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!

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.”

This Is KNN

My Civil Procedure paper was wild. Two fiendishly long questions and 40 short questions in 3 hours, each one of which involved frenetic flipping and re-flipping through voluminous notes and statutes, with an exhausted mind that had gone completely blank. I don’t know why anyone even bothers with extreme sports when they could be getting their adrenaline rushes from doing death-defying examinations in Civil Procedure.

So anyway, after an indulgent dinner at Michelangelo (Me: This panna cotta is so wonderful, it’s solid cream! Everyone else: Michelle, that just sounds really gross), I was reading IS on the bus home and found finally, finally, a DJ at Zouk who I’d bother leaving the house for! Meat Katie! He was there last Saturday. Kan ni na.¹

I have to echo Laces’ plea for Zouk to bring in some interesting DJs and stop being so goddamn pedestrian. I want Diplo and Michael Mayer too. Also DJ/Rupture. Also Akufen. Amon Tobin. The Scratch Perverts. And world peace.

As I do every now and then, I was surfing around to find out how London is, and found out that DJ/Rupture was at 93 Feet East with Supersoul on Sunday, Ty is at Cargo tomorrow, and Eclectic Method are doing weekly video mashups at Herbal.

Again I am reminded of my grim theory that if the amount I saw and did over four years in London is anything to go by, the amount I’ll have missed this past year and over the next six is just…depressing. Then why, you shriek in aggravation, do you keep CHECKING UP ON WHAT YOU’RE MISSING, MASOCHIST? The answer is: because one of my biggest fears is ignorance. I would rather know what’s going on where things actually happen, even as it makes me chafe at my limited options here, than escape back to London years from now and be completely out of touch with everything that used to excite me so much.

In the meantime, I’m sitting at my computer listening to Amon’s Solid Steel Presents and shouting KAN NI NA to a funky beat.

¹ Definition here

Two Firsts And An Umpteenth

On Wednesday, going to Zouk with Esther and Jeremy:

One, the first song I have ever heard about albinism – Forest Whitaker by Brother Ali, courtesy of Jeremy’s car stereo. Fantastic, but since my normal album sources Django’s and Amazon UK seem unaware of his existence, it looks like I’ll have to go to inconvenient lengths to procure the album.

Two, the first time I’ve seen James Lavelle do a decent(ish) DJ set, since in London he was usually only ever a relaxing but dull break from the mad bonecrushing DnB room in Fabric. This must however be qualified by the fact that I’m a lot more starved for good clubbing over here than I was in London, and the fact that after two jugs of cocktails (Esther, bringing the drinks: “Like my jugs?” Well I thought it was funny) two more were ordered without realizing it was one-for-one hour, cue arrival of four jugs to make a total of six.

My absence at my 9 am lecture the next day, due to popping into Phuture on the way out of the club “just to see what was going on”, realizing there amid mashups of Hey Ya with dancehall that I should just have abandoned James Lavelle hours before, and dancing happily there till half three, was somewhat less of a first though.