16 December 2009

Do I want to stay in with a mug of tea and the latest Romanian social realism abortion movie?

Another trip to Margate Lido- Ribbed (aka a polysexual night out) 7 November 2009

The TVC mission to the far outlying badlands of Kent took in another stage with a return visit to the toothless pagan hard house worshippers of Thanet. It was the least I’ve ever felt like playing anywhere in my, ‘swhat, 18 months of DJing, and I was wistfully yearning for my early puppy dog days when I first started to play, when I’d salivate at the chance to play a 10 minute set at 4am to 3 alcoholics in someone’s front room. Oh, how easily we become jaded and curmudgeonly…

Actually I love a trip to Margate - the main reason I lacked enthusiasm was that my legs could barely hold me up after 2 nights out, and I’d looked on the net the night before and seen there was a Smokescreen free party in Nottingham, with all our Drop favourites playing, and was wishing I was there. But a commitment is a commitment, and I love the Unite crowd who promote this night. Their taste is at the other end of the banging spectrum to ours, but they love their house, and are utterly lacking in pretension… which is all that matters really when our local house scene is so polluted by Cream wannabes who download every genre that Mixmag tells them is trendy with the alacrity of Thierry Henry bouncing the ball from hand to foot.

Oz and I have been taking trips about East Kent together with our record bags for a while now, and the trips increasingly start in the same vein, as we’re both on the grumpy side of engaged/enthusiastic of an early evening. That is to say, thinking, do I want to go out into the cold/rain/fog to play obscure house records for an unenlightened rabble in a venue I‘d never set foot in a as punter, or do I want to stay in with a mug of tea and the latest Romanian social realism abortion movie? (Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival mind). Going out generally shades it. I was particularly fragile as I’d had a mad night on Thursday, as Oz and I won our debut quiz appearance at the Neppy (prize- bottle of Valpolicella, £4 from Budgens), and my beer intake increased with every ogle at the new barmaid. For some reason everyone was out that night as they weren’t working the next day-the pints are disappearing much more quickly than normal, but I manage to tear myself away at half ten. However, The Eraser shows up at my house, brandishing absinthe, and I only need a couple of sips to make me spin out and hurl myself into a comatose sleep. At about 2am, my door seems to be being assaulted, as the girl I left my girlfriend (known as DLL) for briefly is hammering away, in tears. I let her in, and for some reason we start drinking the booty that TVC’s general knowledge has obtained from the Neptune .At some point my girlfriend comes down, and the 3 of us are surreally all sat in my front room chatting and making jokes, and the tears and frowns have become laughter. But Christ am I wasted the next day.

As Friday night comes round, all I want to do is sleep, but we’ve got tickets to see the lovely Tim Green play at a “secret location” in Maidstone. I shouldn’t go, but I reckon if I drive and stay away from alcohol, I’ll be OK. These are the kinds of situations where I envy DLL- she only needs the tiniest lift to get her to a pitch of excitement where she’ll dance for hours and chat to anyone who can speak English, or any language for that matter. As soon as we get there, at about 11, I know my goose is cooked. Pleasure and excitement will not be mine tonight. Maidstone is hideous- the venue (Corn Exchange in the centre) is already surrounded by incredibly rude, badly dressed drunks, girls shrieking and topping up their lip gloss while the guys try to stay standing. When I first used to go out in 1987 to house nights, these fuckers used to go to Cinderella Rockafellas and stick their tongues down each other’s throats. What are they doing here? Well I shouldn’t be here, I’m too old. I’ve only really come out as it’s a chance to catch up with the Sideways boys, a lovely bunch from Folkestone who are making and playing some lovely melodic tech house tracks and ploughing their lonely furrow to the heathen. They’re TVC’s younger brothers.

The night’s awful. Room half full makes it even more dispiriting. As the endless drone of tech house continues I crave just the odd snatch of vocal, the odd uplifting key board melody. It makes me mourn for the early days, when there wasn’t enough house to make tiny ghettoized genres, and Mark Moore could mix from hip hop to hip house to acid without anyone asking for their money back because the flyer promised minimal tech. Tim changes it, peps it up as he always does, and I can only hope that in a year, however much he loves his home town, his sense of aesthetics won’t allow him to be part of this mundane dross any more. I’m so bored, and so pleased when the GF looks tired too, and is begging to leave. I want to support others doing house music in Kent, but my life’s running out, and my battery’s low. I got to be more selective. Thank God she’s got an Audi- we’re home in 20 minutes. It devours the Thanet Way.

So as I’m driving Oz and the rest of us out to Margate the next day, and he asks her how the night was, I’m again amazed at her incredible ability to reframe the negative into the positive. She’s Kent’s best social worker, so that is her key skill I guess. She says she had a great time- were we at different nights? As so many times before I envy her ability to filter out the shit music and ugly, Neanderthal punters and make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. A sow with swine flu at that…

As we drive into Margate we pass the huge 3 storey club complex called “Sugar”, with hordes of shivering teenagers in their best gear queuing up for R & B and Chlamydia. This always makes you realize that the place you’re about to play it will be empty- and if anyone is there it’ll be their parents and social workers. When we get there of course, the spirit lifts, because we’re playing with other mad fools, who believe that music is more important than money, or fashion, or even sex. We love our sort of house, they love theirs, and we hate compromise. This is the moment I love to watch Oz, as the grumpy, curmudgeonly bastard on the trip down melts into the house music troubadour, embracing his fellow sufferers Danita, Lou and Nik in his broad shoulders, twenty years of determination peddling house music round the country in his hug. To these guys, he’s like John The Baptist, a life of anointing people and turning them on to the principles of going it alone in the house music biz, and playing what you love.

The mood proves short lived as when we walk into the place it’s empty. The bar’s shut; there’s no door staff; no punters; and we’re on in an hour. I’m so tired I can barely stand, and we’ve missed a Smoke Screen party to come and play to an empty bar. I mean, the grille ain’t even up on the bar! And currently Kent is a mum and dad free zone. A miserable, long dank night beckons, playing deep house to a few drunken shadows.

Nik Beat’s warm up is utterly heroic. Ignoring the emptiness, this K filled troubadour starts his set of hard house at about 134 bpm, gyrating like a Catweazle with fleas behind the CD-Js. What a man, a one man party inside his head. I love his attitude- he’s as easily enthused as I am deflated. Thank fuck for people like him, with all the pretentious cunts that play their funky house wank to hairdressers and Kwikfitters the county over. DLL is already jumping up and down on the deserted dance floor, and I can’t help but join her. Others shuffle in and gyrate loosely- I invent a new dance as a pretty, but drunk and overweight girl keeps hitching her jeans up while she tries to do the generic “pole dance without a pole” next to us.

Shoots start to blossom as the night accelerates- I bump into a clutch of guys who I think used to live in my street, and whom I always used to see pale faced on Sunday mornings…I’m glad that my suspicions of their debauchery is entirely well founded. Oz scores some of whatever makes Nik’s heart accelerate, which has the taste and texture of Mastic, but seems to perk me up. It’s our set now, and thankfully the decks aren’t 10 metres apart as they were last time we played here- I can shuffle between them and mix in almost less time than it takes to play the whole record out. I can’t lose tonight- the last time this lot heard me play I’d only been playing for 3 months, and was at party where they gave me a line of white powder. Mistakenly I’d said I was in TVC- “fuckin legend mate”, says Hank “- them and DIY are the best parties I’ve been to. You must be mustard to play with Oz”.

Now normally, I could have explained that in fact, mustard I was not, pants I was. However, the white powder I’d thought was Charlie was in fact Ketamine, and as a result it all seemed too complicated, as I wasn’t able to speak. I remember little of the next hour, except that to my left I had a pile of someone else’s vinyl, neatly stacked; to my right, some very well stacked sleeves. I think the chaps threw me a forgiving smile, and I’ve loved 'em ever since. Said Hank comes over after I’ve bludgeoned 3 tunes into each other and shouts “since when did you get good??” I shrug my shoulders and think, “never, but give me another 3 years and 2,000 hours flying time”

The one and a half hours Oz and I have on the decks flies by-I’ve had great pleasure seeing some of these hard housers really enjoying some more deep and subtle flavours. This leaves me with a lovely half hour dancing to the end of Oz’s set. I dance flirtily with a young girl, and briefly feel very horny towards a stranger, which I haven’t for a long time- it’s like having an old friend pop in for tea to remind you they’re still around. No matter how many degrees I might acquire, or how serious my job might be, I will always be disproportionately excited by a young, dim, buxom chav girl dancing and smiling in front of me.

That’s all very well, but it’s a night to be with friends. Having informed said chavette that I’ve got a girlfriend- response “are you one of them fucking swingers?!”- I set off on a wee tour of the block with Oz. This is when I love to see him in action most, rolling back the years as the curmudgeonly old fucker in the car remembers how much he loves house music and the people who play it, in all his forms. He folds Danita and Lou in his broad chest, and greets Jasper like an old general greets a former sergeant, easing nicely into shared tales of campaigns waged in the fields of Kent for the benefit of Jasper’s recently obtained girlfriend.

The rest of the music? Good, though crying out for the odd gentle lilting house keyboard riff, or gospel vocal. A rolling programme of tech house and fidget house, well mixed but of fairly constant tempo, with few breaks or changes of direction. It’s good though- and played with love, enthusiasm and without pretention. We melt away at about half four as the repetitiveness starts to grate, and the joy of being part of the Whitstable house scene is reinforced as we go straight to Nick Dent’s place. As the front door opens the unmistakable shards of Warren’s gentle yet hard deep progressive house rest on our ears. We enter a dark room of bobbing heads-The over 40s crowd are dancing, their kids are all asleep, and the night’s just begun. Whitstable, so much to answer for….

- Simon