Kode9 & Spaceape (Esplanade, Singapore, 9 March 2008)

I had left London by the time dubstep nights started taking off, and since dubstep seemed one of the least suitable subgenres of dnb ever for the bedroom speaker experience, I never bothered seeking out much of it apart from the occasional podcast. (One of the differences between 2004 me and 2008 me. I don’t like this difference, but it’s also true that remaining so ignorant means I no longer chafe about Singapore’s lousy club scene.)

So I attended the Kode9 and Spaceape club night in almost total ignorance, which may be why I spent the first 20 minutes channelling Marvin the Martian and whining to Alec “Where’s the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!” Instead of the ribcage-vibrating, internal-organ-displacing bass beats I was expecting, they were just doing the sort of expansive soundscapes that tend to start and end dnb tracks, with little or no beats. I was dismayed. I had come to get my mellow totally harshed, and it wasn’t happening.

Actually, they had just taken the long view and I was being an impatient child. The music built, gradually but perceptibly, to the point where Spaceape announced “That was all just to warm you up. Now it’s time to dance!” As it turns out, I got my earth-shattering kaboom for the next two sweaty, breathless, epileptic hours. And, as always seems to happen with any club event that actually interests me in Singapore, attendance was low enough that there was plenty of space for completely uninhibited dancing.

I’m too ignorant to name any tracks, but I thought they did a great job of playing tracks that were consistently danceable but with differing intensities – we’d get sections where everyone was dancing with total gorilla abandon, and then a section of slightly less frenetic music as a respite. It is admittedly possible that I entered some zone of transcendental bliss that meant they could fart rhythmically and I’d just happily twitch and jerk along, but I do think they did a masterful job of creating and maintaining a great atmosphere for dancing. I left with ringing ears and the “exercise high” I don’t actually get from normal exercising, only from dancing. Thank you Kode9 & Spaceape, first for exorcising us of the BSS disaster demons, and second for reminding me why I love clubbing. It’s been difficult to hold on to that memory, living here.

Ellen, My…Er…Bellen

Ellen Allien’s set at Zouk last night was cruelly short, ending just before 4, and before I’d got the chance to storm the DJ console and ask her to marry me.

Her set didn’t feature as much fembot voiceovers as I would have liked but it was still intensely, braincrushingly good for the most part. And when, during a beer break, I finally heard that wondrous disembodied voice proclaim “You…make…me…go MAAAAAAAAGMA!” I shoved my beer into Alec’s hands, raced back to the dancefloor, and went apeshit. I think anyone who drinks beer in Singapore will understand that sacrificing the first five minutes in which beer is actually cold and not nauseatingly warm should be ample proof of my love. O Ellen! How many more warm beers I would have drunk just to explore unknown trrrashsssscapes with you a little longer!

Still, in almost all respects it was a better night out than DJ T and M.A.N.D.Y. had been the previous night, except that I’d like to suggest to the dude in the striped cap that 1) it would be good to find a dance style that doesn’t involve elbowing people in the boobs and not apologizing, 2) your goatee looks like pubic hair, and 3) wearing the SAME CAP to two sweaty smoky club nights in a row is kinda gross.

Since the night ended earlier than we’d expected, we channelled our mutual lust for Ellen into supper at Arab Street. Cheese-coated chillies and almond spice smoothies are great at any time of day but when consumed while reclining on the cushioned floor of Ambrosia at 5.30 a.m., they approach divinity.

Tiefschwarz (Zouk, 21 Jan 2006)

I must club to house music more often, it’s so refreshingly undemanding. Instead of staggering out after DJ Marky at 4 AM with jelly legs and money disintegrating in my trouser pocket because my entire body was so saturated with sweat, I skipped out after Tiefschwarz at 6 AM, barely sweaty and feeling fabulous. This is why I’m always inwardly amused by (some) Zoukers who talk about being the last people on the dancefloor with a certain self-satisfied air. Grow up, guys. It’s easy peasy.

This magisterial entry at Skykicking goes a long way towards explaining why I like Tiefschwarz as DJs to club to – their “essential crudity”. My preferences in live music, be it clubbing or gigs, always favour extremes of noise, abrasiveness, bombast and weirdness. Subtlety and moderation is for my headphones, and the quiet of my room.

So, hooray! I actually managed to have a good night at Zouk! I don’t have much of an opinion about the recent refurbishment. It still looks as insipid to me now as it did before (inward amusement point #2: when people say they preferred the old Zouk because it was “more gritty”; it’s not that I love clubbing in shitholes but “gritty” is just not a word I’d ever use to describe Zouk), but I must say the new sound system is excellent.

And since Kelly very kindly signed me in (thanks Kelly! And thanks Dom, for Alec!), I didn’t have to undergo the indignity of being age-checked (which never happens to me anywhere else, including cities like London where the average 16 year old does actually look much older than me) or risk the drink coupon debacle that pissed me off so much previously. An added plus was the fact that the club was apparently emptier than usual. It’s pretty typical that the only DJs I’ve wanted to see at Zouk in, say, the last 6 months, are the ones that didn’t draw a big crowd in Singapore. But hey, I’m not complaining. More space for my flailing!


A dinner conversation. Context: Alec freaking out about the ants in his flat, which always seem to traumatize people from temperate countries a lot more than us from the tropics. During the day he’d managed to track down and poison two ant colonies, but had then found a third where the residents seemed worryingly resistant to annihilation.

Alec, ranting: So I bet when I get home tonight there’ll be this little ant rave going on in my living room, with their little ant glowsticks and their little ant dance moves. (Does little ant dance moves in restaurant.)
Me: And their little ant DJ, ANT-hony Pappa! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
Alec: …
Me: Followed by special guests, BUGZ In The Attic! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I’m so funny! Aren’t I funny?
Alec: Why me?

London 2005: Spitalfields, Mass, Nav (on Trisha!), Grooverider

Day Four: Sunday 7 August

(My Sunday photos were lower in both quantity and quality than for the other days – I was too busy shopping. But I’ll bung some in anyway, it brightens up the page. As usual, click for larger versions.)

A Just Married red London bus with open top deck
Match made in London.

I see this on the way to Spitalfields, but just miss the bridal couple leaving the upper deck, unfortunately. What a lovely idea for a summer wedding in London. (It just wouldn’t be the same on a bendy bus now, would it? Routemaster forever!)


Saddest welcome ever.

Yes, for the third time in four days I am back in the Spitalfields/Brick Lane area, which is a bit much even for a Shoreditch twat like me, but it was always such a happy Sunday place that I can’t resist, plus I just have to go to Spitalfields before the fuckers-that-be bulldoze the whole place.


Off Cheshire Street.

As usual, Spitalfields is full of beautiful things, most of which I’m too cheap to buy. The new “(Up)Market” (yes, really) is, thank God, no more upmarket than Spitalfields, and has the advantage of being a little less crammed with stalls and people. Throughout the markets I resist the various epicurean delights on offer because I know that as long as I can hold out till I reach Brick Lane, heaven awaits me in a Beigel Bake hot salt beef bagel. (Lovely photo here.) I end my shopping in Beyond Retro where I find, sadly, that even the British woman of yesteryear is still bigger than me and no clothes fit.

Total damage:

  • A photo-print board for Alec from Tom Shedden Photography in Spitalfields. Can’t find the one I bought on the site, but it’s a close-up of an old black and white horseracing photo mounted on weathered wood.
  • Thingy which can double as a scarf, belt or hairband, also double-sided with lovely prints on either side – £5, Spitalfields.
  • Pacman badge! £1, Up(Market).
  • 2 vintage scarves – £1.50 each, Beyond Retro.
  • Hot salt beef bagel! £2-something, and worth every hot salty beefy penny.

I rush to Ogle Street for evening mass. Fr Fudge (stop laughing) is as powerful a preacher as he always was, and like last year, I savour the differences between mass here and mass in Singapore. Old hymns, none of this meandering nu-Christian pan-pipes tedium that I keep getting fed in my parish at home. A sermon I couldn’t have just made up myself from common sense. No bloody mobile phones going off, no bloody mobile phones going off, no bloody mobile phones going off! I roll my lips and tongue and heart around the small differences in the prayers here – Trespasses. Lead us not into temptation. Became incarnate of the Virgin Mary – and treasure the taste of the Blood in my mouth.

I meet Nav for dinner at Carluccio’s, where I am crushed to find they’ve taken my wild boar ragu off the menu. I try the spicy sausage penne but it isn’t as nice. A few months ago, Nav came to Singapore and broke the news that she was going to be in the audience of Trisha. This of course filled me with absolute glee, and I along with everyone else there at the time who were familiar with Trisha began reciting clichés that Nav totally had to get up and slam the guests with, e.g. “Once a cheat-ah, ALWAYS a cheat-ah!”, “Yuh need to get up and take responsibilit-y for yuh life, innit?” etc.etc. Tonight Nav updates me on this, and as usual, she doesn’t disappoint. Apparently she chewed out the mother of a murder victim for whining on TV about all her problems when she’d never sought professional help. I love Nav so much. My only disappointment is that she didn’t put on an estuary accent.

From here, Russ picks me up and we head for Herbal. Grooverider’s there tonight, and I get in for free. BOOYA! It’s a little too jazzy for my tastes at first, but the last hour is great, sweaty, junglist action. I relish the feeling of being the only yellow skin on the dancefloor (there’s a Japanese couple around, but they don’t dance), although I do wish the three immense black guys in front of me weren’t strenuously disproving that old chestnutty stereotype that all black people have rhythm. They certainly share my tastes in jungle though – Grooverider drops an amazing raggalicious track and they go wild in what I can only describe as an ape-like dance, stomping and swaying from side to side while crouched over, heads arching and rearing with each sway. One grabs the other’s shoulders and they do the dance together, laughing and cheering. If you’re looking for racism anywhere here, don’t bother – it is the perfect dance to that song, and a perfect end to the night.

Do Yourself In (The Arts House)

It’s a pity last Friday’s DYI was only a one-off event, because it had a great vibe to it that I wish I could experience again.

I’ve danced to a fair amount of drum’n’bass in my life, but till last Friday I’d certainly never danced to drum’n’bass on rich brown wooden floors in a building which used to be a Parliament. It’s a little hard to describe the small beautiful stage they had in that bar, and which the DJs played from that night, because I was generally so tripped out from the experience (and the heat) that I didn’t scrutinize it carefully enough. I think it had a sloping, almost mini-cathedralesque, wood-carved ceiling.

The music in the other room downstairs was less to my taste, though I did embarrass myself slightly by throwing a fit when they suddenly played Galang and exuberantly bounding to the DJs to say hello!! oh man I’ve loved this song for the past one and a half years but never heard it played in Singapore till now so thanks for playing it!!

How will I ever become a genuine hipster if I can’t even perfect the art of detached world-weary ennui?

I Summon Up The Power Of Banana Clan

I never thought I’d say this about a Heineken party but Wednesday night was the best clubbing I’ve had since returning from England (August 2003).

Koflow and a local beatboxer set a blistering pace from early on with an excellent set. I’d gone with fairly low expectations of Herbaliser, not having bothered to listen to anything by them since 2001, when I bought and was underwhelmed by Very Mercenary, but how wrong I was. They started with Witness, which I never got sick of despite its ubiquity, and did a well-paced, diverse and consistently danceable set. Not the best I’ve ever seen but pretty much on par with a good Xen night, and that’s good enough for me. They also managed one of those rare “How did I not realize how great this was to dance to before??!” epiphanies for me with Get It Together, which never used to be one of my stand-out tracks on Ill Communication.

I loved the venue (Timberlux Centre) too. I’ve had great times at small beautiful Cocco Latte but miss having space to go a bit mental if the music so moves me. Cavernous converted-_________ venues encourage uninhibited and shambolic dancing, which is infinitely more fun than the self-conscious controlled dancing which is socially necessary in smaller spaces. Also, you don’t even need good music in order to enjoy your uninhibited shambolic dancing. I still have fond memories of prancing around wildly with Nick and Vish at a freezing New Year’s Eve outdoor party in Glasgow – to Azzido Da Bass.

It’s amusing how many of the same strangers I keep seeing at the musical events I go to. “That Malay guy with prominent cheekbones was at RNDM,” I said to Alec. “Yeah, that petite Indian girl was there too,” he said. I don’t recognise many Chinese faces except Joe’s though, we generally all look same to me. I’d like to start talking to all the familiar faces at some point.

Zouk Off

The most positive emotion I can usually summon up for Zouk is extreme indifference, but that changed on Friday night, which was one of the worst clubbing experiences of my life. (Not the worst. I reserve that rare honour for the Limelight on Shaftesbury Avenue in London. If you’ve been there, you’ll understand, if you haven’t, don’t.)

I have never seen a gig get as technically fucked up as the Chicks On Speed gig did. The moment they started it was obvious there was something wrong with the sound. Their vocals were getting drowned by their music even though they were virtually shouting. Throughout the gig, they kept begging the sound people to turn up the vocals, to no avail.

The gig was interrupted numerous times by assorted technical failures. Each time this happened, the club’s DJ would start playing music while the problems were being resolved. Fair enough, but the group shouldn’t have had to scream repeatedly to him (on their too-soft mikes, now getting drowned out by the DJ’s music) to stop every time they were ready to resume.

After the show had drawn to a screeching halt for the second time, the audience had halved. This was unsurprising. Even the way they usually sound on record, Chicks On Speed are possibly too much for anyone with limited musical horizons to stomach. On a sound system that wasn’t able to handle them (unlike the Esplanade’s, where even Tortoise’s loudest, most discordant moments were completely bearable), they could only have sounded pleasant to people who regularly take pleasure in abrasive noise. Thankfully, a fair number of us were in attendance. We stayed and cheered them on, and they made the best they could out of a bad situation.

We headed to Phuture after this, and were joined by two friends of mine who had come along just to wish me a happy birthday. We started dancing, but rapidly became bored with the bland, unimaginative hip-hop that was being played. Phuture was less crowded than I ever remember it being on a Friday night. Perhaps people who know better have finally deserted it, now that places like Cocco Latte are going from strength to strength.

Bored, Alec and my two friends went to get drinks. At a bar that wasn’t in the least bit crowded, Alec was still waiting for his drink fifteen minutes later. My two friends weren’t doing well either. After inquiring about their drink orders, they were told that they hadn’t made any. Given that they had used up their drink coupons on these mythical orders, this was rather dismaying. While discussing this at length with the bar staff, my friends were assertive but never in the least bit disorderly or physically aggressive. Nevertheless, on his way to escort them out of the club, one of the security personnel shouldered me aside and trod heavily on my foot.

To cut a long tedious story short, it took them nearly an hour of wrangling with the management to get their drinks, after which time no one was in the mood to actually drink them, or stay in the club. Since the music in Phuture had continued to be achingly dull, leaving was no hardship.

It was almost amusing. Benny and Alec (on their first visit to Zouk) already knew my views on Zouk before we went there, but once we were in I didn’t actually have to say anything to try and convince them further. The experience spoke for itself.

Uncool Like Dat

Cool: After being horrified at the huge crowds outside Zouk on Wednesday night, fleeing to Cocco Latte to find DJ Koflow at the turntables with a damn good set, and a dancefloor with space to actually dance on. As Ida yelled “This is so good!” for the umpteenth time, and even Alec hippety-hopped away happily, I pitied the foo’s suffocating at Zouk.

Uncool: Me. Espying Taufik or someone who really looked like him, and trying to pluck up the courage to go talk to him the whole night just to say “hey, really glad you won, voted for you lots, will support you in your career, keep it real, booyakasha” etc. and other embarrassingly inane things. At the end of the night when the lights had come on and everyone was on the way out, I approached him as he was chatting to Koflow and asked “Um, are you Taufik?” “No.”

You Know I Got Soul

Mid-week clubbing bad for body. But good for soul.

DJ Krush exactly as expected. Successful evocation of nostalgia for first year uni bedroom. Unsuccessful motivation of ass. Spent most of time drinking alcohol I didn’t pay for. Felt like member of rap star’s entourage. Ghetto!

Original plan to leave at 2. But then Laces turns up. Transfer to Phuture. Phuture motivates ass. Take side trip to Zouk to get space and laugh at Mambo kids. Mambo kids disappointingly uncoordinated. Return to Phuture. End up leaving at 3 am.

At work now. Exhausted, but thank God not hungover. Still intent on lindy-hopping tonight.

And Alec arrives tomorrow! Rock!