It's quite possibly the hottest day of the year. I am crammed into a windowless basement with maybe 80 other people. I have been standing in the same spot for the last 30 minutes. It's like being in a lift. A lift going nowhere. People are passing bottles of water around to us. People are fanning themselves with LP sleeves.
This is the basement of the Rough Trade shop in Covent Garden and I am here because I promised to take my daughter to see Lily Allen. The media-proclaimed "Queen of mySpace" is performing an instore to promote her much anticipated (in my house at least) debut album.
She better be good too as I have been blackmailed into going to another proper show tomorrow night.
As it turns out she is pretty good. Despite the hype and the hoopla, the single "Smile" is a genuine pop classic and it turns out she has a couple more that are just as catchy. The Rough Trade show is just a karaoke style blast through the singles but it gets the basement moving and given the heat is blissfully short. When we get out there is a huge queue of people stretching right up Neal's Yard. Seems we were the lucky ones who actually got inside.
The next night and it's another sell-out in a glorified village hall in west London. This time with a full band. My daughter is the youngest person there. I was expecting a lot of kids but really it's the mid-twenties-mid-thirties-middle-classes. The tickets have been fetching crazy money on eBay. Maybe the MySpace kids cashed in or maybe the reality is that MySpace users are actually all a lot older than they should really be. Like school-run mothers on those mini-scooters - kind of undignified. Me, well I'm so old that whenever I go to any gig I imagine people think I work in A+R.
But I am also old enough to remember this stuff the first time around. In my day Lily Allen would've been signed to 2-Tone. There's more than a hint of Terry Hall in a lot of the vocal lines mixing it with anything from Lord Kitchener to the Happy Mondays to Dillinger. She's at her weakest on the rap tracks. She's no chatter and the lyrical quips, like on the 50 Cent sampling "Nan You're A window Shopper" whilst still amusing are not a patch on Lady Sovereign.
But I have to say it was a great gig. Lily Allen may well disappear as fast as Ms Dynamite, another over-hyped "urban crossover" London lady but even if she's just remembered for one hit single and a hot summer month in 2006 then that's better than most will have managed in a whole career.
the first journalism Lake ever had published was a history of Johnny Thunders for Record Collector magazine, since then he has written for publications including the Guardian, Dazed and Confused, the Idler and more recently, outsideleft.com as you have just seen.