Lily entertains the club as her new DJ persona.
Final Fest: T-minus three weeks.
"Yes, yes... absolutely amazing."
"Uh... well I-I... I don't understand."
"Yes, yes... It's amazing."
"Let me, ah... let me explain."
Two people speaking, a young woman and an older man.
Specifically, two humans. From sample audio taken twelve millenia ago.
The dim maroon lights in the club began to twitch and flash in different colors as the man's speech was distorted as if through a vinyl, but DJ Neu Wave, the Starfish Bar's regular Friday night DJ, had not yet walked onto the stage yet. As with a few of their recent shows, they played an intro of some kind to set the tone, and get the crowd hyped.
Neu Wave's DJing danced between plenty of different genres, but always had a root - she played heavily with tracks from the human era, and she often mixed them together to create mashups. Now and then she would mix a human-era song with a marine-era track, which tended to bring joy to the crowd.
The lights settled back into their dim red as the sampled speech was suddenly cut short.
And as the intro hit a lull, DJ Neu Wave - Lily - strode from a staff door behind the stage, the regular clubgoers cheering. Neu Wave smiled and waved at them, getting behind her console and immediately cueing up some settings before the track started proper.
"Yes, yes... ...Absolutely amazing."
On the 'may' of 'amazing', the LEDs and lights burst into action - pulsing with white light while the screen behind Neu Wave finally lit up and was showing a sort of visualizer for the music. With a cheer, the inklings, octolings and other marine life on the dancefloor started to move to the slow but pounding beat.
Up on stage, Neu Wave bounced to the beat. She was especially excited to present tonight's show, having the biggest news of her career yet.
At her command, the light show slowly evolved through the first song and into the second, changing from white wavy lights and LEDs to brilliant color - and taking on the iconic hues of Off the Hook as their song 'Nasty Majesty' came in as a mashup over the song's breakdown, which made the crowd light up and cheer.
And at the rear of the crowd, chilling and enjoying the show quietly at a table, were Pearl and Marina. Wearing different clothing so as to keep their identities secret, they had asked to attend Lily's show to see her perform in her native environment. She'd shared her mashups with the duo before, and they'd seen clips from her shows on social media, but now that they would be working together... well, why not check her solo performance out?
It was only after the second song when there was a lull in the music's energy long enough for the DJ to greet the crowd, nine minutes in. "How y'all doin'?! You READY FOR THIS?" She called out to the dance floor. Many of the regulars whooped and cheered in response, and Lily's grin widened. "Glad to see the regulars out there!"
She took a breath, pausing for a moment. "This'll be my last show for a few weeks, I want to get that out of the way. Big reasons why, I'll get into it later. But I know what you came here for! C'mon everyone, MAKE SOME NOIIIIISE!"
The small crowd on the dancefloor roared in approval as the lights faded from their white colors to red as the next song was a bit dark. Lily saluted again and glanced down at her decks and her laptop again.
The club would become quite colourful with the next few mashups, in fact becoming a series of rainbows and sparkles and, oddly, floating hourglasses for one particular mashup.
The next lull came in the form of a slower song, with the human vocals of a song called 'Mirror' over the top, telling a story. The crowd would cheer as the song ended with the instrumental of 'Mirror' with the Squid Sisters' 'Fresh Start' being sung. Though the lights flashed and danced throughout both songs, on the screen behind the DJ booth played a simple clip of someone walking through a peaceful forest in a sort of first-person POV.
This Fresh Start / Mirror mashup seemed like it would be the end to her usual set, but when the song finished and began its ending, the lights faded down and Lily began to speak while the forest trek on screen continued. "Hi everyone. Doing well?" She greeted cheerfully.
The crowd whooped and cheered in response.
Neu Wave beamed. "So... here we go. Real talk. I said this was my last show for a while... I wanna explain why." She took a deep breath. "I got a call the other day, folks. I still can't believe this, but... I ended up speaking with Pearl and Marina from Off the Hook. We got any fans here tonight?!"
Another roar from the crowd. The DJ did her best to avoid looking directly at the two girls in the crowd. She knew they were there - this was part of the announcement deal. She moved to the keyboard and began to play a piano section based on the song that had just played
"Love it! So, y'know, we got to talking, mostly about that thing they're doing very soon... y'know, the Final Fest?" Another cheer. "And... well, long story short..."
She took a deep breath, and seemed both very elated and nervous. "I am... incredibly excited to announce that DJ Neu Wave will be performing, on-stage, with Off the Hook, during Final Fest!"
The crowd almost literally erupted in cheers, applause and roars of approval. Neu Wave's 'persona' broke at the overwhelming reception, and she blushed, looking away, clumsily finishing the piano section. "T-thank you! Let's make this night one to remember!"
The screen behind her was finally fading to black, the break over. In the darkness, a voice from 'Mirror' spoke:
"Sometimes, the inner voice is encouraging.
Calling for you to run those final few yards.
You're nearly there. Keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going.
It will all be okay in the end."
Then, like the transition into 'Mirror', 'Fresh Start' began to play, as an instrumental. With the song it was paired to, it felt like a triumphant beginning to the second 'half' of her set.
The rest of that set was a blur of emotion and lights and energy to Lily. She felt more energetic after sharing the news and bounced and danced on stage with the crowd more than a few times.
The second half of her show also included more mashups with the songs of Inkopolis, many of course by Off the Hook and the Squid Sisters, almost in celebration of her impending collaboration. After 'Fresh Start' came a slew of mashups which lit up the club with different patterns and colours - the iconic 'Calamari Inkantation', both its versions, 'Acid Hues', 'Ebb and Flow', a combo mashup of 'City of Color' and 'Ink Me Up', a remix of 'Color Pulse', 'Into The Light', Chirpy Chips' 'Blitz It'...
The set fittingly culminated in a 'Now or Never' mashup which gradually layered on vocals from each version of the song - first Off the Hook, then the Squid Sisters, then Wet Floor, and finally the OGs, Squid Squad. By the time all the voices were singing together in the song, so was everyone in the club to Neu Wave's encouragement. "Shell yeah! Lemme hear you! Send it home!"
As the timer on screen ticked down to the final downbeat, all the lights faded to white and Neu Wave threw her hands out to the crowd. "Thank you all once again! I've been DJ Neu Wave! See you at Final Fest!"
She waved to the crowd, smiling as the crowd cheered and whooped. She took a few seconds to just stop and take in the scene.
"T-thank you, everyone," she quietly breathed.
Then, shaking her head to snap back to reality, she took a bow, disconnected her laptop from the stage booth, and left with it to exit into the staff area, the way she'd came.
Lily stepped out of the staff entrance of the Starfish Bar a few minutes later, carrying a cup of hot chocolate in her hand. As soon as the door shut behind her and the light from inside disappeared, she allowed the persona of 'DJ Neu Wave' to slip away from her, and her bright eyes and smile slipped away. She slumped down rather roughly on a milk crate next to the entrance, leaning her back into the wall.
In an instant, she looked as if she was totally exhausted.
And she was.
Physically, the show had taken a lot out of her. But it had taken a lot of energy out of her emotionally and mentally too - not just the announcements, but just actively being around so many people, being the focus for so long.
This was her routine, though - every Friday night, she'd play her show, then after a bit of mingling with the staff or the crowd, she'd retreat to this backalley, away from everyone and just decompress for a while - and allow herself to fall to pieces, or excitedly celebrate on her own, or whatever the mood called for.
Today though, she'd really played her heart out. It was an important set for an important occasion. She simply drank her drink, staring at the bricks of the building across from her.
I hope I can top that show at Final Fest, she thought to herself.
A few minutes of drinking and staring later, Off the Hook would catch Lily's eye as they walked up from the street. They seemed in a good mood.
"Hey, Lil'." Pearl nodded at her as the two approached her. "Great show tonight. I see you've gotten better at the MCing part after our chat the other month. Proud of ya."
"That was an awesome set, Lily!" Marina smiled. "The crowd inside is really pumped to see you perform with us, too."
"I'm glad." Lily yawned, and gave a weak smile. "I feel like I gave it my best."
"You look it. Y'alright?" Pearl raised an eyebrow at her.
"Yeah. Just. Exhausted." Lily reached for a hot drink cup by her feet, and took a sip. "It's part of the routine by now, y'know? I put a lot more of my energy into those shows, that by the end of it I just need... some time at the end to get a bit of energy back. I'm still introverted, and all that."
Marina nodded. "You did well, Lily. Are you gonna be alright to get home?"
"Psh. Yeah, I'll be fine." The inkling smiled up at them again. "I gotta make a detour on the way, but I mean, it's a nice night out. It'll..." An unexpected yawn caught her by surprise. "...It'll be nice just walking through the city."
"Gotcha." Pearl smiled. "Good night for it, innit?"
"Mmm. Feels like it." Lily glanced up at the night sky. "Might help me clear my head."
Pearl glanced toward the drowsy inkling on the milk crate. "Hey, you comin' down for another jam session next week?"
"Hell yeah I am. This show ain't putting itself together."
"That's what I like to hear." Her smile grew into a smirk. "You look after yourself, okay?"
"Will do, Pearl. Thanks for checking up on me." Lily smiled, and stood to give each of them a hug.
"Of course, Lily. That's what friends do." Marina also smiled. And she and Pearl started to move again, walking past Lily toward the street. "See you Monday arvo, alright?"
"Sounds good, Marina. Take care, girls." Lily smiled, and shifted her posture, leaning back in a more relaxed fashion against the brick wall of the club, feeling more rejuvenated after the time in the cool air.
"Oh, and don't forget!" called Marina's voice, the girls having paused about 20 meters away. "We're announcing it on the news tomorrow!"
"Got it!" Lily smiled and looked toward it, saluting them with the cup in her hand.
She took a few more minutes to summon the rest of the night's energy, sipping her hot drink. Then, getting up, she walked the two steps toward the staff entrance and opened the door.
Time to get her gear. She knew that her keyboard and other portable gear she'd brought to the show would have been minded by the staff, but she did have to pack it all back into her backpack. She had to move on.
After all, she needed to pay a visit.