All stories

The next big gig

by Jenny

Darren pulled the record from its paper sleeve, lowered the needle and let the music wash over him. How had he not listened to this record for so long?

He stood on tiptoes on the stool and peered into the darkness at the top of the wardrobe. His fingers fumbled about in the dust.There! He carefully eased it out, past the boxes of old CDs and other junk he hadn’t had the heart to chuck out yet.

The trunk was heavier than he expected and he slipped slightly as he stepped down from the stool, sending it crashing across the bedroom floorboards. But Darren didn’t care about that now; he was holding everything that had ever mattered to him in the world. He sat down on the floor, carefully lifted the dusty lid and began to rummage inside it.

Everything was here, exactly as he remembered it. He was so intent on his task that he didn’t hear the footsteps on the stairs, or look up when Lisa opened the door and peered worriedly at him.

“Everything alright, love?”


“I heard a crash…?”

“Oh, yeah, I’m fine. Listen, I’m thinking of having the lads round one night next week.”

“The lads?”

“You know, James and Scott and them. From the old band.”

“James the bank manager and Scott the father of three? Those ‘lads’?”

“I was thinking we could maybe have a bit of a jam sesh, you know, like we used to.”

Darren looked up from the trunk. He had found his old drum sticks and a few faded flyers and ‘Artist’ wristbands in a sea of colourful detritus from years back.

“I was thinking we’d try for some gigs again soon, maybe.”

Lisa came to sit beside Darren on the floor. She picked up one of the flyers and smiled.

“This is the gig where we met - do you remember? I thought I was so cool getting off with one of The Band. Even if you were only the drummer.”

“And I thought you were the most beautiful girl in the room.”

It was a well loved routine and they both grinned as they spoke their lines.

“This ‘getting the band back together’ stuff, it’s not to do with our News is it? You haven’t mentioned playing again for such a long time and now...” Lisa cradled the gentle swell of her belly. Darren looked down at the floor.

“What if it means I have to stop playing?”

“When was the last time you actually played? Properly played, even for fun?”

“I know it’s been a while, but there was always the chance I’d…”

“And besides, it’s not like you’re stopping - you’ll need to teach this one to play one day. Maybe he or she will be the one to get you back into it properly - you can play together.”

“You mean we could be like the Carpenters?”

“Or the Von Trapps.”

Darren smiled and slid the lid of the trunk closed again. But this time he kept his drumsticks out.


by Russ

I knew he hadn’t really wanted to come to the pub with me, which is why we had to do it on a Tuesday when he didn’t have plans with mates, but it was an occasion, wasn’t it?

He stuck it out and, once we had a couple of pints on the table, seemed to settle into the idea of a night drinking with his old man, or perhaps just a night of free beer.

I saw him look at his phone as we’d walked home so hadn’t held much hope when I’d asked if he wanted a whisky to finish the night. He must have had the taste though, or maybe just felt enough sympathy for me to say yes.

So here we were, him eyeing a glass of yellow liquid with vague suspicion and me rooting through the old trunk I kept in the corner of the room.

‘So this is Blur,’ I said as I dropped the needle just after the start of the record. I’d skipped Tender, we could come back to that for the last song.

‘Parklife!’ he mockneyed up the word, which pleased and annoyed me in equal measure.

We’d gotten to talking about music in the pub, or I had. I wanted to see which bands had stood the test of time and he was willing to indulge me. Oasis had made the cut, I guess that was inevitable, but we’d struggled to find much more common ground. I’d tried him on SFA but there was no hint of recognition so I took the easy path.

‘Blur? Y’know, the guy from Gorillaz, they’re still releasing stuff, right?’ I’d tried, earning a shrug. ‘Girls & Boys, Song 2… Parklife?’

His eyes had widened a fraction and mine had burst open in hope.

‘Yeah yeah, ‘dirty pigeons’,’ he’d finally admitted. ‘I’ve heard it.’

It was then I’d known I had to get him home and show him it was so much more than randy birds.

‘This is 13,’ I said. ‘The album. You can hear the start of Gorillaz in some of this.’ I still had no indication he’d heard of the animated monkeys but I had little else to cling to. ‘They were starting to fall apart when they made this, but it’s that tension that makes it interesting. So different from Parklife.’

He was sniffing at his whisky, but not really responding to me.

‘The drummer is a Labour councillor now,’ I said while nudging the needle past ‘1992’, which I thought might drag a bit. ‘And the bass player is a Tory cheese-maker, which is weird because he was definitely the cool one, but I suppose looking back...’

When I turned around he was staring at his phone. His glass was on the coffee table, barely touched. He noticed me looking over.

‘I’m pretty tired, Dad. Think I’m gonna go to bed,’

There wasn’t much I could say.

‘OK, son,’ I tried to sound matter-of-fact. ‘Good night though? Here’s to adulthood!’ I raised my glass a little.

‘Yeah, was a good night dad,’ he paused. ‘Thanks for taking me out.’

I waited for him to leave the room before setting the needle back to the first song and pouring his undrunk whisky into mine.