In the evening I went to The Zodiac to see my mate Emma and her co-star Tim being Science Never Sleeps. I turned up early, having previously arrived at Zodiac gigs an hour after the doors opened to find I'd already missed a support band. This time, however, it was half-an-hour with just me, the bar-staff and an experimental and often somewhat punishing soundtrack. When Tim turned up I chatted to him while he charged his laptop, though he didn't recognise me at first as my hair had been several inches longer ('Stone Roses long' is how he described it) last time we met. I'd decided apropos of nothing to give up drinking, so I sipped my lime and soda and eyed up the tank full of bondage barbies. There used to be real live fish in that tank, set into the wall between the dance floor and the band/cocktail area. They showed remarkable fortitude given the full-on nature of some of the bands that they swam through (unless they were quietly replaced after every gig...) but have now been swapped for something just as fun without the uncomfortable frisson of animal rights abuse. No-one who's seen cleanskies' room will be unfamiliar with the sight of a vignette composed of barbies and kens in unusual costumes and compromising positions, but the barbie tank is still great fun. One gets the impression that real love has been lavished on the costumes (tiny duct tape hotpants! Ken in a blonde wig with a white Marilyn Monroe dress!) and that great fun has been had posing the figures. When cleanskies showed up with Damien, she was able to confirm that the diorama had been different last time she'd seen it, so it seems that these dolls are no sterile decoration, but somebody's public art installation/toy box. Excellent.
The first band on were The Moderns, who were really rather good, all electronic walls of immersive sound. My favourite track had a bass-loop containing one note that was apparently the resonant frequency of my chest cavity, so though I was slumped in my jacket in the corner, my internal organs were dancing... Next up were Science Never Sleeps, in their first proper gig. They are Emma on violin and Tim (ex-Eeeblee) on laptop, guitar and occasional vocals. They played all four songs from their demo (which I will happily lend to you, and they will probably even more happily sell to you for a couple of quid) and one new one, and they all sounded great. Perhaps the violin got a little lost at times, but I wasn't certain whether that was dubious sound balancing or intentional. They're certainly very fond of having rhythms and refrains sliding in and out of sync with each other, giving each track a really rich, layered sound that bears repeated listening. Occasionally they seem about to be swamped by the samples and loops and disintegrate into sound soup, but they always pull back from the brink by drifting into a pattern subtly enough that it feels like its been there all along. It's such a relief when your mates' art turns out to be actually really good, isn't it?
We left the gig early. Though Delicate AWOL started well, it gradually became clear that though what they were playing sounded like a promising intro to a song, it had meandered on for 15 minutes without actually delivering on this promise, and they were, in fact, some sort of prog-folk collective. cleanskies was very much not in the mood, and Damien and I agreed that it was probably best just to leave them to it... I popped back to their house for a bit, but checking my email over a much-needed warming cup of fruity tea, I discovered that Tom (~A Anderson) and Niall (
I was quite tired, and my alarm goes off at 6:30 in the morning so I wasn't necessarily intending to stay until the bitter end (2am), but those accursed DJs just kept playing good shit. It was an unusually mosh-prone crowd this time, at least judging by the state of my body the next day (bruises on my arm, shins, knees, and the top of my feet, plus a slightly swollen lip). A couple of the guys there seemed to be discovering the joys of leaping about like a fucking maniac to good music for the first time, and did so with a creditable if somewhat unnerving disregard for themselves or their surroundings. Still, though I'm no slam-dancer, but when they play Electric 6, or The Pixies or Nirvana for example, it would take a stronger man than I to keep from bouncing up and down a bit...
That night, Tom and I bore disturbed witness to Niall's power to cloud women's minds. The three of us were cutting a rug on the dance-floor when my heightened senses detected a rather attractive young woman who seemed intent on infiltrating our manly group. On closer inspection, she gave every impression of being slightly concussed but for the single-mindedness with which she sought out the lanky, teetotal and innocent-seeming Niall. Poor Niall has apparently yet to learn to control his abilities, as he attempted to escape her attentions, to the extent of mouthing 'Help me' over her head to Tom and I. Sadly, we were both too amused to offer any assistance, and what were we supposed to do anyway? Throw ourselves on top of her to shield him? Grope him ourselves? We're both happily pair-bonded (to beautiful women, not each other, I hasten to add), Niall's the single one. In the end he successfully saw her off, though so powerful was his effect that she instantly attached herself the next tallest person in the room and remained in place for the rest of the evening. Ladies beware, his twinkling eyes, his floppy hair...
Looking around the place, I was struck by the diversity on display. Ages probably ranged from 17 to 30-something, and dress from jumpers with cords and suits with ties to full-on leather and fishnet gothery. As well as the normal indie-kid uniform of jeans worn with a t-shirt (loose for the guys, tight for the girls, logos of anything bar a clothing manufacturer for both) I saw women in loose ties a la Avril Lavigne; one in a white shirt, black tie and black velvet jacket in a sort of Men in Black stylee; guys in 'sports casual' or baggy hip-hop jeans and hooded tops, and, of course, that one guy in the purple UFO wig and skirt (legend has it* that there will always be at least one transvestite at Panic, and should that person ever stop coming and not be replaced, the indie night itself will crumble and die...) There also seemed to be more snogging going on than seemed entirely appropriate for the night's style (the couple kissing in the middle of the dance floor to 'Debaser', for example...) of all gender combinations, including a two girl, one lady-boy goth grouping in the corner (tch! Goths, eh?) Diversity and demon dancing notwithstanding, one of the best things about these nights is the friendly atmosphere. Even the people who're clearly dressing to be different aren't arsey about it, and seem to be there more to get stuck into the music than to be 'noticed', there doesn't seem to be any exclusive clique formation, moshing injuries aren't taken personally, and if anyone falls over on the dance floor, even an over-enthusiastically flailing drunkard, everyone nearby will grab them and drag them back to vertical with coa pat on the back. I've even seen an entire mosh pit stop in the middle of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' to help someone look for a contact lens. You know, sometimes I wish that the world could be more like Latino's... Only perhaps a little more spacious, and better decorated.
* i.e. Me, Tom and Niall decided that very night.