“She was dressed as if she’d been kicked out the arse end of the 1940’s, and would not shut the fuck up”
At the bus stop I was greeted by a girl who talked incessantly about Sheffield, and the book she was reading. She was dressed as if she’d been kicked out the arse end of the 1940’s, and would not shut the fuck up. Thankfully she didn’t speak to me while we rode into Manchester, which gave me time to familiarise myself with Ben Nichols lyrics. She reminded me of the book, which I forgot straight away, and also told me her name (which I also instantly forgot) before she departed somewhere near Salford. My mind was in a full though tornado, which made it hard to think of anything but the task at hand.
I met Barlow at the coach station and, after jumping the 30p turnstile so I could take a shit, we boarded to London. The ride down was fine. I napped pleasantly most of the way. Not exactly sleeping, more a closing of eyes paired with a rhythm of deep breaths, but peaceful enough to replenish some of the lost hours from the previous night and slight deplete the high levels of anxiety coursing through my nervous system.
We arrived in London and found the hotel quite easily – it was roughly five minutes from the coach station which was 5 minutes from the underground – which was a relief that travel would be a stone’s throw away. The hotel itself was very basic, but more than adequate for one night. The room was two floors down in the basement and the toilet was 5 floors higher than this on the top floor of the building. This seemed a long way just to take a piss so after making Barlow turn his back, I relieved myself in the small sink that was included in the room. It looked like a prison but it was well worth the £33 we’d paid between us.
Barlow had been texting Jim Lockey, trying to arrange a return gig for him in Manchester after the success of the last show of ours he’d played. After finding out Jim and the Solemn Sun were playing that night in Camdem, and that we had a good few hours to kill, we headed down to the venue and decided to talk business face to face. Even for a Thursday Camdem was packed to the teeth with the ignorant masses. I swear as soon as anyone enters London their personalities are drained and they become the walking dead. No manners, no emotion. Jim wasn’t at the venue yet so we took to a small coffee shop and I ordered a large mug of black coffee. I stirred it with the teaspoon and it looked like oil. It wasn’t the best thing to have when I felt so tense and anxious, but fatigue had settled in heavily so I balanced the pros and cons coming to the conclusion the caffeine kick would be better in the long run. After the coffee we headed back up to the venue and met Jim, sorted the details of the show with him and after a catch up, headed back to the hotel to drop our bags off before heading to the Windmill in Brixton for the Lucero show.
We got back to the hotel, stopping at Sainsbury’s for bread, humus and mushrooms, and got ready for the show. I made a sandwich, drank a glass of water and brushed my teeth before heading out. We boarded the underground to Brixton and on the way down bumped into an American girl who was also looking for the show so we decided to team up and after a few wrong turns eventually found the place just in time for Giles from Great Cynincs’ set.
Giles played a good set, and it was interesting to watch him solo again after seeing so many shows with a full band. The next act was a guy called Dexy who sounded (and quite looked like) Chris Carraba, so much I was waiting for him to start knocking out Dashboard Confessional covers like so many short lived wanks. Finally Lucero took the stage, and even though it was only Ben and Rick, they played a great set with the majority of the crowd drinking heavily, raising glasses and singing louder than Ben. They played for roughly an hour and a half until both the members seemed too drunk and burnt out to carry on. They promised they’d be back the next night, we had tickets for that too, and with the last underground in less than half an hour, we decided to head back to the hotel instead of hanging around for handshakes.
I tried to sleep back in the room, but the lack of alcohol, the strange bed I was in, and Barlow’s avalanche causing snores forced me into another hot sweat night with the minimal sleep. Waking the next day was a torture as all I wanted to do was stay in the bunker trying to rest until it was time for the show, unfortunately check out was at ten thirty am and it was roughly around ten by the time we finally got out of the beds and ready to go. We dropped off the key, heading towards Peckham to hang out at the house where Giles, James Hull and a few more of the best UK underground artists lived.
The anxiety was rife by this point, hitting peaks that hadn’t been hit for many years. The sleep deprivation and the feeling of being completely removed from any comfort zone with no haven to return to sent my brain into a full fight or flight situation. We arrived at the house, Astbury Castle, and sat around for a few hours talking to Giles, whilst he slept wrapped in a sleeping bag on the couch, and to the abundance of people who seemed to walk in and out of the house keeping an open door policy. I decided was insane, I felt like I could never live in such a situation, I needed my privacy, my locked doors and my drawn curtains. it was great to hang out there but it wasn’t a situation I could stay in for too long.
Barlow wanted to head to Kingston to check out Banquet Records but I was in no state so we decided to split and he headed in that direction whilst I headed to Greenwich Park to clear my head and check out the surroundings. At the top of the hill at Greenwich, I turned around to see the entire of London centre – The millennium dome to the right and the rest of the shit to left, this was the perspective I needed and I instantly felt glad I was here. My mind was in the gutter, my stomach was spinning and I felt as if I would pass out in seconds, but I was here and having fought the battle and won was the greatest feeling I could have. No matter how much I felt like I was circling the drain, it was worth it.
I headed back to The Castle for a coffee and a final chat with its inhabitants, I was still in limbo but now it was easier to deal with because I knew I’d pulled through the hardest parts. I drank a coffee from a pot that had been brought from Amsterdam and wondered if those crazy fucks put weed in everything they made. I drank it, then headed to the train station to head back to Victoria to rendezvous with Barlow.
I rode the train and was awash with a sense of surrealism. It had been an incredible journey thus far, but I felt so physically and emotionally drained it was hard to even believe it was real, let alone appreciate it. I stared out the window at the estates and the unfamiliarity of them made me feel as if perhaps it wasn’t reality but a dream. I knew the anxiety made me feel like this but even that realisation didn’t remove this sense of fantasy.
The train pulled into the station and Barlow was waiting on a nearby bench. We head a few hours to kill before the show, and a friend of his wanted to meet with us so we went to the Wetherspoons and drank a warm, flat pint of Carling while waiting. We waited just over an hour and by the time the girl got there we had to leave, we headed into the underground to continue onto Brixton. Barlow’s friend didn’t have any credit on her Oyster card, so she left. We’d waited over an hour and she’d been with us for five minutes. We rode the underground then walked down to the venue, entered, ordered some drinks and sat drinking with Sam Russo until the show started and a small short haired girl took the stage. Her songs weren’t to my taste but she tried to get everyone involved, so I couldn’t fault her on effort. Russo took the stage next and having seen Lucero the previous night I was more eager for Russo than the headliners. Sam played superbly, and it seemed clear by the reception from the crowd that I wasn’t the only one excited to watch him play. After Russo, Lucero were back in their two man form and began ripping through songs from their back catalogue. Some were repeated from the previous night, but the crowd were mostly new faces so this was understandable. We continued drinking the pints and Barlow bought a large glass of Jameson for me and himself so we drank this down before leaving early to catch the coach home.
We eventually got to the coach station after buying a couple of cans for the ride back. Drinking them whilst talking loudly, we were asked to shut up by some German students and after we’d finished our drinks, slept until we arrived back in Manchester.