Sunday, 9 August 2015

Curtains | A modern girl in a band story with soundtrack

Copyright Ngaire Ruth

Prologue: I know women artists have much more to offer than just being angry, but sadly there is still a lot to shout about. I know that promoting is a thankless task particularly when it comes to regular little nights with unknown bands. During my 30 years writing for the music press women musicians have had a difficult time being taken seriously by a team at a venue, or by the other musicians. If this seems old fashioned to you - lucky you. Tell me about it. I want to write a journalistic piece about it. I always plug a good independent promoter in a review  - for example Tobi Blackman. 

NGAIRE RUTH'S SHORT STORY STASH IS MY ART. I don't have to check facts or be fair, certainly not balanced. It is FICTION. If I am not creative, I eat my toes. 

It’s curtains for him.

It’s curtains for her.

She would really prefer a blind, the colour of aubergine, to go with her bedroom walls but she wouldn’t know how to put it up.

Candi, pink hair (she doesn't help herself), perfect eyebrows and a snarl, is sitting in bed watching Laura Kidd (She Makes War) and Tanya Donelly (Belly, Throwing Muses) performing "Slow Dog", a Belly track, on You Tube. Three plays in a row now, ignoring the smelly empty juice carton, plate of half-eaten toast and the fact that she is still hungry.

She knows she should practise her drumming but it’s difficult when you live in a flat with paper-thin walls and neighbours who bang on them more loudly than you’re banging on the bass drum. She isn’t even the official tenant – drawing attention to herself would get too many people into trouble. But how is she ever going to become amazing if she doesn’t practice? It’s exasperating.

When she gets overwhelmed with lack of solutions, Candi gives it up to the universe and has a nap and on waking she automatically seems to know exactly what to do. This is a brilliant skill but she cannot do this at work proper, or when in company – situations which are often overwhelming for Candi.

The name doesn’t help: Candi are you sweet? Candi can I lick you? Candy is good to suck!

She makes a mental note: use these for songs.

Candi is awake now and working on setting up a drum kit with books and empty, cleaned condiment jars. It is not only solution one, it is becoming art. The choice of books becomes a crucial part of the process very quickly, which in turn means that the building of the little drum kit is going very slowly.

She’s A Rebel, Gillian G. Gaar, a fuck off big book because an anthology of women artists was decades overdue at the time of writing (1992). It is good for a base drum pile but also needs to be at the bottom because it is a gross pink.

Next, Women, Sex and Rock’N’Roll In Their Own Words by Liz Evans, it digs deep and so needs to be part of the base drum with She’s A Rebel. At the top of the bass drum pile: Madonna Like An Icon, by Lucy O’Brien. It is a thick book with a beautiful cover, black and white, Madonna in her maiden, confident phase, and makes a deep thwack. Women Make Noise, edited by Julia Downes – cymbal - the cover is bright yellow with black and white images on the front that are inspiring to Candi (The Slits, Pussy Riot, Lilian Levesque from Trash Kit).


All art is a journey. Candi stops and plays Skinny Girl Diet. OMG I love SGD types Candi on her Facebook Status. This is the best thing they have done to date.

Now pleased with her drum kit in terms of context but only with the thwack sound of the Madonna book – she decides it’s still sufficient for working on skills: co ordination, timing.

Her favourite drummers right now are Caz Hellbent (Desperate Journalist) and Jennifer Denitto (The WI), although in The WI sometimes Melissa plays drums, who inspires Candi too because what ever role she plays in any band you can guarantee her absolute joy, skill and commitment. Those are the qualities she admires in her heroines and heroes.

Candi is committed. She’s working on the joy and skill element.

She plays Th' Hysterical Injury. She loves how Annie uses her voice in "Visions Of Trees", an old one but never stale. It makes her feel joyful, determined. The song reminds her it's OK to go off the path and into the woods. And Annie and Tom, drummer, are total feminists, humanists to the bone.


Solution 2 is ready to go: use my stupid name for angry songs.


Candi Facetimes Jo.

“Let me hear the first one!” she squeals .

Love you Jo. Everyone creative needs a friend like Jo.

Candi spits the lyrics like a spoken word piece, so Jo can find a rhythm a beat.

“Wow,” she says. “We are gonna become Bikini Kill”

“Really? You say that likes it’s a bad thing. I heard no squee? It may have been the way I said it?"

“It's amazing” says Joe hastily. “Better than I could do.”

“Better than you could do but not brilliant?"


"Did you get the lyrics?"

"Of course!"

"I'm saying all the shit things people say to me because of my name! I'm holding a mirror up to the bastards."

"You could always change your name, that’s proactive,” perks up Jo.


"I think it's very powerful," reassures Jo. "You can talk about how the songs are in the feminist tradition of reclaiming - that's a good point of interest. Well done!"

It's the "Well done!" which truly pisses Candi off. She puts the phone down and circles the room, heavy paces, big sighs.

“I can’t wait to hear the rest tonight,” says Jo,

“What was that?” says Candi, picking up the phone and putting it to her ear. Jo repeats.

“Oh piss off,” snaps Candi, disconnecting Jo and throwing the phone at the sofa.


When Jo puts the phone down she realises that she wants to say to Candi that she is a bully and that sometimes her behaviour towards her feels like emotional abuse; silencing her voice, belittling her opinion. She seems to think she is the only one equipped to be a feminist, which is of course is ridiculous.

She rings Mike for reassurance and to make sure he got the message that the band is turning up at his place to rehearse tonight.

"She's a pain," agrees Mike. "If it wasn't for her great songwriting skills she wouldn't even be in the band. She's a shit drummer."

Candi realises that she is a bully and a bitch for not respecting Jo’s opinion. Feminists need to agree to disagree for the common cause. No diversity = boring = insipid popular music, nowhere fashion. It’s a well know equation and leaves the powerful canons ruling the roost in the art and media world.

She decides to ring Mike and tell him all about it, for reassurance. His phone is busy.


All art is a journey. Candi draws a great big spider diagram on her flipchart paper and works quickly to The Ethical Debating Society's Cover Up

It occurs to her she should apologise to Jo. Ring her in a minute she thinks, and continues with the diagram.


“Hey,” says the boy.

“Hey,” says Candi back.

“Good sound check.”

“Thanks, shame about the sound engineer."

"Tony? What do you mean?"

"He completely ignored what we said. Treated us like idiots!”

"Oh he's alright, you've just got to have a bit of a joke with him, get him on side."

"Well he only talked to Mike, our bass player, so that would have been impossible."

"He was totally on the ball for our soundcheck. He definitely knows his stuff. Did you hear it?"

"Sorry, no, we went to get something to eat."

“Just as well or you would have peaked too soon,” he gloats.

Ew. She thinks and moves on despite boy’s outer cuteness.

“Excuse me, gotta find my mates.”

“You an all girl band then?”

“What does that mean? That one day we’ll grow up and become women and leave all this silliness behind us?”


“Doesn’t matter,” she sighs.

“Right,” he says, wishing he’d never tried to make conversation with the hot girl.


The hardcore largely male audience love Candi’s songs with choruses that go: Let me suck it! Can I lick it? You’re so sweet baby. They sing along with raised fists and crazed faces, and absolutely no irony.

Candi and Jo (guitarist) share a stare. It says: Shit.

“Holy fuck!” mouths Jo to Mikey, bass.

Mike grins with amused expression. “Milk it,” he mouths back.

Boy in audience spits at Jo.

“What do you ya think this is 1976!” screams Jo.

Next comes a half full plastic cup of lager.

Jo picks it up and throws it back.

“Rayyyy,” the audience shout.

The sound engineer remains snoozing at the desk. He should never of had that joint.

“Show us yer tits,” they shout.

“I’ll suck, you blow,” shouts a fat bastard.

Jo gives him a V sign.

“Rayyyy,” the audience shout.

The boys mosh hard and shout loud. More plastic cups. More lager dregs. More V signs from Jo.

“Dirty cows!”

Lesbians!” (It's the boy from the band that talked to Candi.)

"I hope so!" shouts Candi. Jo growls at the audience.

“Rayyyy,” they shout.

Candi - suddenly filled with an enormous strength and purpose - leaps over the drum kit and throws herself into the moshpit. People need to die and it needs to be today. Jo and Mike, open mouthed, know not what to do.

Jo is thinking that Candi is a total idiot. Mike is thinking: fucking brilliant, best gig of my life. We're gonna be famous.

“You fuckers!” screams Candi lashing out with her fists and feet as she crowd surfs.

Boys grab at her crotch, her breasts. Her pants are up her arse crack. Jo throws down her guitar, grabs Candi’s outreached hand and tries to haul her back to the stage. Candi hears her dress rip, people start to grab bits of the material to take some kind of momento. Candi lands back on stage, tattered and bruised, even more indignant.

“Rayyyyy” the crowd shout in unison.

And Mike is still slapping that old bass, doing a little dance. He looks at Candi, ready to give her the signal, waiting for her to get comfy again at the drum kit.

“What the fuck Mike?” gestures Candi.

Joe hits a chord.

“I’m gonna tell on you,” roars Candy.

No one else in the band has heard that song before but they just jam along. The audience is so loud and the sound system so awful, it hardly matters.


“Great gig!” enthuses Mike. “I reckon we’ll get a review out of that.”

Jo, who is packing up her guitar, ignores him. Snaps goes the case as she secures the clasps.

Candi sits, stooped forward, elbows on thighs, arms dangling, a drumstick still in each hand. She does not have to ignore anyone because she is not there. She is in a far off galaxy; a place she goes in the event of an emergency, when it's impossible to actually nap.

The promoter comes in: great gig I reckon you’ll get a review out of that.

“Thanks,” says Mike.

“The songs are a great angle,” continues the promoter.

Jo kicks Candi, gives her a look.

Candi, back in the room.

“Angle?” she quips.

“It was brilliant what you did there girlie,” he says to her.

“Candi,” she flatly corrects him.

“Your punters are pigs,” says Jo.

“That’s rock and roll,” says the promoter man.

“Is it?” say the girls in unison.

They are ready to leave. There is no way they’re staying in that place another minute.

Mike is comfortable.

"Is there anyone out there we should be talking to," says Mike, putting his now packed bass under the bench seats. "Send in the girls," he jokes not daring to glance in Jo's or Candi's direction.

“Yeah, good one, says promoter man. Taking a big sniff and checking his nose for bogies with grubby fingers.”

"I know you are joking Mike," says Jo.

Mike reddens. Fumbles.

"Yeah, but it would be a good idea to go out there, have a drink, watch the headline act, be seen," he says.

"Did you actually understand what was going on out there?" asks Jo.

"You haven't even asked me if I'm alright?" says Candi.

"I can see you're alright," retorts Mike.

"Really," mumbles Candi, low, fuming.

"You didn't even help me," says Jo.

Mike stays silent.

Promoter man: If he'd helped you he would have got his head kicked in.

Girls raise eyebrows. Candi rubs her head. There is a massive black and blue bruise forming.

Promoter man, hand in pockets, checking his cock is still there (it's so small): You've got to play the game. Get out there."

Mike is shaking his head in agreement. “All in hand,” he lies.

“Bloody good idea having two girls in your band. And that song writing ... genius mate,” says the promoter, patting him on the back as he heads out the door back into the noisy venue.

“Thanks,” says Mike, without glancing once at the girls.

"Invisible," says Jo to Candi flatly. Candi nods.

“Your fucking house drum kit is shit,” shouts Candi after him.


It’s curtains for Mike.

"Mike is not representing feminists," says Jo. "He was out of order there."

"He's a slug not a man," quips Candi.

Mike's gotta go," they say in unison, then look at each other and laugh.

Candi and Jo are walking down the High Street on their way to the overground. It's busy here, a mix of takeaways and restaurant's smells, grubby Internet cafes and cab offices, shiny estate agents.

"Where will we rehearse?" asks practical Jo.

"We'll put the word out. Put notices up. We'll practise at mine, without the electric.

"I'm gonna learn the bass and we'll look for a new drummer."

"Woman drummer?"

"It doesn't matter as long as they get it. As long as they're a team player."

"And they can actually play," reminds Jo.

"Not necessarily," laughs Candi. "More important that they're a feminist and want to be the best drummer ever."

They laugh. Give each other kisses on the cheek.

"You have to be nice."

"I know."

"Yes, it's easy to say but are you going to actually do it?"

"Yes," affirms Candi.

"But are you gonna do it?"

"Yes!" she puts her arm into Jo's. "Yes. Definitely."

"Even on the days when you've got a period and all the bills have come in and someones been mean to you at work and a boy was a pig on the bus and told you you had nice tits."

"Yes! Even when you say stupid things and make assumptions..."

"Candi," warns Jo.

"Yes! For fucks sake!" bawls Candi. "Er.... sorry."

"Sorry for everything?"

"Well, no, I'm not sorry for my amazing songwriting skills or my most excellent version of a vegetarian lasagne and for telling Mike it was curtains for him, or that promoter he was a prat."