ‘Always great to hear something more traditional.’
The dog circle was indifferent. That fucking Dachshund.
Reading: 'La Belle Sauvage', Philip Pullman.
Listening to: Madness.
Watching: 'The Silence of The Lambs
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