"Ladies and dirtbags! Welcome to the phsycotic celebration of decent music! You will vote, they will cry. And there will only be one ultimate winner! Welcome, you music addicts, to the 18th year of Fusion!"
The crowd errupts with cheers and screams. It's deafening, but I've grown used to it after three years. I turn to the band and they all give me a thumbs up, signalling they're ready to go. I take a deep breath and we walk on stage as the announcer shouts our name into the microphone.
I can't hear anything except for the noise they're making. The stadium is huge, out in the middle of nowhere but everyone knows where it is. It's where Fusion is held. The craziest most dangerous five-day music fest the world has ever known. Rumors are even crazier, but they're all true. We're animals. All of us. And I love it.
I grab the mic with both hands.
"Are you ready for some GOOD music?!"
It's our war cry.
The crowd, over 100,000 people, scream back at us. The glow sticks are everywhere but other than that, it's a sea of unidentifiable faces and huge signs with numerous artists names that are performing this week.
We're in the first day: Punk v Pop.
I sing, pouring my heart and soul, all the hard work over the past months, into my voice and let the lyrics that are etched into my brain pour out. It's a new one we've been working on for almost 6 months and all of us love it. Lucie's smiling and singing, flipping her short blonde hair. Ally is pouting ever so slightly, her dark curls falling over her shoulder. Alex is dancing on the spot, really getting the crowds worked up. She does it every time. Then there's Charlie, the girl everyone loves. Even though girl bands or any pop group says they're all equal, I know they're not. There's always a ringleader. And Charlie's ours, with her lilac pixie cut and her dimples and her crazy skinny jeans. Tonight there's an electric blue zebra pattern on them. It's her signature. Then there's me, the girl who started it but sure isn't going to finish it. I'm Elle. I'm seventeen, like the rest of us. Except Alex, she's sixteen. And I'm not much to look at but people seem to like my voice.
I'm currently sweating my ass off, the lights shining in my eyes, the music pounding behind us, the mic slippery in my hands. I'm not sure how to describe the phsycotic atmosphere but there's a knot in my stomach. You know that feeling when a rollercoaster goes into free fall? And your stomach flips and everywhere is tingly? Well, I've never been on a rollercoaster but I know what it feels like. It's the same feeling I get when I'm on stage. My belt feels too tight and my hair is sticking to the back of my neck but Charlie seems unfazed by it all.
When we finish, I grin shakily at the audience - I'm pretty shaky all over to be honest - and we walk off stage.
Right into another band. But because it's Punk v Pop, they're not dressed well and they have tattoos and ridiculous piercings and they only have one singer. I know it's not always like that but these guys are. I know their names because I practically memorized the program. I quickly matched their names to their faces. The blonde one with the streak of mint green in his hair is Niall. He has two sleeves of tattoos and he's wearing a vest jersey that says '#fuckyou'. The boy with the slightly curly brown hair and lip piercing is Harry. He only has a few tattoos that I can see and has a customized mic in his hand. The black-haired boy is Zayn. He's got a small gage in one ear and he's holding a pair of drumsticks. I think the boy with the brown hair is Louis or something. He has an eyebrow piercing and he's grinning at me like a wolf. It's pretty intimidating. There's one more, Liam, I think. He's got blonde-brown hair and a bunch of leather strappy bracelets around his wrists. They're all wearing jeans.
Niall slings a guitar strap over his head and starts playing immediately. Then Zayn comes in on the drums. Harry starts to sing, etc. I was worried about our competition but Charlie was eyeing them with a greedy stare. It made me laugh nervously.
"Can we please go back to the bus, please? I wanna take a nap after that smasher of a song."
Alex rubs one eye tiredly with the back of her hand which is holding the microphone. It smudges her eye makeup.
Ally puts an arm around Alex's shoulder and rubs her upper arm.
"You'll survive. We've just got one more song to go and then we'll turn in for the night."
Lucie nods, her blonde quiff moving.
"Yeah, we won't be long. God, what is that? Is that supposed to be someone playing the drums? It's making my ears bleed!" Charlie turns to the stage and grimaces. She looks pretty even with a frown.
"C'mon," I smile, "let's go grab something to eat."
I've been playjng for what seems like forever and I'm not even tired. I think this is one of our most beautiful songs. It has a meaning behind it, at least. There's a cover band coming up next. Their name is ridiculously stupid. 'We've Got It Covered!' Exclamation point. Jesus.
Harry has his eyes closed and he's smiling, like he's telling a secret to the audience. He's been practicing that for months. Zayn has a drop of sweat rolling down the side of his face but his arms are working to get the drum beat slowed to a gentle tap for the quiet part of the song. All of us are focused. Even Louis, who doesn't have to start playing yet, has the bass guitar steady in his hands.
We are ready.
It feels like my blood has turned to liquid adrenalin and is being pumped through my veins. The Red Bull I had earlier went straight to my head and I'm practically making out with the mic. I love the feeling of being up here. The sinking-stomach feeling had disappeared a long time ago and now I'm almost desperate to be on a stage every minute of the day and night. The lyrics are some of our best and even though the song isn't acoustic, it's brilliant. Unlike the whiny vocals of the previous group. Yeah, they were harmonized but I didn't like them. Maybe because they were a different music genre or something. I still didn't like them.
I winked at the audience, nobody in specific, and they roared back at me. Then we exited the stage and grabbed bottles of water from the cart waiting in the wings.
Singing is a pretty sweaty job, but someone's got to do it right.