Colin turned to face the stage area when he heard a high-pitched whine of feedback. The long-haired man tapped his fingers on a microphone. A guitarist tuned up, while a bass player crouched down to adjust dials on a small amplifier. The drummer sat behind his drum kit, drinking from a bottle of lager.
“One two, one two,” the long haired man said.
Someone from the audience, a local punk with ripped purple trousers and an unruly mess of purple hair to match, strode up to the stage area.
“Go on, Marco,” a female voice shouted from one of the tables near the stage.
The youth said something to the long-haired man, who smiled and stood to one side, then gestured at the microphone. The youth grabbed the microphone stand, tilted it toward himself, and scowled at the audience.
“Fuck Thatcher,” he shouted. “You took us into this fucking war but nobody knows what we’re fighting for some fucking sheep some fucking land what the fuck do we want that for you fucking skank you fucking—”
He continued shouting for several minutes, to the accompaniment of blasts of feedback and an occasional beat on the drums. As one poem ended he started another before anyone could react, until with a final scream he walked off the stage and retook his seat.
“Well I hope the band is better than that,” Brian said.
“I thought he was cute,” Becky said, smiling. She craned her neck to see where the youth had gone.
The long-haired man tapped on the microphone again. “Right. Hello, I think we might be ready to start now. I’ll just take my pullover off, it’s a bit hot in here.”
“Fucking hippy,” someone shouted from the bar. Colin smiled and looked to see who it was, and saw the two skinheads standing there. His heart sank. He nudged Brian and nodded to them. Brian turned to look.
“Thank you for that contribution,” the long-haired man said. He smiled and flicked his hair back over his shoulder with a jerk of his head.
“Don’t worry about it,” Brian said, “they’ll not do anything with this many people here.”
“What are you on about?” Kaz asked, looking toward the bar.
“Nothing,” Brian said. “Let’s watch the band.”
“Right. Okay,” the long-haired man said. “Well I’m Mark and we’re The Astronauts, and we sound a bit like this.” He counted in the band, adding emphasis to the final digit. “One two three four, one two three four.”
* * *
Trog turned his back on the band when they started to play. He clapped his hand on Don’s shoulder to get his attention and leaned over to shout into his ear.
“I still reckon that student cunt knows something about it.”
Don nodded. “Yeah, so do I. Not much we can do about it tonight though, just the two of us, so we might as well get fucked off. This fucking hippy music’s doing me head in anyway.”
Trog picked up his lager and drained the glass. He turned and watched the singer cavorting around the microphone stand like some demented ballerina. He turned back to Don and put the empty pint glass down on the bar.
“Yeah, drink up then. Hopefully Ian will come round soon, and he can tell us who it was. Then we’ll get a fucking army together and do the cunt proper.”
Don drained his glass in one go and belched. He thumped the glass down on the bar and walked away. Trog took a final look at the band, shook his head, and followed Don through the door.
* * *
The music took Colin by surprise. From the long hair of the singer, and the promise of folk music on the poster outside, he had expected something like Pink Floyd or one of those other ghastly bands of that ilk, and had been ready to walk out as soon as they started. But while being a lot more melodic than Colin’s usual taste in music, the songs were certainly catchy and the tales of urban decay told by the lyrics were definitely something he could relate to.
Colin looked at Brian, intending to ask if he wanted to get up and dance with him. Brian had his arm around Kaz’s shoulder. He turned to face her and shouted something into her ear. Kaz smiled and shouted something back. Colin sighed and nudged Stiggy.
“Come on, Stiggy.”
Stiggy looked at Colin, but remained seated until Colin pulled him to his feet and dragged him by the arm into the midst of a few punks who were shuffling around before the band. He let him go, then swung his arms and jumped about in time to the music. Stiggy caught the back of Colin’s hand across his face when he didn’t move out of the way in time, and shoulder-barged Colin in retaliation. Stiggy kicked out his feet and leaped around, flailing his arms at anyone who got too close to him. Colin kept his distance, having seen Stiggy dance lots of times before and not wanting to get any fresh bruises to go with the ones he already had.
A few songs later, Colin’s energy started to sag. He squeezed his way out of the make-shift dance area and returned to his seat. He sat down and lifted the front of his T-shirt to wipe sweat from his face, then took a long drink to cool himself down.
“I can see how you got your bruises now,” Becky shouted. “Do you always dance like that?”
“Yeah. Why, what’s up with it?”
Becky smiled. “Nothing. So what do you think of the band then? Glad you came?”
Colin nodded. “Yeah, they’re pretty good. I wish I’d bought that record now.”
Colin turned to watch the band. Stiggy was still jumping around haphazardly, lurching into the other punks and sending them stumbling away from him with his fists.
The band announced their final song, and three minutes later it was all over. Dancers drifted away from the stage area, bruised and happy. Some headed for the bar, others returned to their seats and made ready to go home. Stiggy went into the toilet.
Becky stood up and approached the stage area, said something to the singer. He bent down to listen, nodded, and reached for the bag of records. He pulled one out and handed it to Becky. Becky paid him and returned to Colin.
“Here you go,” she said, smiling.
“Er … thanks,” Colin said, and took the record from her.
Becky stood before him and swung her shoulders. She smiled. “Buy me a drink?”
“Er … yeah, sure.” Colin looked to the bar, expecting the two skinheads to still be there. But all he saw was a smattering of punks and a few old hippies. “What do you want?”
“Pernod and black.”
* * *
Continued next Friday.
Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.