Shyness Is Nice
Going to clubs and bar gigs has been the biggest difficulty, in terms of giving up drinking, it's just so built into the fabric of these events to the point where I skip them if I think it's going to be a temptation. Clubs really are, at the bottom of it, just exercises in getting people into a building to buy and consume alcohol.
But I'm sick of how much of my life I can't remember. It was a surprise yesterday, digging through the Sonic Cathedral website (I was trying to find the playlist for the video loop they used to play in the back of gigs, for CharlieNo.4's #shoegazefriday) and stumbling into the flyer section. I was a regular, back in the day, so I started ticking off the ones I'd been at (pretty much all of them for a 2-year period) and started to have trouble actually remembering *any* of them. Christ - there was the kicker. There was a flyer advertising Erol Alkan DJing at Sonic Cathedral. True, I would not have shown the interest in this, then, as I would now - but it still scares me that I have *utterly* no memory of the fact that it even happened, let alone the messy wine-bottle dregs of after hours at the Legion, deflating balloons and the smell of sweaty leather jackets on the dancefloor. All the nights smear into one.
But the thing is, the alcohol made me fearless - and though I cannot remember those conversations with my teenage idols - Mark Gardener and Sonic Boom - I know that they happened, and marvel at my courage in walking up and talking to a complete stranger, albeit one wearing a face achingly familiar from my teenage dreams.
I walk into Pure Groove, and I'm timid, even scared. I feel totally out of place - old, unhip, out of fashion. I may recognise the album covers on the walls and the songs played over the sound system, but it's painfully obvious I don't belong here. I'm 15 years older and 3 stone heavier than anyone else in the shop. Immediately, I stride into a decently lit corner and propel myself into a leather armchair. In the olden days, I'd drink myself into sociability, or proceed to draw everyone in the place, but I've forgotten my sketchbook, so I pull out a book and read.
Introversion settles over me like a blanket. I'm not even watching Derren Brown, but I'm glued to my seat. A gang of boys assemble on the sofa beside me, all friendly horseplay, but I'm too shy to do anything but smile without making eye contact. Christ, it turns out they're the band. I ache to try out my French on them, tell them how much I like their record, ask if they're playing my favourite song, but I can't quite seem to break through my shell.
A hip-looking couple wander in and settle at the table next to me - the boy looks incredibly like Rory Phillips. Oh wait, it is Roray. I have the urge to go over and introduce me, say "Yeah, I'm that mad person you've bantered with on the internets" or even just compliment him on the last remix that makes me bounce in my seat as I work. But the badness of the Erol forum hangs over me like a black cloud, and I can't work up the courage to do it. I am hopelessly tainted with creepiness and madness and more than a hint of stalkerdom.
Finally, the band goes on, and I am relieved of my thoughts. The drummer winks at me as he goes by "are you ready to rock'n'roll?" I grin at him and give him the thumbs up, wishing I'd spoken to them, they're pumped up for the show and super friendly. Their bassist makes funny faces at me from the stage, trying to make me laugh. I smile back, but I can't quite meet his eyes.
Joakim appears, unfolding himself from his laptop. He's so impossibly tall and thin that he makes his bandmates look like toys beside him. They start with Ad Me, rhythmic thumps on the analogue synth (I think it's an MS series Korg, but can't see properly) and bass, and then swing into their easy, playful prog-disco stomp.
The spell is broken, I am released, I move, I give myself to the music, my sense of being displaced has evaporated for the moment, banished by the insistent bouncy joy of the music. Come on in and party, it tells me. Everyone is welcome here. There's laptop squiggles of texture, chewy progtastic synths and the occasional yelp of indie-boy singing, all underpinned by this swaggering, hip-swinging, octave-hopping disco beat.
Mentally, my inner music geek is re-tagging my MP3 collection, moving them from "scando-balearic" to "microprog" - but externally, I'm twitching, dancing in my chair, squeaking the rotating seat back and forth in time with the filter sweeps of the synth, my toes tracing elaborate figure eights to the hi-hat work. Is it Prog you can dance to? Or is it Cosmic Disco with Prog affectations? Who cares, I love it, this bastard hybrid of things that shouldn't fit together, but *do*. It's the kind of thing I fell in love with Capitol K for - "electronica, but not as we know it - dance music as made by long-haired gods from Planet Prog" - except these aren't long haired god-men, they dress like sweetly awkward geekboys who love to rock out. Or is that projection?
Oh, but what a beautiful, odd, challenging yet strangely familiar sprawl of magpie musical finds to project onto.
One last long, epic, synthtastic cosmic jam, all synth arpeggios and building guitar textures (is this a live rework of Nebula Laughter? Hard to tell) and it's all over. I shout and clap my hands, but I'm back in my awful, hated, lumpish body again. I'm the fly in the ointment, the fat, ugly middle aged woman in the painfully hip and unbearably cool record shop, and I need to leave before I'm outed.
I stop at the bar on the way out - resisting every urge to order a double vodka and coke, knock it back, and engage the sweaty, euphoric boysintheband standing next to me with chat about how much fun their show was - and ask to buy the record. He tells me it's really good, and I keep my mouth shut and nod, smothering that one-bettering urge to tell him "I know, I'm a journo, I've had the promo for months on MP3" - because I know what I look like. My magazine has folded, my DJ residency has been cancelled. I'm just a sad old woman who can't quite find her place.