A. Woo! My old pal Richard is coming over from Louth and we’re going to see Basement Jaxx tonight.
B. Boo! Richard thought the gig was next week, his car is being mended, and he’s stuck in Louth.
C. Boo! Rock City is packed and I’m all on my own.
D. Someone is squeezing my shoulder. I look round. Woo! It’s my dear friends Heather, Colin and Nina, standing just a few feet away. But I thought that they didn’t go to gigs any more, now that they’re all parents? Apologies all round for not getting in touch beforehand.
E. Nina tells me that the support act are none other than the Audio Bullys. Woo! I like the Audio Bullys. Aren’t they a bit too successful to be a support act, though?
F. About two minutes later, an announcement is made. “Owing to unforseen circumstances, the Audio Bullys will not be performing tonight.” Boo! Roadies come on and start removing record decks from the middle of the stage. Oh well – I only spent two minutes thinking I was going to see them, after all. I can re-adjust.
G. About five minutes later, another announcment. “The Audio Bullys will now be performing, ten minutes after Basement Jaxx finish their set, downstairs in the basement bar.” Woo!
H. Woo! Basement Jaxx are on stage, with two funky & fabulous soul divas belting out the formidable “Good Luck” (one of their absolute best tracks). Behind the band are some of the most impressive back projections I have ever seen: a dazzling quick-fire succession of razor-sharp DVD images, spread over three screens, all perfectly synched to the music. This is going to be great!
I. Boo! The joint is heaving, and there’s no room to dance. Wedged next to Colin on the bottom step to the right of the mixing desk, at least I have a perfect view. Can’t expect everything, I guess.
J. Red alert! Red alert! It’s a catastrophe… Woo! My favourite! And so soon in the set! I jiggle up and down as best I can, as the seething crowd below me goes apeshit. There’s more unrestrained energy & enthusiasm here than at a regular rock gig. Sometimes it gets overwhelming; for now, it’s exhilarating. And the music keeps on playin’ on and on…
K. The Jaxx are pumping out hit after hit – who knew they had so many? – with a constantly shifting crew of five singers (four female, one male) who keep disappearing and re-appearing in new costumes. While the singers all leave, the remaining band deliver a brilliant new track which mashes up the bassline from Seven Nation Army with the acapella from 50 Cent’s In Da Club, to a backdrop of split-second collages of 12-inch record labels from the late 80s/early 90s. Even though they’re split-second, the trainspotter/ex-DJ in me recognises nearly half of them. Could this be more exciting? Woo! “This is the best one yet!”, Colin and I agree.
L. OK, this is getting ridiculous now. People are constantly squeezing past us on the steps, and I’m jammed against the crash barrier, unable to stand up straight. Two burly lumps are standing directly below and in front of me, their backs wedged against my mid-torso and crotch. If I move at all, my crotch grinds into them. It’s not even mildly erotic. Also, I haven’t got anywhere to put my hands. I ask the lumps to step forward an inch. They burble something incomprehensible back and refuse to move. Boo!
M. Unfortunately, Basement Jaxx have now used up nearly all their hits, and are playing a succession of lesser known and frankly inferior numbers. Boo! I’ve had enough of this – time to get some beer.
N. Woo! Beer! It has been remarkably easy to get served with alcohol this evening, and yet the crowd really are extraordinarily, um, motivated. I wonder why.
O. Back from the bar, I take up a new position on the raised platform behind the steps. Ah, this is better. I can actually twitch a limb without crashing into people here. Woo!
P. “Can you keep moving forward please; we can’t see.” “You’re standing in someone’s space; they’ll be back in a minute.” I’m pissing everyone off around me with my mere presence. I’ve become the tall person that everyone hates at concerts. Boo!
Q. And the set is just as boring as it was before. Boo!
R. The polite looking girlie in front of me has suddenly sprung to life, for no apparent reason, and is now bouncing up and down with great gusto. Which would be fine, except that her pony tail keeps flicking in my face, and there’s nowhere else for me to move. Ugh! Poo! Boo! A few minutes later, Heather nudges me. “Has that girl just come up on her pill, or what?” I explain that her pony tail must have beaten the rest of her to it. Maybe it all spreads from the follicles?
S. WHEEEERES-YOOOOUR-HEEEEEAD-AT? WHEZYOHEDAT! Woo! The venue absolutely erupts – hands in the air, whoops and whistles and hollers and general mentalism. I love the raw, almost punky energy of this one. This is more like it! Pony tails be damned!
T. Encore time, and the energy cranks up another notch with the ragga-tastic “Jump ‘N Shout”.Woo! And woo again!
U. Okay, let’s try squeezing in downstairs for the Audio Bullys. Our only concern: the basement area is about a quarter of the size of the upstairs hall, and the gig played to a sold-out capacity crowd. How are we all going to fit? This could be Hell. Oh, no it isn’t. Vast numbers of people are filing out onto the street, and we find a comfortable spot in the basement area. Woo! After Party!
V. Bloody Hell – the Audio Bullys are great! Woo! With just an MC and a DJ on stage, the set is stripped right down to its clubby essentials. Performing nothing from last year’s album, what we get instead is freestyle toasting over a non-stop mix of raw, minimal, bass-heavy ragga/garage ruffness. It’s dead simple, but it works superbly well in the enclosed basement space, basslines bouncing off the walls and bashing us in the solar plexus. Upstairs as a warm-up set, this would never have worked. Downstairs as an after-show treat, it turns the venue into a sweaty club environment, the whole room jiggling and wriggling and beaming with glee. Nina says it reminds her of when she used to go clubbing regularly, before she became a mum. Puts her back in touch with what she’s been missing, and of how good it used to feel. I’m getting the same feeling, flashing back to mad nights at the Marcus Garvey Centre in 95/96…Carl Cox, the DiY sound system…good times. And I’ve only had two lagers!
W. The Audio Bullys aren’t just great – they’re chuffing fantastic! We’ve caught a wave, locked onto it, and have been riding it for nearly an hour, as the vibe in the room continues to build and solidify. Nina and I keep grinning at each other in amazed delight – this is way, way more enjoyable than Basement Jaxx. Woo! Woo! Woo! All the way home!