One night in Paris I saw a very strange thing. A super kooky horror show, performed by enthusiastic undergrads in underwear. No, it wasn’t some blood orgy of the damned being performed at midnight in the Jardin du Luxembourg (that happened later, after the absinthe kicked in). No, this was a real horror show, The Rocky Horror Show: screened in English, with French subtitles, and ‘performed’ in time-honoured fashion by the students. It actually went beyond causing bawdy snorts to provide snickers that really satisfied.
Anyone who’s been to a similar performance of Rocky ‘Orror or the Blues Brothers (anywhere in the world) would know that it’s an experience utterly unlike watching a ‘normal’ film. At a conventional screening, the majority of viewers are seeing the action unfold for the first time, and the rest can just bloody well keep their fool mouths shut. But the pleasure of watching these cult films, like that of The Young Ones or Monty Python’s Life of Brian, is sharing the recognition through repetition, of knowing *exactly* what’s coming up and being able to quote whole scenes in character: ‘No ma’am, we’re musicians’; ‘We know you’ve got a telly, we detected it!’; ‘I’m Brian and so’s my wife!’ And so on. It’s all about the state of anticip… pation.
Film is full of theses ‘traditions’ – so why haven’t we ever extended this idea to the clubs? Imagine going to hear Jeff Mills Live at the Liquid Room performed so that it was neither live nor at the Liquid Room, but in a small auditorium with a group of people drawn to the event because they, like you, love and cherish these and other classic recordings. We could sell overpriced glowsticks, talc and coke in the foyer. You could even have a complete dance routine worked out in advance. As a matter of fact, I always harboured the desire to do a dance like Public Enemy’s S1-Ws in time with Jeff’s classic mix. This, finally, would give me the opportunity to bust it out. Hmm…
Prog-heads could do listening parties for Dark Side of the Moon, and the Flaming Lips’ four disc opus Zaireeka apparently has to be heard in this way, as any combination of each of its four discs played simultaneously reveals a ‘new’ album. But imagine a club that, like a cult cinema, did nothing but offer listen-ins of classic mixes. Unlike a ‘normal’ nightclub, you’d know exactly what was coming up. No more disappointing internationals past their prime, no more trainwrecks – all killer, no filler. And none of you ‘89ers can claim it ain’t what it used to be. The power of surprise and the sense of an epic unfolding is gone, sure, but in its place is the power of anticipation. That, and a complete displacement of the Ego behind the decks. It’d just be you, your mates, and the music that brought you together in the first place.
This has been going on unofficially for years – at house parties, in cars, among sofa surfers on many a stupefied Sunday. So why not make it official? Before the advent of film, plays and variety shows were the most popular form of audio-visual stimulation (outside the boudoir) – but cinemas offered a way for people to see Errol Flynn’s tacklebox without having to squint, or even lose an eye. In light of the availability of all the necessary technology and a presumed audience, we have to seriously wonder why we have failed to make the parallel invention for music.
Originally published in Inpress, February '07
© Peter Chambers 2007
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