“You won! I knew you were going to freak out if you won, so I thought I had better be the one to call you and share the news. Are you excited!? I know you are!! And guess what?” a moment of silence, my silent scream, “Kay, are you still there?” Scott enthusiastically prompted and continued, “Eric and I are going to be going with you!”
“Wait, what, you mean...” I could hear the questions falling out of my mouth as gracefully as rocks. My mouth was dry, and my chest was tight.
“Kay, breathe, girl. It is going to be fine, just fine, a ton of fun. The entire thing is arranged. Just make sure to ask for the time off work. Put in for the time off today. The date is coming up soon. I must get back to work now myself, but I will message you later,” and just like that he was gone and the phone silent.
I could not believe it. I had won the Dream Date with Ben V. I had all his records and all his band t-shirts. I had been worshipping him from a distance for over a decade, ever since I heard him sing for the first time. I admired his boldness for borrowing the band’s name from the edgy cult classic film A Clockwork Orange, Ludovico Technique.
To celebrate the ten-year anniversary of that original release, Ben V was joining Communion After Dark on Twitch every month to release another new single that would be part of a full-length album released on Halloween. During these online release parties Ben V would be present in the chat room taking questions from his fans as they watched the new music video for his latest release. I had managed to chat with him a few times during these events and had been anxiously awaiting the new record when they announced the Dream Date Contest. It was simple really, all you had to do was go on the band website and buy a t-shirt. With your purchase, your name would be entered into the contest and then a computer program would pull a name at random out of a virtual hat and they would announce the winner.
Of course, I bought another t-shirt and then went on about my own life. I figured every one of the seven hundred participants in the chat went to the website, picked out a t-shirt and entered the contest. I expected the results to be something I read about on Facebook not something I would be involved in.
Set the Stage
The industrial music scene was experiencing nothing short of a new renaissance. With the days of the COVID plague well behind us, bands were touring to the states in droves. Elon Musk’s Starlink internet went up just as the vaccines were being handed out, spreading the news of his new Starbase City in Texas at the fastest rates news had travelled since the invention of news. The top names in the scene flocked to Texas from every corner of the states and from around the world. When popular American acts like Ludovico Technique and SpanktheNun met up with groups like Nachtmahr and Suicide Commando in Texas, dark industrial music festivals were the result, and no one was complaining. After the years of quarantine, musicians and fans were eager to meet up and Elon Musk was not going to lose any sleep over the tourism trade.
My friend and escort for the evening was DJ Scott Durand. He had been an influential scene promoter and DJ for the scene since fans had started using the word scene to describe the lifestyle. Artists sent him new music daily hoping their tracks would be selected to appear in one of his sets, namely his weekly syndicated masterpiece Dark Indulgence. Which was how I had met him during the quarantine when his weekly broadcast became my favorite show. He had a professional relationship with Communion After Dark and had worked with them on a lot of great online events that I had attended.
As was their style now, Eric Hanes and Scott Durand were constantly collaborating, on sets, and shows, and this publicity stunt was a fun way for the guys to prepare for the upcoming festival. Scott and I had been discussing taking a trip together for awhile and he knew how star struck I was over Ben V and now it was just working itself out.
The trip was scheduled for only a few days, arrive on Friday, then Date Night, hang out with the guys and do the Starbase City tourist stuff Saturday and then I had been invited to sit in on the recording of the festival episode of Dark Indulgence. I would be back home Monday night with all this excitement behind me unless I decided to stay for the entire festival.
The new Starbase International Airport was located adjacent to the SpaceX launch field and made for an interesting view as the plane descended. As modern and new and clean and efficient as it was, it was still an earthbound facility and I walked as briskly as I could following the glowing blue green arrows towards the exit, passenger pick up area. There as promised was a black Uber vehicle with a woman standing next to it holding a picture of my avatar. She opened the door for me as I approached, and I tossed my backpack to the other side and then sat down. She closed the door.
“Good evening, Kay, my name is Marguerite, and I will be providing your Uber service this evening. I have been booked for you for the entire weekend so if you find yourself in need of transportation at any time just send me a text.” As she said this a message from her popped up on my phone restating the same information in Spanish and English. I checked the message and smiled. “Scott told me to tell you, do not be nervous. Everything is going to be okay. Okay?” she was looking at me through the rearview mirror.
I took a deep breath and sighed and managed to get out quiet, “Thank you.” I was starting to freak out. I needed a cigarette. I needed a drink. I needed a better dress. Why did I wear these ridiculous shoes?
“Don’t worry. You look great, dark, and mysterious. Are you on vacation? You are here for the music festival?” she was friendly and continued to chat and drive all the way to the restaurant, nothing but upbeat economic progress in her tone. She advised me to wait in the car as we pulled up in front of Elon Musk’s Starbase On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina.
Marguerite stepped boldly from the vehicle and headed straight to a security guard on the other side of a velvet rope. Penned in like rowdy sheep were hundreds of screaming, pushing and shoving, Ludovico Technique fans. Apparently, I was not the only star struck one, but I would never wait outside of a restaurant to get a glimpse of him after dinner. Someone started yelling, “He is here, he is here,” and the mob started to rush towards me in the Uber. The alarm chirped and the windows sealed, and the doors clicked locked. It was real Beatles Mania like I had only scene on television.
The crowd parted and a group of men in suits approached Marguerite as she pointed to the car and then they all walked towards me. I could see Scott in the center of them but with the doors secured I was trapped in the back seat, so I waited. Marguerite opened the door and smiled at me, “Remember, if you need anything, just text me.” She handed my backpack to one of the men and then handed me to Scott. The crowd was so loud now it was deafening.
The men in suits stayed outside and as the doors shut, the loudness of the crowd faded. Scott and Eric were laughing. “Wild!” The looks on their faces got me to laughing too.
Scott gave me a hug and then introduced me to Eric Hanes of SpanktheNun. He took my hand and held it as he said, “My girlfriend loves your Persephone books. I am into Agent Grey.”
As I looked around, something was off. The restaurant was not really open for business. There were a lot of people buzzing about and I could smell food, but the tables were empty. Then across the floor, in front of the bar I saw the film crew and the lights. They had taken several large tables and pressed them together creating an elegant gothic inspired formal dining room. In the center on one side sat Ben V in a giant ornate throne and on either side of him sat a beautiful woman. Candelabras and wine glasses adorned the table. One of the women held up a large decanter and poured a glass of merlot for Ben. His lips were already stained red, and the other woman appeared to be bleeding from her throat. It took a moment, but I realized soon enough that they were filming a music video.
A woman in a dark suit carrying a clip board rushed up to us and Scott introduced her to me as Sasha. She wanted to do a quick check of my hair and makeup before we were seated at the table, so I went with her. I sat in a chair and was immediately surrounded by woman with makeup brushes and hairbrushes. As they tugged and fussed, Sasha tapped her clipboard. “I hope you understand that everything, everything Ben does is a photo op or publicity stunt. You were not the “random winner,” you are here because he wants to take a photo with Key Grant, the author of Agent Grey and he wants to ask you why you have never asked to use any of his music in your soundtrack. So, let us record your response now so you do not have to worry about that during dinner, okay?” Before I could answer a kid shoved a microphone in my face and a moment later my response was on the record.
Table for Two
Scott and Eric walked over to the table with me and sat on the benches to either side of the bench I had directly across from Ben. It was not long before both of my escorts were distracted by the woman sitting across the table from them which created the effect of Ben V and I being alone together. Sasha gave me a thumbs up sign from over Ben’s shoulder.
He spoke first, “I went ahead and ordered for us as part of the reservation, to save time. Being from New York, I thought you would appreciate how impossible it is to get decent Spanish food.” He raised his hand and a friendly bus boy cleared away all the wine glasses. Several servers approached the table laying out multiple bowls of chips and salsa and fajita platters.
I laughed, for a moment at ease, because I did understand.
“I do not partake much when I am working so tequila is right out, but have you ever tried Calimocho?” as he asked, the bartender appeared with a tray and started placing tall icy tumblers in front of each of us. “I picked this up while touring in Spain, it is half red wine and half Coke with just a touch of lime.”
The scene was delightful, so dark and decadent, my ancestral Basque blood could not have asked for a more perfect first date. Scott and Eric raised their glasses towards Ben V in a toast, and then I with my two date sisters followed suit, “Topa! Prost! Cheers,” and that was only the beginning.