For once in his life, Waylon felt appropriately dressed for the occasion as he strode down the lamplit street towards the bright neon green sign. There was a decent line that led down the block all the way to the Uprising, a seedy bar that became the shiny new hub for an unknown music scene. Waylon had taken a nap and did not really care to change out of his clothes, wearing his usual holed up old rock and roll shirt, a pair of ratty black jeans with some patches he had sewn into them and a thick billowing black trench coat that nearly engulfed over his lanky body surprisingly enough.
It was only last week that he had heard about the new upcoming music genre, grave punk, from the interns for the Amber Landing University radio station. WALU 97.8, a well run radio station that Waylon was happy to host his own show at. Tune in with Ty, was a hit on campus while also keeping Waylon under a pseudonym so no one can bother him when he criticizes the lyrics for the newest viral songs or go on tangents about the newest music scenes. From what he could grasp from the smallest of whispers about grave punk on social media was the few posts of blurry pictures of the pit mid concert and people sporting selfies in the low lighting of street lights; faces covered in smatterings of chalky white face paint and over the top dark black eye makeup and fake stitching done in liquid eyeliner or smeared eyeshadow. The kind of new statement that made Waylon intrigued, with little to no news coverage from any of the city concert or bar blogs that made him almost drop it until he had seen that the Uprising was the common spot for the #gravepunk posts. He had talked it over with Malachi, the station manager, and got his press pass yesterday with promise of a free concert for tonight, so here he was, dragging his feet down the brick staircase down past the line.
Everyone was in a similar fashion to Waylon, except more dressed up, he spotted a couple of faces with that same pale face painting and stitch lines drawn on their faces. He had to admit he liked it, alternative styles and music was his favorite, especially the kind that had a darker almost Halloween like appeal to them.
He pulled out his pass and handed it to the bouncer at the door, getting a bright purple stamp of a gravestone on his hand before being let in. As simple as that, no need for an ID check or a secondary glance from the security and Waylon was in.
There was a short hallway that was all brick and covered in graffiti and posters, the grout did not look like it was scrubbed in years either, tinged in a ruddy brown color that almost matched the red brick. The floor was pure black, scuffed and scored with dirt and a little too gritty to have been cleaned any time soon, there was even an odd fluid stain that shone out under the pale LED lights along the ceiling. Waylon avoided it and stepped out of the narrow hallway and finally into the bar. There was low activity for now, the barside was dingy and small, with most of the customers already occupying the seats. From how dirty the actual place was there was an interesting appeal with blacklights cascading down along the ceilings, making the stamp on Waylon’s hand light up as well as the white face paint on some of the patrons. The stage had the curtains pulled and the pit was empty except for a few customers swaying to the old rock playing over the surround system.
Taking out his phone, Waylon snapped a few pictures before he was approached by a tall limbering man in a corduroy jacket, holding his hand out to him. Without questioning the offering, Waylon smilined at the stranger and took the hand, resisting the urge to flinch when he found the stranger’s ice cold hand to be jarring to the touch.
“You Waylon?” he asked in a rough tone, but smiled at Waylon, “I’m Creed Philps, I’m the owner.”
Waylon returned the shake Creed gave him and nodded, “yeah, I’m doing the piece on the new music scene, it seems to be really popular here huh?”
Creed took his hand back, the man looked no older than Waylon, with a long layered dirty blonde mullet that stuck out like a sore thumb. His nose was long and sharp where there was a pair of tinted shades on his face did not hide the playful and at ease look he seemed to exude.
The man laughed and nodded, gesturing at the stage, “yeah well, we’re not really picky about who we pay to play here, the whole grave punk scene just kinda sprouted up outta nowhere with our regular band. Even rebranded, the Crypt Crawlers, have you heard of em?”
Waylon got out his phone, taking a few notes as Creed spoke to him and paused at the name of the band he had just mentioned. There was no band that was brought up before on his search through the grave punk tags online, he shook his head, “no, are they playing tonight?”
Creed nodded in response, sucking on his teeth for a moment before giving a more verbal reply, “yeah, their playing all night, so you’re in for a treat. Well if you like some hardcore shit, the pit gets really messy, if you stick around after we can get you introduced to em.”
“Oh that would be great,” Waylon perked up a bit at that, pausing his note taking to beam a little at the opportunity. One of his favorite parts about getting press passes was meeting the actual band after for short interviews, usually he liked to talk their ears off instead of his roommate Wesley. Wesley usually did not like his jabber about guitar riffs and musical history, and Waylon can go on and on if no one interrupted him.
“I do have a few questions if you don’t mind me asking?” Waylon asked, tapping his phone back to life, “should take only a few minutes.”
The interview with Creed went well, by the time Waylon had finished dishing out some questions about Uprise and the recent movement on the new wave of punk music inspired by the undead. A few drinks here and there and the bar had filled up considerably shoulder to shoulder with everyone who had waited outside. Creed went back into the backrooms of the bar and Waylon was glad to socialize with a couple of people and get a few more questions in about the scene as well as a good look into the fashion. Apparently a good amount of it was based off of the aesthetics from the Crypt Crawlers as well as a few other band names like The Vultures and one that sounded particularly interesting, Electroplay.
But not all the interviews in the world could have prepared Waylon for the main event to start. He had been there through many whirl wind band tours, opening band performances that made your blood pump to the rhythm and concerts that demanded your every beck and call, but nothing was like seeing that deep burgundy curtain finally draw apart. The swell of people began to pool in towards the pit in front of the stage, which began to look too short as heads and hands smacked against the pitch stageboards. Energy shifted in the bar and Waylon could feel the hairs on his arms stand on end as a fog machine rolled out puffs of clouds down the stage like a waterfall. There was a shroud of darkness on stage, a few silhouettes moving and bending in odd angles and ways that was almost a grotesque sight, one paired with a crackling noise coming from the back end of the stage.
Lights flickered over on the stage in streams of green and strobes, the kind that Waylon would not have expected from a bar like this. Then there was a buildup of the symbols, in what sounded like flared out hits from a drum whisk and then the bass began to come in slow and distorted, with a tune that brought an unsettling tone to the bar. The ambiance was building up and then there was a scream on stage and the lights and sound cut. There was a breath of silence and the sound of the people in the pit thumping their feet against the floors echod in the room, something that Waylon felt go in sync with his heart beat. It was like the silence before the break, and then, the lights hit down on one figure, finally lighting the stage up as a tall painted man struck a loud chord down and loud in such a way that the crowd screamed for it.
The lead guided the song out into a strong guitar rift, behind him was another painted man, shorter and playing an electric bass that was following his lead along with the drummer in the back. It was instantaneous and then, the guitarist, with long slender fingers, reached out to the mic stand and pulled it inwards and let out a broken loud scream as he held out a high note on the guitar before swinging into the lyrics.
Waylon finally felt himself breathe, for what felt like the first time in a long time, he just breathed. There were a lot of artists that had talent and flare, many he’s seen capture an audience, but as the lead guitarist sang out in a raspy tone to the lyrics and reach up to the high notes in an effortless vibrato, well, he had to give props when he saw it. He was instantly enamoured by the appeal, each of the Crypt Crawler’s outfits were ripped and dirty in dark hues from asphalt gray to black. Each member was smeared in a pale green body paint with intricate looking stitches and heavy red and black eye makeup that highlighted each one of their bright contacts. The lead had a pair of bright purple ones, the bassist in orange and Waylon was sure the drummer in the back had bright pink contacts in.
Like what Creed had forewarned, the pit down by the stage had broken out into a mosh soon after the first song played, it crawled up out of the pit and Waylon was careful to slip into the bathrooms when things got too heated.
Stepping into the mens restroom, Waylon took a second to pull out his phone and began to erratically tap out notes on the band playing as well as some new thoughts that came to mind. Outside there was screaming and dramatic wailing that thudded along with the heavy beat banging against the walls. Finishing his last few thoughts, Waylon caught himself smiling in the reflection. He considered himself alternative from his style to some of his looks, his hair was dyed an inky blue and worn out naturally so every curl of his afro was out for show along with the faded undercut he kept up to date every month. Brown eyes, deep like his mother’s and his skin as dark as his father’s, a shade he personally considered a cool copper that was almost the same shade as the flecks of browns and blacks in his semi rounded tortoiseshell glasses.
Taking a second he fixed his hair, and splashed some water on his face, and while rubbing his hands over his face he noticed something. Two feet shuffling quietly from one of the bigger stalls behind him in the reflection of the mirror. Like clockwork, there was a loud groan that echoed in the bathroom and Waylon felt his face warm up quickly, he felt like such a idiot, not even realizing that someone was probably fucking in the stalls.
“Sorry!” he blurted, grabbing his phone from where he set it down on the dirty bathroom counter. He fled out of the bathroom quickly before he could further embarrass himself and back into the thrill and thrum of the music.
Waylon finally managed to get a seat at the bar and order himself a drink, surprised to find that Creed had made sure that he got free drinks. Figures, if he was going to report on his bar then free concessions were surely all a part of the way to butter him up. Bars like these where the cover fee was low really ran on young college students and appealed to them.
As Waylon had his beer, leaning back against the bartop to watch the concert, a figure saddled up right next to him and ordered a beer. Thinking nothing of it, Waylon snapped a few pictures of the stage from his seat, right as he felt someone’s face enter his bubble and sniffed up his neck. Freezing up, he turned to look, trying to keep calm as he reminded himself mentaly that this was still a bar full of drunk idiots.
The person in question was the newcomer, no taller than Waylon than maybe an inch or so, with long unruly blonde hair, clothes ratty and layered like he was hypothermic. He had an eyepatch right over his right eye and a very young looking face. His left eye was a bright ruby red, a colored contact perhaps, that crinkled at the corners in amusement as his impish looking face got closer to Waylon and sniffed him again. The smell of booze wafted up from his mouth along with something else that vaguely smelled reminiscent of smelling salts.
“Hey there darlin’, you look pretty lonely,” the stranger croaked, leaning his arm behind Waylon against the bar, almost trapping him in place. Waylon felt his skin crawl a little, he definitely felt his flight kick in as his stomach curled into knotts, but he swallowed his tongue and reminded himself that he was here for work.
“I’m doing alright,” he responded in a tight tone that came off as friendly as he could, he cleared his throat before going on, “how about yourself?”
A slow lazy smile curled up on the man’s face and Waylon really wanted to run back to the bathroom to hide. Taking a second to memorize his face, he realized there were a couple of faint, almost fresh looking scratch marks right at his jaw that scored down his neck. Waylon’s eyes snapped back up though when he spoke up again, resisting every instinct in his body.
“I’m doing great now sugar, we don’t really get alive ones like you around here that often,” he cackled to himself, like it was an inside joke.
There was an unsettling way that the man’s eye looked over Waylon, the way it stood out on his pale skin and bore into Waylon like a sparkler, wavering and pinning him in place. He’s been hit on before, harassed even at bars, but this felt too off, too predatory for comfort and in a way that made him fear for his life for just a moment.
Waylon laughed with him though, trying to keep himself from coming off too abrasive or scared, neutral friendly was what he was going for and the man shook his head at him, smiling and taking a swing form his own beer.
“Well, I’ll see you around lone ranger,” the man said, patting Waylon on the shoulder and slipping into the crowd.
Waylon let out a breath when he saw the stranger disappear, shaking his head as he tried to make some sense of the brief exchange. He just summed it up to drugs and alcohol, as he drank the rest of his drink, trying not to let it ruin his evening.
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