Space Ace Frehley is pacing, raving, furious. He’s only halfway through applying his make-up… So more accurately, it’s half Ace from The Australian KISS Experience, half Frank from Fairfield. But he’s fully furious. “You little shits.”
David Broughton slumps sunken, sweaty, Telecaster slung, leaning against the greenroom wall - watching KISS and make-up, in the golden globe framed mirrors. His own band - ‘Warrego’ - have just torn the roof off the cavernous western Sydney beer barn, leaving a heaving, screaming, sweating human sea, and are reshaping themselves for their second set. Davo is on a mission. Follow this if you can.
Space Ace is in a raving orbit, firing in at Davo, “Brett told me youse blokes played covers.”
Brett Phillips is the booking agent for both bands. He’d signed ‘Warrego’ after seeing them tear up an inner-city pub, with a set of original songs, promising a rock and roll rocket ride to the stars. The same Brett now casts the cover-song chain and anchor, dropping sinister hints of “connections” who will fix the band’s “attitude problems”. And yes, David had promised that the band would toe the covers line, and do what they had to do, to get the gig.
Ace’s rant isn’t over, “I’ve rung him, you know.”
David nods, pulling at his hip flask rum - gut turning, adrenaline seeping onto the mottled-brown tiles. He knows. He saw Brett storm in during the last song of the set. His three bandmates, even his guitar-twin Will Maloney, have conveniently forgotten the drink rider for the first time in their lives, and have run off to the bar, leaving him to smooth the waters with Brett. David groans, bastards, and wishes he could slide away across the tiles, and out the… Brett is standing at the door, red-faced, puffed with rage.
“Am I not making myself clear enough? Is that the fuckin’ problem?” Brett, screaming green paint from the walls.
David doesn’t get up, “Mate, did you see that crowd?” This conversation is stale. He is disingenuous. “What more could we do?” He knows the answer - do less.
Brett, easing to pink-faced, “Your job, is to play covers. You blokes are the foreplay, KISS are the fuckin’ -- fuckin’.”
“Ok man, look - we thought we’d slip in a few of our own, and wind back with covers. We’re cool, man.”
Brett turns away to KISS, his bigger fish - shakes his head, and Space Ace’s hand.
David climbs from the tiles, and keeps hosing down, “We’re cool Brett, hey? We’ll do what we have to do, man.”
It’s like a switch is thrown. Brett smiles conspiratorially “Yeah, yeah – we’re cool. But man, try and get Will in line. That’s your attitude problem, right? It’s Will?”
David knows his part in the play. “Will’s good, man. We’re all with you. We’ll all do what we have to do to crack it.”
Brett sticks to the script, “I know what the band can do. But we have to manage this right. We have to do - what we have to do – to…” He pushes his sweaty hand into David’s, and shakes too hard, too long, “…to crack it.”
David winds into the second set with a free-form snaky guitar riff. He sees Brett, imposing in stage-left wings. Will catches on in a flash, and harmonises. A cover. David smiles at Brett, nodding obediently. Brett looks satisfied, but confused. The guitar-twins ride entwined, ever building, climbing…. As they snap to tempo, the rhythm section crash in, and lighting take the cue – the stage explodes in laser light, and an unmistakeable riff. The crowd rush to the stage, singing, ‘I was made for loving you, baby…” KISS.
Brett screams over the stage monitors, “You’re fucked!”
David looks to his left… Brett is running circles, and Space Ace appears, glowering black and white in the gloom. David blows a KISS, and conducts a sharp stop - the snare shot rings through the dark, beer-fumed cave, and slaps back off the bar wall.
David rock and roll raves into the mic, “Coming up soon…”, Stevo punches a mock-dramatic snare roll, and Chuck pumps a bass crescendo – BANG, “The Australian KISS Catastrophe! For now… We’re ‘Warrego’!” Will lifts his guitar three notches, and slams into the intro for the eponymous ‘Warrego’ original song. The smoke-machine sends clear signals… And in a hurricane of double-kick drum, thumping bass, twin skyward guitars, and nuclear lighting – the fist-punching crowd gives a deep, seismic roar. David screams over crowd, over band, and over truth... He lies, “Here’s a cover song off an old Sabbath bootleg.” He fires a fierce look to his left. “This one’s for a lost friend, Brett Phillips. It’s called… ‘The Things We Have to Do.”