An Introduction: To a fine young crop of new musicians and poets of London
24 Aug 2009
“you feel a someone push in beside you and spill more of that gin and tonic, and are about to cause a scene, when you realize it’s actually your date (a rockfeedback writer, no less) who apologizes profusely for keeping you waiting and spilling your drink, and you immediately fall for her charm and smile it all away…”
You’re in Soho.
You’ve just come into the French House but it’s a bit busy, because it’s always busy, but especially so because it’s a Friday evening and everybody’s coming and going, and you feel like you’ve seen half the crowd before.
No, you are not a hooker, and you don’t just recognise them because they’re your clients. You’re not just back from Secret Garden Party either – though you’d be forgiven in thinking you might have seen those faces in the midst of that musical haze. You rack your mind, wondering where you’ve seen all these people – on the television, maybe? In the Guardian? In the gutter? … But you can’t quite place them. You can’t quite place yourself, either.
You stand near the door, looking around and feeling a little obviously alone. You’re starting to think your date has stood you up. It’s getting all hot and stuffy in here and you’re feeling a little bit faint. Maybe buy some crisps? But there’s a crowd at the bar – probably not worth it. You keep looking and wondering. Someone once told you that if you stand in here for half an hour, you will see everyone you need to see, all crammed into a few square metres, all beady-eyed, all drunk. But as they knock a bit of gin on your jacket, you’d rather be alone. You’ve seen it all before anyway…
You feel a someone push in beside you and spill more of that gin and tonic, and are about to cause a scene, when you realize it’s actually your date (a Rockfeedback writer, no less) who apologizes profusely for keeping you waiting and spilling your drink, and you immediately fall for her charm and smile it all away… Then she buys you another drink, gives you a big hug (you must be looking miserable) and introduces you to some of these fine faces you could have met before but haven’t.
It turns out, in fact, that by chance a crowd of brilliant up-and-coming musicians and poets happen to be here, and luckily for you, your date knows them all. One more gin inside you, and you’re a proper socialite all of a sudden.
First up is a charming young man called Jake Karno (née Myerson – long story) who tells you that he’s in a band called The Mockingbirds before breaking into tune. He is pretty brilliant and your date tells you later that she met Jake at a secret Babyshambles gig that, true to form, Pete Doherty never showed up to. Everyone was gurning on coke which was rather tedious, she recalls… So Jake broke the cocainéd atmosphere by playing Strokes and Dylan covers and some of his own tunes, into the early hours. Your date loved it.
He breaks off for a moment to say that he’s looking for a new bassist but will be playing more gigs in October, and then starts playing a lovely song called ‘Trouble’, which fills you with romantic sensibilities. You want to be his groupie already…
As you are daydreaming, you notice a man in the corner, who nearly turns you homosexual, such are his dashing good looks. Your date notices and says, “Don’t even think about it – he’s straight... At least I think so… Yeah pretty sure…”
She goes on to explain that this young writer, Gavin James Bower, has just published a novel called Dazed and Aroused that exposes the taunting superficiality of the fashion industry in taut, moving prose… You always judge books by their covers, which works to Bower’s advantage.
Trying to distract you, your date now points out two musicians talking close by:
“That’s Wolf Gang in the corner. We went to the same school in Scotland… I last saw him right here actually… In the summer, when he was sitting on the pavement outside this pub… In fact I always meet Max – that’s his real name – Max McElligot – on Dean Street. A year ago I was just walking by when I heard this beautiful song. And it was so beautiful I went and knocked on the door to find out who it was… Anyway Max opened the door. I had no idea he was even in a band, and there he was… And now he’s supporting Florence and the Machine. That’s the last I heard, anyway…”
You are suddenly very excited… You have heard his single ‘Pieces of You’, and adore it – all Berlin era Bowie and David Byrne and a nightime prowl through a shiny brilliant dream. You are a little bit in love with his pouncing, sultry voice. You want to go over. You try to move but you can’t. You’re too nervous.
“What’s wrong? You look terrified…” Your date asks you, and you try to keep cool. You don’t know what’s wrong with you. Pieces of you are flickering apart.
Your date passes you another drink and rolls her eyes…
Then Ian Bruce saunters over with delightful poise. He is wearing a pink tutu and a shirt and tie tucked in, with round rimmed glasses and neat hair. He’s of The Correspondents fame.
“Do you know him as well?” You ask.
“Why yes, I do. I met him at a party last December, where he played a gig. It was a fundraiser to save the now defunct Colony Rooms – and Ian was chatting to Sebastian Horsley. Turns out he had just finished a big portrait of Sebastian. We had a little talk about Sebastian’s reputation as a lothario, and Fine Art, and orgies…” You look suspicious. What is she talking about?
“…Because the venue is notorious for them…” She adds… “And anyway, then he left, and moments later his band performed a brilliant set of songs – somewhere in between Swing and Jungle music, if that makes any sense… It was brilliant.”
“Oh yes, I vaguely remember them from Secret Garden Party a year ago.” You reply. “I was a little distracted by fairies on acid, though, so my memory is fuzzy.”
Your date nods compassionately. “Happens to us all.”
You sip the last of your gin and think it might be time to move off to the poetry reading you have tickets for – when your date falls into the arms of another musician.
“This is Danny Horn– he’s a musician. Play him a song, Danny…” She says, for some reason now speaking in a Yorkshire accent.
You listen like you’re told to, and are being moved and seduced by a song called Finnola… when suddenly your date falls over. She has actually fainted, so moved by the melody.
“Not again!” Danny says.
“She does this a lot then?” You ask the boy…
No reply – someone picks her up and she opens her eyes.
“Why did you stop playing?” She asks… People laugh and beg “Encore!”
But you decide it’s time to go.
No more fainting over musicians.
“You’ve had enough music for one evening…” You tell her. “I’m taking you to a poetry night…”
Your date is about to cry, when you tell her, “Don’t worry… It’s not boring poetry – it’s Joe Ridgwell’s Poetry. You’ll like it… Think of it as lyrics so good they don’t require music.”
She’s not convinced, until you read her one of his poems, to change her mind:
For the dream is a kiss
From a street hooker
ragged city street corner
on a dead
and laughing at the sun
She wakes up from that musical slumber, and (driven by the poem, perhaps) gives you a kiss hello. You take her by the arm. Now you’ve met the musicians, it’s on to the poets. You hope your ears will remember them all, as you walk those steamy sodden streets with your date, and laugh at the sun, who bows down to the night, and the songs and the lines.
Gavin James Bower