Aug 31, 2021

Wipe that smile off your face: ravers go right wing

Smiley faces - credit: Bob Bob

Have a read of this article by music writer Harold Heath about the UK dance scene's uncomfortable dalliance with the far right. Go on. Have a read. What do you mean you haven't read it yet? Read it. READ IT.    

In the article, he outlines the bizarre phenomenon of the acid house movement being co-opted by anti-lockdown protesters. The anti-establishment attitude of rave culture seems to link all-too-neatly into anti-vaxxers railing against the status quo. Not actual Status Quo. Just the general status quo.

A few weeks ago, I witnessed an anti-lockdown protest in Manchester. The posters and t-shirts were full of conspiracy theory nonsense. Their main symbol was the yellow smiley face. This left me pretty shocked and not very smiley at all.

Obviously, I was more horrified that so many people want the virus to run amok among the most vulnerable in our society, but hey! Don't use our smiley face. It's OUR smiley face. That gaudy vacant fake emotion is reserved for us ravers, not keyboard warriors on day release.

Those Little England Brexiters probably don't even know what the symbol stands for. Peace, love, unity and having fun? They wouldn't know those words even if they were tattooed on the massive snowflake that replaced whatever brain they used to have. Yeah, I can do mixed snowflake metaphors too. I thank you.

Of course, not everyone who is anti-lockdown is right wing. But these kind of protests definitely lean towards a political side. Folks frothing at the mouth about "face nappies" are a virus-filled sneeze away from the grim world of self-serving libertarians falsely claiming victimhood, through to the uber-grim underworld of full-on anti-Semitic conspiracists. Yeeps, keep it light, Fats.

It's not possible to be a clubber and be right wing. Simply not so. I'm sure there are conservatives that go to Creamfields, which totally destroys the opening point of this paragraph. But the very act of clubbing is a political statement. Just ask John Major, whose government legislated against repetitive beats.

As Heath reports: "There are a set of shared values around tolerance, inclusivity and community, born in the very earliest days of disco, that run through the DNA of house and techno that we like to think we all share."

Although the disruption to the dance music industry has been difficult for those trying to make a living from promoting, performing and hospitality, going on Covidiot marches is the antithesis of what the dance music scene should be about.

I would have left my blog post there, but something else just happened. Something awful. And alluring. But mainly awful.

I won't post the video here, but at the time of writing, the internet has been reeling at a recording of Pob-faced Tory Michael Gove clubbing in Aberdeen. Proper going for it, he was. In his suit. You can look it up on an internet near you.

Look at him dancing. Writhing, gurning, waggling his arms as if trying to bat away poor people asking for money. I can't stop watching: I'm repulsed yet strangely turned on. Ooo, flip my second home, Michael. Pull out of my EU, why dontcha.

Gove has clearly done a biscuit tin of eckies and will no doubt be a member of Kicks Like a Mule by the end of the week. What? Oh, right. My legal department has advised me to tell you that Michael Gove has definitely never taken ecstasy and instead spends his days hoovering up crystal meth like any self-respective Tory.


Aug 7, 2021

Backstage with the Backstreet Boys (off camera)

Backstreet Boys messing about on a sofa in front of tasteless curtains

While tidying, I found an old photograph from the time I met pop royalty.

I wish I could say it was a picture of me meeting the Backstreet Boys. Sadly, I'm in the room, but I'm behind the photographer waiting for them to finish this photoshoot.

This was backstage at the Manchester Apollo during their 'Live In Concert Tour. It was late 1996, around about the time Quit Playing Games (with My Heart) launched them to international acclaim. I was a local journalist, and I'd rung up their PR people pitching an article called 'backstage with the Backstreet Boys' in which I hung around backstage with the Backstreet Boys. The simple ideas are the best.

So here I am, off camera, hanging out backstage with the Boys. I have no idea how I ended up with a copy of the photograph. It doesn't look much like a PR shot. Nick Carter with the floppy blonde hair is hiding his face, Kevin in the East 17 hat looks extremely bored, and the one trying to show his belly button (AJ?) was only posed like that because he took a flying leap onto the sofa at the last minute.

I half wonder if I took this photograph myself, although I know there was a pro photographer in the room because a magazine called Big! showed up to take pictures of Nick Carter. He was big hit with teen fans at the time. They set up a portrait station just to the left of where this photograph was taken. I can only assume the proper professional photographer took this pic, and they sent through a copy via their PR people later.

That said, I nearly had the opportunity to take lots of photographs with lots of cameras. On arriving at the stage entrance of the Apollo, I was mobbed by teenage girls. They were amassing like Hitchcock's birds in the vague hope of spotting a Backstreeter nipping out for a fag. On wading through the teenage throng, I must have said something like "EXCUSE me, can you let me past, I need to get to the band, don't you know who I AM?!". Suddenly, I was their easiest access to their pop heroes. They were armed with those insta-cameras that you use for holiday snaps: I immediately had a dozen of them shoved in my face. "Can you take a photo of Brian? Tell them Tracey says hello!"

The atmosphere backstage was quite amiable. The cheeky sofa-diver (or is it Brian?) was hyper, and spent the time pinballing around the room like a terrier on heat. I chatted to Kevin for some time, and came away supremely impressed. Although BSB were a manufactured boy band, discovered by pop mogul and Ponzi scheme fraudster Lou Pearlman, they'd been working hard as singers, and they seemed more authentic than the infinite number of copy-paste Ken dolls that were clogging the charts at the time.

If I find the published 'backstage with the Backstreet Boys' article, I'll let you know. Fancy finding something like this from 25 years ago. I had no idea I had this photograph: until now it had only existed as a memory, mainly of the belly button bloke (Brian, I'm sure it's Brian) diving onto the sofa.

And what horrible curtains behind the sofa. I suppose horrible curtains was pretty much the hairstyle of the time, arf arf.

Further Fats: This is a review of an Aphex Twin gig (2011)

Further Fats: Mark Morrison pumps up the world and lets down my dreams (2020)

Aug 3, 2021

I got the ping!

I got the ping! I am self-isolating. Please can someone deliver to me: (a) glitter ball, (b) party trousers, (c) a phalanx of dancing kittens, (d) Altern-8 karaoke CD. Thank you.

Actually, it's not so bad. I've only had to isolate for five days, and although it's been inconvenient for work, I've had quite a nice time tootling round. I even started rewatching season four of Better Call Saul, which I've previously twice tried to watch and failed.

I should point out that I am well. I suspect the ping came from a bus journey. Stupid public transport. What I need is my own private helicopter, or perhaps a jet pack. Knowing me, I'll catch bird flu from a passing seagull.

What? Better Call Saul? It's great, but I think I was spoiled by season three, which I think was a masterpiece. I should have left much longer before starting the next season. I'm the same with Drag Race. I get so emotionally invested, that I have to have a good chunk of grieving time before finding mental space for a whole new bevy of high-heeled hunks.

Back to the isolation. Apparently you don't need to self-isolate by law if it's just an app ping. But then I don't need to wear a mask by law, but I like to do the right thing. I'm a polite boy. I wear my mask, I don't drop litter, I always say please, and I never swear at vicars. Actually, scrap that last one - I've done that loads.

I finish isolation tomorrow. I shall frolic o'er hill and vale. I shall dance in the moonlight. I shall go to the shops and stock up on Pot Noodles.

Now can you please stop reading. I've got another episode of Better Call Saul to watch.