With a final strum, Chris let the guitar ring out a long, echoing note, listening out for the cries and cheers from the crowd gathered before him. None came. Of course, as he’d figured. These bar gigs were all the same. A dreary, down-on-its-luck place on a Thursday night, with the few locals that had blown in for something to break up the dragging week.
“Thank you, thank you all,” Chris mumbled into the microphone, readjusting himself on the stool that had a seat so small it felt like it’d shoot up his ass if he moved the wrong way. None of the crowd acknowledged him having said anything, carrying on with their usual business.
Chris could recognise most of them, or their types at least. They were always the same. A small group of young men had claimed a spot beside the pool table, one of them eyeing off the green fabric as though he was aching desperately for a game to show off the ‘superior’ skills he had, and would promptly deny having practiced for weeks. The table beside them was occupied by a young couple that had pulled themselves away from home for a romantic night. Instead he was already four drinks in, and she had spent more time on her phone than looking at the uninspired menu she was meant to be ordering off.
At the bar, perched on rickety stools with tops of torn red leather, a couple of older men chatted stories back and forth. One of them had even managed to have caught a young fella off guard and trapped him in a long retelling of his hay baling days, the boy’s eyes darting anxiously with a plastered smile as he searched desperately for an escape.
The only one that even bothered to watch Chris was the woman behind the bar, and even that was feigned interest to avoid the drunken flirting from the ragged man that had been sitting at the same spot since four that afternoon, supposedly having nothing better to do with his day. For a Thursday, it was a sorry crowd, but a crowd nonetheless.
As he readjusted the pick in his fingers, a glint of silver in the next room over caught his eye. Doing his best to not be obvious, he threw a glance across and watched as a heavy silver keg was rolled past, the woman that pushed it giving him a wave with a mischievous grin spread across her face.
Smiling in return, Chris cleared his throat, tapping lightly on the mic that gave a satisfying echo in return.
“This is my final one for the night,” he began, one of the young men giving a pitying ‘aw’. “So, thought I might leave you folks on something a little special. Feel free to join in if you know the words.”
As soon as the first few notes were strummed, the attention of the young men was seized. Eyes darted to the stage. Drinks were raised with a laugh. As they joined in with their poor singing, attention around the bar began to shift to them, and then up to Chris, everybody becoming entranced as he spilled out the lyrics. The foot of one of the old men began to tap in rhythm, the young woman with her partner hummed to herself, and the bartender even put down the glass she had been cleaning for the past hour.
Unknown now to any of them, keg after keg of beer rolled by in the next room, trundling out the doorway and into a parked van. They were in no rush about it, they had plenty of time. After all, ‘American Pie’ was eight minutes of pure attention, and Chris wasn’t here for the pay.