I absolutely adore Hannah Cohen. I would go as far as saying I love her. As an artist, of course, I think she’s amazingly talented and has that certain something special that you can’t quite put your finger on. She may well be a fucking nightmare as a person. Maybe she spends half the time complaining about how dumb people are for watching Love Island, and the other half actually watching Love Island “Just to see how shit it is”. Maybe she’s a staunch believer in aromatherapy and whenever you bring up the questionable science behind it she simply states that there’s “A lot we don’t know about the world”. Maybe she prefers Jurassic Park 2 to Jurassic Park. I mean, it’s not a bad film, don’t get me wrong, but come on! Maybe she hates feminism because she “doesn’t hate men”, which leads to so many circular arguments that you know it’s a guaranteed evening wasted if you bring it up so have learned not to. Maybe, when she rides the bus on her own, she sits on the seat next to the aisle and leaves an empty seat next to the window just to make sure nobody sits next to her. Do you know these people?? Worse than fucking Hitler. Maybe- in fact, statistically, very probably– Ms Cohen is the absolute worse person in the world, that doesn’t matter, it’s the artist that I love.
‘Pleasure Boy‘ was all kinds of amazing. One of the best albums of
the year that it came out in. She also ticked two important boxes:
- The music was incredible
- Nobody had heard of her!
To be honest, I usually settle for just one of those. If your music’s incredible, no matter how famous you are, then here you go, Beyoncé, just take every number one spot I can give you, that’s cool, but everyone knows you’re amazing. Nobody knows who you are? That’s cool too, Ursula’s Cartridges, take number 54, it’s all good. But to marry the two is basically every amateur music writer’s dream, we can claim that we’ve discovered great music! We’re not just another, significantly quieter, screaming fan in the crowd telling Drake that you ‘quite liked‘ his latest album, you’re actually promoting new music and it might be appreciated!
Every year, I have my artist, and in 2015 that was Hannah Cohen. OK, since you’re curious: in 2016 it was Abi Reimold, in 2017 it was Out Lines and last year it was awakebutstillinbed. But a lot of these bands were still way bigger than Hannah Cohen, and none of them had created a musical moment as groin shatteringly beautiful as that moment three minutes and thirty one seconds into Watching You Fall when Ms Cohen collapses into overwhelming emotion with ‘But you’re still my baby!/Yeah you’re still my baby!/Yeah you’re still my baby!’ and just destroys the listener. So, yeah, Hannah Cohen has always had a special place in my heart. The artist, I mean. Hannah Cohen the person is an absolute fucking nightmare. She says she doesn’t like FKA Twigs because “She’s obviously such a bitch”. She talks for hours about how much she hates The Last Jedi even though you swear she liked it when you first saw it at the cinema. She voted Lib Dems at the last election because “There’s just something about Jeremy Corbyn…”. She always says she supports my work with refugees because “Steve Jobs was the son of refugees”, as if that makes any fucking difference, nobody I work with is going to be the next Steve Jobs, I just want to help them survive for Christ’s sake because they’re human beings and, Jesus, I know you think you’re helping, Hannah, but it just really annoys me when…
Anyway, I digress. Earlier this year, Hannah Cohen announced that she wold be playing her first show in Manchester. The real Manchester, my Manchester, not that weird one in America where Casey Affleck sexually assaults women by the sea (it’s been a while since I saw that movie). She wouldn’t be headlining her own show at the MEN Arena, which her talent obviously deserves, but instead be supporting some guy I’d never heard of* in a pub where I last went to see a freaking poetry evening in support of MRSN! The last time I had the opportunity to be so close to someone I admire was when I was in the same courtroom as Bradley from S Club 7 in 2012 as I answered charges of harassment against him**. This was going to be pretty special.
(*Mark Mulcahy, who I actually appreciated being introduced to and you may remember popping up at no.81 on this list. Yeah, pretty good album, check it out…)
(**acquitted due to lack of evidence! In your face, Bradley! I’ll be seeing you this Christmas when I post more bags of dog excrement though your letterbox as presents!! [If any lawyer is reading this, Alexander Leeson Palmer meant that previous sentence as a lighthearted joke that should not under any circumstances be seen as an admission of guilt nor be linked in any way to the dog excrement Bradley McIntosh receives through his letterbox this Christmas])
And it was pretty special. Hannah Cohen is a wonderfully engaging and emotionally delicate performer, with enough skill to carry the weight of the momentous yet sensitive songs she writes. I filmed her singing the wonderful All I Wanted and Tweeted it to her. Hoping to get a retweet and maybe a few likes, a few more followers. Y’know, the standard pathetic reach for a tiny but of validation? Not really a cry for attention but a cry for a connection. There was probably only a handful of people who even knew who Hannah Cohen was at the gig (because- yeah motherfuckers!– nobody’s heard of her!! #MyArtist) but would have been introduced and won over by an incredible set. The crowd was relatively sparse when Hannah kicked off with a stirring This Is Your Life*, but people heard the set from the downstairs bar and soon dozens of people had been drawn upstairs by the gorgeous sounds. Job done, Ms Cohen.
(*I mean… probably… I can’t actually remember what song she played first, but it was very likely to be This Is Your Life. If you’re reading this, Ms Cohen, feel free to correct me. Just please don’t go on about Love Island again…)
After finishing her set, Hannah walked off the stage and through the crowd back to the dressing room. She walked just past me. I felt the butterflies have a little orgy in my stomach. I tried not to stare so obviously at her. No, Alex, don’t look like a weirdo! There was a real chance that I was the biggest Hannah Cohen fan in the crowd, I could have got her attention and debated whether she ever considered playing ‘Pleasure Boy’s Take the Rest and ask her to sign my iPad because I didn’t own any physical copies of her records but I could have shown her my Bandcamp collection to prove I bought the album! But, no, that’s what weirdos do, let her go back to her dressing room and reflect on a very good set. Never meet your hero(in)es, just let them get back to their dressing room and inject fentanyl into their eyeballs while they sexually humiliate groupies, like normal rock stars. As she disappeared from view, I took a breath, relaxed and reflected on a lovely half hour of incredible music played incredibly well.
But then, the absolute worse thing imaginable happened.
Hannah Cohen came out of the dressing room and stood by her merchandise table. So she could talk to fans.
One of my favourite artists was just standing right there. I could just walk up to her, shake her hand and tell her how I’ve been a fan since ‘Pleasure Boy’ in 2015. I could chuckle as I reminded her that she actually thanked me on Twitter back when I named it the 8th best album of 2015. Yes, I would say excitedly, the new album is pretty fantastic as well. Wasting My Time, right?! What a tune! I’d say what a treat it was to have her come to Manchester, and that I hoped she’d come back soon in a headline show. Any good places to eat around here? Well, you’re actually in luck, Ms Cohen, you’re right in the middle of Manchester’s Northern Quarter, so you’re surrounded by all the artsy hipster nonsense bars and restaurants that you could ever want. Go for a drink? I’d love to, but I have work in the morning so I really should be getting back. What do I work as? Well, I’m actually an Immigration Adviser at a refugee charity. Erm, yeah, I did know that Steve Jobs was the son of refugees. Listen, I’ve really got to leave…
But I just… couldn’t…
I was very aware of two things. Firstly, Hannah Cohen is an extremely attractive woman. Nothing to do with her enormous talent or the quality of her music, but she just happened to have got lucky gene-wise, and good for her. Secondly, I was a middle aged man who had come to the gig on his own. How on Earth could I tell Ms Cohen how big a fan I was of her work without it sounding like I was a creepy old weirdo trying to hit on her? I debated it in my head. It would almost sound better if I pretended that I heard her for the first time that night and was extremely impressed, I would definitely investigate further, madam. If I told her that i was a big fan who’d come here on his own just to see her?? Alarm bells would be ringing. Maybe I could pretend that I couldn’t speak English? How about if I made it clear that I was gay so she wouldn’t immediately assume I was hitting on her? How would one do that? Do I start the conversation by saying ‘I’m gay by the way, my name is Alex’? Do I just act really gay?? I mean… we’re entering some extremely problematic territory there. Plus, y’know, I’m not gay, so pretending to be in order to talk to her is just as bad as anything else. I wish I still drank, then I would have no qualms about barreling up to her full of cheap lager and hideous masculine energy. I wouldn’t care if she thought I was hitting on her, because I would in all likelihood actually be hitting on her! And that’d be cool, because I’d be convinced that Ms Cohen was interested! The blissful arrogance of the drunk is an undervalued crux that I so desperately wanted. Drunk people have got it made! Then, while I ran over my options in my head, I remembered the Tweet I sent…
Nooooooooooooooooo! Now I’ve practically secretly filmed her and then hidden in the crowd like a fucking Thomas Harris antagonist! She’s never going to retweet it now! She’s probably in mortal fear for her life because of this perverted voyeur who refuses to reveal himself! But then if I do reveal myself, I just out myself as a conspicuous weirdo rather than an inconspicuous one! She’ll probably still be in her fear for her safety, only now she would have a face to describe to the police! Maybe if I wore a mask… No, Alex! Once again, your suggestions only make you even more weird!!
On the bus home, I realised that simply telling Ms Cohen that you’d just sent her a Tweet, so felt it was proper to actually introduce yourself, would be a perfect ice breaker, maybe even leading to a few jokes and a lot of laughs.
Except… I didn’t think of that on the bus home. I thought of it at the time, while Ms Cohen was standing there, and still did nothing.
To be honest though, by this point I had decided that I could write about this for the ‘Welcome Home’ blog entry, so it actually started to make more sense not to approach her, less the purity of the entry be compromised. And, let’s be honest, I don’t need to talk to Hannah Cohen at all, in any circumstances. I have her music, I love her music, the more I get to know the actual person behind the incredible art, the more that affection is distorted by whatever (in all likelihood, completely false) impression I get from the 90 second conversation I once had with her and hearing her reactionary views on the state of Israel. I love her music too much to get the affection muddied.
Next time she plays Manchester though, I’ll take another person with me. It’ll just seem less weird, won’t it?