Tuesday, January 17, 2006

End of an earache

Ah, mark it, 17th January 2005 is the day that TAPE's torrid tenure at Bristol's Elbow Room came to an end (for those of you not of the Bristolian persuasion, allow me to translate: we got kicked out of our venue). I could rant and rave at the injustice of this - after all, our night made more money for the club than any other, we never really put a foot wrong, and have been robbed of our residency due to an arbitrary business decision. It would be false of me to say that Jim, The Elbow Room's manager, has been, until this day, anything other than straight, encouraging and generous. Which makes our ousting all the harder to stomach. But, like true warriors, we will dust ourselves off, dress our wounds, and march off into the night in search of better things. This is, however, a very personal blog, and it would be decidedly wrong of me not to level some score-settling insults: Jeanette, witchy bar manager that you are - if you ever have children, they will not love you. And that mentally impaired, chippy Turk of a bouncer who always had it in for us - you, my friend, must continue to be yourself, which for many sane members of the Western world is a fate worse than prolonged, degradation-heavy death. There, done. Bitching is true therapy, despite its hollowness.

I don't want our reign to be remembered for this embittered fall-out, though. We will move onwards and upwards, for sure, and I would rather recall in strenuous and unnecessary detail, my personal highs from our year-long reign at the Elbow Room. They asked us to turn it into a sweaty, banging club, and by God we did. I'm a sentimentalist, so for those of you who never had the chance to attend our night, forgive the coming recollection. Here's my classic moments, unwaveringly personal, and in no particular order:

1. Mike Bull & Gareth Watkins's headline set

The naysayers said that an electro night was doomed to failure in the jungle-centric climate of Bristol clubland, let alone a minimal techno special. Bull & Watkins proved 'em wrong. As well as being responsible for some of the hottest mixtapes in all Christendom, these boys know how to DJ, and they did exactly that in high summer of '05, turning the Elbow Room into a veritable Ronnie Corbett of a Fabric Room 1. The pills were flying around, the peeps were bouncing off the walls. Proof that all music, however marginal to the mainstream, will go off when supplied and tended by the right hands and right attitude. The quality of this evening was underlined by the fact that Mike & Gaz refused payment for their services, and the fact that the duty manager (almost) paid us £200 too much. Almost.

2. Carnage's blossoming

I employed him initially because he was one of my best friends, and his love of indie & electronica was passionate to the point of absurdity. I gave him the graveyard opening half-hour slot, which over a very short time he made his own. Through force of exposure, and no small helping of narcotic re-adjustment, something clicked, and he started too see the internal logic of all things electro, house and techno. He brought to this his enviable indie snobbishness. Suddenly he was the best boshing electro-house DJ in Bristol. I remember the set he played when our nearest and dearest couldn't believe what they were hearing - indie-boy hedonist rocking out Booka Shade, Ada and Trentemoller with near-perfect off the cuff mixing. The intention for that set was that we spin together; in the event, I simply turned up the volume more and more, 'cos it sounded so good. Since then, he's overtaken me in terms of disco discernment, as his recent mixes bear powerful witness (see TAPE ME OUT mp3s below), and I look forward to hearing him always. Carnage, I salute you, and should I die an untimely death, carry the TAPE standard far into the future for me.

3. Bank Holiday Party feat. Lazerboy

Easter 2005 was one of our best TAPE parties. Lazerboy, Bristol electro 'visionary' and boss of the now sadly defunct Club Neon graced us with one his finest sets. The atmosphere was fantastic, the music was fantastic, and when he finished with the Glimmers' mix of New Order I thought I was going to cry/feint/die/explode. A boshing support slot from Mixed Business and the best, dinkiest after party I've ever had followed, with Puffin rocking Donnacha Costello in our kitchen well into the early morn. Seminal.

4. Simon Rigg's first visit in May

It was the day I essentially graduated. It was the first guest we'd ever had. I expected him to be any kind of cock. I thought no one would turn up. I thought everything would go wrong. As luck would have it, the Phonica Records boss turned out to be unspeakably lovely, the club was imfeasibly packed, and, above all, he played some of the best records I've ever heard. This was May - a world ostensibly without 'Return of The Zombie Bikers', 'Mandarine Girl', 'This is Sick', 'Polar Shift' and countless other bona fide classics. He played them all. We thought he was the messiah. A night spent chipmunking him into submission, a next day spent ambling around Bristol in search of bucolic bliss. One of the best nights I've ever had, if not THE one.

5. The One Where Nobody Turned Up

At first, it was awful. After a reasonably steady ascent in goodness and business since our fateful inception, I'd never considered that one day only, like, 10 people would turn up, all of them our friends (to compound this disappointment, The Girl Who I Was Pursuing At The Time decided to pay her first visit to TAPE. Great luck.) I apologized to everyone, I felt gutted, I thought - what good can come of it? Then Puffin took to the decks, and by the end of night had all ten people dancing in the most heart-warming show of solidarity I've ever seen. He played one of his best sets, climaxing with Ashley Beedle's mix of 'Weak Become Heroes' and the mighty 'Sweet Harmony' for maximum poignancy. I happened also to take one of the best pills I've ever had shortly before leaving. For those who witnessed my 'comedy' song and dance on the way to Lazerboy's car, you will rightly know that as the birth of Mr Soft. God bless. A killer afterparty at Kelly's too, chewing our faces off well into the next day with Miran & his boys, and fugitive Elbow Room staff with free beers. Safe as fuck, basically.

6. The First One

It was my birthday. I wanted Puffin to DJ. TAPE was born. Enough said. Who remembers when he played LFO's 'Freak'? I fuckin' do.

7. The One Where Puffin Had Glandular Fever

It was my first TAPE since leaving Bristol. Carnage informs me that Puffin is incurably bed-bound for the forseeable. Disaster. But out of disaster came unlikely triumph - along with aProfessor Wheeto lookalike Clarkson, whose blend of unreconstructed cosmic disco went down a treat with the punters, Carnage and myself managed to tag team the night into the (relative) stratosphere...I think we played EVERYTHING we had. And there was that topless drug-ravaged middle-aged dude dancing like a madman all night. And Ipa's horrendous/brilliant party to follow, where Collie famously did his first line. God, it was only three months ago...

8. Matt Waites Take #1

We met him through a friend in a pub. He liked DFA, Metro Area, Lindstrom. He claimed to be a Bugged Out! resident (indeed he was). I thought, look, however good or bad he is, he's got good taste, let's put him on. We put him on. He DESTROYED the place. Seriously, one of the best sets I've ever heard, as Bull, Watkins, Puffin myself and assorted other revellers entropied on the dancefloor to the fiercest electro and most coruscating acid house this side of Erol Alkan, offset with a bit of ELO and MIA for the laydeez. Hell, it was good. I was so overcome and far gone, that when I tried to thank Matt for playing, I just kinda spat on my chin. Result.

9. Matt Waites Take #2

Okay, the skirmish at the end precipitated our fall-out with The Elbow Room - but COME ON. What a night. Matt didn't play quite the blinder he did earlier in the summer, but the place was busied out and he blew the minds of everyone gathered beyond all reason. His opener was the Erol mix of Franz, a good month before it got whited, and he followed through on his promise earlier in the night to 'bring "Yeah" back' - that is, to play LCD Soundsystem's Yeah (Crass Version) to the rapturous reception it deserved now that the world had caught up. I can barely remember the rest - just chunky, squiggly electro/punk-funk/house/techno of quintessentially Waitesian proportions. I do remember him layering 'Geht's Noch' over FC Kahuna's 'Mindset2Cycle', and his classic closer of 'Mr Blue Sky'. The night The Girl Who I Was Pursuing At The Time melted (albeit briefly) - "the best night I've ever had," she said. Matthew, thank you kindly.

10. Simon Rigg's 2nd visit

He set a high standard with his first visit; he didn't disappoint on his return. In fact, he played almost beyond his considerable powers - seeing a packed room of friends of TAPE and Park St debutantes going apeshit to Holden's mix of 'Safari' is a feeling/image/experience I will take undimmed to the grave. No sane person in that room wanted to be ANYWHERE else.

11. Puffin's ascendance

He started off as arguably the best, most tasteful DJ in Bristol. In my biased opinion, in leading the TAPE frontline, he's consolidated that position. We couldn't have done it without him, and with him at the fore, I don't despair for our next project. 'Freaks', 'Timecode', 'Proton Candy' - the list of classic tracks that this man introduced permanently to the lexicon of Bristol clubbing is too large to mention. Puffin, thank you - and get us a new venue!

Thank you to everyone who supported us while at the Elbow Room - friends, randoms, 'heads. in particular: Lazerboy, Al Dare & friends, Graham MB, Mike Bull, Gaz Watkins, Damien & friends, Clarkson, Simon Rigg, Sam E, Kelly, Lisa, Colin, Matt Waites, Jamie, Phillipa, Nerys etc, Murph, Sarski, Rick & friends, Nicky M, and all those who I forgot/never said hello to. I love you all. Don't forget us, we'll be back soon; to paraphrase Fischerspooner, who weren't talking about our departure from the ER -

It's a kick in teeth, but it may be the best thing.x


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