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Music, Music, Music (And you and me in between)

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The Sex Pistols gave their first concert in 1975. There were only 42 people in the audience listening to that first rendition of what would later become the punk classic Anarchy in the UK, but among those 42 there were Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley, already part of The Buzzcocks; The Stiff Kittens who would then become the group Warsaw, later Joy Division, later New Order; Martin Hannett, producer and musical genius; and Tony Wilson, founder of the independent music label Factory Records.

Now, Kris isn’t all that big on punk, its beginnings or its endings (too much noise, he would tell Tommy years into their friendship, when he insisted on making him listen to Iggy Pop), but he always liked that story. He likes the hope in it, the idea of inspiration, the feeling that music can sometimes be more than a business. He tells Simon exactly this, and what he gets in return is:

“That’s a ridiculous idea.”

This, then again, is not that surprising. Simon is a big fan of harsh honesty, and even if Kris knows that deep down he’s a big bear, he also knows that changing his preconceptions about the music business is almost an impossible challenge. Simon believes that female performers have to be blonde, bubbly and fun, and that male performers have to be able to belt the longest, highest notes ever. He doesn’t get the singer/songwriter industry, he refuses to even acknowledge the idea of glam, punk, mods, avant-garde, emo, or any other style that implies protest, fantasy or costumes (Kris thinks he might be a bit scared of glitter, but that’s just a theory). Simon is, all in all, one of the few British men who refuse to accept that Bowie existed, and that he did amazing things for the music industry.

So of course, Kris’s idea – a club for new bands to play, where they can gather a fan base and maybe be acknowledged, if not by Simon’s label, then maybe by a more indie one – sounds ridiculous to his ears. But, also of course, darling, lovely Paula takes Kris’s side, and mumbles a few excellent arguments in between her who-knows-what-she-took rants.

“Fine, but you have to make money,” Simon says. “Kara will keep an eye on your little project.”

“Awesome.”

“Oh, and have Bradley help with the… decorations.”

Kris groans, but he takes whatever deal he can get.

*

Kris has never been sure in which capacity Brad works for the label, exactly, but what is clear is that he knows his stuff. You wouldn’t say so if you were to see him in his fuchsia leggings and leopard print scarf combination, but the truth is that he knows what sells, and he knows the way the new younger minds work.

“Red curtains,” he says when he inspects the local they’re renting for the first time. “And leather couches. Let’s make sure people look at the stage for real, blueberry muffin. That’s what you want, yes?”

Kris just smiles, and goes with the flow. The truth is that he doesn’t know if Brad was dropped on his head when he was a kid or if he’s just a very friendly psychopath, but Kris secretly adores him in all of his annoying little self.

Two weeks after Brad’s first visit, the local is almost ready. They call it The Hacienda.

(“The Hacienda, love?” Brad asks, perfect eyebrow arching up.

“Yeah, like the second building Factory Records owned, you know? It’s like a homage to great musical discovery.”

“I think we should just go with my idea of Talented Tongues.”

“We’re not opening a gay bar, Brad.” Kris rolls his eyes, crosses his arms over his chest.

“You’re no fun, banana muffin.” Brad pouts, gives him a pretty look and bats his eyelashes.

“I thought I was blueberry muffin.”

“Oh, must have confused you with one of my other secret love slaves.”

“You wound me, Brad Bell.”)

Now, Kris just needs good music.

*

The afternoon Kris Allen proposes his idea to Simon, he’s twenty five, and has been working for the same label for three years now. At first, he’d wanted to make it big as a musician, to have everybody listen to his music, but then he realized he hated the music business and all that surrounded it. He found that he was more comfortable playing for himself or for a small audience, and so he kept his guitar to himself, and immersed himself in the mission of making the music business more about the music, and less about the business.

All Kris has are his ideas, a family that loves him back home, and an ex-girlfriend/almost fiancé/best friend who will always have his back. Now, three weeks after talking to Simon (he’s twenty five, four months and one week old), he also has a local to do whatever he wants, and Brad Bell. He can’t wait for the future to happen.

*

The Hacienda auditions Thursday July 28th & Friday July 29th. Think you’ve got it? Come and show us!

*

Kris hires two acts from his firsts auditions, which he plans to carry constantly, in his necessity of finding the music of the future.

First there’s Anoop, serious and preppy but with a sweet soulful voice that grips Kris from moment one. He looks so surprised when Kris tells him that he wants to give him a stage to sing that he goes as far as giving Kris a short hug. Kris can already tell they’re going to be friends.

Then, there’s Matt and Scott, who play piano and have a sort of Ray Charles vibe in a modern way. Scott is an adorable goof, and Matt has the potential to be eye candy for the girls. They call themselves The Sparkly Ties.

“But,” Kris finds himself pointing out. “You guys don’t wear sparkly ties.” He stops. “You don’t even wear ties.”

Matt just shrugs, gives him a lopsided grin and says, “That’s the irony, dude.”

Kris chooses not to question them anymore.

*

The opening night is nerve wracking enough that Kris almost accidentally accepts a blowjob from Brad. Brad laughs at him, hugs him, and holds his hand all through Anoop’s first three songs.

“It’s a hit, darling. Quit worrying.”

Mixed with the crowd (bigger than Kris expected), there’s Kara, part of the label’s family. She knows her music, but Kris is a bit afraid of her tendency of banging the table when she talks and of labeling everything that she feels is good as artistry. Kris is not very sure she gets the concept, but he’s happy to let her be.

Anoop is a hit with the ladies, and The Sparkly Ties get as much applause as a fifty people audience can master. Kris knows this is not good enough to make them any money, but he can’t erase the grin from his face.

Later on, when the live music is gone and they have the sound system blaring something low-key and nice, Kris spies Kara dancing with Matt, her eyes glossy and fixated on Matt’s smiling features. This is the beginning of what later will be known as the Matt/Kara odyssey, which will consist on the weirdest on and off relationship of the century, and which will earn Kara the title of Crazy Kara. But, it will also get The Sparkly Ties a record deal, so all is well.
*

Kris meets Tommy at the Laundromat, of all places. He’s wearing make-up, and he’s standing there is his underwear, looking sourly at the pair of jeans that roll around inside the washing machine. Kris is the only other person in the place, and when he looks at Tommy, he gets this:

“Girls are crazy, you know? I’m swearing off them forever. I mean, how hard can it be to turn yourself gay? Everyone seems to be doing it nowadays.”

Kris can do nothing but laugh and let Tommy borrow a pair of sweatpants. They spend the night talking music, and when Kris tells his story about The Sex Pistols’ first concert, he gets a history lesson on the late 70’s and early 80’s music scene in Manchester, from Joy Division to Happy Mondays.

(They called themselves Warsaw first, you know? In honor of Bowie’s song Warszawa, but then they were Joy Division, and when their singer Ian Curtis killed himself they became New Order. It’s probably one of the few groups that have had success after the death of their lead singer. Oh! Ever heard of the Norway group Mayhem? Their singer killed himself and they managed to survive… then again, one of the members of the band took pictures of the dead body and then… how about we stick to Britain for now?)

As it turns out, Tommy is not only a musical guru but also has a band, recently formed and with no name, but Kris gives him a card, and asks him to come audition for him.

Tommy’s band includes Monte, who has crazy guitar skills, Longineu, who is quiet and has a complete disregard for t-shirts, and Mark, a creepy singer who seems to believe he’s part of a death metal band. Kris likes their sound, but when he suggests that Mark should maybe, possibly, pretty please adapt his tone and rhythm to the rest of the band, he throws a tantrum, throws a mike to the floor and stomps his way out of The Hacienda. No one follows him.

Monte shrugs. “Joy Division did ok without their lead singer.”

“Except that Ian Curtis killed himself, and this guy is going to outlive us all, I’m sure.” Tommy sighs, shaking his hair away from his eyes. “I’m sorry for this Kris.”

“Hey, it’s ok. I like you guys, we just need to find you a singer that matches your sound.” He stops, looks at the three musicians on his stage. “And your looks.”

Brad, piping out of nowhere, exclaims, “I think I may know someone!”

*

And so, Brad takes him to an underground gay club, and Kris sees Adam Lambert for the first time. Five minutes after the god of music Kris just saw perform steps away from the stage, he still can’t utter a word. Then, he goes for:

“I-I-Why didn’t you tell me? About-about…?”

Brad shrugs, even as he’s pulling from Kris’s hand and guiding him somewhere towards the back of the club. “I just didn’t think he was your thing, blueberry muffin.”

“But-but, he’s everybody’s thing!”

Brad laughs at him, and tells him to close his mouth already (In a place like this, you never know what can get in, love). By the time he gets to meet Adam, he’s so hot he’s feeling almost dizzy, and he’s pretty sure he’s blushing from head to toe.

Adam Lambert is tall, imposing, has the best voice Kris has ever listened and the prettiest smile he has ever seen. Kris is fascinated.

“You see,” Kris explains after the initial introductions. “There’s this band, and they need a singer.”

They talk for hours, drinking and laughing, Brad nowhere to be seen (Judas). At the end of the night, Kris gives Adam a card, and tells him to call him to set up a date so he can meet the band. Adam smiles, looking down at the card in his hand.

“You were serious about that? And here I thought you were just coming on to me.”

Kris blushes furiously, and Adam says goodbye with a kiss to his cheek.

*

“Just imagine that you’re giving a concert, thousands of screaming fans wanting to see nothing but you guys,” is what Kris tells Adam and Tommy’s band when they meet for the first time. They have agreed on a song, and this is the first time they’re going to do this together. Kris is secretly praying that it goes well.

Well doesn’t even begin to describe what happens when Longineu’s drums, Monte’s guitar, Tommy’s bass and Adam’s voice are together in the same room. They look out of this world, leather and make-up, Adam leaning against Tommy and nodding his head along with Monte as if they’d been doing this for years. When they’re finished, they all smile stupidly, Monte plays a seven second solo on his guitar, Longineu nods in Kris’ direction, and Tommy and Adam tackle-hug him in the middle of a laugh.

And so, Adam and The Glamberts is born.

*

The first night the group performs, the audience crawls out of their leather sofas (Told ya they were a great idea, didn’t I, blueberry muffin?) and they dance and go crazy. Adam has a magnetic energy about him, and even Kara stops screaming at Matt long enough to watch them perform. Kris feels his heart beating inside his chest, hard and fast, and he knows he’s pretty much doomed here.

“It’s the Lambert effect,” Brad says. “Impossible to resist.”

And God, but it is.

Adam, though, is closely followed by two cohorts. First there’s Cassidy, the roommate, who Kris clicks with instantly, and who has a screaming match with Brad right after they meet, only to end up dancing with him by the end of the night. The second one is Drake, pretty and tiny enough that he fits just right under Adam’s arm. Brad spends the night glaring at him (I mean, he used to have a much better taste in men, is all I’m saying), and Kris decides to ignore his existence, just because when Adam looks at him, the rest of the world seems to fade around him.

*

They close for a week for Christmas, and Kris takes the time to go home. He leaves with a heavy heart, going back to Simon’s accusations of the lack of income The Hacienda is producing.

(“But we have great bands playing! You could at least take the time to listen to them, Simon.”

“Kids with make-up and piano players? Kris, I thought I had taught you what the music industry was all about.”

“You haven’t listened to them!”

“Fine, I’ll go see your little project, but the fact remains that it’s just not making any money.”)

He manages to forget, though, thanks to his momma’s home-made pie, the smell of grass and the feeling of home. He spends his time there in between Cale’s house and Katy’s back porch. Cale jokes and makes him laugh, and Katy listens to every story he has with a smile on her face. The night before he goes back, he has a cup of hot chocolate between his hands, the weather is perfect and Katy is looking prettier than Kris ever remembers seeing her. She looks at him with a twinkle in her eye, and after he finishes one of his stories, she says:

“So Adam, huh?”

*

Kris holds auditions the moment he gets back, and he finds Megan, crazy and gorgeous, with a smoky, warm voice that shapes itself around jazz music wonderfully. He has her go after The Sparkly Ties on her first night, but before Anoop, so the crowd gets a breather before Adam and The Glamberts finish the show.

Simon comes watch the show, and before he leaves, he gives Kris a simple smile.

*

Kris goes to one of Adam and The Glambert’s work sessions to listen to some of their latest work, and what he finds is an empty garage and Adam sipping a beer as if his life depended on it.

“Artistic differences,” he explains, and Kris sighs, because that’s band code for we might be rethinking this whole deal.

Adam reassures him that it is nothing like that, only that they seem to be in the middle of a dry spell, and their tempers have crashed a little in their frustration.

“I find,” Kris starts, “that listening to natural sounds always helps me clear my head, get new ideas.”

“Natural sounds?” Adam looks at him, frowns. He still looks pretty.

“Like, the inner beat of the Earth.”

“Did you smoke something? Because not sharing is just not polite.”

Kris laughs, shaking his head at the same time. “I mean the sound of the wind on the grass, or the sound of a washing machine, or kids laughing, things like that.” He shrugs, ignores the strange look Adam is giving him. “I used to think there was nothing more inspiring than the sound of the beating of my momma’s heart.”

Adam smiles at him, pretty and open, and before Kris can do anything about it, Adam has his ear plastered to his chest, one hand curving along his shoulder and the other one expanding itself around his waist.

“It’s beating pretty fast,” Adam tells him, his breath ghosting over Kris’ thin t-shirt, teasing at his skin. Kris wants to tell him that he’s lucky it’s not breaking out of his chest and punching him in the face.

Kris holds his breath when Adam finally looks up, his hands still all over him and his eyes crystal clear.

“You’re right, though; that’s an inspiring sound.”

*

Two months later, Adam breaks up with Drake. He doesn’t say anything about it, but Brad screams about cheating bastards loud enough for the whole city to hear him. Cassidy takes Adam shopping, Brad bitches about Drake as much as his vocal cords allow him to, and Kris takes him to coffee shops and lets him lean his head on his shoulder and stay silent. After two weeks of this, Brad and Cassidy kidnap Kris and demand that he becomes an accomplice in their crazy plan, which is apparently to throw Adam an un-birthday party, since Adam seems to have a secret crush on the mad hatter (Don’t ask me about it, blueberry muffin, something about it always being tea time and getting 364 gifts a year).

That’s how Kris finds himself dressed up as the mad hatter (Brad gives him a wink, wink, nudge, nudge comment that Kris chooses to ignore) and holding a white rabbit wearing a vest between his hands. Megan is wearing a tight cat-like costume, Anoop and Matt have been assigned the Twiddledee and Twiddledum roles, Tommy, Longineu, and Monte are stuck being cards, Cassidy has gone with the caterpillar outfit and Brad has been screaming off with his head! ever since they gave him the scepter, crown and red dress.

After Adam goes through the initial surprise, they force a blonde wig and a blue dress on him, and when Kris offers him a piece of cake and wishes him a happy un-birthday, he almost crushes the thing in his haste of hugging the life out of him.

They have tea, and when they’re settled around the TV to watch the Disney version of the movie, Brad screams:

“Clean cup, clean cup! Moooove down!”

Right before anyone moves Kris complains, “Hey, I’m supposed to say that.”

"How dare you! Off with his head!”

Cassidy rolls his eyes, grabs at Brad’s dress and makes him sit. “This is the last time we let you have a crown.”

Adam just laughs, and hugs Kris another four times by the time the party is over.

*

The Davids appear out of nowhere, together but so different that Kris can’t believe it. But Cook is amazing with the guitar, and his low growly voice conquers him immediately, and by the time Archie has finished singing, all Kris wants to do is adopt him. The first night they perform turns out to be epic in every possible way.

Simon shows up with the sole purpose of telling Kris how his little project is not working, how no matter how much effort and love there’s behind this, they just can’t make what a regular club does unless they change the dynamics of the place. Kris refuses, but begs Simon to stay for the show.

Adam finds him in the offices, unshed tears in his eyes right after he dropped a cup of coffee, because he just can’t take it anymore. He confesses everything, that the club is not doing well, that he hasn’t gotten one single record deal for any of them, that he hates that he can’t make the world see their talent. Adam holds him all the way through it, warm and big, his beating heart a reassurance against Kris’ chest.

Tommy spends the night in a glaring contest with Cook, and they finish the night onstage in an impromptu guitar-playing battle. At least the crowd seems to eat it up.

Brad finds Megan an Anoop making out in the bathroom, and claims to have lost his eyes and to have been scarred for life. Cassidy laughs at him and takes him out to the dance floor. In a weird turn-around of the first night they met, they end up having the most epic fight in the history of epic fights over who knows what. Kris doesn’t get any information out of any of them, and just lets it be.

Archie is a sensation with the ladies, and for the next few weeks he breaks pre-teen’s hearts all over the city. Also, he brings Allison with him. She’s feisty in the best of ways, loud and bright, and when the club closes and she sings for Kris, he knows he has found a diamond in the rough.

All in all, Kris gives the night an A+.

*

Two days later, Kris takes Adam out for coffee, something which he does five out of seven days a week, because he’s so in love it’s painful, and he’s obviously a glutton for punishment. Adam stays beautiful and unaware, and Kris is happy with watching from a distance. Later, they walk towards Adam’s apartment together, because they obviously have the impending need of watching The Toxic Avenger, which Adam can’t believe Kris hasn’t even heard of.

(“Are you serious, Kristopher? The Toxic Avenger!” Adam pulls his hands up, and then goes on, in a deep, announcer-like voice. “Meet little Melvin, he’s a 90 pound weakling. Everyone hated Melvin, they teased him, they tortured him, they tormented him, UNTIL,” here Adam screams, stops in the middle of the street and an old lady steps away from him. Kris laughs, and Adam continues, “he had a horrifying accident and fell into a pile of nuclear waste, transforming little Melvin,” he circles Kris, hands up and curled like an angry monster, “into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength. Melvin became THE TOXIC AVENGER!”

“… You’re such a dork.”)

They walk into Adam’s apartment laughing, Adam’s eyes prettier than they’ve ever been, only to find Brad plastered against a table, Cassidy’s lips on his neck and his hand lost someplace Kris doesn’t even want to guess at.

“Oh my God!” Adam exclaims, and the next moment they’re escaping the apartment, Cass’ and Brad’s eyes on them as they laugh their way out.

“Oh fuck,” Adam whines when they’re settled in the couch of Kris’ apartment. “I eat at that table.”

*

Cook and Tommy develop this weird chemistry thing that no one really understands, but they both shrug it off like it’s not important. No one is all that surprised when they come to the club one night and Cook’s hand is inside the back pocket of Tommy’s jeans, though.

“Does that mean I have to stop groping him onstage?” Adam wonders.

*

Allison starts gathering her own crowd pretty quickly, including Archie and his big, not really secret crush on her, Kara and her not so good dancing moves, and Adam, who has declared her his little sister and is proud of every note that pours out of her throat. Kris suggests that they work on a duet with Adam’s band, and they seem to like the idea. They work for weeks, so much that even cold, calmed Longineu appears too tired for his own good, but when they come up with something good, Kris begs them to wait until Simon graces them with his presence next week.

They do, and Simon is impressed. Not only that, but the crowd goes crazy for them, for that perfect blend of Allison’s rock and roll voice and Adam’s crazy notes, for that amazing chemistry they share onstage.

Kris knows that he’s watching music history in the making.

*

The finances are still not working, and Kris is desperate. He’s bringing crowds to the club, but they’re not drinking enough, and even if he doesn’t pay the musicians more than five percent of the ticket sale, he can barely scrap enough to pay the rent of the local. He’s desperate, and the most realistic part of him knows that he’s going to have to close the place up.

He gets drunk two days in a row, he throws up and feels like shit, but he says nothing.

*

 

The night shapes itself like a regular one at The Hacienda. Brad and Cassidy dance, more twined and close now that they’re officially together and everything, Anoop and Megan are resting now that their sets are over (they’re sitting together, her very recent and exciting wedding ring shining under the low lights of the place), Allison is getting ready to sing, Adam and The Glamberts are going through a couple of songs in the back, and Matt and Scott are drinking nothing but soda since they’re closing the night today. The Davids are playing public tonight, Archie almost vibrating now that he’s getting to see Allison sing, and Cook pretending that he’s not looking at Tommy.

Kris is going to miss this place and these people more than he can let himself admit.

Allison goes through her set, and then Adam’s singing some new songs into the mike, hips swinging and voice vibrant. It’s enchanting. Right before the last song, he grabs the microphone with determination, and mouths into it the best words Kris has ever heard.

“So, we want to thank somebody tonight. Please let’s give an applause to Kristopher Allen.” He points to the bar, and a few heads move to look at him. “Yes, the cute one in the back there, wave Kris, would you?”

Kris does, awkward fingers moving towards the crowd.

“Anyway, we want to thank you for bringing us together, and for believing in us, because without you, we wouldn’t have spent the morning with Simon Cowell signing a record deal to put an album out in four months.”

The crowd erupts in a cheer, and Kris almost falls down from his chair he’s so shocked. He can’t believe it, that Simon did this behind his back, that he put someone out there who’s good and talented and all kinds of perfect, that he’s finally the man behind the music. The group finishes their last song, and almost immediately Kris is there.

“Why the hell didn’t you tell me?” he half screams, and the four members of the band laugh at him.

“We wanted it to be a surprise,” Tommy explains before he hugs him, his hair tickling Kris’ nose.

He gets two more hugs from quiet and low-key Monte and Longineu, and when he gets to Adam, he gets drowned in between strong arms and a warm chest. They pull apart only to hug again, and beyond the noise of the club, he can hear the rattling of Adam’s heart, beating away his excitement inside his chest. He can’t bring himself to move away, and he doesn’t. He clutches on and on, and when he even begins to try and disentangle himself, Adam brings him back until all he can see is the skin of his neck, and all he can smell is leather and sweat.

“Kris,” Adam says, broken open and honest against his ear, excitement and so much more in his voice. Kris moves away just enough to look up at Adam, and then it’s just like a gravitational pull. The move is slow and languid, and when dry, soft lips press finally against Kris’, all he can do is breathe out and let his body melt against Adam’s. They shift their hug into a kiss, hands moving from Kris’ back to cup his cheeks and guide him sweetly against Adam’s mouth. Kris clutches at Adam, hands twisting in the fabric of his shirt. He curves himself to fit himself to Adam’s larger frame, and lets the kiss grow hungry.

They only stop when Matt’s voice breaks their little world with a loud whistle.

“Come on, Lambert, isn’t it bad enough that you out stage me up here, do you also have to do it when you’re not even singing?”

When they break apart, they notice that they’ve gathered a crowd of curious lookers, and all Kris can do is bury his blushing face in Adam’s chest and let him deal with the wide eyes around them.

“Okay, nothing to see here, moving on, people, moving on.”

Kris goes along when Adam pushes him towards the offices, and by the time his back is pressed to a wall, the sound of Matt’s piano is filling the club. Adam goes straight to his mouth, and then goes for his neck, his hands steady at Kris’ hips and his breathing ragged.

“Kristopher, God, I want to take you out, and do all kinds of gentlemanly stuff with you, but I think I’m going to die here if you don’t let me touch you.”

Kris whimpers, and burrows his hands in Adam’s hair to pull him up. Their eyes meet, and Kris berates himself for not spying this before in Adam’s eyes.

“Gentlemanly, huh? You can take me home, and tomorrow you can buy me breakfast.”

*

A month and a half later, The Hacienda closes. Simon calls it a nice experiment, but tells him that the music business doesn’t work like that anymore. He talks about needing Kris back into production, doing what he’s good at, and that he should be glad that at least he found some talented people on his way.

They have a big party to close up, and before the night is over, Kris steps on the stage for the first time since the club opened.

“Well,” he starts. “I guess I wanted to do the whole sex, drugs and rock and roll thing. Um. Without the drugs or the sex, but–“

“Don’t lie to us!” Brad yells from the back. “We know you’ve been getting some!”

Kris laughs along with everybody else, and blushes just a little bit when he looks at Adam.

“I just wanted to say that it’s been awesome, and that it’s only thanks to you guys. So, yeah, just. Thank you.”

They applaud, of course they do, and when he gets off the stage and dives for Adam’s arms, he finds himself crying. It feels like the end of an era. Adam grabs his face and makes him look up, eyes smiling along with the rest of his face.

“It’s only the ending of the first act, Kristopher; the best is yet to come.”

*

Now, when Kris talks about his dreams of making the music business something more than what it is, he talks about the night Allison Iraheta shared the stage with Adam and The Glamberts for the first time. There were only fifty three people there, but they included Anoop Desai and Megan Corkrey, the most successful duet of the decade, also David Cook, who would go on to be worldwide famous, David “Archie” Archuleta, the youngest artist in the American industry with so much success, and also Two White Pianists, formerly known as The Sparkly Ties. He will also tell them that by that time he was already in love with the lead singer of Adam and The Glamberts, and that he never doubted that he could inspire people to do amazing things.