Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, “The Band’s Tale,” Part 2

z: Hello, gentlebeings, and welcome to the second installment of our commentary on “The Band’s Tale,” the first story in Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, wherein working musicians learn there is a reason why they should set some principles about which gigs to take, then stick to them.

will: And how inevitable it is that they don’t.

z: In personal news: Two and a half weeks to what’s going to be personally the most intense concert of my life, just in terms of what I’m performing. Please ignore the barely-audible high-pitched noise I may be making at random intervals.

will: Which reminds me, said concert has tickets available at wmgso.org, and as it happens I’ll be attending the second (August) concert, so holler if you see us! $9 in advance, $10 at the door.

In personal news here, my job is about to hit a notable busy week, at least potentially (it tends to be variable, I’m told–this is still my first year at the gig), but things should be calmed down in time for next week’s post, never fear.

z: The next morning, the Modal Nodes set up “bleary-eyed” at the Star Chamber Cafe, tune up, and wait for the guests to start wandering in after breakfast. Doikk notices the exits (two turbolifts, a kitchen entry, the main entry, and a small circular hatch, probably an emergency airlock from the days when this was a spaceship) and notes that Thwim, a Kubaz guard he’d struck up a friendship with the previous evening, is on guard at one end of the bar. Figrin, in turn, notices that there are gambling tables set up.

will: I wonder just how realistic it is for Figrin to be that monomaniacal about gambling. Like, compulsive personality? OK. But the gig should overrule all. Let him be hyperfocused on that while he is setting up, and have him gamble like mad in his off hours, sure. But this close to a job, why is he doing anything but being monomaniacal about his work?

z: Yeah, that part I can’t really empathize with as a musician. However well you know your set, you still need to get into the groove.

will: Doikk also spares a moment to consider the nature of a Whiphid wedding–what’s the critical moment like?

z: …and this, I had skipped over on purpose.

Cheers from the lounge, then the guests start pouring in, the band starts up, and Doikk is unhappy in a hurry because among the guests, he recognizes some of “Jabba’s toughs.” He tries to reassure himself by reviewing Mistress Valarian’s present security forces and sees the droid E5-22, but this time said droid has a restraining bolt. He thinks Valarian maybe doesn’t trust droids that far. I wonder.

will: I should mention, because I made an oversight last time, that Doikk considers himself better with droids than organics.

z: The next interlude makes me and every performing musician laugh: A young, apparently already-drunk human “totters up” to the stage, yanks on Figrin’s trouser leg, and requests “Stairway to Heaven” “Tears of Aquanna.”

will: You think that’s the intended comparison? Maybe.

z: When Figrin doesn’t respond he heads to Doikk instead, who doesn’t want his pants stretched (no, really, that’s the reason) and starts the piece. Upon which they learn that a local gang must have adopted this as their official song, since the guy and several friends gather and start “caterwauling” with obviously made-up lyrics, which, heh, but also “this is so real” as Mark would say.

will: I think I’m insulted.

z: Insulted, why?

will: Lyrical rewrites?

z: Yeah, but you write filk, not gang theme songs.

…I think.

will: That you know of.

z: Ooooookay, moving on.

Where there’s one gang, there’s another, so before they can even finish the song another group of humans approach, all glares, so the band cuts the song short, gets glares from the original gang, get another request of the same sort, and launch into it.

will: This deserves some mention, actually. A tanned woman asks for the song, “for Fixer and Camie.”

As in, Luke’s Tatooine teenage compatriots, the ones who were cut from the original Star Wars.

In case you weren’t aware, there is a cut scene (it starts around 1:00 here) from the early parts of the film–an earlier introduction to Luke, wherein he arrives at Tosche Station in Anchorhead, and runs into Biggs Darklighter, home (briefly) from the Academy. Somewhere between Luke arriving and Biggs telling Luke he’s going to defect (thus setting up the reunion that did survive), Luke chivvies his friends outside to look at the space battle he saw (they only see it as a weird docking maneuver); one of them, a young woman, says that “Wormie’s had too much sun.” That’s Camie, and the guy she was clearly making out with before Luke interfered was her boyfriend (and later husband) Fixer.

Of course, she wasn’t tanned in that scene, and I have a hard time figuring out how they, a pair of teenagers from the Anchorhead area, would be at a crime boss’s wedding in Mos Eisley…but eh.

z: Nice catch.

This one happens to be a number they did many, many times, and they end up jamming a bit (“crazy game of cut-and-patch”) and Doikk enjoys it a lot and I can’t help but smile.

will: Yeah, I like that Tyers gave the Nodes at least one moment of good old fashioned follow-the-solo (no, not the Solo) fun.

z: They take a break after that set, and Figrin heads to a sabacc table. A very, very ugly human “with a diagonal sneer for a mouth” comes up to the stage with two mugs and offers Doikk his choice: Wedding punch, or lum.

Please note this person, because you know him. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything, because this book is called “Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina.”

will: I wouldn’t have recognized him by the description at first, but yeah, not really a spoiler.

z: I don’t understand a phrase in the next sentence: “My plug-ugly sat down on one edge of the reflective bandstand…” “…plug-ugly?” Anyway.

will: It’s a very old fashioned term but not unheard of for a tough looking (and as a result, kind of ugly, in the “been in a lot of fights” way) character. Honestly it sort of works here but I can’t say why.

z: Cool. It does work, I just never had heard it before.

The guy says this is a good band and wants to know what they are doing on Tatooine. Doikk thinks this is a good question, since they have played the best palladiums in six systems, and the guy believes that, so why are you here, he asks again. Doikk starts to like him, points out the gambling Figrin, and says that they got stuck. Nothing about being under exclusive contract to Jabba or anything, nosiree.

The guy says: “I tend bar up the street. Rough living, but somebody’s gotta keep the droids from taking over.”

….yeah, that must have been a great concern on Tatooine.

And this is where Tyers strikes again. In the movie, this is the “we don’t serve their kind!” guy–yeah, it’s the bartender of the Cantina, and I’m sure the actor appreciated the description earlier if he ever saw the book–so of course there must be some anti-droid sentiment from him… for no random reason except “the plot demands it,” because “I’ve got to stop droids from taking our jobs” thought no bartender in hives of scum and villainy ever.

will: Well…it’s odd, but I can see it. If you’re tending bar in a place where you aren’t going to be providing a personal-touch (this isn’t exactly Cheers here), I can see being worried that your boss is going to decide that a droid that doesn’t need food or sleep or the like can do your job of pouring drinks just as well as you can. But yes, at the same time, how appropriate is it that Tyers is writing another character who hates droids?

z: So we’re back to trying too hard. Just to keep the tension up, Doikk joins the plot-puppet game, and bristles because, he thinks, “droids improve life.” Agreeing with you totally there, bub, but this entire discussion of droid rights came from nowhere, is going nowhere (sorry, not really a spoiler) and didn’t need to be there.

But moving on. The guy’s friendly to the Bith anyway, and moves away with “keep your reed wet,” which makes Doikk wonder if he was trying to give a warning.

will: Either that or just going for a musician’s salute. He does seem to know a good band when he hears one.

z: Figrin comes back; so far, he’s “naturally” been losing–on purpose. They start playing again, witness a quiet business deal at a nearby table–this mention is also pointless but nice, since it adds color–and then the bride and groom join the crowd.

Even with the band on their platform, the Whiphids are taller than them. They seem happy, in love, and lashed together with a garland of “imported greenery,” another nice touch. They take seats and start undoing the garland.

Doikk gets tense, since a Duro whom he knows as one of Jabba’s toughs has started approaching. The Lady Val sees a mouse droid coming, and follows it to the kitchens. The Duro, apparently, wants to talk to the groom anyway–to offer him, a well-known bounty-hunter, a bounty. Since Doikk is playing by memory and rote, he can just listen.

will: It starts with what sounds like an attempt at a humorous aside–the Duro opens with “good hunting,” and the Whiphid thinks it’s an insult to Valarian. Cross-cultural misunderstandings, I guess.

z: It’s a record bounty, the Duro says, and Doikk thinks that Jabba must be trying to get to Lady Val through her groom. Which. Dude.

will: I mean, it is suspicious that Jabba’s employees would show up and go “hi, bounty hunter, I work for the person your new wife pays protection money, there’s a big bounty my boss put out.”

z: But no:

D’Wopp clenched his paws over the table. “Bounty? Is it a fierce bait?”

The Duro shrugged. “His name is Solo. Small-time smuggler-r, but he made the boss big-time mad.”

Well, as someone else we know once remarked, he does have a way with people. For Doikk’s part, he knows of Solo as “a tolerable sabacc player, for a human,” from a remark by Figrin.

will: Which probably means Han cleaned Figrin’s clock when Figrin wasn’t losing on purpose. Or maybe they broke roughly even.

z: D’Wopp wants to know the number. The Duro whispers the number. D’Wopp jumps up and is ready to head out right then: “My mate and I shall celebrate my glorious return. She is Whiphid. She will understand.”

Dude.

Um.

will: Cross-cultural–yeah.

z: And this is when Lady Val reappears and Figrin starts a piece that Doikk doesn’t know so well, so he has to concentrate on playing. From the direction of the happy couple, there come rumblings, and words like “fickle” and “dishonorable.” As I said, um. There are bellows, and the newlyweds fall on each other tusk and claw, right next to the bandstand. Of course a) the music stops instantly and the band steps back trying to protect their instruments and, uh, I guess life and limb, b) a crowd gathers, c) Doikk is certain that especially with Jabba’s toughs egging things on the brawl is sure to spread, so he goes to Figrin and gives the “let’s bail out” password (“Sundown. Sundown.”) But Figrin doesn’t want to leave–remember how he was in the still-losing stage of his gambling long con?

Both the bride and groom pull in several people to their side. Figrin announces the end of the set over the Ommni-amp. I laugh. No one else notices.

will: I like that Figrin does it formally. It’s basically the band version of “check, please.”

z: Doikk can’t find his Fizzz case.

Oops.

There are, suddenly, stormtroopers at the entrance.

Ooooooops.

The sabacc projectors immediately shut down, as Doikk thinks that Jabba, far from warning Val of a raid, might have sent them in himself this time.

will: He says he would have bet on it, but he doesn’t gamble.

z: That’s, fortunately for the rest of the band, enough for Figrin to cut his losses. He hisses “back door!” and heads off, everyone following with their instruments. Doikk calls to the security guard he had made friends with. Said “friend” fires at them, wounding one in the arm.

will: Figrin, also, yells to protect the instruments, and Doikk prays only that he can get out with his Fizzz and fingers undamaged.

z: That line got another sympathetic wince from me.

Another bandmember gets a broken arm pulling out their instruments from the melee. All the sadfaces. But the brawl has become a firefight, they need a way out, and Doikk always has been better with droids, so… he heads off towards E5, near the old escape hatch.

Figrin is scared, but E5 recognizes them and doesn’t shoot. He tells them to shut the hatch behind them. But once the hatch is open, everyone who can see daylight through it charges that way… including the bartender.

Doikk tells–commands, really–E5 not to “shoot that human.” But E5 doesn’t follow his orders, so he aims at the bartender, who throws himself down and calls out “high register, do a slide!”

…um.

Doikk plays a note, as high as he can push it, on the Fizzz, and… “somewhere along the squeal, I must’ve hit the control frequency for that brand-new restraining bolt. The droid shut down.”

I… but… what… that’s not how…

…Will, do you have any tea left over?

will: I’m about to get some new supplies arriving in fact. And yeah, it doesn’t fit that there is an audio frequency. We heard a buzzing the one time Luke activate his restraining bolt control on Threepio, but…no.

z: The barman jumps up and runs at the hatch, muttering about stinking droids, because of course he does. They manage to escape, and after some acrobatics, get to the ground more or less in one piece (each) with their instruments. The barman starts running, they start following, and complaining out-loud that they are out of three thousand credits and in fact have no money to get off-planet.

My inner poker-face facepalms.

will: I suddenly realize that I don’t know how good of a poker face you have. Mine is middling at best.

z: [silent smile]

The barman changes directions, calling them to follow. Doikk tells him they can’t pay him for a bolthole. I think he already gathered that, Doikk. “I’ll get you a job,” he says instead.

…aaaaand that’s how they get a two-season contract from the cantina’s owner, a Wookiee named Chalmun.

will: Figrin promising that they’ll get offworld before then and just bail. And Doikk relieved he isn’t working for a Human, but a Wookiee.

z: They get lodgings nearby. Solo beats Figrin in sabacc one day, but D’Wopp was “shipped home in pieces,” and Lady Val is single again and apparently will stay that way, so no happily ever after there.

As the story closes, they’re playing their set, Doikk still, as always, on the lookout for whoever Jabba may send after them. Right then he’s suspicious of this one: “I spotted Jabba’s swivel-eared green Rodian… Greedo. He’s not bright, but he’s armed.

I’m watching him.”

And scene.

This is a good opening for this book, I think. It’s not going to be a tale with high-stakes, galaxy-encompassing consequences, and the like: But you get just close enough (and no closer) to the narrator-character, can sympathize with him, smile a bit at his excessive paranoia and his high opinion of himself–of the band, really. Twice is not quite enough to set up a running joke, but if there was space it would have been a running joke that Doikk keeps thinking Jabba’s sending toughs after them when he’s really sending them after Han Solo. There are a couple of points where the plot butts in and forces characterization, but since these aren’t established characters the way Leia, Han, or even 3PO are, we can gloss over them. All in all, I enjoyed this, although there was no mustfindoutwhathappensnext. Let’s give this one a B.

And now I must go try to get rid of the earworm.

Will?

will: Which earworm? There are like four you could have ended up with.

z: The Cantina Song itself, of course.

will: It has a name, in fact, in universe. But we’ll get there.

I agree with the B. Solid effort, entertaining without being too consequential–basically a lot of the places I thought Tyers was weakest in Truce were the ones where it seemed she was trying to convince us how important everything was, and that’s not the case here.

And like we said, Tyers knows musicianship and it shows. The “we don’t do weddings” speech was after all enough to get Z riled up by proxy.

I also like, and we’ll get there, that there are other sides to this story. Especially the question of how (though, upon a quick skim, I see that once again as soon as two writers are touching the same material, the timeline goes all to hell) Figrin and company ended up on Tatooine and got stuck there. But as I just said, we’ll get there.

Next up, it’s a long one–probably twice the length of this, but maybe we’ll be less detailed, because it’s the story of the hapless bounty hunter himself: “A Hunter’s Tale: Greedo’s Fate.”

We’ll see you then to get started. In the interim, may the Force be with you.

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