On Tour with AK: Part 6

“GOOD MORNING BRISTOOOOOL!”

“Whoa whoa whoa. Less of that.”

“What? This city loves me.”

“This is England! You can’t do that here. There are rules, you Yankee Doodle dickhead.”

“Did you… did you just call me a Yankee Doodle dickhead?”

“…yes.”

“Oh my god dude, I love that.”

It was a clear, crisp morning in Bristol, and Annie and I had just stepped out into the street from Jack’s flat, ready for a day of adventure.

A few days earlier, at the beginning of the fourth week of the tour, my vampire friend and I were on opposite sides of the country. For two nights, Annie was off in Brighton to visit DJ friends and explore the pretty lanes. Meanwhile, I’d travelled with my brother Jack and his flatmate Cosmo to Cardiff, to watch a Willie J Healey gig.

I’d never been to Cardiff before, and for a damp Monday night, it was really quite pretty. A light rain was picking up as we arrived off the train from Bristol, and we still had an hour to the gig, so Jack, Cosmo and I went to a bar called Kongs before the show to pass the time glugging pints and playing Pacman on the arcades. Within seconds of entering the place, we got asked if we knew where to buy cocaine by an attractive girl covered in tattoos, which we all took as a tremendous compliment and a sure sign we were looking cool.

The gig, when we eventually got there, was riotous fun. Willie J Healey was excellent, and we danced like loonies, and we bought shots for random students, and I got a door slammed on my nose in the toilets by a large old Welsh man.

I was very confused about this last occurrence for a while, until I realised I’d been speaking to Jack in a mock Geordie accent while we stood at the urinals, and the large elderly man had probably believed I was lampooning the Welsh dialect and had taken offense. I told Jack my theory, and he told me I was insane and the old man probably hadn’t even seen me. Regardless, I found him in the crowd later to apologise. I get weird about these things; I can’t rest knowing somebody might be displeased with me.

“Hello there friend: bit of a weird one for you. I couldn’t help but notice you slammed the door on my head when I was exiting the toilets about eight or nine minutes ago.”

“I’m sorry?”

“I’m not saying it was intentional. I mean, it might have been. But either way, it’s fine, it’s fine – no hard feelings. However, I just wanted to make it clear I wasn’t mocking your accent in there. I would never. I was in fact imitating a Geordie accent.”

“What?”

“Anyway, I’m glad that’s all cleared up. Have a wonderful evening.”

“Who are you?”

After the show reached its sweaty climax, we met a bunch of teenagers in the smoking area, huddled in the rain sucking on rollies. To pass the time we convinced them we were a band called the Trashcans. We told them we were infamous across the UK underground scene, and that our shows were notorious as bloodthirsty pits of sin and cruelty.

“A man got set on fire at our last gig, and everyone slapped him and spat on him to put him out.”

The teens stared at us through the dripping rain, aghast.

The show finished early; around 10pm. The trains ceased at 11:30, so thankfully we had plenty of time to meander back to the station, if we were sensible. We spent a very long time before, during and after the gig reminding each other that we absolutely could not, under any circumstances, no matter what happened, miss the last train back to Bristol. To do so would spell disaster.

Anyway, we missed the last train back to Bristol because we were playing Ninja Turtles in the arcades. The taxi back to Bristol cost £140. Harrumph.

Two nights later, Annie arrived in Bristol. Jack and I met her at the bus station in town, and together we wandered to the harbourside to tick off one of Annie’s must-dos in every city she visited: a pint in a Wetherspoons. We talked about Annie’s exploration of Brighton, and I told a very long story about an old maniac bastard I used to work for when I was studying at Northumbria.

Jack left us soon after, and I helped Annie carry her bags to her place to crash for the next two days: the flat of a DJ and event organiser called Tony (Jack’s spare sofa was currently occupied by one of his friends). Tony wasn’t home, so we dropped Annie’s bags and headed for beers at a bar in Stokes Croft called The Canteen, which Jeanne and I always loved when we lived in the city. It used to have a 30-foot mural of a breakdancing Jesus on the wall.

We spoke about Jeanne a lot over our beers. And we talked Annie’s love life, and about the new James Bond film, which I’d been to see the night before and was still reeling from. When closing time came, we put the remnants of our beers into plastic cups and sat on the steps outside the venue, just down from where all the Stokes Croft drunks stand and yell at one another for hours. I told Annie how to spot the North Star. Seth showed me how to find it last time I was in Avignon.

It was a warm enough evening, and in our pensive drunkenness we sat and watched the cars go by. It felt like we’d covered every topic in the world over the last couple of hours. Annie put her arm around my shoulder.

“I’ve been thinking, recently,” she said. “This tour has really taken our friendship to another level .”

“I agree, totally.”

“I don’t get close to many people. To be honest I even don’t like many people. I know we say it when we’re high and stuff, but you really are my best friend.”

And I don’t know whether it was the setting, or the alcohol, or lack of sleep or something else, but at those words I felt something come unstuck inside me.

“Really?” I asked. “You mean it?”

“Yeah, dude. Of course.”

“That’s… really nice to hear.”

Sometimes I feel extraordinarily lucky. I tried to turn my head, but the wobble in my voice had already given me away.

“Aw, Dan, don’t cry, I’m sorry.”

“No, don’t be sorry. It’s just the last year has been so lonely. Hearing those words is all I’ve wanted for a really long time.”

She gave me a hug, and I realised it was a very long time since anybody had given me a proper hug.

“Don’t tell anybody I cried, you fucker,” I sniffed, as I sat back.

“I won’t. Your masculinity is safe with me.”

Annie’s next show – the fourth of the tour – was at a venue called Basement 45. I’d spent the day at Jack’s working, and as the evening set in I headed across town to meet Vic for drinks at Three Brothers, on the waterfront. We talked about the upcoming art exhibition she’d be putting on, and I promised to come back to Bristol to visit it in a few weeks. Then I headed over to the venue to meet Annie, and once more fulfil my role as Merch Guy Extraordinaire.

Basement 45 was, well, a basement. With low, vaulted ceilings and multiple chambers it resembled an ancient wine cellar as much as it did a nightclub. I found Annie inside, chatting to a DJ friend called Jake. I liked Jake a lot: some people are just easy to talk to. While we talked and sipped Red Stripes and bobbed around the smoking area, a succession of people came up to Annie: some recognised her and called her by her DJ name, others heard her accent and came to enquire where she was from, others simply thought she was attractive. ‘Book tour,’ I kept reminding myself. ‘You’ll get your own adoration on your book tour, Danny Boy.’

Annie’s show was powerful. The confines of the vaulted basement condensed the bass from the floor-to-ceiling stacks into a stormy singularity enough to flap a bloodhound’s ears and blast the toupee off an old man’s chrome dome. Annie had the closing slot, which meant all the smooth-skinned freshers that had clogged up the place in the early night had already left to finger each other behind the dustbins, and the only ones left were those heavy dirty people who wear camo pants and obscure tour shirts, who tuck wonky cigs behind their ears, whose flats smell like incense, who walk with a bounce and greet one another with complicated handshakes. Underground music for underground people.

We shifted a bunch of t-shirts – more than at any show previously – and by the end there were multiple faces drifting back and forth through the venue wearing Ani Klang’s logo on their chests. Besides the obvious reasons for why this was good news, it also meant we had less merch to lug back home with us.

Once the venue closed and we all got slung out into the street, Tony called everybody over for an after party at his place. In a crowd of twenty we rolled down the street like a bag of dropped Skittles, on to Stokes Croft. Annie and I were feeling the lurch of four weeks of debauchery, and so rather than attend the party we hugged farewell for the evening. I congratulated Annie once more on another excellent show, then I bought some chicken nuggets and drifted back towards the relative comfort of Jack’s sofa, stopping periodically to look up at the North Star.

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