A small but still capacity crowd had gathered in the Cyril Theatre in Hopewell that evening to hear The Garbage Fries. It was perhaps a recognition of how far the group’s star had fallen since its late-1990s heyday that it has been booked into such a small venue. Then again, it could just as easily have been a savvy agent who could claim that The Garbage Fries were still playing to packed houses, even if said houses could barely hold 2000 people on a good day.

Most of the audience were students who appreciated The Garbage Fries for its retro and ironic appeal thanks to their prominent inclusion in once-contemporary movies that were now seen as adorably dated. The lead singer and lyricist of the Fries, Julida Patil Veblen, had decorated countless adolescent boys’ sanctums and fantasies and been a fashion icon for their female compatriots as well. There were not-insubstantial members of those original, older fanbases in attendance.

The Hopewell show would have been like any other, a mix of old hits carefully calibrated to appeal to both the ironic and the sincere devotees–Julida was a smart cookie, even if her star had long since faded. But as the evening wore on, a problem quickly emerged.

The Garbage Fries never arrived, and their tour bus hadn’t been seen since departing from a show nearly two days before.

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