The Tavern, as it was called, brought to mind images of faded Tudor quaintness: of whitewashed exterior, black beams, windows barred with cast iron, mulled mead and a fireplace in every room.
In truth, the pub was anything but. Located in one of the gentrifying suburbs, it was a modern bulwark of concrete, iron and glass. The first two stories were the pub proper, and the next ten were apartments. The owners had called it 'The Tavern' in a display of hipster pride, as if it was the only pub that mattered. Snaking through the two levels were a series of pipes, as small-scale brewing took place on site.
It was usually a lively sort of pub, populated mostly by the fussy, the well-off, the well-educated and those that aspired to be, although situated near a tube station meant it also got a lot of randoms peering in to grab a pint. The alcohol menu was diverse, the food menu was dominated by various pulled meats and a cheese board (if anyone cared) and there were probably far too many male graduate students with neckbeards who nodded enthusiastically at each other as they discussed Kant.
Still, on Saturday night it was even more bustling than usual. People stood on the stairs, beers in hand, and chatted. Every seat was taken. The wait staff had their hands full (literally), and moved with ease and grace through the throng to deliver food to tables, and collect numbers and plates.
Tonight there would be music. Tonight there would be bands. Tonight was Singles' Night
, a guarantee of no sappy love songs, no heart break, no angst. Two local bands were playing: first there would be a set from The Flamethrowers
, with a mix of classic rock and pop standards, and then after a break, there would be an electro-synth duo to allow for dancing well past midnight.
So at about 9pm, patrons were treated to the sight of the first band tuning up. There wasn't really a performance space, so much as a corner on the ground floor of the pub that was currently unoccupied by tables. It was a four-piece band: some shaggy-haired cross between hobo and hipster on rhythm guitar and vocals, a slightly older british caribbean guy in glasses with goatee on double bass, a short-haired woman in her mid-20s on percussion and vocals and a tendency to beat the ever-living fuck out of the drum set, and another woman, more long-haired and willowy, on keyboards and vocals. Mr Hobo-Hipster of the shaggy hair and blond tips sang lead most of the time, but he gave it up for each of the women through their eleven song set, and there were duets. The keyboard was set to produce a more honky-tonk piano sound, and combined with the double bass, most of the covers had a dirty feel to them, all loose chords and guitar slaps. Clearly they'd played together for long enough to have a good feel for each other, which just added to the looseness, the occasional digression or ad hoc solo.
And Mr Hobo-Hipster didn't so much as introduce the band members as say "Hey. We're the Flamethrowers" and then let his guitar speak for itself as they launched into a funked-up version of Money
. His voice was a little rough, almost a growl, and his stage presence was contained but not muted. Even without posturing, John made it very clear that he was the driving force behind the band: he didn't preen or strut, he didn't need to, and only the hint of a smirk could be seen around his eyes. There was no grinning, not now: now he was controlled and contained and came off a little bit contemptuous of having to perform. He sang, sure, and he played, and played pretty well, but his focus were the frets of his guitar, the lyrics of the songs. That night, he was sleek and dangerous and full of pride. That night, he had no reasons to smile or grin or show how happy he was: he'd lost those along the way. He was pared back to his disdainful core. Overall, the band was good but not great, and with John being Intense, the performance probably came off somewhere between 'bluesy rock band' and 'satanic death cult'.
Grooving through the set-list for roughly 45 minutes, the Flamethrowers played a series of stripped-back, funked-up covers. Rock the Casbah
. a slowed-down take on Time after Time
. Versions of Dangerous
and Sweet Dreams (are made of this)
that were dominated by the keyboards and a sparse double bass. Everybody Wants to Rule the World
. John's wry grin came out for a guitar driven, lazy run on Carole King's "It's Too Late
", before he paused to finally introduce the band, have some water, and explain that the point was to avoid the melancholic and romantic: to not make anyone feel bad for being single.
Four more songs, and they then closed with Mama Told Me Not To Come
, having meandered their way past some INXS
, Living End
and Lynyrd Skynyrd
In the end, John thanked the band (again), thanked everyone for showing up, and hoped they passed the audition. As a nicety, he promised there would now be some 'music you can dance to' after a little break, and then disappeared to pack up his guitar and amp and find himself a drink and a quiet corner.
The night went on without him, and that was just fine.[OOC: Saturday night at an upmarket pub and destination of note. Feel free to show up before, during or after the band. Complain about the noise, the locally brewed artisan beer, the hipster food, the even more hipster band, or just dance the night away.]