The Tour The Tour, Day Sixteen: Swagchester

You can tell a place is great when you arrive an its raining and it still feels awesome.

We rose and shone and were sat in the Manchester Wagamama’s dining on noodles and broth by Lunchtime. We figured we deserved it. We had worked hard in Liverpool. We had beaten illness, entertained the people and slept the sleep of the righteous. My legs were starting to feel like they had cracks running down them. Last night’s speaker stack was 10 foot high. I nearly landed on Lars’ head when I jumped off of it.

Tim showed us around Manchester. We’ve all been there before – in fact last time I played here I put a hole in the venue’s roof – but Tim knows it well. We wandered the streets looking at the shops, and pondering the strangeness of how the normal thing to do when visiting a new place these days is to look at the shops.

Manchester has amazing shops though. I am not a shopping person, but Manchester made me want to go shopping. I saw the red leather biker jacket I want. I saw amazing cowboy boots and hats. I saw the hallowed gates of Forbidden Planet, and my heart skipped a thump.

It has always been my dream to have my own comic shop. I’d have some decks set up and play awesome records, and hang out with my people and read comics. I’d have ace movies and cartoons projected on a wall. I’d have an amazing assortment of toys and masks, and I’d always have Peter Bagge’s Hate Annuals in stock.

Forbidden Planet was lacking a couple of those essential features, but it outdid itself on the masks front. So many cool masks!

Wolverine masks!

Batman masks!

Thor helmets!

They also had SUPERHERO FACE TATTOOS. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know such things existed. I bought a Wolverine one, to wear at the show that night. It felt like the righteous path.

We ran into Raydome in Forbidden Planet. He was very excited t see us, and to pick up the vast pile of comics that was waiting for him in Traveling Man, another, deeply great comic shop round the corner. It lacked a few of my essential features (like the Peter Bagge Hate Annual), but it was pretty awesome. Raydome had £40 worth of comics waiting for him behind the counter. He and Jack geeked out over Marvel continuity, while I searched in vain for the hate Annual, and Tim got excited over Nemesis comics. We were in geek heaven.

After I’d failed to find my Peter Bagge book, and decided that I hadn’t turned a profit on this tour yet so I couldn’t justify spending £18 on a Strange Tales paperback, we headed off to what someone described as “Camden in a single building over 6 floors”, the world famous Afleck’s Palace.

Truly, it was a treasure trove.

At the top of the thing there’s this incredible little place that’s just stuffed with 80s… old video game systems and cartridges, Castle Greyskull, original He-Man and Skeletor masks sets. All at great prices – Castle Greyskull was just £16! Jack spotted £200 worth of stuff he wanted to buy.

 

There was a ptetty flipping ninja costume shop in there as well. I got in a conversation with the owners, who were kind enough to share their wisdom on the subject with me. Apparently the most popular pop singer costume they have is Adam Ant’s. And the only pop singer of the past 20 years that anyone wants to dress up as with any regularity is Lady Gaga. “I mean, who’d go to a party dressed up as Noel and Liam?” explained one of the dudes. “You’d just look like very other scally in the place.”

We left without buying anything, and retired to a Starbuxx, where I wrote some blogs and Jack and Raydome geeked the fuck out over Dome’s gigantic stack of comics. Apparently they’ve weaponised the venom suit or some shit, and Flash Thompson’s, the jock dude that used to bully Peter Parker at school and lost his legs in Iraq is wearing it. Crazy shit.

Jack was deeply enthused. It was nice to see him well again.

We were playing at the world famous Ruby Lounge. The stage has a beautiful thick, deep red carpet on it. You bounce in it, rather than tread. It’s a beautiful feeling. The sound was brilliant in soundcheck, and the soundman was nice enough to hang around for an hour till Envy got there to run through I Am Not A Robot a few times.

That’s right, we were going to do I Am not A Robot live, for the first time ever. I was excited.

Our soundcheck was great then. And so was our merch table. It was a great merch table.

I also had a wolverine face tattoo. So we all went backstage, where Envy, who is an expert in such matters, applied the face tattoo, with a bucket of warm water and a damp cloth. It looked pretty flipping amazing. “I don’t know whether to cry or applaud,” said JTL. “Do you want me to do you some plaits?” asked Envy, who also an expert in plaits. I acquiesced.

And so, it was stagetime. For the first time on this tour, I had not been out in the room as it filled (or didn’t, as had been the case a few times). I had been backstage getting ready, as is the righteous path. I could hear Jack summoning the assembled, whoever they were, to the dancefloor. I ran down the corridor that linked the dressing room to the stage, as Richard and George, who were on their fourth gig of the tour filmed me with cameraphone. I launched myself stageward, in my Run DMC lounge pants and my Wolverine face tatooo.

Have you seen Anvil? It was a bit like the bit at the end of Anvil, where the band make their way through all these corridors with no idea what crowd is waiting for the and they’re greeted by thousands of Japanese kids screaming, “A-VEEEEEEEEL!”

I landed on the thick red carpet to a roar of joy from a packed room, and launched straight into Seek A Sound So Rare, the words to which the front know knew then entirety of, and it only got better from there. I loved every moment of that show. We did We Won’t Be Broke Forever Baby, announced as a wealth-bringing super sigil, and everybody sang along as if their financial futures depended upon it.  Envy came out and did I Am Not A Robot for the first time ever. It was flipping glorious. I stage dived, backwards. I stood on the speakers, and fell backwards, arms outstretched. I was full of trust. They carried me to the back of the room, and set me down gently.

 

Back at the merch table Tim and Envy who had never met before were getting on like a couple of only-child toddlers whose parents had just moved in next door to each other, and were getting up to all sorts of mischief with a roll of parcel tape. It was a beautiful thing to witness.

I met lots of safe people and wrote on lots of things, including a pregnant lady’s tummy. I wrote, “Akira The Don approves this child”, which was true. One of the coolest things was that I met a whole bunch of people who are coming all the way from Manchester to London on Thursday for The Life Equation Launch Party. Shit like that is humbling. I can't wait, that party is going to be on some legendary, never forget it in your life shit.

There was a beer robot at the Travelodge. We ignored it, and Jack and I went out for our customary Travelodge spliff. We were discussing our lovely day, when suddenly a call if, “you cheeky blokes!” rang out, and we saw Lars poking his big smiley orange head out of the van door. He invited us aboard to share his apple. “It’s the American way,” he said, taking a hit and passing it.

Lars likes to sleep in the van, while everybody else sleeps it the Travelodge. “It’s become my dojo, like RZA says in the Tao of Wu” he said, sincerely. “I meditate in here. Pray. I speak to my family. It’s nice. Sometimes its lonely. But it’s nice.”

We sat up for a few hours, sharing, AA style. Where we grew up, how we got into hip-hop, that sort of thing. It was special. I found that nighttime bus-dwelling MC Lars reminded me of Crispin Glover, oddly enough. Daytime MC Lars is nothing like Crispin Glover. Jack asked him why he moved to Brooklyn, and he said he could only explain in rap, so he rapped his explanation, matter of factly, then asked Jack to rap for him. Jack spat his Sid James bars. “I like that,” whispered Lars. “It’s dar. Real. Do you know what I mean?”

Lars always asks "do you know what I mean?" as if he's genuinely concerned that people do not.

Photos by Tim Gibson, Akira The Don, Lee Clench and Raydome