What is clubbing really, except a room with some people dancing to beats? I’ve been going out to clubs for longer than I care to mention and, with the exception of maybe the odd haircut, or the gradual narrowing in trouser width, I can’t say things have changed a lot since the mid 90s. Whether the music has even changed is up for debate.
I will admit to experiencing a brief zingy moment of shock back in May when a girl took a pee in the urinal beside me in the Berghain loos – I hadn’t seen that before- but having (a bit too hastily) put the old chap back in my trousers (making a small map of South America on my keks) whilst muttering “bloody Germans” under my breath, I’d chalked it up as experience by the time I’d walked back into Panorama Bar. It’s not jaded of me to posit the statement: no-one expects to be surprised when they walk into a club anymore.
But Saturday 19th September 2015 will go down in history for me as the day that Jimmy Asquith redefined the possibility of performance and what clubbing can mean. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the last ever event to be hosted at Kraak; with the exception of Ste Spandex, I hadn’t heard of anyone on the bill but was promised a night of “dopamine-drained murk, luxury acid experiments and degraded tape hiss”.
As I walked into Kraak (new name: AATMA), the DJ was playing some drone followed incongruously by a bit of boogie. Up next was Space Afrika live – a couple of guys and some hardware. As they got on their drum machines, there was a very noticeable change in the clarity of sound coming through the system – everything was nicely separated and things started grooving along nicely.
Space Afrika slowly built a set of ‘backs off the wall’ techno that perfectly opened things up for our headliner, Jimmy Asquith, who immediately started laying down the “dopamine drained murk” and “degraded tape hiss”. It sounded like I was listening to a set from outside a house party where techno was being played on knackered speakers with all the levels in the red. Then he started turning the deck off so the record slowed right down to a grinding halt before playing it at the right speed again. He did this repeatedly. This DJ was throwing the rule book out the window.
At one point in the middle of a conversation something about the music piqued my interest: Asquith was playing a very avant-garde record that sounded like it featured the same two bars skipping over and over, as if it had sampled a record skipping. I looked around, people were still dancing, or at least trying to dance, to a skipping record, with nobody on stage. An audience member (or possibly a bit player in Asquith’s surreal Brechtian commentary on club culture) had noticed that Asquith had collapsed on the floor, as if he was pretending to be in a K-hole or something. The cavalier punter jumped onstage to take over.
This brave random from the crowd pushed the needle on on the skipping record, grabbed the next record at hand from Asquith’s bag, and attempted to mix it in while one of the promoters enquired, with some agitation from the side of the stage, what he was playing at?
People in the crowd watched this brilliant piece of theatre open-mouthed. Then in a piece of inspired performance art, the bouncers picked Asquith up off the floor and unceremoniously threw him out of his own headline gig! Thank you Natural Sciences and Jimmy Asquith for redefining the possibilities of performing dance music.
– Jack Carolan