We are early. A little too early that we are spoilt for choices when in choosing our seats. As I look around I spot a couple of familiar faces – people whom I have specifically come tonight for.
“So you’re all pink tonight. Pink is the new black, so I heard.”
“Yup, have to.” He shrugs, with a slight hint of nerves. Who wouldn’t be anxious anyway? It’s a big night. It’s the big stage. It’s the big show. It’s the big finish line.
“I dislike pink, but I’ll be rooting for you guys. All the best tonight.”
“So what kind of music do you listen to?”
“I like indie stuff, but I listen to some mainstream music too. Currently I like a band called Switchfoot.”
“No way! You like Switchfoot too?”
That was the beginning of everything that was about to take place. We soon found out we were also fans of John Mayer, played the guitar, played tennis, spoke English with a different twang, saw things in a similar, different point of view.
I learned a lot about my faith from him. And guitar too. And tennis.
He learned what fried ice-cream is from me.
We were both small kids from big cities, stranded in a small town.
We became friends.
Salmah and The Swingers, the all-star band takes the stage with confidence and style. The moment they strut their stuff, I finally understand what people meant when they said they were in a league of their own. They are the Adam Lambert-s and Crystal Bowersox-es of the night. Their rendition of Hey Jude have completely changed my perspective towards my university’s standard of talent.
Hey Jude, don’t make it bad…
Take a sad song, and make it better…
The following acts have become sleepy and boring to me, partly because The Swingers bunch have brought my expectations to a whole new level. And mostly because I am only looking forward to one more band.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcoming on stage, Sour Stripes!”
The announcement by the emcees wakes me up, and I pay full attention to that pink-cladded team. I think about the previous attempts that were made. I think about the disappointment felt year after year.
“I need a win, Vern. I don’t know what else I want, but I just know I need a win.”
Those words were spoken from a broken person, one who has been trying so hard to make something worth his while. Someone who was searching so hard for that one thing he could do and shine in. Someone who needed to finish a race and come out victorious.
We had a lot of those talks. Especially after a good (and bad) game of tennis. We talk about things that mattered to us. Our deepest fears, our greatest dreams, our desperate attempts to make life less scary.
I remember that day, when he lost. Again.
“Can I have a hug?”
That was the most sincere, broken request I’ve ever heard. I hugged him as if it would patch things up in an instant. I knew it didn’t. He still needed that win he was seeking since Day One.
They are the last act. The crowd is tired.
They’re playing an acoustic version of a Malay rock song. Here’s the thing about him. Doesn’t matter what song he’s playing, who he’s playing with or where he’s playing. As long as the guitar is in his hands, you see it all over his face.
He’s having the time of his life.
‘God, can this be it? Let this be it.’
There is something about this band. They know they cannot top Salmah and The Swingers, but they didn’t give a damn anyway. They are performing as if they were the only act in the whole show. I see something special in that band.
I see humility.
They are playing with respect. For the songs, for the crowd, for themselves.
He’s behind the drums now. As they reach the peak of the song, he stands up to play, his spectacles flew but he doesn’t care. He doesn’t need sight to play. He has more than that. They all have more than that.
They have heart.
They sealed their performance with the kind of perfection only they will understand. The tired crowd who seemed to be unable to lift their hands to clap earlier are now hyped up with all that they have just seen and heard. I’m not surprised. They deserve their moment.
He has finally crossed the finish line. With triumph.
‘Thank You, God.’
And then I stand up and cheer.