Florentine Tragedy: A Rock Story - chapter 1
Contributor
Written by
Becca Martin
March 2013
Contributor
Written by
Becca Martin
March 2013

(Note: this chapter is under constant revision. If you have tips to make it better, please let me know. This story contains profanity.)

“Daisy, let’s go! We’re on!”

Pete Connolly stuck his head in the small dressing room, watching Daisy Carter take one last sip of strong coffee. She grabbed a water bottle, put on her white shag jacket, which was pointless since she would remove it soon anyway, and followed Pete down the hall. As they approached the stage, the low murmur of the crowd began to swell to an energetic roar. Daisy could see Beth Slater standing with her bass guitar around her neck, anxiously wiggling her right leg back and forth, plucking at a gaping hole in the right knee of her jeans. John Wilde stood near the wings, pacing aimlessly, twirling a drumstick in his right hand, tugging the collar of his sleeveless t-shirt back and forth. Some in the audience started whistling, while others began chanting “Tra-ge-dy! Tra-ge-dy!” Daisy smiled encouragingly at her bandmates, even as her own stomach performed the familiar acrobatic pre-show routine, lurching and twisting the way it always would for the rest of her professional career.

Pete extended his arms to pull the others into a huddle. “Okay guys, here we go. The crowd’s ready! Let’s kick some fuckin’ ass out there.” They all pulled out of the huddle and Pete nodded to the lighting tech. The lights on the stage went out.  Over the PA system, the rock instrumental that Pete had written for their shows began to play and the crowd wailed and shrieked in response, knowing the band was about to take the stage.

John walked to his drum kit, followed by Beth and Pete, and finally by Daisy. The drums silenced the crowd with a BAP-bap-bap-BAP and were followed by screeching guitars as Florentine Tragedy launched into their first song, “M.O.”. The band always gave a high-energy performance and tonight was no exception. Daisy loved seeing the crowd jumping up and down to the rhythm of nearly every song, helping the band to achieve an unforgettable performance, even at a smaller venue like this one.

As usual, after only two songs, the heat of the spotlights and the movement onstage had the band sweating profusely. Pete took off his red leather vest, revealing a glistening, toned body adorned with tattoos. While their stage movement was a bit more restricted than larger venues, the band took advantage of any open space available to them.

Pete began the next song with a pulsing guitar that Daisy always described as ‘galloping guitars’ because she always felt like breaking into a horse trot whenever she heard that guitar intro. The drums came in, quickly followed by the bass. Daisy removed her jacket and tossed it to the side of the stage where a crew member picked it up. She then began the song at a high octave, causing the audience to cheer fervently when she howled out long notes. She found she was still able to slide around the small stage, despite the smaller space, alternating splits with somersaults across the stage. Usually she would leap-frog onto Pete’s shoulders while he played the guitar, but the venue ceiling was too low. Instead, Pete jumped into the audience and crowd- surfed during one of his guitar solos. When he was hoisted back up onstage by a crew member and a few burly fans, he caught sight of the same group of girls who had been standing in front of him at every gig for the last two weeks. He flashed a smile and tossed extra guitar picks to their enthusiastically outstretched hands, causing them to renew their energetic bouncing. Unfortunately, one the guitar picks hit one of the second-row men in the eye. Everyone in the band struggled to keep from laughing at Pete’s failed toss. The fan seemed okay and was thrilled that he’d caught a pick.

The next song began with a keyboard intro, a gentle chiming rhythm that was like slow pattering raindrops. A spotlight shone on Beth, the beams of light illuminating her face and her sequined top. Daisy came in on lyrics, a song that began with a soothing cadence, and for a moment, she and Beth were the sole focus of the show. John came in on drums, providing a soft, rolling beat that gradually increased in tempo and Pete quickly followed, his guitar buzzing out the melody. John beat on the drums driving the pace of the song to a break-neck speed as it neared the end. Beth slowly climbed up on top of her keys, banging on them with her feet. stood up on her keys, jumping up and down. The crowd loved it when she did that. Not to be outdone, Daisy walked to the edge of the stage while she sang and spread her feet as far apart as they would go, putting one foot on the security barrier, right in between the hands of a fan. He smiled up at Daisy and stroked her leg. She was glad she was a bit higher up than he was; otherwise he would have stroked more than her leg.

At the end of the show, all four members came out from behind their instruments to bow their gratitude to the crowd. Stuck behind his drum kit through the whole show, John now tossed drumsticks to fans within throwing distance. The band was delighted that this had been such a great show, for this was their homecoming show on this leg of their tour.

“Hey guys,” Pete said, “don’t forget, we have an interview after the show.” Everyone groaned. A reporter had been on tour with them for a week and needed to ask a few more questions to finish up the interview. He was a nice guy, but the band was ready to go back to the way things were when there was no reporter following them around.

Daisy pointed at John and Beth. “You two have to talk this time. People are starting to think that Pete and I are commandeering all the interviews.”

“Who cares what people think?” Beth scoffed.

“When they’re fans, we should all care, and that’s who’s complaining,” Pete responded. “If you guys talk, it’ll make the fans happy. That’s who we’re here for.”

After the band had a chance to clean up a bit, they paraded into the dressing room to start the interview. The reporter glanced around the room, making notes of the freshly-painted walls that contrasted with the graffiti-covered walls of the hallway just outside the room. The band seated themselves on the ratty leather sofa and the reporter sat on a simple metal chair opposite them. He hit ‘play’ on his recording device and fired away.

“So, how did the Tragedy form?” the reporter began. The whole band made a great effort to refrain from doing or saying anything sarcastic. They had been asked this question so many times, they could answer it in their sleep. But they took turns answering politely.

“Daisy and I knew each other in school,” Pete said. “I thought it would be fun to have a band with Daisy. It wasn’t until we started practicing that I even knew she could sing. From the very beginning, her voice always was a combination of a gritty tone, soulful power, and trembling sensuality. That much hasn’t changed,” he finished, smiling warmly at Daisy.”

“Pete’s was a great guitarist for being so young,” Daisy added. “We experimented a lot with our sound until we found something we liked. It was a creative process, learning to use our respective instruments. You know, what sounded good, what didn’t, and how much we could push to get a great sound.” Her rebellious anguish had riddled her strong voice, bellowing out lyrics of an oppressed soul. It felt good to sing with Pete and experiment musically, having an outlet for her repressed emotions.

The reporter asked his next question. “How did the rest of the band members start?” Daisy and Pete sat patiently, looking at John and Beth, waiting for them to answer. After an uncomfortable silence Beth volunteered, “Daisy and I had some classes together in high school. When she found out I could play piano and guitar, she told Pete and he invited me to join the band.”

Everyone now turned to look at John. Even though he was in a band that was rising in national popularity, he preferred to stay out of the spotlight. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, coughed once, and spoke. “I was playing drums on the street. Pete liked what he heard and asked me to join.” He stopped there, unwilling to say anything else.

 “Yeah, I did all the talking,” Pete smiled ironically, remembering their conversation, “John gave one-word answers.” John grinned sheepishly. He never said much and this was initially unsettling to Pete who was, by nature, a bit more loquacious. It was equally uncomfortable when Pete brought John to meet the rest of the band. Daisy, in her usual vivaciousness, greeted him warmly, only to be met with the same one-word answers. She glanced at Pete who merely shrugged in response. At least John was consistent. After everyone heard him play, however, it became clear that this drummer was an exactly what they had been looking for. In time, they accepted that it was merely John’s nature to refrain from volunteering information unless it was absolutely necessary.

“So,” the reporter continued, “the band has been together in its original line-up for almost eight years. How do you account for the lack of drama that seems to tear apart so many other bands?”

Daisy and Pete looked at Beth again. “Your turn,” Daisy mouthed.

Beth laughed shortly. “Okay. Um…let’s see. Once we knew this was our line-up, we set ground rules about professionalism in the band. You know, like, be on time, call if you’re late, be prepared for rehearsal, don’t cause drama.”

“Always communicate with each other face-to-face,” Pete added. “When we started getting a little more well-known, there were more people around, so we sort of tacked that rule on to the other professional behavior bullets that we thought were important.”

“What was it like trying to find the right name for your band?”

All four members laughed. “Ex…cru..ci…a…ting,” Daisy drawled. Still laughing, the other three members nodded in agreement.

“Yeah,” Beth said, relaxing a bit and finding it easier to talk now, “we brainstormed a lot of bizarre names that we knew wouldn’t work. But, it was just one more part of the process. I remember Pete seemed to be obsessed with having the word ‘magnet’ in the band name. We should have called ourselves Magnet Tragedy.”

“Beth came up with a winner, though,” John said. “She was reading a lot of stuff in her spare time, so she thought Florentine Tragedy was a good name.”

Beth’s head spun in John’s direction.  “‘Stuff’?!” she repeated. “I wasn’t reading ‘stuff’, I was reading literature! We’re talking about Oscar Wilde, the literary rock star of his time!” She looked at the reporter, “Florentine Tragedy” was the title of an unfinished play by Oscar Wilde,” Beth explained.

 “Originally,” the reporter continued, “you performed a lot of rock covers. How did the process get to the point that you wrote original tunes?”

Daisy fielded this one. “Pete and I quickly discovered that the easy, effortless banter between us served as a kind of catalyst to write our own stuff.”

“So you and Pete write everything?” Was the reporter trying to fish for drama? If so, he could find another pond; he wouldn’t get anywhere with them.

“They write a lot of the lyrics,” John interceded, “but everything in this band goes through a democratic process. We all have to like the lyrics before we approve the song.”

“Plus, we’re all responsible for writing our own instrument parts,” Pete replied. “It would be weird for me, for example, to write John’s drum parts of a song when I’m not a drummer.”

“We’re all in on the creative process, from start to finish,” Daisy summarized. She had always loved rock music from her pre-teens. When she was older, she realized rock music provided her with a sexual awakening, though she wasn’t aware of it at the time. She just knew she loved the blaring screech of a virtuoso guitar. She got chills when that guitar was combined with a talented vocalist and an exceptional rhythm section. Now she was in a position to create the same kind of music that she’d always loved.

“One last question,” the reporter posited. “Reg Carroll, guitarist for the Divine Condemned, has stated that the Tragedy’s music is quote ‘an issue from a band caught in an industry full of tepid musicians and indifferent singers’, unquote. What are your thoughts on that?”

The members of the Tragedy glanced at each other, unsure of how to respond. “Was that a compliment?” Pete joked. Everyone laughed, including the reporter.

“I suppose that’s high praise,” Daisy said uncertainly, though the quote the reporter read held no strong opinion either way about the Tragedy’s music. Reg Carroll had likely been misquoted. Daisy looked at everyone else in the band before continuing. “I think it’s safe to say that all four of us are pretty big fans of DC, so any kind words they toss our way are appreciated.”

“I didn’t know Reg Carroll had such a big vocabulary,” Beth scoffed. “Tepid? Issue? Are you kidding me?”

Responding with shocked laughter, Daisy looked at the reporter. “Uh, that’s off the record.”

The reporter turned off the recording device, thanked them for their time, and left. The band went out to talk to their awaiting fans, hoping that Beth’s last comment wouldn’t come back to bite them in the ass.

            They walked out to the where their van was parked, the two-member road crew still loading up the instruments. They could hear a few gasps from the awaiting fans and began posing for photos and signing merchandise.

 They loved to talk to their fans, most of whom were just as passionate about music as the band members. It was always nice to see familiar faces in the crowd no matter what city the band played; it felt more comfortable when they were far from home.  Daisy posed and talked, she reflected on how far the band had come. In the early days, as a dependent minor, she’d had to do some fast talking with her mother to get permission to go to Pete’s house a few afternoons after school. Fearing the consequences of parents who raised her in a restrictive household, she didn’t divulge the truth to her mother that she and Pete were starting a band. Even now, years later, when the band were becoming modestly successful, Daisy’s parents still did not approve of her life as a member of a rock band and their relationship was uncomfortable at best. But Daisy and her bandmates were focused on their goals and were not going to allow anything to distract them.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a few fans who had questions about the upcoming album and she responded attentively to their queries. She felt a hand on her back and someone whispered in her ear. “You coming to my place tonight?” Moe Alvarez, a long-time supporter of the band, raised his eyebrows at Daisy. One corner of her mouth went up into a half-smile.

“Yeah,” she murmured, making sure only Moe heard her.. “I’ll see you there in about an hour.”

“Can’t wait.” He winked and walked away, running his hands through his long, dark hair.

#

“Daisy, that was fantastic.” Moe wrapped his arms around Daisy. She didn’t usually like cuddling after sex, but it was a concession she allowed. Moe had always been exceedingly kind to her, not to mention very supportive of the band, so this was her gift to him. He kissed her on the cheek. She playfully tapped on his nose with her finger and kissed him back. Moe was almost rat-like in appearance with small dark eyes and a long nose. Still, he had never failed Daisy sexually, so she could get past his looks. “Hey, you know Divine Condemned is in town tomorrow night?”

“Of course I know!” Daisy smiled. Divine Condemned was an English rock band and one of Daisy’s favorites.  She first heard their music when in high school. She never forgot the way the songs and musical composition made her feel, propelling her sexual awakening into an unexpected intensity. It didn’t help matters much that Daisy found the lead singer Noel Tyler so incredibly handsome and sexy.  Maybe those feelings were the reason her father had forbidden rock music in the house. 

The very first song she heard was “Rhythm of My Heart.” It was a song that had strong guitar solos in it combined with a pop rhythm, placing the tune squarely in between the two genres. The music video showed the band’s sense of humor, alternating between depictions of the band as stereotypical snooty Englishmen in white and black robes wigs, singing condescendingly at the camera then later showing the band as vintage rockers from different bygone decades. She liked the song, but she wasn’t a full convert until Pete brought the new album to rehearsal one day and played the first song, called “Dark Demon.” A searing guitar split the silence open, jolting the four band members out of their skin. After four measures, the guitar was joined by a loud, pounding bass drum, which was followed by the bass guitar. The song, Daisy would later learn, told of a local legend to the band’s hometown in eastern England, in which residents of the small, panicked village were terrorized and slaughtered by a deadly beast.

Most of the band’s classmates had only heard “Rhythm of My Heart” and said the Divine Condemned was the worst band they’d ever heard. The media declared Divine Condemned as a “joke band” and their classmates, being the lemmings that they were, adopted this opinion as well. Daisy didn’t care what most of them thought, but to people who were nice to her, she hotly defended the band, arguing that they were serious musicians but men with a great sense of humor and what was so wrong with that? Those friends seemed to like the band simply because “Rhythm of My Heart” was on the top 40. But from the moment she heard “Dark Demon,” Daisy knew she would always be a fan. The more she became a fan of the band’s music, the more she learned about the band, it then reached a point where she wanted to be Noel Tyler. She became obsessed with her desire to command an audience the way he did. He flirted, joked, and seduced his audiences, leaving them breathless and satisfied at the end of every show. She wanted to be able to do that.

“Are you going to the show tomorrow night?” Moe asked.

“Yep! We know the guys the opening band, so they’re putting our band on the list.”

“Oh.” He sounded a bit disappointed.

“What’s wrong?”

“Well, I thought I’d take you with me.”

“Since we’re on the guest list, how about you come with me? You can be my plus one.” She’d seen Divine Condemned whenever they came to town, but now she would be backstage, meeting the band.

“Cool.”

Her mind began to wander, jumping from thought to thought like a little monkey, until it finally settled on her own genesis as a singer. She remembered that day, seeming like a million years ago, in the kitchen, cutting vegetables at the kitchen island while her mother cooked at the stove. Now was the perfect time while it was just the two of them.

She had lied to her mother, insisting that she needed tutoring in school.  Couldn’t Pete help her a few days a week in the afternoons? She didn’t like lying to her mother, but she knew the truth would have been unacceptable. Pete posed no threat to her parents’ insistence on a squeaky-clean lifestyle, but just the same, Mr. Carter should be kept in the dark. That suited Daisy just fine. 

The joyful memories of those early days of rehearsals filled Daisy with the warmth of a hot drink on a chilly day. The rehearsals gave her a temporary relief from her stifling home life. Her mind began to jump around again, landing on the unpleasantness of THE fight. The day he found out. Daisy was unlucky that her father had gotten home early one day. There was an explosive fight and she suddenly found herself ousted from her home.

Shaking herself out of her nasty daydream, she got up and started dressing. “Babe, I’ve got a lot to do tomorrow before the concert. I’m gonna head home now, but I’ll pick you up at 5.” When she caught him frowning out at her, she asked him what the matter was.

“Just once I’d love to wake up next to you in the morning,” he sighed.

Daisy turned her back so he couldn’t see her rolling her eyes. “What, and make me breakfast?”

He sighed heavily. “Is it so wrong to spend some time with me when we’re not fucking?” He really liked Daisy and wanted to move past a sexual relationship with her. She previously had made it clear on numerous occasions that she didn’t want to progress.

She faced him, smiling sweetly. “Don’t be so dramatic, Moe. The band has a lot going on right now, you know that. I don’t have time to lie around in bed, spooning.” She walked back to the bed and leaned over to kiss him. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

She got in her car reflecting on how much she had changed since leaving her parents’ house where she had been so cautious, so guarded. She gave herself over to her instincts, desires, and sensations to the male fans who vied for her attention, never allowing any tryst to get too serious. She had her eye on the ball and she wanted Florentine Tragedy to be successful. Nothing and no one would distract her.

She turned up the volume on Divine Condemned’s new CD, singing along and harmonizing with Noel Tyler, fantasizing that she might one day actually get to perform with it. Stranger things had happened. 

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Comments
  • PM Kester

    No prize needed:) happy to help

  • Becca Martin

    Thank you so much for your feedback, PM. You're the first one, yay! I feel like I should give you a prize!

  • PM Kester

    Great chapter.  I suggest adding more dialogue.  Paragraphs 3-7 seems like a lot of telling.  Can't wait to read more otherwise.