“There was this story I used to like when I was a kid in Cali. There’s a boy, and his best friend is a tree.”
“Shut up. And every time the boy needs something, the tree gives him it. Like when the boy needs to eat, the tree gives him fruit. Then when he needs to build a house, the tree gives him branches for wood.”
“And then by the of the book, the boy is an old man, and the tree has been all used up by the boy, so all that’s left is a stump. And the boy asks the tree for somewhere to sit, and the tree says ‘you can sit on me’. And he does.”
“Huh. Unsure how I feel about that one.”
“Right? When I was a kid I loved that story. I thought ‘aw, what a beautiful kind tree’. I thought the story was all about giving everything you can to help others. Then I got older and I realised the kid’s an asshole.”
“I don’t really understand what the story is meant to represent. Like maybe the tree is a parent and the kid is their child. Or maybe the tree is a good friend and the kid is a bad friend. Or maybe they’re both bad friends, in their own way.”
“I think the core of it is that real friends should help each other grow.”
“Yeah. I think you’ve got it.”
The canal at Angel is a wonderful place to sit and talk as the sun locks up for the evening – particularly if you bring a bottle of wine. Even better if you have two, and several packets of crisps.
It was my last night with Annie for a few days; she was going to Bristol ahead of me to meet up with some DJ friends. I’d have loved to accompany her, but I felt a couple of days apart would allow me to get in a couple of gym sessions and early nights, and to finally make some headway with The Count of Monte Cristo.
It was a calm and pleasant evening by the canal, during which Annie and I were joined by one of my favourite people in the British Isles, the elegant and erudite Liv Wood. Together we talked about our families and the great mess of it all, and about our favourite books, about choices good and bad, and about happy memories and old adventures. And we ate a lot of crisps.
With Annie gone to Bristol, my bedroom felt very large, and very quiet. To pass the time I did all the things I couldn’t do when she was there: I watched porn. I farted luxuriously. I scrolled through hundreds of photos of Jeanne and cried like a nutter. I played the keyboard naked.
The trumping was the best part: for a week I’d been withholding them constantly, ballooning in size over the course of any given evening, only able to deflate during bathroom visits. My poor housemate Ivan has his bedroom wall adjoining the house’s bathroom; lord knows what he must have thought at the sporadic sessions of clattering flatulence interspersed with hoarse, gasping yelps of ‘FINALLY’ and ‘GET OUT’.
I took the National Express to Bristol on the 24th of September. It was supposed to be a two-and-a-half-hour journey, but outside Bristol there was some heavy traffic and so it was a four-hour journey, and then the A/C broke and it got so hot my eyelids started sweating. All in all I would say fantastic trip, 10/10.
It wasn’t fun arriving in Bristol. Memories of Jeanne abound, tethered to every streetlamp, like tattered flags blowing in the wind. I miss her still. I’d already talked of this with Annie; my fear of how much it would hurt to return. She’d told me it would be okay, and she’d help me through it: we could make new memories, so it needn’t hurt so much in the future.
Cutting across town, past my old office at Electricity House and the empty plinth from which Edward Colston’s statue was heaved down, I made my way to the harbour. There I met my youngest brother, Jack, who everyone says is cooler than me. We hugged, and he asked me what I was carrying, and I told him it was dozens of t-shirts with Ani Klang written on them, because Annie had bought far too many by mistake and now wasn’t entirely sure what to do with them.
At the harbour we met Vic – remember Vic? From Berlin? And later Melbourne? Arguably the longest-running regular in these diaries? She lives in Bristol now! Vic! – and I introduced them to one another. It was very satisfying to see worlds collide – my Berlin life and my family life – and to see them getting along easily. A relaxed chat on a sunny day overlooking the harbourside is one of Bristol’s greatest joys.
Annie joined us shortly after, and we were reunited once again. Lugging the suitcase she’d brought from the DJ’s place she’d been crashing the previous two nights, she arrived sick as a parrot, with a head-cold from, I assume, lack of sleep and surplus of booze. It was uncanny seeing Jack and Annie together; they are a similar height, similar complexion, dress the same, and rock similar hairstyles. They look far more like siblings than Jack and I do, that’s for certain.
We drank ciders and caught up, and I bought Annie a poem from a street poet sitting across the cobbles from us, bashing out verse on an old typewriter. I sat with the poet for a while describing Annie to him, so he could write her personalised stanzas.
“Alright, so she’s from California, and is touring the UK at the moment playing shows. She likes the colour black, and dark stuff and death and all that. But she can also be very sweet. And she loves the Beats. Spontaneous prose and all that, if you’re familiar.”
“Of course. And what’s her music like?”
“Imagine walking down a dark alley at night and getting jumped by a gang of hoodlum cyborgs.”
Ten minutes later I was able to gift Annie with a lovely little souvenir poem, which she read aloud for us on the waterfront. We all agreed it sounded very nice, though none of us had the foggiest what it was about.
Vic headed home early as she had things to do next day, and Annie and I went back to Jack’s to get ready for the show that evening. In the calm before the storm, I played Playstation with Jack while Annie worked on her set, until the evening set in and the adrenaline started to rise. After lining my stomach with a pot of Sainsbury’s pasta, I had a couple of nervous beers with Annie, wondering what the night ahead would bring. Then we bid goodnight to Jack and hopped into a taxi down to Crofter’s Rights.
Annie was to play in the backroom of the pub – a large, black room with giant speakers and a raised stage. We breezed through a couple of heavy iron doors, through a small wet courtyard, up an iron staircase, and into my first ever green room. Inside, the DJs for the evening were sipping drinks and eating bananas.
“Annie!” cried several faces upon her entry, throwing their arms up for hugs.
“Oh shit, are you Ani Klang?” said somebody.
“Oh Ani Klang, no way!” said another.
Immediately Annie was swamped, dishing out hugs and handshakes. Seeing DJs meet and greet is like watching superheroes bump elbows. They each have their normal name, then their DJ name, and they may introduce themselves as either.
“You’re Flizza the Bump?”
“Yeah! And you must be Fat Boy Munro!”
During these heroic introductions I took a back seat, sipping a can of Red Stripe someone handed to me.
“Hiya Dan,” said somebody with long black braids, dressed in a kimono and Doc Martins and not much else.
“Oh. Hi. How’d you know my-?”
“I’m the one Annie’s been staying with. I’m Grove.”
Then a tall man in a baggy shirt sidled over and asked what time I was playing this evening.
“Oh, no I’m- ”
“What kind of stuff do you usually play?”
“No…. I don’t… I don’t really know this sort of… music. I like guitars and… choruses.”
Annie looked up and saw the end of this interaction.
“Oh, that’s just Dan. He’s not a DJ. He’s my best bud, and he’s been helping me.”
Then someone checked their watch, and it was almost time for the beginning of Grove’s set, and the green room emptied save for me and Annie. I looked at her across the debris of banana skins and rum bottles, my eyebrows raised to my hairline.
“Just Dan, ey? Just Dan, you little shit!?” I trilled.
Annie started laughing.
“I’m sorry dude, I panicked!”
“When I’m a famous author and you’re along with me on my worldwide debauched book tour, I’m going to introduce you to everyone as ‘Just Annie’.”
“A debauched book tour?”
“Yes. It will be the first of its kind.”
Annie and I set up the merch booth, which I manned for most of the evening with a Canadian girl whose name escapes me. This was the perfect get-out for me: a way to support my friend and witness her shows without having to actually dance. Instead I drank pint after pint and chatted to the Canadian girl, who certainly had some interesting things to say but unfortunately I now remember none of them.
The Crofter’s Rights crowd were wild. Grove’s set was phenomenally energetic, with their fuck-off rap vocals whipping the crowd into a sweaty frenzy. It was into this foisty battlefield that Ani Klang leapt – puff, purple smoke – chains on, fishnets, pounding, ripping kicks at 150 beats per minute. I ducked in for a dance, got elbowed in the tits about forty-eight times, then scurried away to the safety of the merch stand.
The set was insanely good. I’ve seen the whole spectrum of Ani Klang shows over the years: packed venues, empty rooms. No matter what the turnout, she gives it her all – but you can feel the palpable energy boost she experiences when the crowd bring their A-game. From somewhere she’d procured a mic which she was yelling into, bouncing around the stage with Grove, blasting her twisted remix of WAP as twenty half-naked torsos mounted the platform around her and sprayed beer across the sticky black roof. Post-pandemic pandemonium.
Now, I drank a bit too much at this point and everything went very blurry, and when next I surfaced (with an Annie-enforced bottle of water in my hand), we were standing outside, on the pavement, as people filed out past us.
“Mate,” I said, gripping Annie’s damp shoulders, “that was extraordinary. I’m so proud of you.”
“I can’t believe how sick that was,” said Annie. “Dude, thank you so so much for coming. I’m so glad you were there. Fuck I’m on such a high.”
“Me too. You absolutely killed it.”
“Shall we try find an after party?”
“Not tonight. Grove plays a lot of shows, so they’ll be heading straight home I think. Plus we have the show tomorrow, so let’s take it easy.”
And then, still riding the high, we bought a giant and unnecessary takeaway, and walked home, arms around each other’s shoulders.