The Alternative Hero

The Alternative Hero by Tim Thornton Read Free Book Online

Book: The Alternative Hero by Tim Thornton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tim Thornton
approach to beating his kit, the guitarist that way of spanking his instrument like it was a naughty child even on the mellowest tracks, that the bassist would remain in his corner doing, well, absolutely nothing but playing the bass, and that Lance Webster had a habit of remaining on the lip of the stage, confrontationally staring out at the crowd, until it was almost too late to return to the microphone to bellow out the lyrics. I was also magically aware that Webster would not utter a word of greeting until after the fifth song, finally acknowledging the audience’s presence by demanding, “So what, is it your fucking bedtime already?” before launching into a seething rendition of “Scared of Being Nice,” with its tender refrain
“I don’t respect you but I’ll fuck you anyway.”
A sentiment I was still blissfully ignorant of, but on that night I’m sure I knew what he meant.
    Above the bouncing, kicking, screaming, ramming, hollering and gurning stupidly with unfettered delight, the proceedings were presided over with breathtaking authority by Mr. Webster: equal parts scary teacher, football coach, rock ’n’ roll fuckup and demigod. His vocals were clear, faultless and a hundred times more powerful and emotive than on the record. His regular insults (“We didn’t come all the way here to entertain a room full of idle wankers”) were perfectly executed, just the right side of totally abusive, and you knew you were never too far away from a cheeky grin. And those songs shone out across the vast theatre to the point where, for thefirst time in my fifteen-year-old life, I experienced a profound unity, of almost five thousand people, most of whom had never met before and would barely meet again, welded together by a common focus, taste, purpose, anger, release and enjoyment. A unity this Lance Webster was able to control with virtually the flick of an eyelid.
    I am still—some eighteen years later—
astonished
to report that when the band left the stage for the third and last time (after a brutal rendition of “Zeitgeist Man,” a B-side that had now become their standard gig finale) I staggered up to a similarly soaked Alan Potter, put my hand on his shoulder and burst into tears. I don’t think I’d actually cried at all since I trod heavily on a large nail when I was eight, but I was so physically and emotionally exhausted and consumed by the knowledge that I’d finally found my own world, and that Lance Webster was its de facto president, that I couldn’t do anything else. Alan clearly understood enough to not need to ask what was wrong, and patted my shoulder in a matey sort of way.
    “Yeah, all right, man, that’ll do,” he said after a few seconds.
    Although the journey home began with much lively banter and comparing of notes, I was all too aware as the train neared our town that our temporary friendship was coming to an end and that we were simply in a different year at school once more. Like a fool, in the station car park, as Alan walked away to his parents’ car, I gushed, “Let me know when you’re going to some more gigs!” To which he responded curtly, “Yeah, we’ll see what happens, all right.”
    As I trudged home I felt the evening quickly evaporate, and started to come to terms with the fact that my day-to-day life would remain, for the moment, unaltered. School trips could not be synthesised in this way very often, if ever again, really. But I had hope. I suppose I saw Alan as perhaps the key holder of that hope but, wisely for an immature fifteen-year-old, I calculated that simply striding up to him in the dinner hall and saying brightly, “Hello! So who areyou seeing this week, and can I come?” was precisely the wrong thing to do. The solution would be to somehow have something that he wanted from
me
. My current set of possessions, attributes and circumstances presented nothing of the kind, of course, but I was sure that if I thought hard enough I would come up with

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