It feels like all the cold in England is coming from this place, though really it’s just a road with some ferns.
I’m on Snake Pass with Gaz and Dave, driving to Sheffield to see Themselves play.
Gaz sings The Bad Touch by the Bloodhound gang like “making love to one another…like animals…do on TV.”
Dave keeps shouting not to look at the Ipod display while he tries to find some Themselves, so my passengers can hear some before the gig.
He’s already smoked half a spliff and he’s my driving guide for this journey; I haven’t even taken my theory test.
As we reach Snake Pass he tells me he doesn’t have his driving license with him. If we get pulled over I will never drive again. If I don’t make any one of these corners we will never do anything again. I make a joke about having the bends. No one else finds it funny either. The road feels like an animal trying to throw me off its back. I force myself round the bends at 50. I tell the others it’s ok, I checked the road on Google Earth.
Pete calls me before.
“I gather you’re planning to drive to Sheffield tonight?”
I tell him yeah.
“In what world is that a good idea? You’ve got nothing that proves you can drive and Dave last week drove his car home drunk and on loads of pills. And he’s going to be telling you what’s right and wrong.”
Dave can hardly believe this is legal, but it is if we stay off the motorway.
We make Sheffield and actually I hadn’t accounted for this. Snake Pass is a direct connection between Manchester and Sheffield. As soon as we have directional options I’m lost, technically.
The people downtown aren’t real. The black outside the car is replaced with light and hundreds of people. We pass Spartans. We see the venue, Bungalows and Bears. Seconds later we see Anoush for the first time in maybe a year. I shout him. Gaz starts singing all the single ladies! All the single ladies!
Dave joins in and whilst we’re waiting behind someone in a queue to leave a car park Gaz undoes his seatbelt and, a blur, lunges forward to jab the horn, laughing maniacally.
Anoush has a kind of smart innocence which can be too much but is also what I love about him. I’m thinking about the drive home. I might as well be about to slay my first dragon. Anoush is amazed I took snake pass. Tonight feels worthwhile.
At the gig we meet Frankie and her friends. That drive has made me the closest I will get to being a king and I can’t stop staring at Frankie’s friend, a pretty girl with this low cut top whose name I never learn but who has awakened some medieval lust I try to ignore, not certain if she’s staring back at me or my staring.
The support act is The Ruby Kid, a Sheffield rapper. He usually performs with a band but tonight just plays to instrumental mp3s from his laptop. His opening song is vocals only.
He name drops James Joyce and Jean Paul Sartre and I feel like if he was just a writer he wouldn’t be anything new, but since he’s rapping it makes all the difference, though I don’t think it should. But we might get on ok if we were drinking together, and he seems like a drinker.
The phrase each more lovely than the last was invented for girls who go to Themselves gigs.
“Hey shut the fuck up back there,” Doseone tells the people at the back.
“No, no, it’s a bar, dude, it’s a bar,” Jel tells him.
“I don’t care if it’s Mao Tse Tung and his closest advisors birthing communism.”
This was worth the drive. Doseone’s rapping has a force it doesn’t on record. I get the same feeling watching him freestyle as I do watching Bruce Lee fight.
About Jel Dave says, I had an MPC and I was fucking shit; this guy is FUCKING AMAZING. Dave’s hair is wet where he finished the spliff.
“Roland!” he says, “I’m drunk! But I sincerely love you!”
I love you too man, I tell him.
“I’m getting bored,” Gaz tells me. Talking at gigs is like standing in front of paintings.
“I can’t understand what he says and they don’t do anything with the songs.”
Aren’t they doing something now? I ask, but he doesn’t hear.
It feels like sometimes Doseone is trying to create a texture with his voice. Sometimes the pleasure for me is listening, figuring out what he’s saying and what he might mean, as with any lyrics.
Doseone looks like he’s been shot, like he might cry at any second, rapping in the face of and pushing audience members.
“Hey Jel,” he asks, “Would you rather go to Heaven or Hell?”
“I’d like to go to the hot death place. I think it’d be more fun.”
I think Doseone is a kind of persona. He seems very against commercial hip hop, something he’s become a kind of inversion of. Adam Drucker, Doseone, has maintained a lot of control over his creative output – the way he designed the covers for Subtle’s albums and the fact Subtle perform in costume, for example. And he seems so fucking good at what he does.
He asks questions: Are you a good person? Does anyone here have a best friend?
Where else am I more anonymous than a crowd like this? I don’t speak to Doseone all evening because I would be trying to answer these questions. I’d be proving points.
His energy is at odds with the Sheffield crowd. Almost no one is moving. He seems almost ridiculous taunting people on the balcony, asking how much Disney money is in Ice Cube’s bank account.
“When Jel’s mum had to get her dick removed I was the first one at the hospital.”
The last time I saw Dose was the basement club where we put Subtle on, so Jel was there too, the Bierkeller in Manchester. There was a feeling of vague reverence, perhaps imagined, everyone there to see them, see Dose speak. It seems like he played up to that some, undermining it with jokes and observations.
Maybe this time, performing almost as wallpaper with this bubble of people between Themselves and the bar, he’s making fun of all that. It just doesn’t matter if you say yes, I am a good person obviously.
In a song towards the end of the set Jel stutters this drum solo, then just stops.
“Ok,” he says, “That’s that.”
Doseone has been trying so hard not to let this happen to the whole gig, which has had this sense of stopping and starting. This is a bar, first and foremost.
“We’re going to make you a promise,” Dose says.
“Themselves will let you age but we’ll never let you grow old. Seriously. I’ll kick you in your dick if you’re getting old around me.”
It’s raining for the journey home. There’s nothing beyond the windows of the car. My blood feels like lead or something. We’re taking our friend Frankie home with us.
How’s the experience so far, I ask as we reach snake pass.
A bit bumpy, Frankie says.
“Bumpy?” I ask, “BUMPY?” Her words are a challenge. Staying above 50 is not. Staying alive will be if these bends stay as sharp. I tell myself respect the road. Tonight will not be the night I leave a good looking corpse, or rather one hideously charred.
I had a dream the wheel of my car was a croissant, making steering almost impossible. Gaz and I are singing and it is almost too much when the road does the wet dog getting dry thing again.
The final bend reveals a spread of orange lights floating in the black.
That is our home.
We’re on a motorway and everyone is screaming except Navigating Gaz making me think he planned this. Dave is screaming YEEEESSSSS! like it’s the last thing he’ll ever do. We’re very illegal.
There’re no cops and I don’t get flashed when I go past a speed camera ten too fast.
We drop Frankie off and Dave tries to take photos of his dick with her camera after she leaves it in the car.
We drop Gaz off. Dave says,
“Man, I tried so hard to take photos of my penis on Frankie’s camera. I didn’t know what I was doing; then I realized I was filming. So she has three videos of my dick on there now, but it’s too dark to see anything.”
I don’t slow down for any of the junctions on my road.
You fucking dick, Dave says but he’s laughing.