In spite of all the excited chanting and clambering towards the guardrail in the crowd, there was a hushed nervous silence backstage. Laura was leaning against the back of a giant stack of amplifiers, sipping a bottle of water and trying to focus on memorizing the setlist. It was something she’d done thousands of times before and tonight’s was no less standard than any other’s, yet a tightness grew in her chest, suffocating her, and she worried about walking out on stage and finding herself unable to sing. She worried about being frozen in front of staring mocking eyes of people who had paid to see a circus act rather than the earnest cries of a musician. Feeling consumed by the fear, she continued to gulp down the water as her fellow bandmates tuned their instruments. No this wouldn’t be her first time on stage, not by a long shot, but it would be Laura’s. The music business is a lot like an open empty stage. Once in the spotlight, you are held up for all to see, scrutinized, studied, you are worshipped and torn down simultaneously by your so-called fans, who would just as happily see you screw up as put on a good show.
Sure you can pretend you don’t care what they think, as Laura often had, you can dance like nobody is watching and rebel against the very industry that surrounds everything you do but it the end you do care what people think. The problem is that what fans see and what they think they see is rarely the same thing. A tattooed up punk screaming songs of anarchy and defiance at the top of their lungs might seem like a pillar of strength to a crowd with their fists raised in unity, but when the lights go down and the fans go home what remains can be someone who is just as lost, scared and in need of clarity as everyone else. Someone like Laura. The house music went down signaling that the concert was about to start and Laura anxiously rubbed her tattooed arms, the one constant throughout her transition. They remained like scars from a former life, only no longer were they accompanied by black t-shirts and black jeans but by a vintage red dress and stockings, an outfit that still screamed punk rock but with a very different, more feminine voice.
Laura walked out onto the stage behind her band, trying to hide without looking like she was hiding, and the crowd was suddenly quiet with anticipation. As she slowly took her place by the mic stand, all eyes were most certainly on her. The stage lights came down and her guitarist gave her an encouraging nod while the tampering of a snare drum played them into their first song, followed by the thudding of the bass and then the roar of an electric guitar riff. Still, the crowd was silent. It was now or never as the final bar of the intro came to an end and Laura inhaled deeply before letting out an earth-shattering scream of melody, and finally, the crowd broke their silence, screaming along with every word she sang…
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