Danny had truly outdone himself. Dylan had thought he had taken care of everything, but he had been worrying about everything practical. The live-music setup, the arrangements with the two local microbreweries, the catering. And as with everything he arranged, he’d done it well, but what Danny had done blew his mind.
He came in at 1 with a couple of friends, all carrying boxes with decorations. Most of which seemed like they had made them themselves. There were rainbow lanterns, flags, coloured lights to decorate the makeshift stage, a donation box in the shape of an old-fashioned microphone. They had even brought a red fucking carpet.
When Dylan had thanked him and his friends for all they’d done and were still doing, Danny smiled and took out his phone.
“Look, over two hundred people on Facebook said they’re attending!”
That was just too much, two hundred people wouldn’t even fit! But if even the 160 that did fit would show up, would they even have enough staff to serve them?
It must have shown in his eyes, because Danny laughed and added: “don’t worry boss. Probably only two thirds will actually show up, but I’ve gotten Karim to skip uni and help out, just to be sure.”
“Danny, you are a godsent. I don’t know how to thank you.”
“Oh, I do.” Danny replied slyly. “Can you get Ravi and Peter drinks on the house?” He pointed at his two friends pulling at the tangled strings of party lights.
“Deal.” Dylan said. “Also, I want you to tell me how many hours you’ve spent working on this and I’ll pay you.”
“Nah, that’s alright. It was my pleasure.” Danny said, and curtseyed theatrically. If Mercury had an employee of the month election, Danny would have won it until next September.
When the four of them had almost finished decorating, a serious man-bun walked in with a cart full of boxes. The caterer, right in time.
This caterer had worked with the microbreweries in the past and had prepared a selection of snacks to match, but to Dylan’s dismay the boxes reeked of overripe cheeses. The sturdy hipster bringing them in was even bragging proudly of how the smell betrayed the superior quality. One of the artisanal cheeses had spent a year fermenting in some fucking cave in France. When the man opened the box to show off his wares, Dylan had to use all the strength within him to keep his lunch down. With that shit in here, he didn’t expect anyone to actually be able to drink anything.
Dylan was almost ready to throw everything out, when Danny skipped over, tasted a bite and commented positively on the quality with a straight face.
“What really?” Dylan exclaimed. “You really expect people to stay in here when it smells like this?”
The caterer looked clearly taken aback and started to defend his wares. Danny clearly thought Dylan was joking and laughed about it. “Good one, boss.” He added, chuckling.
Dylan was still standing there, not knowing why everyone was seemingly taking the piss out of him with this monstrosity of fungi-riddled cavefood, when Ian walked in. Guitar slung over his back.
“Hey guys, whoa, you’ve got complementary cheeses too? Wow Dylan, I had not expected that from you. Did my blue cheese tarts convert you?”
“E tu Brute” Dylan sighed defeated, and lit a cigarette. Yeah inside. Fuck it, it was only a crime when they were opened right? The whole place smelled like a marathon runner’s worn socks now anyway.
Danny made a show of coughing and waving away the smoke, pointing out his right to a smoke-free working environment. But he did it with a grin, so Dylan decided not to give a shit for once.
Ian introduced himself to everyone politely, then started hooking the guitar and microphone Ian brought up to the PA-system. Dylan had no idea how that worked, but Ian apparently did and fixed it with relative ease, managing to get effects on the vocals Dylan didn’t even know his PA-system could produce.
When Jacco, Chan and Karim showed up at three-thirty, there was almost nothing left to do, but open up the place.
Danny had been wrong. Wrong about only two-thirds of the Facebook people showing up. That or there was an entire bunch of people not on Facebook but definitely in Mercury. It was so crowded that one could probably walk comfortably over all the heads without anyone falling over, so tightly packed was the bar. The two craft beers they had on tap were already running low, the cheeses were finished, and Ian had only been playing for half an hour.
Oh god that voice… It was so hauntingly beautiful the way Ian’s lyrics came out, how they carried that much emotion with them throughout each and every song. Not just happy or sad, but actual complex emotions delivered though raw, yet perfectly pitched vocals.
Dylan could not understand why the entire music-loving world wasn’t worshipping this man. Why a bar like his could afford a performance from someone so fucking talented. Why he wasn’t singing for thousands of people in a sold-out Amsterdam Arena.
Their eyes met across the room and for some illogical reason it shocked him for a second. Ian smiled at him and pointed his finger at his ear, then right at Dylan.
“I heard there was a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the lord. But you don’t really care for music do you? It goes like this, the fourth the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift. The baffled king composing hallelujah.”
Holy shit that was so beautiful. Dylan had heard the song before. Different versions of it too, but it hadn’t touched him. Not like this. Never like this. Sung by Ian, the song clawed itself a way right through his chest.
“Baby I’ve been here before, I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor. You know I used to live alone before I knew you. I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch. Oh, love is not a victory march. It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.”
Dylan couldn’t tear his ears nor eyes away from the musician on his tiny stage. Jacco had to poke him twice to get him to snap out of it and actually serve the people standing at the bar. And even then, Dylan half-assed it. He cut the descriptions of the craft beers short and almost poured the beer over the rim of the glass, because he kept glancing over at the stage.
Holy shit, that man was just… wow.
When Ian finished the song and excused himself for a short break, Dylan snapped out of it and found Danny and Jacco standing shoulder to shoulder looking at him with big smirks on their faces.
“Boss got a crush!” Danny jeered. Jacco hid his mouth with his hand, but his shaking shoulders betrayed his amusement at the situation.
“Should I get you a poster to hang above your bed? Or do you have the live version in there already?” Danny went on.
Luckily, a whole chunk of the clientele made use of Ian’s short break to order more drinks and Dylan quickly put and end to his colleagues' harassment by ordering them to stop fucking about and get to work.
They were obviously wrong. Ian was his friend and his neighbour and the damned best singer that the earth had ever seen, but that was it. Okay he was pretty hot too, but that was definitely it.
For fuck’s sakes Dylan. He’s your friend and he’s a complete mess, oh and did you forget he’s nine whole fucking years younger than you! Get your mind out of the gutter and stop thinking with your dick. He’s your friend and he’s messed up enough already. You owe him better than that.
After the taps ran out, Dylan, Jacco, Karim, Danny and Chan all went into full overdrive modus restocking the fridges, trying to make sure that the craft beers they were serving would actually be even a little chilled, but the clientele didn’t seem to mind one bit. And when Ian had finished his third set at exactly seven, the bar was rushed, and people were almost fighting each other for the last couple of lukewarm beers left. One waving hand was the last thing he could discern amongst the crowd when Ian left.
Damn. He had wished to be a better host, get him something to drink, thank him properly. Get him his money at least, but he knew Ian had another gig to hurry to, so he let it go.
It was long past eight when the crowd had dispersed a bit and turned into a little-busier-than-normal Friday night. None of them had eaten yet, so Dylan called for pizza’s and the five of them had bites of food whilst working.
“I’m sorry you don’t get a real break for dinner. I promise, this is one time only” He told the guys. He was profusely sorry for this, but he had been completely taken aback by the unexpected turn-up. He thanked Karim again for coming in early and Danny for arranging that. He should’ve done that. What kind of manager was he if he couldn’t even get his staffing right?
“So, what’s up with you and that musician?”
“Danny I was just wondering why I hadn’t given you a raise yet, thanks for clearing that up.” Dylan quipped. They were wrong to assume Dylan had anything other than platonic and musical interest in the man, but he really didn’t feel like explaining himself.
“Ah, Dylan… We’re just curious. He’s your neighbour, right?” Now Jacco too, damnit. But Chan came to the rescue.
“Boss, somethings wrong with Karim, he is screwing up the cocktails” the tiny Chinese guy said in a worried voice. One glance over made it quite clear what was actually wrong with him. Karim’s boyfriend had shown up and the fact was seriously impeding Karim’s ability to mix a cocktail apparently. Having acquired a new target to tease Jacco and Danny buzzed off. Officially to help Karim out, but in reality they were now just teasing him.
Dylan went in for the save. “Danny, go take care of the cocktails, Jacco, this guy wants to order, Karim, can you come here?” He tried not to sound too harsh, because that would only create the misunderstanding that he was going to scold the poor guy.
Karim was completely red in the face and started stumbling “sorry for screwing up Dylan, I don’t know what’s up with me.”
“I think you do. That’s your boyfriend over there, right? Did he say or do something that got you off you’re a-game?”
“Um… no, well yes. But it’s not bad, I swear. I just…”
“What did he say? Did he offend you?”
“No. He um…” Karim turned crimson. Dylan kept looking at him sternly and slowly raised his eyebrow, signalling: ‘you better tell me what the fucker said’.
“He invited me to stay over tonight.”
Oh. Well that was anticlimactic. “That’s what got you so flustered?”
“Yeah well… I think that means, you know…”
Dylan chuckled. “Yeah I know, and yeah it does. Is it bothering you? You’ve been dating for weeks now, haven’t you?”
“Dylan I’m a virgin.”
“Oh shit, really?” It was the dumbest thing to say, ever. And Dylan knew that, but it flapped out anyway. Karim glared at him with a look that might actually be able to kill a man.
“Hey, I ain’t telling no one.” He threw his hands up in a defensive motion.
“What are you not telling?” Danny said, suddenly appearing behind Karim.
“Danny for fuck’s sake, go work!”
“I’ve been working for hours and hours and it’s not busy anymore with the five of us working and I just want some juicy gossip I can tease you guys with, like Karim being a 22-year old virgin and all…”
“SHH!” Karim grabbed Danny by his mouth and squeezed it shut.
“Okay, you know what Danny, you’re right. Five is too much for the current crowd. One of you can go home. I thought of sending you off, since you started so early today, but I think right now Karim can go. If he wants to, that is.” Dylan was very happy with his resolution. That'll show him.
“Yes, thanks!” Karim said, bowing his head gratefully at Dylan.
“See what your mouth gets you into?” Dylan teased Danny, who immediately grinned back like he had just won a prize.
It dawned on Dylan that he had made a serious mistake…