Archive for July 24, 2011
Now we definitely love the sunshine and coming from a country where it shines pretty much all the year round, living & breathing the outdoors was part & parcel of our weekends. So, having landed in London, we always looked forward to summers in the hope & expectation that when it came to enjoying a slice of the great outdoors, that the weather would be kind & considerate, especially at the clutch of park based & other festivals that we have come to adore over the years. However, with the unpredictability of the so-called British Summertime having rained on many a parade, the Glastonbury festival a prime soaking suspect, gay pride park parties also having their fair share of dampening downpours, we have come to expect that the weather would play a significant part in success & popularity of these outdoor events. Indeed, this year has already proven another one of those, reach for the brolly summers, recent outdoor excursions to London Pride & Summer Rites leaving us wanting for the heat & sunshine we so miss from South Africa, but with Lovebox looming, we were hoping for something a little different, not least that it was our first visit and in captivating company too, the question remaining, did the weather dominate or the event enthral?
Having heard so much about Lovebox from last year, especially the Sunday which had more & more of a gay influence than ever before, when the prospect of partying in Victoria Park presented itself to us, we grabbed it with gusto, the weather the last thing on our minds, rather that captivating company were to going to hold and the magnificent music on offer in the forefront of our thoughts. And with a line-up that included the likes of The Scissor Sisters, Blondie, Kelis, Robyn, Boy George & Marc Almond, the gay perspective gained even more prominence with the involvement of clubbing brands Circus, Horse Meat Disco & Trailer Trash along with scene stars Jodie Harsh, Kris Di Angelis, Tom Stephan, Jim Stanton, James Hillard, Mickey Most & Jonny Woo, just to mention a few. So, when the phone call came through saying “…Matt, get a Lovebox ticket for Sunday, we’re going…” we were booking a place in these prolific park proceedings without the slightest consideration for the climate. However, as the day drew closer, it was clear that we would perhaps been doing more wallowing in the mud than marvelling at the music, but how did our first Lovebox experience actually turn out? and were we left in a mucky mess or in festival fulfillance?
Sunday started with sunshine and the hope that it would be reaping its resplendence on the righteous, yet the reality was that, having been soaked for a significant slice of Saturday, Victoria Park was sure to be much more of a mudbox, yet the prospect of dressing for the occasion not finding our favour, the only compromise being the selection of some heavier trainers to ward off the weather. With plans for our liaison with pals Steve Pitron & Celso Moura sorted and a 3 p.m. arrival agreed, we were however cautious of being caught on route by the now famed “Porridge Woman” (Alyson), although with assurances from Steve that she was waiting in the park, we felt pretty safe as we reached our tube station destination. But we should have known better, as a Pitron ploy led us straight into the amorous arms of Alyson, sending us screaming up Mike End Road, a large crowd of onlookers surely wondering what the heck was going on. However, with a truce called, we made it intact to the park, the Pitron posse swelling to six with the arrival of Pabs, entrance formalities soon over and we finding ourselves sinking into this fulsome festival, also sinking into the inevitable mud box that was Lovebox.
It was then a case of finding our bearings among the myriad of stages, stalls & stands, the temptation to dive on one of the many fairground rides by Alyson, met with resistance by the rest of us, rather the call for refreshments in the VIP area our aim. However, with the mud & sweeping showers taking the focus off the real reason for our Victoria Park visit, the conditions clearly playing a part of many people’s minds, some wearing wellies, others wrapped up in waterproofs, we skirted most of the mud that we could, arriving behind the main stage & to our exclusive arena entrance relatively intact and ready to start savouring a succession of stage appearances as well as other entertainment offerings. And, with refreshments in hand, it was back out into the mud mix of this Lovebox festival, deciding to get those fairground rides out of the way, although following a relatively sedate wheel spin, it was the next that was to claim the first Pitron posse victims, the man himself having to grace his earlier than expected exit, having been well & truly wobbled by the waltzers.
With Alyson & Jess shooting off to catch Blondie on the main stage, we soon found ourselves heading towards what was to become out highlight of this Lovebox festival, as arriving at the Circus stage, we were met with two guys literally diving & wallowing in the mud, a massive impromptu circle formed around them as they played to the crowd and caked themselves from head to toe. However the Circus showing was every bit as entertaining, Kris Di Angelis treating us to a sparkling set that was taken to the next level when he was joined by an eight piece orchestra on stage, simply superb. But with this mud never that far away, we somehow began to lose the will for lasting the Lovebox distance, even liaisons with familiar faces & friends Andrea, Stephen, & Muir not enough to keep is captivated with Circus, a trek back across the park in search of the girls eventually bearing fruit, although with a dash to catch Kelis also signalling towel throw in due to a medication moment, we left a rain & mud splattered Victoria Park to reflect on an outing that had much promise but fell short of expectations.
There is no doubt that this reflection on Lovebox is very much a personal account of our experience, although as a festival there was much on offer on this third of three days, the stars, the shows & the stages that should & could have grabbed our attention. But, as great a time we actually had, not least in the company we kept, there was no escaping the fact that the weather played a significant part in proceedings, the phrase “damp underfoot” being somewhat of a underestimation of just how slippery & muddy the park was. Yes we had fun on the fairground rides, yes we were entertained by the Circus stage & peripheral showings, but we really didn’t do Lovebox the justice it deserved, rather finding ourselves being bogged down by the mud, sometimes literally, so as a result, wandering aimlessly around the park and not able to hang our hat on any particular happening. We highly suspect that scores of people felt the same, while others had a marvellous time making the most of the magnificent music that was no doubt on offer, but we cannot say with conviction that we walked away fulfilled with this festival, while we can definitely confirm that we ended up in a mucky mess leaving us to wonder whether Lovebox will be on our cavorting calendar next year. (DISCO MATT)
While there have always been a small handful of gay watering holes in Vauxhall, it was only when Troy Weir decided to expand his small empire and open up a smart & sophisticated spot right next to Area on Albert Embankment that Vauxhall became a little more than just a cabaret, clubbing & fetish paradise, Barcode very much offering a place for people to meet & greet, socialise & schmoose, as well as drink & dance. And from the very start back in 2006, it pretty much transformed this south of the river slice of the scene, adding an air of acceptance that had been missing from a closeted community that were still hiding behind blackened out windows & covered up club entrances, the opulent glass frontage & signage leaving no one in any doubt that this was somewhere warm & welcoming as well not being afraid to shout a significant statement.
Having pretty much made the place our local from the day of the launch, it hardly seems five years since that enthralling evening when Barcode first threw open its doors, such has been it success and the bread & butter nature with which it settled into the scene. Indeed, not a Thursday would go by when we were down on Albert Embankment, social schmoosing at one of the bars longest running club nights, Industri, the night & (in a way) Barcode very much responsible for our very existence. But the brilliance of Barcode went much further than that, so, along with Industri, it has cemented some of the firmest friendships we have to this day, has introduced us to a wealth of D.J. talent and form many a week, month & year, been a superb stepping stone to club outings across the capital, not to mention hosting some exceptional events in its own right. And when it comes to celebrating Barcode’s birthday’s we have been there with our (proverbial of course!) knobs on, the 3rd anniversary pretty legendary, not least for the images of our prancing that were projected here there & everywhere.
However, as always seems to be the case of late, we find our devotions being torn between events, this last Saturday being no exception as we had made a commitment to Casa Latina, leaving a gaping gap in the coverage of Barcode’s 5th birthday. But fear not, as having taken on the services of our “Secret Squirrel” undercover reviewer a few weeks ago, we once again drew on his support, sending him into the anniversary audacity to report back and this is what he had to say.
“…Arriving at 11 p.m. I was somewhat surprised to find the front bar probably only about half full. So, having bumped into a small bunch of friends, we all moved down into the back room where Gonzalo was D.J.’ing, this bit of Barcode much busier than the other. However, not being able to drink left me a little bit out of sorts, especially as some of my friends were indulging a little bit too much, others also quite sozzled, bumping into me as the bar got busier & busier. By midnight the back space was really full, although to be honest, wasn’t feeling very birthday like, save for the occasional ticker tape explosions that showered down, no sign of dancers, stage shows or production that shouted “anniversary, birthday or celebration”. So, with Lovebox the following day calling along with a Sunday brunch date, I decided to call it a day at around 2 p.m., indeed with no sign of someone, a message was sent saying, “missed you, did you come out of a cake?”, realising that, in stepping outside I may have missed him, that & something else. However, the reality was that, while it was a busy night, it didn’t feel like anything special, the event not building to any point and I walked away wondering what all the fuss had been about….”
Well, it certainly seems from our SS’s assessment that, for some reason, there seems to be an undercurrent of unwillingness of the team to push the envelope with events like this, compared with when the venue opened, it being clear to us that Barcode finds itself in a current crisis of faith, having sold of its Soho sister to concentrate all efforts on the Vauxhall operation, but seemingly letting an important milestone pass with little or no fanfare. Yes, there have been some very positive developments of late, not least the marrying of minds with Area next door, making Beyond’s “Super Size” parties the huge success that they are and there is much effort going into reinvigorating the Sunday sessions which we loved so much, but with the demise of Industri and the disappearance of Soho has left us scratching our heads somewhat, begging the question, where next for Barcode? Well, a reshuffling of middle management is still very much in its infancy and we are expecting great things from the new team, but it is clear that further injection of ideas, of enticements & moreover, capital, is what s required to secure Barcode’s future in Vauxhall. There is definitely a market place for the bar, it is just a question of whether it can continue to survive on the one night in the week that it is busy enough to justify its existence, although all that said, given how much of an important cog it is in the clubbing circuit, we will be continuing to support it where we can and hope you will too. (DISCO MATT)
There are often occasions when we step back, take a look at our reporting and then consider a re-focus, a re-positioning & moreover a re-think, this week being one of those occasions when we find ourselves asking the question, what do our “Best Bites” recommendations actually achieve? Yes, there is no doubt that, in life everyone has their favourites, although there is a train of thought to say that by laying our hat in favour of certain bars, clubs & events over others, we are not spreading the reporting & recommendations love as we like to do. That said, we are only human and as such we cannot deny that we have our favourites, but there is a serious question mark over whether there is room for such favouritism in our broad recommendations newsletter and then whether those “Best Bites” mentions actually translate into a solid recommendation or just a matter of opinion.
So, while we consider our position with regard to our weekly Best Bites & Short Shouts newsletter as it stands, we will be throwing more energy into our “Weekend Focus” recommends previews, these more detailed posts being where those clubs & events that deserve extra special attention, will get the exposure they deserve. Indeed with lots of new ventures on the horizon, plus big festivals coming up, there are some great events to share with you, not least two new club nights in London, Le Boy & Blessed, the forthcoming Brighton Pride weekend, and then internationally, the Circuit Festival in Barcelona & the XLsior Festival in Mykonos. This means that our much missed “Previews” will be back too, as we cast our eyes much further into the future to prologue some of the biggest happenings across the capitals clubbing scene & beyond.
That said, there is still a place for our weekly recommends newsletter, although it does need some re-focus. So, for the next few editions, we will be trialling a new format entitled “Bar Bites & Club Cuts”, very much more in the short shouts style, where we will give equal slots to all, in a brief bullet point paragraph which will detail the essential information and then a link to the relevant websites or ticket pages. This change in focus will allow us to include more, expand the choice and make the newsletter much more inclusive & less favouritism based. So, this is now your opportunity, bar, club & event managers, to let us know if you want to be involved, while you socialites & clubbers can also have your say in this new look newsletter, by dropping us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or my plastering our Facebook wall at http://facebook.com/discomattlondon, letting us know what you think of the new format.
So, keep your eyes peeled for the first “Bar Bites & Club Cuts” posts coming up this Thursday (28th July) and then every Thursday for the remainder of the summer season at least. (DISCO MATT)