There wasn't much in the music press about them, they seemed to be newcomers to the scene. There were a couple of copies of their flyer reproduced in small-press publications and a single column inch in the NME which amounted to saying "We've heard of this band, if they make it big you heard it here first." I was about to give up and go the art gallery instead where the Constable paintings would induce a mood of serenity I couldn't get from sleeping, but then a list of the band's members and their manager caught my eye. I checked the whole article, but it was a review of new artistes and was no more specific. Then I read the names again and understood why it had caught my eye. Their manager, Nico Loutreides, was a dealer in musical antiquities I'd met briefly at an antiques fair.
I checked the name again to be sure, but I had read it correctly the first time. Feeling properly awake for the first time, I went to the computers and ran a search for him. That turned up the address of his business which I wrote down, his web-site, and a PDF article. I checked the web-site first: it was a minimalist affair with a very brief bio, no picture, and a short list of instruments for sale. Nothing older than eighteenth century, and no prices that might put the casual purchaser off. The article was also short, but much more interesting: it reported Nico's shop being raided by the police and his subsequent arrest on suspicion of trading in rare Norse artefacts. I caught myself thinking that I'd always known he was dodgy and half-smiled: I'd met him once and hadn't liked his smile much! Hardly proof that he was a thief or a fence. The article concluded abruptly saying that Nico had been released without charge.
I took myself off to the art gallery then for the afternoon, leaving a little earlier than I really would have liked in order to go to a brasserie near the Bierkeller for something to eat before the gig. They had just opened before I arrived, and a waitress with a smile that was more like a leer looked at me like I had tentacles.
"Are you open?" I said, and she nodded. "I have a gig to go to," I said, trying to break the silence, but she handed me the menu, waited three seconds and then brandished her pad and pen and started tapping her foot. "The pasta," I said, handing her the menu back.
I was in the Bierkeller on the dot at six buying brandy. The barman's eyebrows raised a little when he took my order, but he didn't have to try to get the taste of the pasta out of his mouth. Whatever it should have been, it had tasted like anchovies had died in it. Lots of them.
The first band came on at seven thirty, by which time I'd switched to lager since the bar didn't stock any ales. They were booed off the stage quickly, and a girl next to me with pink hair shouted a few profanities at them as they fled.
"You really don't like them, do you?" I said, curious.
"Used to date them."
"What, all of them?"
She gave me a pitying look, then a slightly harder look, her eyes drifting up and down me. "What are you here for then," she said. "Picking up young girls?"
I bared my teeth; in the dim light it might have passed for a grin. "Lady Cthulhu," I said.
"Oh." She looked disappointed, and turned away. I let myself drift away from her through the crowd, and got closer to the front.
Three more bands came and went, some lasting longer then others, then Lady Cthulhu came out to what was equal parts cheering and booing from the crowd. Two thin boys with piercings skulked to the back, holding bass guitars, an even thinner boy who looked like Jack Skellington took the mic at the front, and then a man with tribal tattoos on his neck strutted across the stage carrying a midnight-blue guitar that appeared to have been tattooed as well. He was clearly the leader of the band; from his face he was probably no older than the other boys, but he seemed more focused, more present. There was an obvious sexuality about him, and suddenly I saw the pink-haired girl again, now at the front of the crowd running her hands up and down her body, pushing her breasts out and writhing, trying to catch his attention. She wasn't the only one. The lead guitarist ignored them all, and struck a pose. Then someone caught his attention off-stage, and he frowned, but unslung his guitar and exchanged it for one that a man from off-stage gave him. As they exchanged guitars, the man's face was visible and I recognised Nico Loutreides.
The music was uninspiring, and the singer mumbled through too many of the songs, almost degenerating into chanting at some points. The lead guitarist stared ahead, looking at some private vista, and the girls at the front never stopped trying to get his attention. When they finally finished and the crowd dispersed, I was disappointed and relieved in equal parts. Lady Cthulhu might have a bit of a daft name, but there was nothing sinister going on.