What happens when a man is trapped in a suit of armour and forced to play the bass?
Steve’s contribution was going alright; you could sort of understand the gist of what he was hollering about. I gave him a little wink and hoped he was watching, wondering if he could actually see. The crowd were gradually warming to Gaddafi. At least two people had emerged from their cocoon of deadened brain cells and were at least patting their legs in vague rhythm.
Norm, buoyed up by this development, started thrusting at the microphone stand with one leg in the air – Norm was such a bastard sometimes. He thought he was cool, but he just looked vaguely like Mick Jagger – if Jagger had been an absolute idiot. We were all getting quite into it, though, and we really started show-boating. I attempted to play with my teeth, but you can’t really do that with a sitar. Emitting a mental groan I realised Jake had subtly taken out his old man and was proceeding to keep surprisingly good time with it on his home-made bucket drum. We had got about seven people now, but whether out of genuine interest, or a misplaced sympathy, we weren’t to know.
We had got through the first fifteen verses when I had a troubling thought. Steve’s oh yeahs – which had by now become mere parodies of human speech anyway – were getting fairly thin on the ground. As I looked up, it became clear that he had vacated the stage. It wasn’t particularly hard to find him as I followed the deafening holler of a long overdue
thas wa I’m talin bo! –
directed into the weeping face of the badly afraid birthday girl as she frantically tried to shoo him away and pick the cake and errant candles from her hair. There were about five people actually looking at the stage by now, though, and whatever issues Steve was having would have to wait.
We finished to what I decided was applause, and went immediately into a hip-hop-style cover of a B-side called SpiderBong by Hat Bandit and the Incombustibles, which some people knew, and joined in with half-heartedly.
It was all going pretty well, really, considering. Jake did have to put his John Thompson away after a while, as it had started to hurt quite badly, but we all felt that he had lasted a fair old while, but then we had no real yardstick by which to judge his technique.
It was halfway through the searing folk-metal Abbots of Buckfast that we had to end. It was disappointing, but it’s very hard to play over screaming.
We didn’t have to look very long for Steve, for there was a hard and fast line of man-shaped destruction made of broken tables and shell-shocked emo-kids that wound from the stage to the bar.
It was here that Steve sat, steam curling from the gaps between the spauldrons and vambraces of his metal parts, his sweat having evaporated in the super-heated conditions inside. We hurriedly picked our way over the broken glass and dodged appalled drunkards to make our way over to him.
-Steve! Mate! Are you okay?
As we crowded around his hunched form I thought I could hear a quiet sizzling. This was not good.
-Can you hear me, man?
I peered into the hot blackness of the visor.
-Say, something, Steve!
A pause … and then;
-Tha wam … talli … ba …?
He collapsed, then, and sparks flew out as he struck the iron of the table legs.
Shifting our monolithic friend was going to be nigh on impossible seeing as he had actually cloven the floorboards with his weight and we had nowhere sufficiently nearby for refuge anyway, but Joe the landlord, who had earlier seemed un-phased by armoured Steve, had now apparently had quite enough of this chaos and preceded to holler and scream at us all – he said we weren’t even that good and he’d heard several bands in Cork public houses who captured our sound with much more panache and taste – and, to the great surprise of everyone, smashed a bottle of Famous Grouse over the helm of our half-buried bassist.
He then ordered the resident parrot to peck out our eyes, which, for a second, we all expected to take place – thankfully, the bird just continued to totter around the bar quite calmly. On top of this, we discovered that Jake was not in fact behind us, nor similarly dumbfounded by the raving Irishman’s conduct; he had, in fact, again produced his – surely injured – old man and was waving it about in the icing-smeared face of the birthday girl, who now seemed to have been abandoned by her friends who had so heartily cheered for her transition from nineteen to twenty earlier on – she didn’t look at all appalled by the flailing member, apparently resigned to a particularly rubbish birthday. We all thought it best we left; we just had no idea how we were going to go about such an escape.
Before we even had time to consider yanking on Steve’s legs he began to stir; he laboriously hauled his arms free of the ground and started to drag himself like a steel-clad lizard through the mayhem that was The Fox, renting a welt in the ground and leaving a trail of steamy hell in his wake, on his way to the door. We sheepishly followed, feeling rather like criminals. Look what we had done!
Well, we all felt guilty save Jake, who was relieving himself into a pitcher to the horror of the man whose drink it was, and Norm, who has no concept of guilt. I wondered how much Jake had actually had to drink and remembered that during our set,someone had handed him a large bottle of some kind of rum which he had emptied into himself within the short space of time we had attempted to sing one verse of a Reggae song called Jah and Only Jah Will Save Us From the Dragons, woven, rather cleverly we all thought, into the middle of Spiderbong.
Outside, after watching Steve somehow clamber to his feet, we faced the problem of what happened now; Steve’s giant form was still wreathed in steam and blood and cake…and … Norm was still singing at the top of his voice and Jake was emptying the contents of his stomach against the window of a blue Ford Fiesta.
– Bloody…I think he’s really bad, man.
– He is really bad!
– Awha…talli bo…talli bo…talli….talli bo…
Steve’s attempts at sticking to his earlier assignment trailed off into indecipherable mumbles and we made a collective decision to call an ambulance; the ambulance team would be surprised by the situation and most probably unsure about what they were to do about getting him into the ambulance but they would have to do their job – they’d be obliged.
The ambulance arrived, sirens blaring; their faces, upon realising what they’d become involved in, resembled those of startled baboons but they quickly set about manoeuvring Steve between the double doors. It was difficult and they, somewhat ironically, probably hurt themselves quite badly in the process, but it happened and soon Steve was whisked away into the night.