Everything from Bashmore’s dress sense (“Have you seen his steez? He’s wearing these wide jeans with a Fedora; he’s like the man from Del Monte!”) to Charlie Sloth’s trainer collection is discussed (he’s got 4,000 pairs, apparently), while Radio 1 staff clocking off for the weekend are seen off with hugs and invitations to that night’s Annie Mac Presents show. In fact, if it wasn’t for brief discussions with Clair about which minimix to play first or where certain records should be placed in the show, it would be easy to forget that she’s actually broadcasting to millions of people around the world, rather than warming up for the weekend with three mates in her kitchen.
Annie has that rare ability of great broadcasters to instantly put people at ease and make the biggest occasions feel intimate. Whether you’re listening to her show on the radio, going to her AMP events or buying her yearly compilations, she’s like the older sister you never had, who lets you in on her records and introduces you to her cooler mates.
As old pal (and DJ mentor) Erol Alkan puts it: “she’s charming, down to earth and incredibly real. That’s not something you can really fake.”
And while she’s played that role for countless music-hungry youngsters around the UK and beyond for nearly 10 years, she’s also done it for plenty of the artists who have come through in those years too. When asked who she’s most proud of introducing to a wider audience, Disclosure instantly spring to mind, as much for their savvy business sense as success in the studio.
“They opened up on the AMP tour three years ago, and I nurtured them in everything I do,” she says. “How they and their management have handled themselves since is fascinating. They run a festival, done three nights at Ally Pally, played Madison Square Gardens! That’s an insane success story, one I’ve been able to watch since the very beginning.”
She’s happy to ruminate on old pals who have graduated from the Annie Mac Presents tour (alumni include Rudimental and Hannah Wants), but her focus is mainly on finding new music. Each week, Annie’s SoundCloud features Free Music Mondays – a free track giveaway that’s a breeding-ground for new talent, and “great fun to A&R”. Tuesdays and Thursdays are ‘listening days’, when she spends the entire day in the run-up to her show going through promos and searching online for new stuff, and with her ability to use the three pillars of radio, club DJing and booking acts for her AMP tours and festivals, it’s possible that no-one in the country has a greater ability to break a new act.
Four hours later, Mixmag’s in South London for the first of two nights of Annie’s tour at the iconic Brixton Academy. The venue is packed with punters in their late teens and early 20s, with people who look over 30 about as scarce as Ten Walls tracks at G.A.Y. Mixmag makes its way to the green room to find a clique of female competition winners (all kitted out in Annie T-shirts and rain macs) here for a meet-and-greet with the woman herself. Stories are excitedly swapped concerning how many times each has seen her play, and one even says she’s thinking about getting an Annie logo tattoo. In the auditorium, while the tail end of Redlight’s set is well received and Stormzy’s half hour of power is undeniably rousing, the audience is clearly here for Annie. When she steps on stage at 1.30am for her peak-time headline slot, she’s alone, rather than in among a cadre of other DJs, as she was back in the early days of the tour. The instantly recognisable AMP logo flashes up on the screen, black cartoon curls embellished with either white swiggles or square blocks of primary colours. In stark contrast to many club nights in the Capital, there are more girls than guys in attendance, and the front few rows are about 95 per cent female. As soon as Annie’s set starts, girls pop up on shoulders and there are even a few crowd surfers tumbling over the Academy’s barriers.