It’s 30 minutes until showtime and the dark, cramped nightclub is already way past the fire chief’s recommended maximum capacity. College students elbow their way through the wall of bodies toward the front, while gentlemen with salted beards and sports coats settle near the back with scotch and sodas. Gradually, more than a dozen musicians meander in, filling a rickety stage that takes up the Spartan club. They begin to fiddle with their instruments onstage and do a final mike-check. Fans in the audience do mike-checks of their own, making sure that the mini-microphones clipped to their shirts and backpacks are connected to their MD players, ready to record.

A shapely young woman, wearing a sequined outfit, stilettos and fishnet stockings, struts seductively to center-stage and steps onto a small platform. Everyone instinctively goes quiet, fixated on her face, framed by locks of her neon-yellow wig.

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