Sometimes, after a long day of filming in the California heat, all the cast of The Dirt wants to do is to go somewhere they won't get recognized, have a beer, and maybe catch some local talent. It's easy enough to find a pub boasting live music on a Saturday night, and as soon as their designated driver, Jonah, a kind-faced production assistant who was older than they appeared, had parked in the adjoining carpark, they're hear rock and roll thumping from inside. They’re all a little tired; it’s the end of a long week, all of them wearing the shadow of their mostly rubbed-off eyeliner around their eyes, hair sitting a little flat for being pinned beneath a wig all day, but they’re looking forward to blowing off some steam. It’s surprisingly early, almost nine, and Daniel mutters hopefully about a ‘pub feed’, his accent coming on a little stronger for his excitement at the prospect, but Douglas, climbing out of the car behind him, can’t deny that he’s not hungry too.
Most clubs around town have switched over to booking DJs for the weekends, but live bands could still be found if you knew where to look. While none of them would object to a club, especially not Colson, who seems to find himself at home in a DJ booth more than than the rest of them, they sometimes found themselves nostalgic on behalf of their characters. This particular pub was called The Ducks Nuts, and the logo boasted a duck wearing sunglasses and board shorts on a surfboard, and on the sign above him was the weekend's lineup. The fast, heavy rock and roll that was filtering out was apparently being played by Flop of the Month. Colson laughs, makes mention that someone in the band probably lost an argument, and though Douglas snickers, he’s already enjoying the music he can hear coming from the pub.
As they step through the door, the song that's playing comes to an end, and there's a smattering of applause, someone by the bar whistles encouragement. The actors make their way to the bar, delighted to find that the kitchen is still open, and they order three serves of beer battered chips between the five of them, and sit themselves on stools around a high table at the back of the pub, with a clear view of the band.
"Alright, we've gotten a request," the woman who steps up to the microphone is one of three performers, holding her bass loosely with one hand, the other coming to take the microphone, "specifically, the bar staff asked us not to play this one, 'cos it might give you ideas, and they're not looking for a brawl," there's a few people who laugh, a few folks on the dance floor who jeer, but in a way that was playful rather than mean, "behave yourselves." The woman tells the dancers, before the long-haired man on drums smashes through the opening bars of Saturday Night (Is Alright for Fighting) by Elton John.
She makes playing bass look as easy as breathing, an accomplished feat considering she was also lead vocals. Captivating to watch, she was a force to be reckoned with on stage, decked out in a spiked leather jacket over what appeared to be a graphics shirt that happened to be tucked into a high waisted skirt, everything from the way she styled her hair, to the fishnets and combat boots she wore, practically radiated a ‘don’t fuck with me’ energy, and Douglas couldn’t look away.
The buzzer goes off a few songs later, once it’s been firmly established that it’s a cover band, and that everyone actually liked the music, that they didn’t want to move on to somewhere else. It’s what most people would call ‘classic rock’, though Daniel calls it ‘pub rock’ when asked to weigh in, and the term feels far more applicable; it feels like it’s only a matter of time before they hear some Motley Crue, and Douglas isn’t sure what would happen if they did. Iwan and Jonah collect food for the table and get another round of drinks; there’s a pause between songs, the singer takes a sip from a schooner she had on top of her bass amp, giving a sharp nod to the other band members before the three of them start the song. The song, T.N.T by AC/DC is familiar, part of Spotify’s Class Rock playlist that the makeup department would be playing early in the mornings while getting the cast ready, and it seems everyone in the pub, Dirt cast members included, seem unable to resist joining in with the guitarist and drummer as they chanted ‘oi’s that the song starts with.
“See me ride out of the sunset on your colour TV screen,” the singer almost caresses the microphone as she sings, a vocal chameleon, she can’t quite match Bon Scott’s gravel, she has a rich, rawness about the way she sings that brings a unique edge to this three-piece, coverband’s rendition that the crowd seems to love. When the bass comes in, her hands move automatically, as if from memory alone, and the way she stands, her centre of gravity low in her hips; she oozes confidence, like she was born to play rock and roll here and now.
T.N.T leads into KISS’s Rock And Roll All Nite, and it’s about halfway through the song that the singer’s gaze finally catches Douglas’s where he’s been watching
her the band. He’s singing along, like everyone else in the bar seemed to be doing, but her gaze, that roams as she performs, finally stops, and he wonders for a second if she’s just watching their table of mistfits jamming out to the song. But then he smiles, reflexively, and she breaks out into a sharp smile of her own, before she looks back out at the dance floor.
The song, and the set, come to an end, and she’s reassuring the crowd that they’d be back after a short break, while the guitarist plugs in his phone and hits play on a playlist of similar songs.
“These guys actually kick some ass,” Colson grins, picking at the last of the fries, and there’s a chorus of agreement from the others. He’s almost tipsy enough to consider making his way to the dance-floor.
“Dude,” Daniel’s voice is quiet in Douglas’s ear, “she’s not on stage anymore, it’s weird to keep staring at her.” Douglas, who was taking a sip of his drink and trying to make it look like he wasn’t staring where he definitely was, almost chokes. Daniel laughs, claps him on the back as he coughs up beer, turning red.
“I wasn’t- I’m not-”
Daniel’s still laughing quietly as Douglas swears, and excuses himself to find some napkins to clear up the spilled beer. The busy bartender hands him a cloth from behind the bar, and by the time he’s back at the table, both Colson and Jonah have gone out to the courtyard to have a smoke, Daniel’s gone to the bathroom, and Iwan’s getting himself another drink. Huffing out a sigh, Douglas starts stacking their cups and moving them to another table so he can clean up the beer he’d spilled; it wasn’t enough, it was just inconveniently in the middle of the table.
“You need some help?” He doesn’t recognise the voice at first, but when he looks up from where he’s mostly finished cleaning up the spill, he’s surprised to come face-to-face with the singer- you.
It’s a Rolling Stones shirt that you’re wearing. It’s the first thing he notes, and the second thing he notes is the piercings adorning your face, catching the light; lip, eyebrow, nose, ones he’s not quite sure how to name, more than a few in your ear, a cool little chain connecting two.
“I think I’m alright,” he answers, giving a small smile automatically, after a beat, he adds, “you guys sound great, by the way.” You grin in return, proud and bright, offering your hand.
“Thanks, I’m Y/N.”
Douglas pauses for a moment, before dropping the cloth onto the table and wiping his hand off on his jeans, shaking. His grip is firm and his smile is bright.
He returns the cloth and thanks the bartender; she gives a distracted smile in return, and when he gets back to the table, you’re still there, drinking something what looks to be a tequila sunrise, and making polite conversation with Iwan and Daniel, both of whom had returned. You’re laughing, so calm and confident, chatting easily about what turned out to be music. None of the men had given away that they were in a Motley Crue biopic, but you could tell they at least had a vested interest in this type of music, and that was all that mattered.
“How long have you been playing bass?” Douglas hears himself asking, and you hum for a minute, thoughtful, and something about the expression on your incredibly pierced face presented a sweet juxtaposition. Daniel muttered something to Iwan that neither you nor Douglas heard, though Iwan snickered and nodded, watching Douglas with amusement.
“A few years,” you answered after a moment, “not like a super long time, though- I guess it has been a while.” You answer vaguely, before turning your attention back to him. “Do you play?”
“Ah, yeah, a bit.” Is all he gives, shooting a look to the other two at the table; both of who stumble around mentioning that they’re ‘sort of a band’, in between shrugs, and being generally rather drunk. You frown, clearly disconcerted by how painfully vague their answer was.
“What’s...” you frown for a moment, looking between all three men, “what’s the name of the band?”
“Doesn’t have one.” Iwan blurts out in a moment of panic. Silence stretches between the four of you. Daniel looks like he’s struggling not to laugh. Douglas looks like his soul has physically ascended. You look like you’re trying to find a way out of this conversation.
That way out comes as the guitarist tapping you on the shoulder and calling you back to discuss the second set. The moment you’re out of earshot, Douglas’s whole face scrunches up as he rubs at his forehead, and Daniel chokes out a laugh. Iwan’s apologising, but he’s also laughing, and both Colson and the PA just seem confused as they drop back into the conversation. It takes exactly one look at Douglas, who’s drinking like he’s trying to immediately forget the embarrassment he’s just been put through, and hear Daniel’s half-laughed explanation of what happened, for him to be amused at the whole situation.
“Wait, so-” Jonah, sober and chewing a stick of gum, frowns for a moment, “she didn’t recognise you-”
“Probably,” Iwan agrees.
“- and she just knows you’re maybe all in a band that doesn’t have a name?”
Another pause as they all consider the PA’s words, before both Colson and Daniel were laughing.
“This is not how I thought being in the Motley Crue movie would go.” Douglas admits, and then his heart is in his throat, and everyone stops laughing at the growl of a very familiar guitar intro.
“Speak of the fuckin’ devil,” Colson’s grinning, already tapping the table in time with the drums as Live Wire picks up. The cover is good enough that the tipsy actors hauled themselves onto the dance floor, enjoying themselves rather than remembering how many times they had to re-shoot the scene with this particular song.
Your voice with those lyrics is so different to what any of them are used to, but it’s good different, makes the song feel new, feel exciting again, rather than repetitive.
Live Wire leads into Edge of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks, and then The Boys Are Back In Town, and Douglas is pretty sure he’s getting a second wind, or maybe it’s just some of Colson’s second-hand energy, but either way they spend a solid portion of the second set on the dance floor, earlier embarrassment mostly forgotten. Every so often he’ll look to the stage and see you playing, see you smiling, sees you so confident and sure of yourself, tearing through songs with confidence; god, he’s drunk and absolutely captivated, and he knows that if he tries to speak to you again he’s going to embarrass himself somehow. But he has to apologise, at least on Daniel and Iwan’s behalf.
He’s sitting at the table they’d claimed at the start of the night when the set winds down. Colson’s already gone outside again, this time Jonah’s decided to get everyone water instead of joining him. Douglas watches as you hop from the stage, heading to the bar to get yourself another drink - he thinks he should buy you a drink as an apology, or something, but that feels weird, feels a little creepy - but before he can approach to say anything, you’d already collected your drink and headed out to the courtyard, following after the rest of your bandmates.
You’re sitting on a table outside, chatting idly to a few patrons, your drummer yawning as he fishes around his pockets for what Douglas assumes is a lighter, since he stops when he’s offered a light for the cigarette between his fingers. As the drummer leans in to light his cigarette, Colson’s gaze lifts and he gives a smile, and nod of acknowledgement to Douglas as he approaches it.
“Thanks, man,” the drummer nods.
“No worries, dude, you guys sound awesome,” Colson offers, relighting his thinly-rolled joint where it’s gone out. This is where you decide to join the conversation, smiling, pleased at the compliment. You thank him easily, your smile turning wry as Douglas joins you, Colson giving him a knowing smile as a form of greeting.
“You also in the band with no name?” You ask Colson, raising an eyebrow at him. He snorts out a laugh, shaking his head.
“Nah, I do my own shit with music,” he answers honestly, before turning and catching Douglas’s indecipherable expression, “I mean, we’re sort of in a band, if you consider-”
“You know, the other guys already told me that ‘sort of’ thing,” you tell him, looking rather nonplussed. After a beat, you frown a little, “are you guys just trying to pick up?” It comes as a shock, blunt and a little judgemental, and before either of them has time to respond, you’re continuing on, and the guitarist is laughing under his breath, “‘cos like, I can respect that, but it’s kind of a dick move trying to pick up someone from the band by saying you’re in a band if you’re not-”
“It’s a, well, it’s mostly a tribute band,” technically Douglas isn’t lying, but he feels like an idiot when he says it, “but we don’t know enough songs to play a full set, yet, and we... don’t have a name. Yet.” It sounds incredibly lame when he says it, at least to his own ears, but you’re smiling, intrigued. The moment is undercut by Colson laughing.
“I mean, fuck, you’re not wrong.”
“What band is it a tribute to?” You ask, ignoring Colson, sitting forwards, giving Douglas your undivided attention. He hesitates for a moment.
“This is going to sound very weird, and also like I’m lying,” he prefaces his answer, and you snort out a laugh, but nod for him to go on, “but I can’t say.” Which, again, due to nondisclosure agreements wasn’t technically a lie. He was nervous that you’d realise who he was, and just use him for his connection to Motley Crue; it seemed like you really loved this sort of music, and he’d hazard a guess that you’d enjoy meeting some of the actual band members that you covered so well.
“Well, you’re right, it is weird, and it does sound like you’re lying,” you tell Douglas with absolute sincerity, but you’re still smiling, amusement twinkling in your eyes, “I guess I’ll have to take your word for it.” Pulling out your phone, you open Facebook and hand it to him, “add me, so that way if you ever have a real gig, you can let me know.”
It takes a good few minutes of squinting at the screen and tapping out the name of his personal Facebook, but once it’s done, he’s added himself, and you’re tucking the phone back into your pocket. You make small talk for about ten minutes before you all head back inside for the third set, though in that time Colson did request more Motley Crue. Your answering smile is sharp, and you give him a coy ‘perhaps’.
Douglas, at the very least, feels like he’s somewhat atoned for what could only be one of the worst first impressions he’d ever made. Hopefully.