"I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me".
Hello. My name is Ben, and I am a senile old crank with a head full of bile and many insane prejudices.
When I see a band turn up to a gig wearing short trousers of any kind, my snap judgement is that these people are either...
C. Nerds or...
...and should be kidnapped and dumped in the outer suburbs of Cairo with no money, I.D or shorts.
Yep, it is my screwy and probably to be revised conviction that good bands do not never ever wear shorts ever*.
Take myself and Baaron Von Cuddles for example. One fine day in June of this year we arrived in a small village on the outskirts of Limoges, France, to perform a musical concert. On this particular day it happened to be 46 degrees Celsius in the shade. The tar on the road was almost completely molten and small birds were falling dead from the sky, but did we yield our dignity to the mindless onslaught of Mother Nature? Fuck NO!
We were wearing jeans.
Filthy black jeans, just like mamma used to make.
Our legs were slowly being broiled inside their greasy denim casings, like big sweaty chunks of pork, yet we adhered to the fucking code, damnit!
Anyway, this all has little or nothing to do with the tale I'd like to tell. Make of it what you will and let´s move on.
Now this musical concert was to take place at a club called La Forumi, situated on the main street of the aforementioned French village. We pulled up out front and wearily loaded our crap inside, assisted by the cruel and devious Andyinglis and our booking agent, Almond The God, who were both travelling with us at that time. We made a pile of gear on the stage and then did the rounds of the venue staff, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries and whatnot, but nobodies heart was really in it.
"It´s so damn hot!!"
Like us, the staff were all listless and irritable due to the brutal heat, which made even standing upright seem borderline impossible. You could feel the hairs in your nostrils being singed with each intake of breath and whenever I bent down to tweak my pedals my belt-buckle would touch my flabby stomach and burn me like a soldering iron.
But the venues' fridges were on full blast, so the beer was icy cold and on that solid footing we proceeded with the task at hand.
Checka checka checka checka sooound-checkin'!
After our sweaty soundcheck we retired back-stage to be interviewed by some local radio station. I don't remember the name of the interviewer (or the station), but I was deeply impressed by his professional methods.
Rather than asking a string of questions designed to familiarise his listeners with the band and it's music, he threw out a weird bunch of challenges, cynical observations and digs at our personal style which bordered on flat-out abuse. Our role in this little drama was obviously to become hostile and defensive and to mouth off about his stupid haircut, stupid public radio, stupid France ect.
It started out pleasantly enough.
Voices were raised and there was some pushing and shoving, but we all quickly agreed that the unbearable dry-heat made poor fighting weather, so we turned our attention to the snacks and drinks and became freinds.
The hours passed slowly. Andyinglis slumped like a pile of Scottish offal onto an old leather sofa next to the bar and started moaning softly. Baaron Von Cuddles went out in the street and did one hundred push-ups on his knuckles for a small crowd of local children, who cheered him wildly and then pestered him for donkey-rides. Almond had gone to grab some food with Julian, the local promoter, and everyone else had gone home to stuff ice-cubes down their pants.
Feeling drained but restless, I wandered away from the club and after ten minutes of directionless rambling found myself at the banks of a broad, slow moving river.
Overjoyed at the opportunity to get wet, I stripped naked and sat down up to my neck in the slimey, muddy water. Aaaahhhhhhhh.
...and that's when it started.
A fleeting shadow in the back of my mind. A wild music, as of ancient stone flutes half-heard at a great distance, behind which lurked some kind of terrible, brooding presence. I felt that a vast. cold intellect was scooping me up out of the water and drawing me into the blackness and terror between the stars.
I began to see things.
I saw a great city lying in ruins, it's monstrous idols toppled and their temples choked with weed. I saw a throng of people, a multitude, singing and walking slowly into the ocean to vanish forever beneath the waves. I saw.....
Suddenly my eyes refocused and I looked up at the sky. It was dusk.
Holy balls! I must have been sitting there for, like, two freakin' hours!
In a fog of confused urgency I scrambled up the bank, dragged on my filthy black jeans and jogged straight back to the venue. There I found a motley collection of nerds, stoners, rural-hipsters and red-necks milling around in the street, babbling in the local dialect and eating long strips of jerky.
I must have looked obviously out of place, because they jeered and laughed and shoved me around as I tried to get into the venue. One skinny girl with coke-bottle glasses and a Mudhoney t-shirt jabbed her forefinger up my arse so hard it nearly put a whole in my pants. I squealed but made it through the door with a great leap, while behind me the crowd whooped and cheered. The Baaron, who was just inside setting up a merch table, snorted in derision and called me a loser.
"You need to grow some balls, Green." He said. "They can smell your type a mile away. You're like an open can of dog-food at the city pound."
I could see his point, but fuck! all I wanted was a few minutes of peace and five cold beers before the time came to hit the stage and entertain these dangerous French fucks.
As the Baaron tweaks filters for Satan, a fearfull apparition appears at stage left and flies towards him. Is it the unspeakable Yog-Sothoth, trying to enter our world from The Beyond?
No, no it isn´t. It´s a confused bass player trying to squint the sweat out of his peepers.
I don´t remember this part at-all.
Despite my misgivings, it was a fine show. It was so unbelievably hot under the stage-lights that The Baaron and I drifted into a trance-like state and played the entire gig with little or no awareness of our surroundings. The crowd seemed to appreciate this and made us welcome, Some heckled us noisily, some danced like sick weasels and others just swayed to and fro in their individual pools of sweat and rancid air.
I'm pretty sure we played at least one encore.
Andyinglis had emerged from his catatonic funk in rare high spirits, and was ordering rounds of strong booze for a clutch of locals who had adopted him as their mascot. A deejay started cranking some big, dumb blog-house through the sound system and everyone got down to the serious business of getting drunk and pulling "tarded" moves.
It was at this point, amid the noise and drunken confusion, that I once again started hearing the call.
As it crept into a far corner of my head I knew it was the voice of our ancient father who dwells in the pitch dark beneath the waves. At first it was just a distant echo, a shadow too swift and pale to grasp, but it grew and grew until finally it filled my sweating brain to bursting and seemed to shake the walls of the club.
I saw that Andyinglis and Julian were behaving strangely, twitching and baring their teeth. They too were being summoned by the horror in the deep, and in their minds could hear, as I did, that terrible, cacophonous whispering, as of waves crashing upon black shores at the far ends of the universe, where the very stars in heavens' vault tremble in naked terror of that which lies beyond.
The three of us lurched out into the street, immediately stripped down to our underwear and then loped like booze-crazed wolves through the village and down to the river. We were barking and moaning and flapping our arms in an all consuming fever, a hot madness sent from the bottom of the ocean by He Who Shall Not Be Named.
Oh ancient one, who dwells within the cyclopean ruins of R'lyeh in the blackest depths of the sea, we come!!
The stars wheeled in the sky and were snuffed out. The dreadful music of the outer spheres rose in our brains like a great destroying wave, erasing thought and time and whipping away the last shreds of our sanity like wisps of smoke before the howling winter gale.
Do you hear it?? The voice of the frogs!?! That terrible croaking??!! They are His children and they would summon Him!!! Oh unhappy mortals, flee and hide ye faces, for He awakes!!!!!!
I awoke next morning in an abandoned petrol station about a mile from the venue. My body was covered in small, purple bruises and I stank horribly, like a dead cat soaked in urine.
It took me some time to get on my feet, because I had an overwhelming feeling that the instant I moved something terrible would happen, but the feeling subsided and eventually I emerged into the sunlight.
When I found the others I was told that during the night....
A: The Box had been elected village Mayor, running unopposed, and had outlawed the internet.
B: I had been tried (in-absentia) on eight counts of sodomy and arson but acquitted on a legal technicality even though my council was passed out under the stage ...
C: The Baaron had married a fine local horse (a three year old gelding called Nips who went missing shortly after the ceremony and has not been seen since).
Good times, dear reader. Good times.
There are two keys lessons to be learnt from this sorry story.
A: Seek ye not the deep and submarine paths to ancient R'lyeh, where Cthulu, old and terrible beyond mortal thought, abides in the slumber of dark aeons and....
B: If you're in a band please wear jeans, or at least a nice pair of slacks. Shorts are not on.
Thanks to No Brain No Headache and the La Forumi posse.
Two of them live shots stolen from Laurent Legarde
"But are not the dreams of poets and the tales of travellers notoriously false?" Howard Phillips Lovecraft
*Except various groups associated with "skate-rock" between 1982 and 1987