Dateline – Seattle, December 2079 – The Giving Gala

12 December, 2022

So, the following is some long-form in-game writing set in my Shadowrun campaign verse.  It ties into a game I ran at Tyche’s Games and a news story in the Seattle Scream (more information on both can be found here).  There are maybe five or six people in the world who are likely to appreciate it (but feel free to prove me wrong).

Dateline – Seattle

The Giving Gala is always a good show, last year I was here as a VIP, being courted by Rebel Entertainment, this year, I refused the invite and just purchased my own ticket.  Like any other Jill SixPack, this year, I wanted to see the event from the floor, among the people who were here for the music and the scene.

Naturally, I was at the head of the line, sure, I had to get there at seven freaking AM to get near the head of the line, but the price you pay for art.  Rebel Entertainment, and others, made sure we were well entertained with AR videos and other distractions.  Food trucks kept us fed and caffeinated and portaloos allowed us to shed them.  The other people in line were a mix of fans and professional placeholders, many from both tribes I had met before.  So there was a bit of a carnival atmosphere.  Honestly, it felt good to be back there, among the lovers and losers, players and punks.

At 5:15pm, the doors opened, with a cloud of steam, lit by red lights, a nice touch.  We head in, a happy mass, most people head straight for the bar.  Me, I head for the stage.  The first act is already getting set up, it is Steppen-Stone Wolf, a weird psychedelic folk-rock group that has been building a lot of buzz.  Somehow they have managed to have a lot of success in the Native American market and have just returned from a set of shows in Vegas.  I covered them back in ‘77 when they were just getting started.  I chatted with Lorde Cameron, their lead guitar and chief songwriter, as they got set up.  I promised that I would catch them on their next tour.

I grabbed a coffee just as the set began.  Luckily, everywhere in the Inferno has great acoustics, so I could get my caffeine and my groove on at the same time.  The set goes well, the Wolf slip in a few covers to play to a wider audience, their version of ‘Let it Snow’ was fantastic, a good ploy and well played.

Greenback Continuum show in progressThe transition is covered by Tiny the Troll Comedian, really that is what he calls himself, honestly, I did not think it was that great but I have heard worse standup but he seemed to connect with the crowd.  Maybe they were just riding the good vibe of being here.

The second warm-up act was the Greenback Continuum, a retro-prog rock electronic group with a strong special effects presence, playing up the retro-science fiction theme of their music.  Their next to last song, a cover of Rush’s ‘Limelight’ had local frontman Stone helping on guitar and vocals, he shows real talent, now if he can just find a decent baking band.  But the Continuum show was solid, everything I expect from them, they really do live up to the prog rock tradition.

The next transition was Gossamer, not singing, not yet, but welcoming everyone and talking up the spirit of the Giving Gala.  I must say, she does sell it well.  But, setting cynicism aside, Gossamer is the real deal and has been a tireless champion of civil rights in Seattle for decades now, and we are all better for it.  And, well, haters be damned, her music is pretty good too.

Now the big names start to play with Interstate 5 having the coveted eight o’clock spot.  Some have accused them of just peddling nostalgia but there is more to their music than just that, they are actually reaching out to a better, more positive future.  I dare you to really listen to their ‘Breakfast in America’ and not feel a spark of hope for the future if you are an American, yes, it plays off of nostalgic themes but it recognizes the world as it is and how it could be better.  Also, they are just damn good at what they do and that is play music.

We have a bit more standup to cover the transition with Reporter Rex Rowland, his brand of counter-culture, mildly anti-establishment observational humor has always struck a chord with me and it seemed the reach the audience too.  He read the crowd well and did not overstay his welcome.

The New Cheka play at 9pm, the successor band to the 2050s goblin rock group, the Cheka, they are good on the technical side Rock on!but they do not have the fire of their forebears, literally in the case of some of the members who are children of the original band.  Things light up half an hour in as Gorky and the rest of the original band join in, their skills might be a bit rusty but their passion is undiminished.  It lifts the whole set and reminds me why goblin rock was so bleeding edge in the 50s, the punk of its era.  The New Cheka set runs long as the crowd just will not let them stop giving encores, it is fantastic, and they finally end with an obviously unrehearsed version of ‘Sleigh Ride’ that almost brings down the house.  

Annabelle O’Malley-Lee, CEO of the Rebel Network which is throwing this party, steps out onstage for just long enough to cover the band equipment being taken offstage, thanking everyone for being here and reminding them to help out in their local community.  O’Malley-Lee is a strange bird that I have never been able to properly classify, old money, big corp, but she has personally backed politically risky and occasionally unpopular stances that she thought were right.  She has also poured a lot of money and political capital into improving the primary school system in the Metroplex and beyond.  My reflexive anti-corp mindset says I should dislike her but I am not sure, she may not be a good guy, but she sure as hell is not a villain either.  Why do people have to be complex, ne?

Starting late is my girl, Indigo Storm, to almost everyone’s surprise, she comes out with just her guitar, there is a stool and a mike, she sits.  “Let’s play some classics,” she says without preamble.  The crowd have no idea what is up.  She starts with ‘Baby, It’s cold outside’, but by the time she reaches the ‘Twelve Days of Chrismas’, she has the crowd singing along with her.  It is about twenty-five minutes in and she stands.  “And that is my Christmas present to the fucking critics who say I can’t perform without a staging AI and light show.  Enjoy eating fucking crow you talentless cockknockers.  Now, let’s rock!”  A huge cheer goes up.  While all eyes had been on Indigo, her band had set up behind her.  She launches into a set featuring her biggest hits and ends with a new song, which is going to be her holiday go-to, I can tell, ‘Red Blood, White Snow’.  The crowd goes wild and Indigo, bless her, leaves them wanting more.  She may be a grade-A bitch but she knows her music and how to work a crowd.

After two high-powered acts in a row, there is a half-hour break for people to rehydrate and relax.  The screens show clips of some of the famous performances from the past years.  I am already where I need to be, so I get some more coffee and talk with some of the other fans.  More than one have eyes too wide open which indicates that they have been taking advantage of better living through chemistry.  But everyone seems genuinely excited and talk keeps looping back to the performances so far.  Indigo really knocked it out of the park, if you will excuse a sports metaphor, and everyone is talking about her set.  But a small cadre is still pumped about the New Cheka performance especially the finale.

Just before the energy starts ebbing from the room, the dulcet tones of Maria Mercurial start reaching out over the sound system.  Maria is in full chrome queen mode and the audience is drawn to her like moths to a flame.  She moves through her catalog of hits, interspacing them with brief stories from her career, before ending on a new song, ‘A Light in the Darkness’.  If that does not hit the top ten before the end of the week, I am not worthy of working in this biz anymore.

As her set ends, the clock chimes midnight, exquisite timing, she steps aside to welcome, yes, called it, the Celestial Intervention Agency to the stage.  They wear their nearly thirty years of rocking pretty well, though Gorky is looking a bit rough.  The CIA has played this stage so many times, it must be like coming home for them, and that ease shows in their performance.  After each song another performer joins in, it is like the who’s who of the Rebel Entertainment catalog: Jack Entropy, Moonshadow, Maria Mercurial, Indigo Storm, Josie Jones and Rick Salim from Three Bland Mice, Interstate 5 joins in for the first encore, and, no fucking way, for the final encore, they play ‘Wishing (If I Had A Photography of You)’ and bully O’Malley-Lee into being the lead singer!  Unbelievable.  And weirdly touching as she sings it so much as a love letter to Gossamer, who she resolutely refused to look at through the whole set.  The kiss between them at the end of the song, well, it curled my toes, let me say that.

Everyone who has performed comes up on stage for a final bow and to wish everyone happy holidays.  Gossamer closes the event down with the traditional, “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.”  Everyone, especially the bands, are exhausted from the fabulous night of music.  Before the bar closes, I grab another coffee and sit back to watch the tide go out as the happily chatting crowd drag themselves out.  One or two look asleep on their feet.  I am just finishing up as the last of the crowd makes their way out when O’Malley-Lee sits down next to me.  She looks wrung out but happy.  “Enjoy the show, Gina?”

“Hell, yes, best in years,” I replied.

“I was disappointed when you turned down our invitation.”

“Eh, the VIP scene is not for me, this is where the magic happens.”

She nodded.  “It looked like everyone was having a good time.”

“They were fucking captivated.  From the point when the Cheka hit the stage, you would have had to spray them down with firehoses and drag them out to get them away.”

She laughed.  “Good.  It is the most important show of the year.  It is tough to get it to work.”

“It did today, Ms. O’Malley-Lee.”

“Belle, please.”

“Belle, you can be proud of everyone here.  It was . . . it was perfect.  This will be the Giving Gala that everyone says they were at.”

Belle laughed again.  “I am glad.”  She stood up.  “You want to come and join the afterparty?  The coffee is even better there.”

“Nah, I want to wrap this night just as part of the crowd.  Get the full experience,” I said joining her on my feet.  “Next year, I promise, Belle.” 

Belle smiled.  “I will hold you to that, Gina.  You have a happy holiday season and keep safe.”  She turned to go.

“Belle, one last thing.”  She paused expectantly.  “You killed it on stage tonight.  You should think about going pro.”  Belle laughed and turned away, walking across the floor back towards the afterparty.  But, where she had been tired before, now she stalked across like a damn lioness.

I smiled and headed out, waving to security and the hired hands closing down the merch tables.  One tossed me a t-shirt as I went by.  “On the house,” she said.  I grabbed it out of the air. Probably not looking as cool as it felt.  “Happy holidays!” I called back and stepped out into the night air . . . and it was snowing.  

Let it snow., Seattle, let it snow.

Gina A from the Giving Gala in Seattle, 2079.

Notes: Gina A is my iconic rock reporter in Shadowrun, she first showed up as an employer and then later penned this piece to conclude the T3 adventure arc.

Maria Mercurial is from the classic Shadowrun adventure, Mercurial, and Jack Entropy is from the brilliant Cyberpunk adventure EuroTour, both have been folded into my Shadowrun continuity.  Gossamer is a former character of my wife, Moonshadow is another former player character belonging to T2, and Stone is a currently active character in my campaign being played by A2.  Everything else is all me.

Laser photo found on GoodFreePhotos,   Concert from pxhere.  Both used under the CC0 Public Domain license.

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