It’s a beautiful day because…

10th November 2010

It’s a beautiful day because, at last, there is some reaction from real people to the coalitions plans to cut pretty much everything by 20%. The streets around Westminster were filled today by students, bussed in from all over the country to protest at the cuts in help and hike in fees for students. I arrived on my bike and got swept along in the banner-waving mass down Whitehall, past Parliament and Millbank.

It was all very well mannered and friendly and orderly and very middle class, as you would expect from a bunch of students, but the message was clear, don’t fuck with our future.

It was wonderful to see a new generation discovering their power, finding something to kick against, something to believe in, even if they are doing it in a slightly self-conscious, ironic C21 way. I am sure this is just the beginning of a winter of discontent, fighting the so called inevitability of the savage slashing of public services. Beautiful.

Big Chill Label party, Big Chill House, London

8th November 2010 Big Chill label party

[setlist]The Big Chill label take over the Big Chill House in Kings Cross, London for a bit of a festive event.[/setlist]

Disappearing Dining Club

8th November 2010

There were scenes of unparalleled savagery at this week’s DJ gig, the extremely hip, very now Disappearing Dining Club. The revellers and gormands assembled at City Arts and Music in City Road, London for a pop-up dinner dance. The menu included a suckling pig complete with apple in mouth. Tony got the tongue, an ear and half a cheek but stopped at the snout. Toni was shocked by the crackly life-like appearance of the creature and even refused to bite into the apple. I DJed through desert and coffee and took it off into the night.

Hug A DJ

1st November 2010

This weekend’s excursion is to Gillingham in Dorset for Puravida, a weekend festival of workshops and meditation and music, at Osho Leela, a big house in the countryside. My mum would be proud of me, speeding out of London city, speeding out of my comfort zone, in the deepening dark, not knowing if I will face a bunch of smiling party people or the zombies from hell. It turns out to be a bunch of smiling party people dressed as the zombies from hell, so well into their weekend away, and their dressing up and face painting that despite my best efforts I feel like the police man from the Wicker Man, fascinated and confused, led on like a lamb to the slaughter. There’s a pre-party meeting. I am introduced and asked to announce what I will play. I say, truthfully, that I don’t know, it depends on the feeling. The first tune is Thriller and the collected zombies and witches throw shapes.

This looks like a tricky one so I retreat to the fire outside, glad there is no wicker, and decide the only thing to do is go with it, get involved. Eyes panda, blood dripping from my lips, I wait for my turn to spin. Emboldened by my new face I chat to community (permanent residents) and weekenders and watch as the night’s revels unravel. Now it’s less like Wicker Man and more like a grown up nursery; a highly charged bunch of kidults letting themselves go, dressing up, acting up, jumping, shouting, flipping and flopping, taking all escape routes from society’s shackles. There are social workers and care workers, IT consultants and full time fathers, feeling some kind of free, away from the numbers, out from behind the screens, far away from the everyday, having some serious fun in the countryside. For this lot Puravida is an alternative family, another home away from home. And they don’t seem too hung up on following the guru; and they don’t seem to mind if you do or don’t take part in the activities, as long as you’re fine and you have a good time. And in the end, after the set, sitting on the sofas with two witches and a zombie called Gary, it makes as much sense as the real world – the financial crisis, facebook, two for one deals on car insurance and all the rest of the nonsense noise that is a constant in modern urban living. And although I wish they had a better soundsystem; though I wish I could wear the green hair wig for longer without sweating; though I wish I could spend time in the yurt sauna without my make-up running; I feel lucky to yoyo out of London to places like this, see some bloody friendly faces and share my music with them. Because here is a place where the link between providing the service and getting the money is less obvious than it is in the city; where the question is more likely to be how are you than what do you do; a place less brutal and frantic and angry and uncaring than places I am used to. This is some kind of precious, a revellers’ return. Now come here and give me a hug.

Walkman – the end

29th October 2010

It’s official, the last ever Walkman is about to limp out of Sonycorp’s factory. Then the little portable cassette wonder will be consigned to gear history. Cue nostalgic blog about the joys of wandering round Croydon on a grey November day some time in the early 80s with my first cassette pet slung over my shoulder (yes it was the size of a small girlbag), listening to Brian Eno’s Music For Airports and getting all ambient on the Saturday afternoon shoppers, feeling even more like some kind of alien visiting earth than normal (and that was very much the usual feeling at the time).

Or running for the train from Redhill at 11:11 listening to A Certain Ratio’s The Graveyard And The Ballroom, sure that the future would be angular and angry and kind of cool looking shiny and green, just like the plastic pouch that contained the cassette that contained that oh so liberating music. Cue searches for cool looking and rather kitsch retro Walkmen to accompany this piece. At the time, I remember, some commentators used the Walkman as a metaphor for the selfish 80s. Where before people had shared their music with each other on boom boxes now they would selfishly keep their choices to themselves and walk around in a self-centred personally soundtracked dream world, removed from the gritty reality of the streets, separating themselves from community and real life. Now, of course, though the cassette Walkman will be no more, the idea of walking around in a self absorbed dream listening to music on headphones has become completely normal, almost compulsory on commuter-time tubes and trains. And the idea of living in a virtual world, away from real people? We’re doing it now, and spend far too much time in that other world.

And sharing music? Well, the beat box is due for a revival for sure, especially as it could replace today’s favourite sharing method, the tiny, tinny speaker on a mobile phone. Where’s the fun in listening to dubstep at low volume with zero bass? I’d much rather listen to a massive bass heavy boom box on the top of a bus, even if was playing Leona Lewis or some god-awful sick making pop r&b, than the hiss and pop and whine of the mobile phone. So has much changed since the first Walkman strutted out of the factory onto the British high street? Not really. We still love and treasure our music. We still like to indulge alone and share it with friends. The formats have changed and so have some of the sounds, but the music still makes us feel – good or bad, angry or sad, but definitely alive.