The day started in snow and ended in summer. That much you know. Summer was the problem; summer was what got you here, hungover and so opening the doors at every stop on the Metrolink home, trying to breathe in cold air and shuffle events after the gig back into order. Despite the shower, you are too rough to sell a stride of pride. Aaand now you can’t stop singing Liz Lemon’s Night Cheese song in your head. Cheese and tinned fruit and a Diet Coke used to cure all, but in the wilds of your thirties, nothing is certain anymore. Just that you’ll feel terrible for at least a day. At least.
Anyway, the gig, yes. Youngr. You decide you blame him for the state you’re in. No, actually, you blame Britain. Yes. That’s better. British weather and British alcohol tolerance (one of which you’ve become used to, the other less so – spoiler: it takes a lot more than one blue Reef to get you drunk these days). But then you realise it’s getting a bit Daily Mail, all this apportioning of blame everywhere but with yourself. Is with even the correct preposition there? Is preposition even the right word? Oh god.
A hangover used to be an excuse for a Come Dine With Me marathon. Now, it’s got more of a Hunger Games vibe, where every tribute is an embarrassing thing you’ve done (and a volunteer), where the cornucopia is full of non-existent-subtext detectors and tone over-sensors. Cheerful. Not at all anxiety-provoking. You’d take a snarky voiceover about your botched paella – they always botched paella! – over the new dystopia in a heartbeat, but you shouldn’t draw your attention to your own heartbeat, not on a hangover, so think about something else. Anything else. The gig. Go.
You know you didn’t go over to meet Youngr by the merch table afterwards. You stand by this as A Good Decision. What does one say to famous/famous-adjacent people other than you were good and I like you, which is like saying pigeons are flying rats in that everyone already knows it, shut up.
Instead, afterwards, you watched a man – the article there is deceitful, it wasn’t any man – hang from a bar table like a sloth, only more of a show-off. You laughed when he kicked over your pints, even though it’d likely mean a trip to the dry-cleaner for your coat. Hey, you think now, maybe drunk-you is easygoing? (Drunk-you is not easygoing. No you is easygoing.)
You know the day had started in snow. A run in the slush. Feet stinging with the cold. You were tired of being rained on, on the cusp of buying clothes that were fit for purpose, full of feathers, properly Northern Hemisphere. This wavering, this hankering for a GO Outdoors Discount Card, it irked you. You had survived this many winters without, dammit. You wouldn’t cave now. Instead, you dressed inappropriately for Storm Doris: tights and shoes that take on water and a hemline that’s taken by the wind. It should be noted that you did bring a coat. You had not assimilated that much.
The night had had a fuck-it feel to it from the beginning. And it wasn’t just you, honest. The streets were full of swirling rubbish, the bars around the Deaf Institute full of drinking people, all of whom had the air of the animals in Fantastic Mr Fox, when the farmers have them trapped underground and they don’t know when or if they’ll see the sun again.
At the gig, people were laughing in the dark, wearing face glitter and drinking rosé as they waited for Youngr to come onstage. When he did, in his trademark shiny shirt, the crowd lost it. (Not Mariah levels of losing it, but if Mariah is your basis for comparison, we’ll all be in trouble.) There were feathers around his neck and wrapped into the hair behind one ear. For a second, he reminded you of Rufio in a silk shirt, a Lost Boy in the city and probably on Tinder. But then he greeted the audience with his best Matthew McConaughey impression – alright, alright – something he’d repeat throughout the night, and you stopped thinking about Hook and started thinking about Magic Mike. By the end, you were alright, alright-ing too: there was no place for cynicism in fake summer.
An opening sample of Stardust. Music sounds better with you. Then onto one of his own, Disappear. Things that were impossible: standing still, frowning. Youngr drank red wine between songs. Thanked his piano teacher, who was in the audience, wished someone near the front a happy birthday. You’d seen Youngr at Gorilla during the one-day Neighbourhood Festival. Normally, you liked that space, but on a day celebrating the inexplicable continued proliferation of guitar bands, Youngr’s set had been more sparsely populated than suited the venue. A sold-out show at the Deaf Institute was much more fitting. Jostling. Warm. The floor shuddering with competing drum grooves.
The air smelled strongly of what could only be described by your buzzed brain as a sweet rockpool – like the sea and peaches all at once – and you decided it must be coming from him. Later, you found out the smell might be an Ed Hardy perfume and you revised your opinion. You said yes to the offer of another drink. A man with hands he learned in hip-hop videos tried to look hard but you ignored him and watched Youngr build songs with his looping pedals instead. The lyrics in his original songs were on the nose in a way you’d find hard to actively listen to, but the energy of his set – and the cowbell! Always more cowbell, he said at one point – never dropped, so you didn’t mind the ballad about texting.
Everyone but you seemed to recognise the opening to the bootleg of Sweet Disposition, but by the time the tambourine shimmered, you were remembering dancing in the Glade at Glastonbury. And when the chorus kicked in, you found you knew it somehow: A moment, a love / A dream aloud / A kiss, a cry / Our rights, our wrongs. A woman in a maxi dress danced ahead of you. She lifted her hem and you could see she had wellies on.
A song literally called Fuck It followed. Or maybe it came earlier. Anyway. Permission. Let’s drink until we’re dumb. Check and check. September Sun closed out the set and even when singing about breaking someone’s heart, Youngr just seemed like a nice guy (but not a Nice Guy; that’s an important distinction). Also: his drumming. Jeez.
The encore? Fill Me In. Never before have you loved Craig David so much. Of course, now, walking home from the tram stop in the rain, you wonder if the nostalgia that had everyone singing along – why can’t you keep your promises no more? – is somehow related to the nostalgia that caused ‘Leave’ voters to lose their fucking minds. But for a moment there, everything wasn’t terrible. Things were kind of great. Albeit in a high-school creative-writing exercise kind of way, in that the ending is a twist that invalidates everything that went before it: and then I woke up.
But the part before waking? That was good. There was singing and dancing and the paella didn’t burn, not even a little bit.