Elegy - Cover


Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 13

“Make some noise for Charlie Nelson and the Wild Cats,” the DJ’s voice floated from the booth tucked away in the back, giving us our cue to burst through the steel double doors of the loading dock and up onto the stage.

As the double doors opened, we were hit by a wave of sound as people cheered for us. I didn’t think I’d ever not love that feeling. While not the biggest crowd we’d played for, it was the biggest we’d ever had in an indoor venue, which made everything sound ten times louder. What would have been cheering and clapping at the last place we played was almost thunderous inside the converted warehouse.

Jogging onto the stage, I grabbed the mic and pulled it to my mouth, my voice booming over the sound system, “Hello, Raleigh.”

The cheers crescendoed at the mention of their city. That was one thing I’d picked up from watching my dad perform. The easiest applause line for any performer was just saying the name of the city you’re in. It’s a live performance cheat code.

“It’s Saturday night and sometimes we all just gotta cut loose and throw caution to the wind, am I right?” I said, to another wave of cheers. “Go out and hit the bars. Drop it at the club. And if things go really well, maybe even have a One Night Stand.”

As soon as I said the cue, Seth gave us our count-in and we were off. Our opening chords echoed through the amps, and the crowd surged forward, starting to jump with the beat. My fingers flew over the frets of my guitar, muscle memory taking over. This song was a staple every weekend at the Blue Ridge, and I’d played it hundreds of times by now, but it never got old.

Lyla really had a hit when she brought this to us, and we were using it as our opener a lot more often. It got the crowd ramped up and was a good way to start things off with a bang before we slowed it down a little bit and then ramped it back up for the climax and our closing, which tonight was going to be The Little Things.

I scanned the crowd as I sang, like I always did, looking for people I could focus on. I found that locking in on someone helped me get the vibe of the crowd, and that energy fed back into my performance. This time, however, I didn’t lock onto anyone because something was bothering me. Because most of my attention was on playing my guitar and singing, it took me a minute to work out what felt off.

Finally, it hit me. I could only see three staff members, and only one of them looked like security. There were maybe ten people during the tech setup, but now there was just one security guy by the stage, standing next to the guy who introduced us, and one of the tech guys I’d seen when we’d been setting up.

For a crowd this size, especially indoors, that wasn’t nearly enough. Hell, some of the bars we’d played only held two hundred and fifty, and they had twice that, with half being security.

We hit the bridge after the second verse, where the guitar part backed off so we had a spot for Seth to get the spotlight with no vocals. It only lasted for about twenty seconds, but it was enough for me to step back to Lyla.

“Are you seeing this? There’s almost no staff,” I said, leaning over to her.

I didn’t think she’d clocked it yet because her brows furrowed as she scanned the crowd, realization setting in.

“What do we do?” she asked.

“See if you can flag down Warren,” I said, moving back into position for the chorus. I could see Marco out of my peripheral vision, looking like he was exchanging glances with Seth, probably wondering what that was about or why Lyla was desperately looking around.

Normally, I wouldn’t worry about it. I’d played a few shows that got out of hand, but none since Warren had been booking gigs for us, so I didn’t think it was likely we’d run into problems. With what happened this afternoon, though, I was nervous.

The chords of One Night Stand faded out, and we seamlessly transitioned into Backstage, my worry about the crowd and security fading away as I focused on the intro. It was much more complex than One Night Stand and required more concentration to get it right.

I just hit the last note of the intro, ready for Seth and Lyla to come in hard, when I heard a loud popping noise by the edge of the stage, followed by a bright flash of light that stunned me for a moment, my vision going white. As the bright flash cleared, spots danced before my eyes, the world reduced to a blur of colors and indistinct shapes. I blinked rapidly, taking my hands off my guitar and rubbing my eyes, but everything remained hazy and doubled.

For a moment, I almost panicked until my vision started to clear in patches, the stage coming back into view bit by bit. By then, the situation had already spiraled out of control. The edge of the stage closest to Marco, just where the short had been during the soundcheck, was in flames, the fire starting to spread along the skirting that covered and hid the underside of the stage.

Flames started riding up one of the side supports, using the banners and draped fabric running up the metal frame to travel up toward the ceiling. I could already feel the heat coming off the rapidly growing fire and smell the pungent smoke that was rolling out from under the stage where, presumably, more electronics were burning.

Panic rippled out as people scrambled away from the spreading fire, but no one was really moving, instead, they were just pushing at the wall of people behind them that seemingly refused to budge. It took a second for me to understand the problem, looking over their heads toward the front.

The entrance was a single door, and people were blocking it as they all tried to push through the small entryway at the same time, no one giving way to let anyone else through.

We had to get off this stage.

“Get off the stage,” I yelled, as the fire continued to grow, threatening to trap us up here. The wooden floorboards at the edge of the stage had started to burn, and the entire thing would be covered in flames shortly. The heat was becoming suffocating, making it hard to breathe.

As I started down the stairs, the front corner of the stage that had been burning the longest gave way under the weight of the large stack of speaker cabinets standing on it. One of the stacks fell towards me, almost squashing Lyla as it landed across the stairs leading off the stage. I only just managed to get an arm around her and pulled her back as the large black boxes slammed into the stairs and then rolled down, settling on the concrete floor.

Warren wasn’t as lucky. As I yanked Lyla back, I looked to my side in time to see the other stack fall on Warren, whose attention was on the crowd at that moment. I tried to yell a warning, but it was too late to help him.

Letting go of Lyla, I dropped the guitar that had still been hanging off my neck, vaulted over the speaker in our path, and dashed to his side, straining to pull the speaker off him. I’d been building a lot of muscle over the last year and a half, but it wasn’t weight-lifting kind of muscle, and this thing must have weighed three hundred pounds.

“Help me,” I yelled, taking in a big gulp of the inky smoke that was starting to gather around us.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long, as Seth was by my side almost instantly. Together, we pulled the speaker off Warren and dropped it to the side.

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