It's Saturday 21st October, and the show I’ve been helping promote for my magazine is edging toward the point when people are actually going to have to start playing. Mostly to each other. The assorted bands, journalists and deejays sit round the tables, gazes snagged on the hollow in the heart of the club. Candles flicker. I excuse myself into rain, a last minute run through pubs in immediate area. The flyers hit the tables and stay there. People who will not come (and would not like it if they did) look at me in my make-up and pass no comment.
Back at the venue and it’s time. There are just enough to fill the seats, but OMFG that awful sad space in front of the stage yawns open and empty. Lights ghost bare floorboards. Printed Circuit kick through the quiet and the candlelight like a pop-up window, zap thru a non-stop set of unbelievably compressed and melodically complex video game disco tracks, the speed and detail shaming more traditional dance music’s entirely predictable parade of single ideas. The headline act moves forward and fills space at the front, my editor joins her. I am welded to my chair, shamed and sober.
Simon Bookish is next, and sets the tone with a couple of spoken word pieces before the polite inertia of the mostly seated audience gives him something to get his teeth into. Strolling to his laptop, he announces his intention to change his ways as of now and play the eccentric pop with which he's become infamous in certain circles. He does this with a weary resignation and no small measure of disdain. Off comes the jacket revealing more naked back than I think anyone expected, and down goes Simon, an elegant sprawl of cultivated fury filtered through a haircut. He burns like an acid print, and concludes his performance in the centre of the floor where his admirers were supposed to be, inert, in no hurry to get up even as the applause dissolves, even through the silence.
I sincerely didn’t know who the hell PlanningToRock was, but (forgive the easy journalese) she's difficult to miss and impossible to forget - white jumpsuit - check. White top hat - yup. Face painted white from nose to chin – well, of course. She mugs like a suspense thriller silhouette in front of films she's made of herself and switches between blueswoman growl and rock falsetto. And then she breaks the third wall into, like, a zillion pieces by announcing she comes from Bolton.
While I’m attempting to process that, Kevin Blechdom sidles into the spotlight, all cowboy hat and facepaint, the two dueting like good and bad cowgals in a backwoods radio station. When a slurred heckle of a man ambles onstage and pretends to play the keyboard, Kevy doesn’t skip a syllable, grabs a fistful of his shirt and casually dumps him sidestage. I march across to tick him off further, but it’s his last night in town and he’s drunk, apologetic, ‘moment of madness’ etc etc.
Speaking of which, Blechdom has taken her top off and is busy serenading an ox heart. She throws it into the crowd. They throw it back.
Most live shows are non-events, reverse-engineered rehearsals. They just make me bored and weary. This was messy and ridiculous and pretentious and dramatic, and they came from Germany and Manchester, from London and – famously – Bolton. But not from Brighton. No, not from Brighton.