Stop Making Sense

6th September 2010

I’m going to Split. Through customs a sign says: have you forgotten anything? I want to declare that I have, to my shame, forgotten more than I care to remember. I spend the flight trying to remember some of the things that I have forgotten until eventually I am distracted by the Dalmatian coast. It is beautiful. Like a child’s drawing of a coastline, all squiggly and bobbly with inlets and bays, yachts and mountains, yellow edges, green hills, more than blue sea. From the air it looks like some kind of perfection.

I am in Petracane, a small village, nestled somewhere in a bay on that coastline. We came by coach on a highway across a rocky wasteland at exactly 100 kph. An night here there are six billion stars on display, if you stare for long enough you will see them all.

The Stop Making Sense festival site is on a promontory, on the left side, looking out to sea, of a small bay. The site is small, very small, or boutique as it is fashionably called, maybe 1000 capacity max. So this is a very different kind of festival experience – no tent, no rain jacket, no boots. A festival with no boots? Yes it is possible. Artists and guests are installed in various small hotels and apartments dotted around the bay, the organisers in the laidback, cool Villa Liscia. The atmosphere is intimate, friendly, very calm. The weather is perfect, warm enough to swim in the sea and sit in the sun, but not hot enough to be sweaty and burning. Petracane is a fishing and farming village, people have been fishing and farming here for at least 900 years. There are a few cafes, a bread shop, people selling vegetables at the side of the road, a bus stop and a little harbour, and those holiday houses and apartments, dotted along the rocky coastline. There is no hint of fancy, poncy, stupid city values. A really expensive handbag and big shades mean nothing here. I’m just going for a little swim before my set. Really, this is the life.

It’s time, and today I am official warm-up man. First set is round the back of the Tiki bar, in the booth build next to the little lighthouse.

On two sides there is just the sea, in front of me the dancefloor. For the techies, all the systems are Function One. For the non techies, that is a good thing with lots of bass and clear, clean sound.

Because it’s early (I play 13:00 to 16:00), there’s more lounging than dancing so it’s reggae, dubstep, slo-mo disco and Balearic, sunny music for snoozy people. I could play here all day, easily. I think this booth beats the one on Sa Trincha in Ibiza for the best location ever, with the added advantage of an adjacent wooden dancefloor. This is some kind of DJ heaven.

After this set there is another on the main stage, again warming things up, then back down to the beach, whisky and coke in hand (I said I wouldn’t drink today but it didn’t work out thanks to some friendly intervention) for Radioclit. They really work it with their Afro disco bass drop stylings as the sun falls into the sea in slow motion.

Alfred Hitchcock declared that nearby Zadar had the most beautiful sunset in the world and, well, with the clear water and all those islands and rocks for the lights to bounce off he did have a point. Again, I don’t want to burst the Ibiza myth bubble, but this really is spectacular. A shame perhaps that the Radioclit boys don’t make more of the moment, but the crowd do.

As the orange dips into the water more and more people jump into the sea and swim out to meet it. They congregate about 200m out, safe together, aware once in the water, expending energy, that swimming into the sunset is as beautiful and futile as chasing rainbows. As the last slither dips behind the islands there is a cheer from the dancefloor and the Icarus-like swimmers give up their quest and return one by one, to carry on dancing. This is certainly some kind of beautiful and I am already thinking about my return and booking a sunset slot for next year.

The night is all about Barbarella’s, an Italo disco style club, built in the 70s.

It is perhaps the most perfectly formed small club anywhere in the world, all swirls and circles in concrete and orange and brown, like a dream of lost times, like the inside and outside of a seashell or a human ear. Ghosts of wannabe Bryan Ferry playboys float around the dancefloor humming love is the drug until they bump into the stage, a later addition but built with some sympathy, next to the concrete DJ booth.

To the right a door leads to the inside coil, you follow a curling corridor, like walking into the ear, for more club perfection. An area with stools for standing and meeting people, then the bar, then, still on the curve round the central circular dancefloor, two rows of booths, already filled with more Kodachrome faded ghosts of local big shots and gangsters from another time, arms round that evening’s honeys, nodding appreciatively to the latest hit from Italy.

Slowly the club fills with festival-goers and locals from 2010, less stylish but perhaps more enthusiastic. Then, boom, it’s darker, the club is sliced by lasers, the beats crank up past 140bpm and I am pinned against the brown vinyl seat, hands clinging to the formica table, kind of hypnotised, half-cut and drifting tired.

Then I am walking up Put V to Pirat Apartments, fitful sleep, van journey through the mountains and the sun rise to Split and the inevitable airport lounge.

I realise I have forgotten to mention Django Django’s alternative dub pop; The Very Best, who we renamed The Quite Good because it was DJs and singers, not the full Afro-beat live experience we expected and Jack from Friendly Fires and his most excellent choice in house music.

And the stars. Did I tell you about the moon and the stars?

Take This

31st August 2010

Nottingham to Notting Hill. A Quick trip to the East Midlands by funky hairdryer and another to West London by bike. Again, I play, I dance, shoot, collect a few simple images that somehow symbolise the state of our nation. In Nottingham we see the classic pedestrianised shopping street, emptied of people when the retail day ends; empty of real human spirit, life and energy all the time; scary with groups of boys, drunk beyond reason, because they think that’s what boys do, shouting at fat girls with pink plastic phones and pink plastic nails and peroxide straw hair and tiny trotters, wondering why they can’t get a shag. In London, for two days only, the street becomes the party. One million people, 50 sound systems, all that bass and so much love as the Carnival celebrates 64 years of demonstration, music and roots and culture. As we celebrate the wonderful eccentricity and creativity and diversity of humanity in the city. As we think of the future, the possibilities and the probabilities.

Take this: The church of alcohol, the local spiritual centre becomes the local spirit seller as Pitcher & Piano, the bar chain, take over an old church. Who needs religion when you’ve got booze?

Take this: The English flag, the proud cross of Saint George, the red and white, in all it’s glory, 2010 style.

Take this: Music in the streets, love is the message, street corner classics on the decks, sunshine in our hearts, the biggest free street party in Europe, sometimes, maybe, music is the answer.

Take this: New moves on the tarmac dancefloor. In this year’s sound clash in our preferred area – Good Times vs Aba Shanti vs Sancho Panza, it’s Aba Shanti that comes out on top. More bass power, more sunshine energy. Wave your flag, wave your flag.

Boom, Raw Power

29th August 2010

Welcome to the drunk nation, Bank Holiday bar wars, Hoxton mayhem, Dray Walk delirium. Welcome to wild scenes at the Big Chill Bar, dancing and jumping and drinking but mostly drinking, bar three deep all night, improvised dancefloors all over the shop. I forgot to take pics of the people again, so I hope a bicycle, a bagel and a beer bottle will satisfy your image craving. And inbetween mixes and sips of Innes & Gunn (it’s sooooo nice, honestly) I was talking to Tom and we were saying:

There’s something happening in London City, a new feeling that feels like an old feeling. It’s starting to feel like the 80s again. You know, before acid house – Thatcher (it still makes me shiver just to type her name), unemployment, hard times, everything kind of rubbish, no proper clubs, no money. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of, or should that be behind, myself.

There’s something happening in London, there are hardly any proper clubs left, all the action is in bars, early, sort of dancing and a lot of drinking. The breweries have won the battle with the dealers for the hearts and minds of the 20 and 20 somethings, Blair’s babies, the ones who grew up with cheap credit and cheap flights and easy access to education and healthcare and everything, lots of luxury clobber and handbags and jobs and all those things that came so easy that they took them for granted. And they are here now, still doing it, getting pissed like there’s no tomorrow. They’re still docile and drunk and don’t realise that they are about to be hit by a very large and extremely heavy lorry with Double Dip Recession painted in big red letters down the side.

And that’s why it feels right to play The Specials and Madness again, because the hard times are coming back. I remember it, of course, it feels familiar. For generation credit it’s going to be a shock. But it is the boy W’s generation who will be hit hardest, hard enough for them to fight back; his generation who will get angry that they can’t go to college, can’t get jobs, can’t get credit, can’t get respect from the old people in charge; can’t make sense of the old people who screwed everything up, spent all the money then got them to take the consequences; can’t understand this lot who go out and get drunk like nothing’s happened. It will be his generation who will make the change, make new stuff happen, shake things up, go punk, go renegade; his generation who will hit the coalition with boom, raw power, right in the bollocks, where it hurts.

Singing: all I wanna do is boom, click, kerching, and take your mo-ney.

Welcome Home

28th August 2010

Blue skies over London and my first visit to Stamford Bridge after the Summer break, for a not very taxing game against Stoke City. It feels like coming home. I’m disappointed that the beer has changed, though I never liked the old one and they all taste the same anyway. But the Zigger-zagger man is here in full throaty voice (there’ still only one of him too). Alex, in the row behind, is as grumpy as ever, even though we win, comfortably, 2-0. Alex, on the pitch, is solid and dependable and, even though not so Super Frank misses a penalty, as the final whistle blows and we discover Tottenham have gone down 1-0 to Wigan, at home too, everything is, for a few moments at least, in it’s right place, and life feels organised and under control and simple and fine.

Dales Dubbin & The Nylon Aesthetic

27th August 2010

Searching for a new aesthetic, a new sound for the album after Feel Free Live Good. Inspiration comes from funny places, the boy W writing – Suicide – Dream Baby Dream in my Moleskine, leading me to buy it leading to a new track called Dream Baby Forever. The scratches on my boots needing a little polish leading to the hardware store leading to Dales Dubbin. New York, London, Dub, not sure where the Dales come in yet but I’m sure it will become clear soon enough.

PS, the boots looks like new, all shiny and ready for action.