Chapter 41 It’s Going Down
The Semi-Finals took place a month ago and of the eight bands that competed, only four made the cut: Avant Groove, The Armada, Billie’s Bliss, a four piece jazz outfit and Chameleon, an R&B/funk group.
The Finals were held at the Clique Nightclub on
South Michigan Avenue. The dance floor
was converted into a stage where all four bands would play in the cavernous
space. The judges were on a dais next to the stairs by the exit. There were
other tables and chairs as well as a bar directly across from the dance floor.
The Clique was filled to capacity as hundreds of people came to watch the Cream
of Chicago’s crop of musicians compete.
Avant Groove walked into the highly charged atmosphere with a bold, swaggering step, looking to anyone watching that they owned the place and were ready to rock the crowd.
“Where is Wanda?!” Terry asked, highly exasperated.
“I called her earlier,” Eric replied, not sounding much happier. “I don’t know where she is.”
“Doesn’t she understand she’s fuckin’ up her chances as well as ours?” Terry asked no one in particular.
“You know she does. That’s what she’s counting on,” Lisa answered. “She’s probably figurin’ this is payback for being put on probation and getting embarrassed,” She shook her head. “We shoulda fired her ass.”
“We did,” Rob said, glaring at Dom. “But somebody wanted her to stay,” Dom returned the glare. “Don’t look at me. You the one that said give her another chance. Look what she did with it.”
“Chill, Rob,” Terry said.
“Naw, Man! Where the fuck we gonna get another keyboard player?”
“We’ll be alright,” Dom stated.
“How the fuck do you know?!” Rob bellowed. “Please fuckin’ enlighten me.”
Dom looked around and saw that they’d picked up eyetracks from very curious people. She figured they thought Avant Groove were either gonna fight or break up before they even got onstage. Defintely not good. She grabbed Rob’s arm and led him to a more secluded corner, away from prying eyes. The rest of the band followed.
Dom turned on him and said, “We will have a second keyboard player.”
“How?!!” Rob asked.
“I’d like to know how this is gonna happen myself,” Terry chimed in.
Dom looked at Lisa, who was grinning, and said, “I’m gonna play and sing.”
Everyone, except for Lisa, looked kind of shell shocked, not really knowing what to say or how to react. Then Rob started laughing. Everybody looked at him, which made him laugh harder.
“You think she’s jokin’?” Lisa asked.
“She has to be,” Rob said as he caught his breath. “Oh, hell. We are fucked.”
“I ain’t playin with y’all…”
“Oh, we know that.”
“No, ya brain dead bastard, I’m gonna play and sing tonight,” Dom spat.
“But, I didn’t teach you any of our material,” Terry interjected.
“I know,” Dom grinned. “Lisa did.”
“What?” Terry said. “When?”
“For the past three weeks.”
“You could’ve let us know,” Terry said.
“You could’ve taught me all our material instead of tryin’ to control me,” Dom said as she crossed her arms.
“It wasn’t about control…”
“Yes, it was. Every time I asked you to teach me, you brushed me off. So, I went behind your back,” Dom stated. “It’s a good thing I did or we’d be screwed right now.”
“We haven’t had time to rehearse…”
“Damnit, Terry, we don’t have time, period,” Lisa spat. “Wanda’s fucked us and Dom knows the music. Basically, she’s all we’ve got.”
Terry stood and folded his arms across his chest. Lisa walked over to him, put her hands on his shoulder and said, “I’m sorry we did this on the downlow, but you know we gotta do this. What other choice do we have?” Terry looked at the male contingent of Avant Groove, a question in his eyes. They looked back and shrugged, as if to say, “It’s on you, boss.” He looked at Dom and saw the raw determination on her face, a look he’d recognized in his own eyes many times.
“Okay, you got it,” Terry said. “Don’t let us down.”
“I won’t,” Dom smiled and kissed him on the lips.
“Well, isn’t that sweet?” A shrill and instantly recognizable voice said. The whole group turned and saw Mikki and the rest of the Armada standing in front of them.
“So, Terry, Whassup?” Mikki smiled and asked. “Y’all ready for that ass whippin’?”
“As soon as you show us who’s gonna do it,” Terry responded.
“Yeah, whateva, son. You know the deal,” Mikki made a show of looking for someone as he said, “So, where’s Wanda? You know y’all need all the help y’all can get.”
“What we need…”, Eric hissed through gritted teeth, “…is for you to leave us the fuck alone.”
“Don’t get nasty just ‘cuz ya know y’all asses are smoked,” Mikki smiled. “Just be a man about it, son.”
“Nigga, ya betta step off ‘fore I put my manly foot up in ya skinny ass!” Rob strode up to Mikki, intent on knocking him across the room. Terry, Eric and Larry ran over and pulled him back.
“Save it for the stage, Rob!” Eric implored.
By this time, everybody’s attention was on them. They smelled a fight and were trying to get a good view of the battle. Mikki’s band mates got wind of what was happening and ran to back him up.
“Whassup, Mikki?” A blocky, dark-skinned brotha with close-cropped hair said. “These trick niggas giving you static?”
“Ain’t nothing I can’t handle, Freddie…” Mikki said. “…Especially these tricks.”
“I gotcha trick, nigga…” Rob started to say.
“Anytime, anyplace, Biiiotch!” Freddie snarled.
“Whassup, nigga? What! What?!” Larry barely held Rob in check as members of the Armada kept a tenuous hold on Freddie. The crowd was really starting to get into everything going on, when Groove looked up and saw security coming their way, led by a tall, suited brotha.
Eric cursed as he pushed his way between the warring factions and bellowed, “Yo! Yo! Squash this shit! Security’s comin!” Everybody immediately backed off of each other, but there was plenty of tension in the space between them and a wealth of anger in their heated glances.
“What the Hell is going on here?” The suited brotha thundered in a basso profound voice.
“Everything’s cool,” Mikki lied.
“Yeah, Melody cool,” Terry said through a strained smile.
The man folded his arms and cast a hard stare at the lot of them. He radiated personal force and a manner that said he was used to being obeyed. “You folks do realize that this is a talent show and not a prize fight. If you want to act like Mike Tyson, you can take it outside of the club.”
“We don’t want any problems Mister…” Eric began.
“…Mercer. Lamont Mercer.”
“…Mercer, but they came to us and interrupted a private conversation.”
“A ‘private’ conversation that I, and half the patrons, could hear,” Mercer said.
Eric swallowed a cutting retort and reiterated the fact that they were minding their own business before Mikki and his crew came and started making waves.
“Hold on, now,” Mikki interjected. “We just came to offer Avant Groove good luck on their performance tonight.”
“Pardon my French, but bullshit,” Mercer spat. He leveled a hard gaze on both groups and said, “I’m gonna give you all a choice: either you comport yourselves like mature adults and you get to perform or continue acting like children, get disqualified and escorted out.” With that, he turned and strode towards his seat and security melted back into the crowd. Avant Groove and the Armada walked off in opposite directions, not bothering to risk a glance, lest something jumped off again.
“Those bastards are goin’ down.” Rob growled, pacing back and forth.
“Definitely.” Terry agreed.
(c)2015 Courtney & W.L. Sherrod