The Alternative Tramlines review for insecure cynics, spoilsports and naysayers, 2017.
Youth, from birth, is the commodity we all have a diminishing investment in. With each passing second, day and year it depreciates like a Rolls Royce rolling off the forecourt. Jealousy is eternally reserved for it. Bitter, sour-faced, disapproval is the only consolation we can deliver ourselves against it. For we loathe growing old, and older, and older, and older.
Saturday morning. A quick shower, shit and a shave. My Uber arrives. I am heading for the Mulberry Tavern. The driver is, as most Uber drivers are, curiously inspirational with sagacious endearment normally reserved for Grecian philosophers or bulbous-nosed alcoholics. I wonder to him if I look a bit rough from last night and he tells me, “You can’t look 100% all of the time.” He’s right. As you age, all you can do is congratulate yourself on the days you’re passable as an expiring human I think. If only for the benefit of my relative – and ever-receding – youth, a good gargle and a bag of naughty salt should not interrupt my livelihood for too long.
The downstairs in the Mulberry Tavern is dark and full of aged punks. Doc Martens, braces and Levis are the attire of the disenfranchised children of the 80s. They drink John Smiths and so do I as I watch a band who are 20 summers past their golden years. “Golden years”, read: thinner, before male pattern baldness claws at their skulls. I compare them to myself by warrant of age, to realise I’m winning. The prize is not yet declared, but somehow, I believe this intangible and clock-ticking asset is sweating to my favour for the mean time. I finish my third pint of Smiths and venture elsewhere.
After a little too long in a GT News buying cigarettes I wouldn’t normally buy, I resolve to head elsewhere, anywhere. “We’ve missed the fucking bus and it’s all your fucking fault,” I hear as I turn round to see a depressing woman in possibly her mid-50s bark at her overweight eight-or-10-year-old daughter. I pick up my cigarettes and stare at the loud woman as she continues to scream at her. It depresses me to think in 40 years the daughter might be stood in her mother’s position, barking at her own obese offspring one day. I make way for The Washington, frequently glancing back at what I can only assume is not a pleasant home life for a child.
The sun is aligned against my pale visage. I huff, pant and wheeze in contention to the wind on a minor incline past the Peace Gardens. Police are notable by their comforting armament of semi-automatic weapons. I imagine one of the many trustafarians pushing a daisy into the business-end of a rifle to no consequence in a kind of lame protest against some economic or political fallacy they can speak at great length about. It’s a shame really, though I guess dreadlocks can protect you from a daring dose of work-a-day life but they certainly offer no protection against a metal pellet travelling 2,500 feet per second through your frontal lobe.
I get to the Washington, see no bands, drink an absinthe mojito slushy and get heartburn. I ask the publican if he wouldn’t mind searching for a rennie. In a very non-committal way, he says he will. I ask him what kind of licensed premises doesn’t carry calcium carbonate on-site. He guffaws. I leave and decide live music should be my highest priority. It’s two hours until two bands I want to see play at Plug so I drink several tins of Fosters in the street outside Mooch Vintage. I sing loudly to their frankly sublime playlist of Boney M, Abba, A-ha to name a few.
Hours pass and I grow increasingly drunk, like a modern man I smoke a cigarette and talk loudly at uninterested and uninteresting beings in the Plug smoking area. I’ve seen bands, three-or-four. Particular highlights would be Vultures and In Sulks. The two most exciting indie acts in Sheffield. Their unblemished vitality and stage-antics work to shame my decaying verve, in only the way a teenager playing a guitar solo on a stage can. Held hostage at guitar-point to their musical mercy I feel deflated. I’m jealous, very, very jealous.
I am drinking my fifth-or-sixth vodka and soda, and what Iggy Pop would call my lust for life is at an all time low until a school friend offers me drugs in a toilet cubicle where faecal matter is not just in full Technicolor but in Smell-O-Vision. Little wonder the previous owners of Plug went spectacularly bust five-or-six times if they were not prepared to make the toilets drug-friendly in an indie venue. I know everyone says that their cocaine is the “strongest coke in the world” but fuck me, I’m wired. I need a strong drink.
Leaving Plug, I head to the Rocking Chair. Another vodka and soda and I stand outside wearing some woman’s sunglasses I found on The Moor, smoking a cigarette. I think about how sexy and cool I probably look to spectators, taking a long measured drag until I catch my reflection in the window of the Sheffield Heart Foundation. I look rough like Pete Doherty used to look when he was good. Sweaty fringe straddling my forehead and stubble patches underlining my second-chin. Like October Drift or Seymour Skinner, I query myself. Subject RE: Have you lost your touch?
By the time I get to Crystal I’m too tired and I conspire to get an Uber without anyone noticing as the rain upsets everyone outside. It’s 4x surge pricing and I question what kind of cunt do they think I am? I head back to the Washington hoping that by the time I get there and finish a drink it might only be 1.5x or 2x at worst. Laphroaig, please. Better make it a double. In fact, can I have two I’ve got no stomach to queue again before I leave? What a brilliant idea I think, until it dawns on me that 4 measures of Laphroaig are the lions share of my Uber fare, even at 4x surge.
Considering that no person has ever ordered a drink in The Washington without immediately going outside for a cigarette, I go outside for a cigarette. Outside I find friends and they find that maybe I’m too drunk for coherent conversation. In my excitement to get pissed, I’ve not paid attention to how much I have been drinking. I reach for my cigarettes and set about talking to attractive people.
I speak to a boy I know from a local band. He is the perfect example of the blissful arrogance of youth, both impossibly handsome and perfectly corruptible like Dorian Gray before Lord Henry. A poster-boy for inconsequential merriment. God, I would continue buying him whisky if I didn’t have acid reflux boiling up from my stomach to my gullet worse than ever. I imagine a hangover would not interrupt his daily life after 20 minutes from waking up compared to my 72 hours of enhanced depressive torment. His glass of water and shower remedy to feel right-as-rain giggles in the face of my sloth-like days of self-loathing, binge-eating and avoiding emails.
Though three sheets to the wind, at this moment I grow deeply insecure and I feel oddly aware that perhaps that’s how he might view me: slightly past it. The thought of this terrifies me. Am I that insecure that the I rely on imagined opinions of young men in bands for validation? In the golf-like scoring system of age, our inherent prejudices and insecurities manifest themselves as sadomasochism. One minute you can be laughing at some old fat bloke, and the next you’re worrying you are the old fat bloke and that people are laughing at you. You can only exist in a superposition: a state of has-been and wunderkind. Schrödinger’s cunt.