“Okay, look at me? Let me see your face.”
“Dude, you don’t know my face by now?”
“Not off by heart, no. Let me see your side profile. I want to get the proportions of your nose right.”
“You know my nose. You called it a Disney nose.”
“Yeah but I need to be certain of whether it tips up at the end or levels out.”
“Tips up? Like a snout? Are you kidding?”
“More like a ski jump. In a nice way. I have a ski jump nose too. They’re the gold standard for noses.”
I’ve taken a lot of trains in my life. A lot of flights too. And for the past seven years or so, nearly every one of them has been alone. I’d forgotten what a joy it is to travel with somebody else: it doesn’t have to be all ‘lonesome wanderer staring out of the window, watching the world flick by, pondering where it’s all headed’. With a buddy, travel can just be ‘drinking wine and eating crisps and creating little Sims of yourselves on a laptop’.
Annie and I were headed back to London, after a debauched few days in Bristol – and believe me when I say debauched.
The morning after the Crofter’s Rights show – I say morning, I mean 1pm – I woke up on the sofa in Jack’s living room, sunlight streaming in through the cracks in the curtains. Annie was still asleep on the airbed beside me, looking serene. She always looks very composed when she sleeps, which infuriates me, because when I sleep I look like a loaf of white bread someone’s accidentally sat on.
On the floor beside Annie’s airbed were her weed paraphernalia and a laptop. She has the same sleep routine every evening, no matter how late she gets in, no matter how fucked up she is: weed vape, Peep Show, brown noise. The first night she spent at mine in London, I didn’t know what the latter was: I woke up in the early hours thinking a pipe had burst, and stumbled around the house to find the leak. When I finally realised the sound was coming from Annie’s phone, I prodded her awake.
“Why is there a hissing sound coming from your phone?”
“Sorry to wake you, but why is your phone making a fuzzing sound?”
“It’s brown noise dude. It helps me sleep.”
“Brown- brown noise? I thought that was that frequency that makes you shit your pants when you listen to it.”
“Nothing. Sorry. Go back to sleep.”
Anyway. Once we’d yawned and stretched and showered, Jack, Annie and I headed out to Stokes Croft for breakfast at around 2pm. Annie had never had a full English before, so we took her to The Social, beside what used to be LeftBank. We got a couple of vegan breakfasts with beers. Jack was appalled at the early-afternoon pints, being a two-year teetotaller himself, but I waved away his worries because hey – tour life!
It was funny seeing an American eating a full English. You don’t realise how weird your own culture is until introducing it to an outsider.
“Okay, so the best way to eat a full English is by adding some ketchup and brown sauce on the edge of the plate for dipping your various bits in.”
“Brown sauce, yes.”
“What is ‘brown sauce’? Like what’s in it?”
“I… don’t know.”
“Well how does it taste?”
“I don’t really… it just tastes like… brown.”
She had a similar reaction to the sight of Jack’s black pudding.
“What’s black pudding made out of?”
“Oh, you know. Blood.”
Jack ducked out after the meal, slain by a food coma. Annie and I mooched along to King’s Street, and I told her about the history of the Llandoger Trow, one of the city’s oldest pubs, built in 1664, once a favourite watering hole of Blackbeard the pirate, AKA Edward Teach, now supposedly haunted. Annie is a very good person to tell facts like these to; she is extremely forthcoming with phrases such as ‘holy shit!’ and ‘that’s insane dude!’. It’s immensely satisfying.
Back at Jack’s in the late afternoon, we mellowed out for a bit while Annie worked on her set. As the evening set in, Vic got a taxi round, along with her friend, Tom. Tom was a nice enough chap who, in his own words, looked like “if Ron Weasley chose Slytherin”. Tom fell out of favour with me, however, when he derided the band Art Brut for sounding overly polished. From then on I only looked at him out of the corner of my eye.
A curious thing happened during pre-drinks: Jack, sober for two years, asked me for a can of cider.
“No,” I told him. “You don’t want it.”
I must admit, I said this partly for Jack’s wellbeing, and partly because I didn’t want to share.
“I do want it, though.”
“You bloody don’t.”
“Aw, come on. Please.”
I eventually caved. He would later admit that his spontaneous break with sobriety was inspired by hearing ‘Intergalactic’ by the Beastie Boys playing on the stereo: understandable. Things got curiouser after Jack had finished his can; he asked to come out with us for Annie’s show. I warned Jack, who struggles with anxiety, that Annie’s shows were, in many ways, like being strapped to a gurney and beaten by a succession of ADHD children armed with rounders bats. But he was not deterred.
When the taxi arrived, I leapt outside and hurried over to open the boot, ready to cram Annie’s merch bags in. It was then that I heard someone go ‘oop’, followed by a short, pancake-y, clapping sort of sound. I turned around and saw Annie sprawled face-down on the driveway, bags of t-shirts around her. It looked as though she’d been sniped. She pushed herself up onto her elbows with a groan, spat out a few blades of grass.
If it was anybody else in the world, I’d probably have been concerned. Annie, however, has a talent for going flying. She’s the only human I know who can twist her ankle standing still.
“Annie, stop fannying about in the mud. We’re going to be late.”
Ani Klang’s Strange Brew set was a hell of a lot of fun. It was her only show of the tour for which I wasn’t alone in the crowd, and therefore the only one where I felt comfortable enough to dance. Jack and Vic and I stayed center front for the majority of her set, bobbing around like sprouts in a pan, whooping at every opportunity and chanting her name. Jack actually edited a music video for Annie last year, and so knew one of her tracks intricately – because he’d listened to it several hundred times in a row while chopping up the video to accompany it.
The venue, clean and spacious and brand new, smelled like an art gallery rather than a sex dungeon, which is both a plus and a minus. Cleanliness is nice, but still, it needs a few more sneaky doobies to be smoked indoors, a bit more sweat to soak into the floorboards, then it’ll have more character.
Towards the end of Annie’s set – the opening set for the night – the venue packed out, full of vampiric hipsters in black. I spotted Grove in the crowd, the rapper from the previous evening, and went over for a quick hello. On stage, Ani Klang was all finger guns and you-fockin-wot, and the bass was cranked so high it wobbled my trousers on my legs – to the point that I had to tighten my belt to keep them from being vibrated right off me.
By this point, Jack had had several pints, and the old boozy naughtiness was coming back with a vengeance. While Annie and I set up the merch stand after her set, Jack busied himself with sprinting around the club accosting people, luring them over to buy t-shirts like a snake oil salesman.
“Hello sir, and my goodness! What a handsome chap you are! Say, you know what could improve on that handsome face of yours, my good man? Why, a stylish t-shirt by a producer at the height of her game!”
He sold a shirt to a very pretty Greek girl, and another to a man who was on mushrooms and didn’t quite seem to understand what was happening. When Jack tired of selling t-shirts, he clambered onto the enormous stage in the main room, onto which a psychedelic art display was playing. He danced there, alone, for some time, comfortable under the bewildered stares of the entire room. I could never.
Towards the end of the night the venue spilled out into the street, with filters and papers and baccy being traded like prison currency. Jack and I had some fun giving out filters to people, but only if they could tell us a joke.
At the end of the night, Annie approached me as I sat sandwiched between Jack and Vic on the kerb.
“Hey, so there’s this hot Greek couple that seem like they’re into me. I think I might go to an after party with them, see what happens. I don’t really want anything to do with the guy but the chick is hot so, you know.”
From across the street, a very busty Greek girl wearing an Ani Klang t-shirt waved at us. Her boyfriend sat beside her, smiling pleasantly. I looked at the beautiful Greek couple, then at Annie.
“I hate you.”
“You love me, boys,” she grinned.
And she gave me a hug, ruffled my hair, and floated away to wherever mad people go.
The next morning I awoke with a lancing headache, beside the gnawed corpse of a kebab. I smoked a cigarette, which made me even more sick, and watched telly. Annie returned around 11am, with a very funny and totally-not-appropriate-for-this-blog tale of disaster with the Greek couple, and later on, with Jack and Vic, we went for a roast dinner on King’s Street, and we laughed a heck of a lot, and I looked at those three faces I love very much, and I looked at the blue sky, and I looked at my tasty dinner, and I felt happy – heart-achingly, over-flowingly, deep-in-the-bones happy.