Saturday, 23 February 2019. Sofar Sounds invited Selin to play an acoustic gig at someone’s house in North London. Sounds cool, we’re in. At around 18:45 we arrived at the house – it was more of a mansion – set up our gear in the living room, and then left to get some beer for the duration of the show. We walked for about five minutes to get to the nearest Waitrose. Selin texted me and asked if I can buy her some jaffa cakes. I had about three pounds on my card so I managed to buy a small bottle of water and a bag of mini jaffa cakes. Dustin and Ollie (guitarist and bassist respectively) got the beers. Good lads. Dustin handed me a beer for the walk back.
“Crouch End is a hub for independent shopping and cafe life with a plethora of vintage and second-hand boutiques and quiet residential streets lined with period property. No wonder it’s so popular with artists and their children” writes newspaper Ham&High. And that’s true. The area also looks respectful, dare I say posh or perhaps even luxurious.
Which is probably why we got surrounded by about seven black guys on our way back to the show.
It was dark and the streetlights were few and far between. No CCTV cameras, no other residents or pedestrians around. They approached us from behind, so we didn’t notice them until they blocked us off and backed us against a wall.
“Where you from?” one of them asked me. They pushed us around a bit. I didn’t answer. “Give me your phone” someone else said. They didn’t pull out any knives or weapons. So I said, “I’m not giving you my phone, dude.” Then one of them reached for my phone, which was in my jacket pocket. I pushed him away and repeated myself. I realized that they were quite young. They looked like they were between the ages of 12 and 18. “Give me your wallet then,” he said. I told him I don’t have a wallet on me. Someone else reached for my phone but couldn’t grab it. “Stop doing that, you always do that!” one of them told him, indicating that this isn’t their first time attempting to steal from strangers. “Give me your money motherfucker!” he shouted. So I explained to him that we don’t have any money on us; in fact, we were on our way to play a gig to earn some money. He looked a bit confused when I said that. I offered him my bag of mini jaffa cakes. “I literally spent my last pounds on this bag of cookies,” I told him. He ungratefully replied, “I don’t want your fucking cookies man!” Well too bad, dude, coz that’s all I’m willing to part with.
I don’t remember seeing this happening myself, but Ollie told me that they took his phone and asked for his passcode, which he didn’t give them, and then they realized it was an Android so they handed it back to him. Gotta have standards when robbing people.
They did get a hold of Dustin’s wallet, though. It contained all of his personal bank cards, his company credit card, his driver’s license, his Oyster travel card, and thankfully no cash.
We managed to shuffle around a little bit to create some space between the three of us, which meant that the group surrounding us spread out as well. Once some space opened up between the gang, I made a run for it. Ollie and Dustin ran in different directions, so they didn’t know whom to go after, which allowed us to remove ourselves from the situation. Kind of.
One of them caught up to me and tried to trip me. I was still holding my can of beer, so I threw it at him and it hit his chest. A middle-aged man turned the corner and was walking towards us, so I told him “They’re trying to steal from us!” His response was, “Yeah, yeah” and he kept walking. But the fact that this man showed up was enough to scare the robber away. He turned around, ran down the road, and joined the rest of the gang who were off to who knows where.
A few seconds later I met up with Ollie who was already on the phone with the police. Dustin came walking back up the road, also on his phone with his banks to block his cards. He eventually managed to block them and as far as I am aware, no payments were made with any of those cards after the robbery.
The police arrived, so we got in the van and patrolled the area to see if we can spot the group in alleys or stores. We couldn’t find them. It was funny looking at the expressions of people walking around and seeing three young men in a police car. A woman smirked at me as if to say, “Serves you right.” The police took our details and dropped us off back at the house.
We composed ourselves, opened our beers, had a smoke, and tried to calm down a bit. Unfortunately, we missed the other acts, but I heard they were great.
Well, then it was our turn to close the night with some of Selin’s originals and two covers.
News spread pretty quickly about the incident, so I’m sure that played a part in the sympathy of the audience when we performed because that was the most respectful and attentive crowd I’ve ever played for. It was an absolutely amazing and thoroughly enjoyable experience and definitely one of the best gigs I’ve played sofar. Or so far. Nice one Jan, you really nailed it with that one.
We’re all fine. Nobody is hurt or traumatized or anything. It was unnecessary and unfortunate, but thankfully everyone is alright. It could have been much worse.
Here’s something I want to leave you with: If you’re young and you have no caring guidance in your life, it is easy to slip into crime. It’s easy to make crime a career. Where else would you get your money if you have no skills to offer a potential employer? If you are like that, try to educate yourself. If you can’t do that, at least try to do some good. And if you don’t know how to do that, then at least try not to do something you know to be bad. Crime is the lazy way out. Learn how to use your aggression in the right way. Put that energy into something good. Play football. Build something. Make music. Perhaps you’ll even earn your money doing that.