Patti Smith Cardiff Coal Exchange

Photo: Sarah Campbell

They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes. Given how hard I worship Patti Smith this means I probably shouldn’t even be in the same room with her. The thought sticks in my head like gum on the sole of an expensive shoe as my best friend and I scuttle through raindrops into Cardiff’s Coal Exchange. The lights are low and security minimal. An unobtrusive table covered in tee-shirts suffices for merchandising. “When is the support act on?” my friend asks. Security shakes his head: no support act. My heart hippity-hops. I hate the farce of standing around while two guys in black take an hour to plug in the headliner’s guitar. Tonight is already exceeding expectations.

The stage is small, low, close; we could hop over and perch on the edge. No fanfare, no lights-up-lights-down, just a sudden soft landing of feet onstage. Patti smiles at our delayed whoops of recognition. She opens her mouth and the world breaks open. There is no discernible relationship between that slight torso, overhung with an Electric Lady Studios tee-shirt and a too-big black blazer (red marker pen hooked in the left pocket, as if she’d just been labelling boxes) and the voice that envelops the air. It’s like being run over by a Rolls-Royce.

I’m dancing barefoot
Heading for a spin
Some strange music draws me in

“The look on your face,” my friend says (later). I wonder if the look matched my thought: that I am finally looking at a flesh-and-blood human after a lifetime of watching holograms.

She extends her arms in blessing, evocation, incantation. Girl is washed up on Redondo beach by the waves her throat makes. The mike is a token gesture; a puff of smoke to screen the dark art of her voice. There is a peace sign inked on the left knee of her jeans, like kids did back in high school. It matches the girlishness of her grin. “I went looking for a Welsh rarebit today,” she tells us, “rarebit” drawling out like rabbit in flat American vowels. A man in the crowd calls out an offer – he makes a great Welsh rarebit. She chuckles, flashing un-American teeth: “I’ll see you after the show.”

I want to freeze every instant, turn each note to ice then taste it melt. Lenny Kaye, her musical compatriot for over 40 years, is tucked in the corner, making magic with his guitar. The rest of the band moves in orbit; Patti is the centre of the universe. Dedicating a song to the people of Japan Patti says gently: “We’ve been very cruel to Mother Nature and she can be very cruel back… we honour you, Mother.” It should be a platitude, but it isn’t.

None of the words tumbling through my head are strong enough to hold up to her light: sincerity, energy, androgyny, and the one that comes closest yet falls most infuriatingly short: integrity. Patti Smith is the most complete human being I have ever seen. This is not performance, it is revelation.

She tells a little story about her friend, Johnny, before playing (for the first time, live) his birthday song: ‘Nine.’ “We were sitting at the bar and I said, ‘You’re a pretty handsome guy.’” she recounts. “I’d never noticed before because he’s so radiant that even if he were the ugliest man on earth he’d still be beautiful.” If anyone else told this story I’d think: “Lucky cow, hanging out with Johnny Depp” but I’m thinking: “Lucky son of a bitch, Patti Smith wrote a song for you!” Together, they must gleam like stars.

She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Her face should be carved in granite, Rushmore-size. I strain to memorise the slant of her cheekbones, the swoop of her nose, the triumphal lines that mark her as an elder. “I have Welsh, English and Irish blood,” she says. Someone boos the word “English” and she scolds: “What do you want me to do? I can’t divide myself.”

If only time would slow down. She dedicates a sweet, sad song to Amy Winehouse; whisks us to CBGBs with ‘We Three’; then lulls us with the affectionate rollick of ‘April Fool’. Between gripping my friend’s hand and shrieking myself hoarse I try to grab as many details as I can: the black and silver ring on the middle finger of her right hand; the band on her wedding finger; a charm bracelet on her left wrist; the unbuttoned cuffs of her jacket; the jeans stuffed carelessly into cheap-looking gilt biker boots. Her cloud of brownish-grey hair carelessly plaited at the ends.

Then, sudden as she soft-footed on, Patti slips off stage. The band continues. She’s right there – a handful of feet away, next to the mixing desk. She looks over, smiles and waves. Jaw slack, I wave back, willing, praying, desperate to transmit some of my love and awe. You’re more than a hero. Faces around me begin to take note and bodies eddy towards the slender barrier. She blows a pair of kisses then drifts back to perch onstage between the monitors, heels swinging like a kid on the edge of a dock, un-self-consciously singing along as her band mates whirl through snippets of old standards.

Everything is easy. When she’s ready, Patti gets up and sings again, as natural as a cat rising from a patch of sun and stretching. She joins the band in a fierce guitar jam, notes racing, her free breasts moving beneath that baggy tee. I am transfixed. It is almost unbearable.

Desire is hunger is the fire I breathe.

A man with a pink-and-purple Mohawk grabs his partner and they dance as we throw our voices back to her because the night belongs to lovers. I’m sweating; hot and cold as my last first kiss. When the opening chords of ‘Gloria’ reverberate my heart melts into my stomach and fizzes like popping candy. G-l-o-r-i-a she spells and we’re spellbound. My sins my own/they belong to me.

I refuse to contemplate the end. A girl in a black spaghetti-strap vest with cropped blonde hair dances beside me, golden arms twirling in tribute. The band slips quietly offstage. We stomp, whistle, and holler; please come back, please.

Patti shed the blazer a long time ago, stopped once to wipe her mouth on her tee-shirt. She is at once huge, luminous, a warrior king/queen (beyond sex, beyond gender, beyond binary) and a slip of a woman, sinewy, and not young. Anticipation clenches my heart like a fist. “You don’t need their shit!” Patti cries, raising her arms (prophet, priestess, the voice of one crying in the wilderness) “Be free!” The air crackles and atoms smash as the band launches into the driving riff of ‘Rock’n’Roll Nigger’. The blonde and I scream like schoolgirls. Baby got a hand; got a finger on the trigger. Baby, baby, baby is a rock-and-roll nigger. My blood rushes like it’s late for an appointment.

We wobble out: dazed, high, jelly-legged and dry-mouthed. The engine of compulsion is revving: I must write, have to. But anything I muster will be inadequate to the point of dishonesty. There is so much I want to say: thank you Patti, I love you, hallelujah, how?, you’re beautiful, you’re an artist, you’re a blessing. Thank you.

She is benediction

Related Posts:
Best Songs: Top 10 ‘Signature’ Songs
Patti Smith Woolgathering
Patti Smith Banga

Best Vegan Food – InSpiral Review

Brown paper packages are exciting and a little mysterious, redolent of old-fashioned gifts shipped by post. The neat, brown bags lining the shelves of InSpiral Café in Camden, with their tantalising labels and peek-a-boo windows, are especially reminiscent of presents because you can’t tell by looking quite what to expect of the contents. What on earth are “Reishi Crackits”? How do I approach “Raw Superfood Granola”? And isn’t “baobab” as in “Baobab and Onion raw dehydrated kale chips” a bulbous-looking tree?

Fortunately the best way to tackle these questions is to yield to my childlike urge to rip into the (biodegradable, sustainably produced) brown wrapping and devour the contents. Reishi is a mushroom, by the way, and such a potent immune-booster that hospitals give it to HIV and cancer patients. Crackits are InSpiral’s wholefood alternative to grain-based crackers. Made with almonds, a blend of seeds including sunflower, flax and chia, vegetables (carrot, courgette, onion) and seasonings they are dehydrated into satisfyingly nutty, crunchy sheets that are compulsively munchable. I crumble some over salad to add texture; they are equally delicious as the base for an open-faced Crackit sandwich of avocado and tomato slathered with tahini and a sprinkling of chilli flakes.

The kale chips are even more addictive. Neither baked nor fried, these dehydrated crisps are manna for anyone with a savoury tooth – and yummy enough to make me consider buying a food dehydrator and attempting a DIY version. They come in four flavours, each with a distinctive superfood twist. I try “Baobab and Onion” which is satisfyingly onion-y and provides a hit of calcium, iron and antioxidants; “Cheesie Purple Corn” offers all the umami deliciousness of cheese without having ever been near a cow.

Raw Superfood Granola is also a better-than-the-real-thing experience. I scoffed a bag of the “Chocolatey” flavour (there is also “Loveberry”, featuring raspberries, strawberries and gojiberries; and “Banana Greeny” which combines bananas with spirulina and wheatgrass) almost without pause. It is tasty with (non-dairy) milk but really, too delicious to be a mere cereal. I like it crumbled it over frozen smoothies or sprinkled on fruit salad. Straight out of the bag, it is a satisfying alternative to an afternoon dip in the biscuit tin.

One thing I note is the absence of “nutrition information” on the bags. With their abundance of seeds, nuts and protein-rich grains the granola and Crackits are not “low calorie”. But they remind me that calorie counting was invented after we started eating processed rubbish. When people ate simply and out of necessity, food was appreciated as a source of energy and vitality, not viewed as an enemy. The real gift in the brown paper wrappers is that InSpiral goodies make it easy and pleasurable to think of food in a more natural, wholesome way.

Browse and purchase a full range of InSpiral products – including superfoods, raw chocolate truffles and herbal elixirs – at their website.

InSpiral Café review

Sinner In Me (Villalobos Remix)

Originally published in OWTL issue 47. Posted by Cila Warncke

Sinner In Me {Ricardo Villalobos Remix}

I don’t have space here to explain why Depeche Mode is the only electronic band you’ll ever need, but this remix proves my point. While their contemporaries languish sedately in a bin marked “nostalgia” Depeche Mode is as vital in 2006 as they were in 1986. Jacques Lu Cont made ‘A Pain That I’m Used To’ an essential electro anthem on its release, and now lifelong Mode fan Ricardo Villalobos has turned the melancholic Sinner In Me into an achingly beautiful, minimal, vocal anthem. You don’t get many moments of introspection on the DC10 terrace, but when this got dropped there was a collective deep intake of breath. Dave Gahan’s plaintive lyrics, wedded to an icy backdrop of minimal techno, bear a shiver-inducing poignancy. A fraught mixture of defiance, acceptance, weakness, and longing, ‘Sinner In Me’ wrestles with temptation, redemption, and that fleeting moment when you’re standing on the top of the world waiting for the inevitable fall from grace. There is, allegedly, a 7” promo knocking around… here’s hoping for a proper release


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High Wired

Posted by Cila Warncke

Walking to heaven

Walking to heaven


On a time-killing impulse I went to London’s legendary Prince Charles Cinema yesterday afternoon (my flight home wasn’t till five PM), bought a £10 annual membership and a ticket to the only thing showing between half-one and three: Man On Wire.

Not as grammatically challenged as it sounds, the documentary takes its title from report filed by baffled NYPD officials after they arrested puckish artiste Philippe Petit when he finally stepped off the cable he and an audacious band of companions had illegally strung between the two World Trade Center towers.

“I observed the tightrope ‘dancer’ — because you couldn’t call him a ‘walker'” a sturdy-joweled cop tells reporters in the aftermath. It was as close as any American commentator got to describing what it was Petit was doing 104 floors above the pavements of New York.

Petit himself, a passionate, charismatic, voluble character, gives the most Gallic of shrugs and says words to the effect: I had been walking in heaven and all the Americans could ask was ‘why?’ There was no ‘why’.

It was a grand gesture, life as objet d’art. The documentary interviews, at length, everyone immediately involved in the unforgettable event: Petit, his then girlfriend Annie, his best friends Jean Louis and Jean Francoise, Pete (Australian) and John (American) who helped rig the wire, as well as Barry the ‘inside man’ and Alan and David, all Americans who helped the little gang of French who they – more than 30 years later – still clearly think a bit mad.

The contrast between the French and American Weltanschauung is profound and powerfully affecting. Petit describes his first encounter with the two towers – in an artist’s rendering in a magazine. I had found my dream, he says. That his dream was impossible, life-threatening, ludicrous and (most confusingly for their reluctant American helpers) non-profitable was of absolutely no concern to his friends and lover. Jean Louis, handsome and articulate, breaks down at the end of the film — apparently their friendship didn’t survive the supreme emotional peak of the experience. Annie, possessed of vibrant green eyes, also weeps describing the moment of Philippe’s triumph. She later says, without regret: our relationship ended that day. Good-humoured Jean Francoise, who was deported for his part in the adventure, is equally non-judgemental. Each sacrificed for their friend’s dream yet there is no regret, no obligation, much less anger or bitterness.

David and Alan, the Americans who were briefly involved, couldn’t be more different. Their incomprehension of the whole affair is stamped across their faces. David fled halfway through helping them smuggle supplies into the towers, ending his role in the story early. Alan stuck it out a little longer, but eventually abandoned Jean Louis on the rooftop because he thought it was ‘impossible’. What they saw when Petit lounged gracefully on the wire, 450 metres in the air, it wasn’t art or communion with the heavens — just some daft frog showing off. Watching them, you suspect that if Petit had told them he was trying to get in the Guinness Book of World Records, or that he were being sponsored by a major corporation they would have ‘got it’. If Petit had gone up and waved a French flag they might have understood. Exploration without conquest remains too alien a concept for literal American minds.

Man On Wire ends with the now-60-year-old Petit walking with calm, rapt concentration along a wire. His final words incite rebellion, he says: don’t rest on success, live every day as a challenge. Not against rules outside, necessarily, but against fears inside.


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Mixmag Special: Ibiza’s Best Restaurants

Posted by Cila Warncke

If eating out in Ibiza calls to mind McDonalds, pizza or chicken-and-chips it’s time to spread your culinary wings and discover the island’s eateries. From cosy country restaurants to luxurious seaside fish shacks Ibiza has memorable dining for every taste. From the hills of Sant Rafael to the white beaches of Formentera, we’ve unearthed Ibiza’s finest restaurants. Buen approveche…


Es Xarcu
, Cala Es Xarcu, Porroig, 971 187 867
A case of “more than meets the eye” Es Xarcu is a seriously luxurious (and pricy) restaurant masquerading as a casual beach shack. The clue is in the fact it is more easily accessible by yacht than by car – and in the opulant villas on the cliffs above. Try the meltingly fresh fish, the gallo de San Pedro cooked in white wine sauce is a favourite.
Best bit: Leaning back and sparking one of their expensive cigars while you ogle the floating palaces of the rich and famous.

La Paloma

La Paloma

La Paloma, Sant Llorenc 971 325 543
There are pizza places by the dozen but La Paloma, in the quant village of Sant Llorenc, is where locals go for genuine Italian cooking. Bright, airy and rich in charming details (the heart-shaped backs of the white wooden chairs, the candle-lit garden) it is an ideal peak-season alternative to buzzing seaside dining.
Best bit: If you or your guest is vegetarian La Paloma’s organic vegetable garden and amiable attitude make this an unusually welcoming experience.

Café Macao, Santa Gertrudis 971 197 835
There are two Café Macao’s in Ibiza and most websites still point you to the location at the end of the harbour in Ibiza Town. However, the original owners have taken their expertise and loyal following to the countrified comfort of the it-crowd’s new favourite village, Santa Gertrudis, whose homey comfort is the perfect setting for their refined Italian cuisine.
Best bit: The cosy décor has been lovingly sourced by the owners over the years – every piece has a story.

Sa Punta, Talamanca beach 971 193 424
There is no shortage of beachside nibbles at Talamanca but for the best nosh head past the first parade of snack shacks to Sa Punta, a favourite destination for the beach’s regular visitors. Not to be confused with the Sa Punta in San An bay, this relaxed eatery is situated at the far end of the beach past the salt flats of Ses Feixes it cultivates an atmosphere of intimacy against the sweep of the sea. Painstakingly fresh seafood is a speciality, naturally.
Best bit: Near enough Ibiza Town to have a civilised evening meal before strolling to Pacha.

KM5 Caraterra Sant Josep, km5 971 396 349
The spot for luxurious lounging, KM5 is a magnet for everyone from DJs to disco dollies to minted Continentals. Owner Patrick Soks and his partner Philip have created a 1001-nights meets Eurotrash vibe that ticks all the right boxes. Come for cocktails, stay for elegently presented modern European cuisine.
Best bit: Wallow in the ample cushions of the lounge area while ogling the barely dressed molls wandering past.

El Olivo, Plaza de la Vila 8-9, Ibiza 971 300 680

Catch of the day

Catch of the day

There are a multitude of good restaurants lining the Plaza de la Vila, but Ibiza veteran’s unanimous first choice is El Olivo. Owners Pierrick and Frederic have carved a niche with simple but fresh, lively modern French cooking. If you’re looking for a break from seafood try their lamb with raspberry vinagrette or sample foie gras.
Best bit: Book a table outside to enjoy the fantastic free show of Dalt Vila’s bustling nighttime streets.

Juan y Andrea, Carretera La Savina-es Pujols, Formentera 971 187 130
If you only go to one restaurant on Formentera make sure it’s Juan Y Andrea’s. King Juan Carlos I and Bill Clinton have both visited, but you don’t have to be an upper-crust politician to enjoy the elegant ambiance. If you happen to arrive by yacht they’ll ferry lunch to you, otherwise sit beneath the palm trees with sand beneath your toes as you tuck into specialities like labuna a la sal (sea bass baked in salt crust).
Best bit: Picking a live lobster from the tank and having it end up a perfectly cooked delicacy on your plate.

L’Elephant, Plaza Iglesia, San Rafael 971 198 056,
The sort of place that lures in reviewers from both the Sunday Times and the New York Times, L’Elephant earns its “destination” status with a delicious menus and fabulously stylish surroundings. They serve up incredible food, including some of the island’s best sushi. And if the cocktails don’t make your head spin the stunning vistas from the roof terrace will.
Best bit: Jaw-dropping views from the sexy minimal-chic rooftop.

El Ayoun, San Rafael Calle Isidor Macabich 6, San Rafael 971 198 335
Possibly the hardest-partying Moroccan restaurant on the planet, El Ayoun lost its music license last summer after one too many amazing parties. They’ve spent the winter working on improvements which won’t irk the noise police. As well as renovating the decadent interior they’ve added Vietnamese cuisine and sushi to their much loved repetoire of French and Moroccan classics.
Best bit: Their new Club Sushi menu makes them one of a handful of restaurants where Itsu junkies can get their fish fix.

Casa Colonia, Santa Eulalia Road 07840 Santa Eulària 971 338 001
There are gardens and there are gardens; Casa Colonial boasts the latter. Tuck into exquisite French or Thai food as you sit amidst flowering bougainvillea on the grounds of this converted country-house. Book on a Monday and you may find yourself rubbing shoulders with the Cocoon crew – it’s Sven Vath’s favourite lunch spot.
Best bit: Quite simply, the setting. Be sure to book ahead for a sun-dappled spot beneath the palm trees.

La Brasa, Carrer Pere Sala 3, Ibiza 971 301 202
Fairy lights woven amidst banana fronds turn La Brasa’s courtyard into an enchanted oasis just beyond the bustle of Plaza del Parque. Try the Ibiza sea crab salad, salmon in a delicate langoustine cream sauce or tuck into rustic rabbit – roasted whole in front of you on their outdoor grill.
Best bit: Homemade ice cream washed down with an espresso.

Cami de Balafia, Sant Llorenç, Carretera San Juan, KM15.4 971 325 019
Cami de Balafia is possibly the best argument on the island for simple food done to perfection. All they do is grill meat over a variety of woods including olive, almond and carob, but the results are mouth-watering. Expertly cooked cuts are served up with incredibly fresh salads and plenty of wine. Come in the early evening to grab a seat near the succulent scent of the grill and watch twilight turn to starlight over the campo.
Best bit: According to Erick Morillo, the salad – “I’ll bet anyone a 100 bucks they won’t ever taste nicer tomatoes.”

Es Camp Vell, Sant Mateu 971 805 036
You can’t miss Es Camp Vell because there is very little in San Mateu apart from it and the church, which stands watchfully next to this classic Ibicenco restaurant. You’re far more likely to be rubbing shoulders with local families here than with designer-clad tourists, which is remarkably refreshing. The food is reliable and unpretentious: grilled meats, paellas and fresh produce from nearby orchards make satisfying repasts.
Best bit: Walk off lunch with a stroll past fruit laden vineyards and emerald green fields.

Cala Jondal

Cala Jondal

Blue Marlin, Cala Jondal 971 410 117
Possibly the most iconic beach bar in Ibiza, Blue Marlin is a favourite sunset destination and – once or twice a year – home to the most exclusive parties on the island. Last year Kate Moss and her posse rocked up for Ibiza Voice’s Blue Velvet closing party. But even sans supermodels it’s worth a vist for thoroughly chic seaside dining.
Best bit: Lying on a huge, 360 sunlounger drinking one of their exquisite mojitos as the sun sinks into the sea.

Yemanja, Cala Jondal 971 187481
Rubbing shoulders with Blue Marlin, Yemanja offers a slightly more laid-back, familiar atmosphere than its glamour puss neighbour. Lively groups and extended families decamp around long wooden tables laden with paellas, salads and fresh seafood. With attentive staff ferrying out endless bottles of wine lunch can easily turn into dinner, so book ahead if you want to guarantee a seat.
Best bit: Swinging your feet in the sand as you knock back a glass or three of their speciality cava sangria.

Jockey Club, Salinas 971 315 788
A relaxed yet decidedly chic hangout, the fifteen-year-old Jockey Club is one of Ibiza’s most iconic beach bars. Rows of gleaming white sunloungers stake out the restaurant’s turf, creating a champage-bucket and oyster-platter littered oasis of fine dining amidst the Salinas crowds. Snap your fingers for another drink then lie back and gaze out towards Formentera as the world goes by.
Best bit: A spot on one of the Jockey Club loungers is a front-row seat to the action at Ibiza’s most glamorous beach.

Es Cavallet

Es Cavallet

Chiringuito, Playa d’es Cavallet, Sant Josep 971 395 355/971 395 485
The laidback jewel of the southern beaches, Chiringuito Es Cavallet has been a magnet for fans of beach cuisine for more than twenty years. Founders Cristina and Jose Luis started with a kiosk in the 80s which has grown into a beloved restaurant. Hire an umbrella, stake your place in the sand and enjoy specialities like tuna carpacchio, smoked cod salad or grilled meat.
Best bit: Taking in the parade of fit, bronzed, barely covered flesh parading past while sipping on something from their excellent wine list.

Es Torrent, Playa d’es Torrent 971 802160
Reputedly the best fish restaurant in Ibiza, Es Torrent is a gourmand experience. Owner Xicu Sala built it up from a humble chiringuito more than a decade ago and it’s now a favourite hangout for chic foodies who like having their meals caught-to-order (they’ll take your fish requests when you call for reservations). Eating here may be the closest you ever get to royalty, quite literally, so make an occasion of it.
Best bit: The uniquely Ibicenco vibe of pure indulgence in a completely relaxed, unhurried atmosphere.

Tropicana, Cala Jondal 971 802 640 http://www.tropicanaibiza.com
Completing the Cala Jondal trio is Tropicana, a favourite destination for the yacht-club set thanks to their cheerful boat-catering service. If you arrive on dry land you make the most of their services including speedy delivery of fabulous caipirinhas or, if it’s been a long night/day before, freshly squeezed juices and an ample Mediterranean menu.
Best bit: Their massage service – the perfect way to rejuvenate and prepare for your next assault on the clubs.

Ama Lur, Ctra. Sant Miguel, Km 2.3 971 314 554
Taking its name from the mother-goddess of Basque mythology, Ama Lur is the crème de la crème of Ibicenco eating. Blending Basque-country cooking with Mediterranean touches, it offers hearty cuts of meat, fresh cheeses and splendid homemade puddings. And it’s been voted best restaurant on the island for three successive years, by its competition.
Best bit: Enjoy its intimate, country-house setting in the garden overlooking nearby orchards.


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Ibiza Voice: Green Velvet – Welcome to La La Land


Green Velvet @ Portland, OR

Green Velvet @ Portland, OR

If there ever was a time and place dedicated to stamping out the vestiges of party culture it is 21st century USA. In a nation where you can’t drink till you’re 21, where bottled water is considered drug paraphernalia and where electronic music promoters can be indicted under the same laws as people who run crack houses there isn’t a hell of a lot of leeway for having fun.

Sure, there is Pacha and Cielo in New York City, Chicago’s Crobar & Vision… a handful of big name clubs pulling glamorous crowds and A-list DJs. But what about everywhere else? Despite the obstacles, there are still brave promoters and music freaks who occasionally pull off a coup like luring techno legend Green Velvet to a small-time rave in an industrial corner of Portland, Oregon (pop: 500,000; biggest musical exports: the Dandy Warhols and Beth Ditto). This coffee-fuelled hippie haven happens to be my hometown, and I wasn’t about to miss a chance to see what happens when techno stars meet barebones raving.

One thing to know about partying American-style is that you’ll rarely find good music in a legitimate club. You don’t dress up to go out on a Saturday night so much as layer up, because chances are you’ll wind up wandering through freezing cold railway stockyards (or forests, or fields) trying to find the sound system.

After a false start that takes us across the path of a slow-rolling freight train loaded with desert camouflaged military jeeps we finally find a corrugated steel warehouse with a flickering sign outside reading On Air. A pair of guys in black parkas – one fat and bearded, the other rangy and pony-tailed – wave us in and another lanky kid standing behind a folding wooden table takes our 20 bucks entry fee. Even in the ostensibly free atmosphere of a semi-legal rave there are rules in abundance. Half the barn-like space is cordoned off to form a bar (more plywood tables and a cheap metal rack full of spirits) – you have to show ID to get in here, and once “inside” you can’t smoke. You also can’t carry any alcohol back onto the dancefloor, meaning those of us relying on vodka to keep warm have to make repeated trips between the two. Here, having a huge parka comes in handy: I manage to sneak a dance with my drink nestled inside my oversized cuffs.

However, it isn’t the funny little restrictions that are the most striking. It’s the spirit. Never mind the local DJ is busy mangling Heater (ironic tune choice, given the ambient temperature is about three degrees), or that the only toilets are a row of port-a-loos on a concrete slab out back; or even that half the crowd looks too young to drive and the other half looks old enough to know better… the atmosphere is crazy. On the dancefloor drug-skinny kids are breaking out elaborate “liquid” moves that went out of fashion in Europe a decade ago. Even if they knew, they wouldn’t care, because here there is still a sense that being a raver is something special, a mark of distinction. One boy in a trilby is soaking up attention, showing off moves he must have spent hours practicing. Around him, girls in tiny skirts and day-glo bangles are dancing with fierce concentration.

Half an hour earlier my friends and I looked around the warehouse and asked, “What the hell convinced Green Velvet to come out here ” Usually, he’s in a DJ booth dripping with the latest high-spec equipment, commanding the world’s best sound systems. Tonight, he’s on a make-shift stage DJing off two decks perched on one of those wire shelves they use as discount racks in supermarkets. But he’s a true professional and, more than that, a man on a mission. Soft-spoken Curtis Jones is a devout Christian who sees his DJing as an opportunity to spread love and positivity, and he’s throwing himself into this set with as much energy as if it were the main room of Space.

And the reaction? Well, it beats any crowd I’ve seen at Space…. There are only a couple of hundred kids here, but their energy is filling up the room. It doesn’t hurt that everyone seems seriously, loopily altered. Whatever they lack in legal access to alcohol they clearly make up for with fistfuls of narcotics – mushrooms, pills, speed, whatever. And it’s all treated in share-and-share alike fashion. Absolutely everyone will stop and say hello, offer you something if they have something (even if it’s just a smoke), or simply turn around and holler “you having fun?

Sometimes this goes better than others. One kid, dancing next to me, turns around with a shit-eating grin and gives me the thumbs up. “Have you ever seen Green Velvet play before?” I shout over the music. He looks at me, eyes like saucers. “Are you speaking German ” he shouts back. When I burst out laughing he grins back, anxious to please. “Whatever you just said, that was cool,” he assures me.

Green Velvet

Green Velvet

It’s enough to make the most sober head feel twisted, and there aren’t many here. Tall, thin and cool in black leather and Matrix-esque shades, Green Velvet finally drops the tune that he wrote for kids like this: La La Land. He originally meant it as an anti-drugs message, but that seems to go right over the heads of everyone who is shouting out the chorus in un-ironic appreciation. It is a world away from sophisticated, commodified European party culture but looking around the room, it kind of makes sense.

Outside this cold, ramshackle building the train loaded down with military hardware is still rolling inexorably past. Outside a stupid, venal government is too busy scheming to kill other people’s citizens to bother feeding, educating or providing health care for its own. Outside times are tough and probably not about to get better in a hurry. But inside… well, it’s la la land. A place where freedom exists, music matters and people treat each other as potential friends, not potential enemies. Right about now it feels like the best, warmest, safest place to be.

Mixmag: Farewell, Trash

Originally published in Mixmag
Erol Alkan
Everyone’s huddling against the walls to avoid the spitting rain. It’s not just any Monday night, it is Trash’s 10th birthday – and their farewell party. After a decade of trendsetting, musical innovation and eye-popping fashion Erol Alkan and friends are bowing out. These days Trash’s giddy mix of sex, dance and rock ‘n’ roll is standard practice, but it wasn’t always. “What everyone’s doing now, in terms of live music in clubs, Trash did years ago,” observes Liam O’Hare, The End’s general manager. From its earliest days at Plastic People, to its stint in Soho’s Annexe, to its triumphant years at The End, Trash has become a byword for what’s fresh and adventurous in clubland. So much so no one is surprised at the volume of bodies crowding the pavement. “It’s the Blitz spirit,” 28-year-old Sam observes, looking over his shoulder at the throng flowing seamlessly around the building till it comes face to face with itself. Everyone’s smiling, talking to strangers. Sam passes around a bottle of Strongbow. A blue-haired girl called Charleigh and her bandmates are discussing the video they’ve just shot. Like Bloc Party, Klaxons and New Young Pony Club before them the budding pop stars are regulars. “I can’t remember most of it,” she confesses.

Charleigh’s not the only regular with amnesia. Graham, a 24-year-old roadie who has been coming for five years says, “You don’t remember the really good nights.” He does remember, though, how Trash changed his life. “Where I grew up in Essex even wearing a white belt was asking for a fucking smack. Trash was the first place I fit in. I used to come on my own and just dance. Then I’d wait till 6am to get a train home. Without it, I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” he says. Inches away a girl is swinging from the ceiling, knickers flashing. No one pays any attention. If you want a fashion eyeful just look around: there’s the bearded bloke in an apron, the pint-sized brunette wearing Superwoman-style pants and suspenders, the trio sporting multi-coloured rave gear.

Trash style

Trash style


“Trash is a one off. It’s the people that make it,” Rory Philips says. A resident DJ for nearly seven years, Rory’s seen a lot happen on the dancefloor. “One of my friends married a girl he met at Trash. No surprise really, it’s been ten years of drunken fumbling,” he chuckles. As if to make his point a couple reel past, joined at the lips. There’s an air of barely controlled chaos as The Lovely Jonjo whips up the crowd. “I was getting quite tearful,” he says later, but it doesn’t show. Jonjo is typical of the parade of clubbers who’ve reinvented themselves at Trash. He started out as a door picker but “hated it.” So when Erol invited him to DJ instead he jumped at the chance. “I get all soppy when I talk about him. He’s been a mentor to me.”

As the newest member of the Trash crew Jonjo reacted like many fans did to the news it was ending. “I was upset, devastated really.” For a lot of people it was a question of: why cut off a night in its prime? “There’s a lot I want to do I couldn’t do with Trash every week,” says Erol, who missed one night in a decade – for his honeymoon.

“A lot of people talk about going out on a high, but carry on. We didn’t want to outstay our welcome,” Rory adds.

Jonjo’s come around to the idea. “My first thought was, ‘this is over’. My second reaction was, ‘if I don’t grab it by the balls someone else will.’” By “it” he means Durrr, the new Erol-endorsed Monday night at The End where Jonjo and Rory will preside over a rotating cast of DJ talent and new bands. “We’re going to get a breath of fresh air. You need to embrace change.”

Justice @ Trash

Justice @ Trash


Change is on everyone’s mind tonight. Trash will be missed. Joost is over from Amsterdam, resplendent in a handlebar ‘tache and a tee-shirt reading Kids Want Techno. “There’s nothing like it in Europe,” he shouts over the music. There’s nothing like it in London either. George, another half-decade veteran, is sweating his glittery green eye shadow off as he waits in the crush by the bar. It took him two and a half hours to get in, and it’ll take him another forty minutes to get a drink, but he’s happy to be here. Where else can you get beaten up by Selfish Cunt? “He just grabbed me by the throat for no reason!” he shrugs, smiling brilliantly.

Celebrities, violent and otherwise, are part of the fabric of Trash life. Everyone has their favourite. Rory plumps for Suicide, Erol for Gonzales, Jonjo remembers Kelly Osbourne and Simon Amstell queuing (separately). “Grace Jones came once. She doesn’t queue!” he laughs. Liam O’Hare fondly remembers the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. He saves his highest praise for Erol though. “I had faith in him and he’s never let me down. He’s always pioneered.”

It’s a compliment Erol would be pleased with. Stepping up to the decks, wearing his trademark specs and an inside out D.A.R.E. tee, he is an unlikely focal point for frenzied adulation, but there’s hysteria in the air. Outside riot police have arrived to calm a crush of disgruntled clubbers. “We can make this a funeral or a celebration,” he says. Then he drops LCD Soundsystem’s ‘Losing My Edge’ and the crowd erupts. They get the joke. Later, when the dust has settled, he says softly, but very emphatically, “The only thing I’m frightened of is resting on my laurels. I relish the future.” For now, Trash’s loyal following is relishing the present, and the string of favourites ricocheting around the room. ‘Take Me Out’, ‘Danger! High Voltage’, ‘Lust For Life’ and, finally, at 4AM, long after reality has melted away, ‘Dancing Queen.’ Manager Liam should be on holiday, but he’s here instead, beaming. “It’s like the last party on earth!” Surrounded by the blurred grins and flailing limbs one thing is certain: if this were the last party on earth no one here would mind.

Mixmag: The World’s Most Advanced Clubs

Originally published in Mixmag

Cocoon, Frankfurt
The nearest thing to a Being John Malkovich-style tour of the inside of Sven Vath’s head, Cocoon is a psychedelic playground from the 23rd century.

Cocoon

Cocoon

It took 3deluxe – one of Germany’s hottest design agencies – two years just to work out the concept, and the result is a staggering audio-visual-sensual orgy that is to ordinary clubs what acid tabs are to Haribo. Along with its stupefying 130K sound system the star of the freaky show is a 100m “membrane wall” where synchronised visuals (run from the DJ booth) envelope the dancefloor. It’s like being trapped in an IMAX film, but with a better soundtrack.

Cielo, New York City
Cielo is the ultimate swanky Stateside club – complete with hard-nosed door whores, expensive bottle service and a retro-chic interior and sunken dancefloor that punters report feels like “a cross between a ski chalet and a swimming pool”. The cherry on the cake, though, is Cielo’s soundsystem – the first ever exclusively Funktion One rig installed in an American club. As any frothing sound geek will tell you Funktion One is the atom bomb of club audio equipment. In Cielo’s miniscule space (250 capacity, no VIP room) the sound is an experience that will be stamped indelibly in your memory – and your eardrums.

I Love Neon, Canada

I Love Neon

I Love Neon

I Love Neon proves that sometimes the most cutting edge clubs aren’t clubs at all, but ideas brought to life. The brainchild of a bunch of music-loving graphic designers, Neon uses static lighting, projections, screens and mini-strobes to create a mind-melting audio visual experience. Based in an art gallery, Neon transforms the space for every party, moving the entrance, DJ booth and amenities so each event takes a completely new shape. Fans of this Through The Looking Glass experience include Boys Noize (whose album launch they just hosted), Hell and Tiga – who helped start the Neon collective.

Zouk, Singapore
Housed in a pair of 90-year-old warehouses, Zouk redefines “warehouse party” with four rooms of razor-edge technology set in baroque splendour. Thirty plasma screens dot the club, which boasts a 3-colour RBG exterior lighting system with fibre optic-laced tensile roofing and a million-dollar Gary Steward audio system in the Gaudi-inspired main room. The Phuture room mixes luridly organic furnishings and an MPIX LED wall. While in the Velvet Underground opulent Chinese-inspired designs swirl across the ceiling and the walls are studded with priceless Pop Art by the likes of Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. You don’t get that in Shoreditch…

Womb, Tokyo
Womb is pure science fiction: where space-age Japanese technology meets their national fascination with kitsch as the world-beating lighting system bounces off the 7-foot disco ball that revolves above the central dancefloor while the Phuzon-designed soundsystem (they created Twilo New York’s legendary PA) rattles the three storey- main room. Unsurprisingly, Womb is known to leave even the most jaded clubbers and seen-it-all jocks slack jawed with amazement. After a gig there Loco Dice was at a loss for words: “I can’t even explain it. It’s like science fiction, like being on a trip, you keep thinking ‘am I going to wake up?’”

D-Edge, Brazil

D-Edge, Brazil

D-Edge, Brazil

Set in the heart of ultra-modernist Sao Paulo, D-Edge is South America’s most futuristic club. A magnet for the techno A-list (Richie Hawtin loves it so much he once cajoled the owner to boot the night’s headliner off the decks so he could play instead) it’s also an epileptic’s worst nightmare. Every available interior inch of the tiny, 350 capacity club is ablaze with light. The sloping disco-dancefloor is lit from beneath, while acres of LEDs turn the walls into giant EQs, and pulsing veins of light flash across the ceiling – giving the terrifyingly cool sensation of being suspended inside a beating human heart.

Ambasada Gavioli, Izola, Slovenia
A two-thousand-year-old fishing village is an unlikely destination for cutting edge nightlife. Nevertheless, Izola (pop. 15,000; chief attractions: walking tours and olive oil) is home to one of clubbing’s best kept secrets: Ambasada Gavioli. The unashamedly over-the-top 2,500 capacity club is a highly stylised architectural jumble of Baroque and Art Nouveau, married to blinding laser system. Sheets of glass connect the two rooms allowing continuous sound-and-light programming, while the walls splashed with psychedelic paintings inspired by Baudelaire’s sex-and-death obsessed poems The Flowers of Evil turn the club into a post-modern Brothers Grimm fairy tale cave. Unsurprisingly it’s one of Sven Vath’s favourite destinations.

Cavo Paradiso, Mykanos
Cavo Paradiso is famous for its open-all-hours swimming pool, but this is no sandy, sweaty terrace club. There is a seriously high-tech pulse beating beneath the sunny, seaside façade. Set in the face of a 50 metre cliff above the Mediterranean the club is literally built out of the rock that surrounds it – 80% of it is native stone. The rest? A booth that’s a DJ’s wet dream (five mixers, eight decks, bespoke monitors…) and a brand new custom sound system, six months in the making, that has caused nearby hotels to demand they soundproof the club before next season.

T-O 12, Stuttgart

T-O 12

T-O 12

Flying pigs? Mirrored ceilings? Feel like you’ve double dropped and you’ve only had a beer? It must be T-O 12. Set in a former office block, this multiple award-winning monochrome design melting pot evokes Barbarella, DC Comics, Hitchcock, Apocalypse Now and Stuttgart street life. Huge black-and-white silhouetted illustrations splash across the walls: upstairs a fleet of helicopters cruise over the bar, downstairs Venus Fly Traps hover by the urinals. In the chill out space the scattering of mirrors and strobes make the lounge look endless. Owner Niko Tonidis says he “wants people to remember it in 20 years,” we reckon they will.

Watergate, Berlin
Designed by top Berlin architects Bolwin & Wulf, Watergate boasts eye-popping vistas – inside and out. From the second floor huge plate glass windows look across the River Spree to the old East Berlin, taking in a glittering picture postcard view of the city skyline, making the club a favourite location for TV crews. Inside, the angular space is dotted with minimal Stylomat-built furnishings which crouch beneath the main room’s Vegas-style ceiling. Color Kenetics programmable LED lights run the length and breadth form a pulsing arc that has been known to cause regrettable whiplash injuries from too much time spent gawping upwards.

Mixmag: Luciano

Originally published in Mixmag

Luciano @ DC10, Ibiza

Luciano @ DC10, Ibiza


One image summed up Ibiza 2007: Luciano standing in the DJ booth at DC10, music off, flanked by stony-faced Spanish cops as a chorus of protest rose from the dancefloor. Slowly, the boos turned into a chant, “Lu-ci-an-o, Lu-ci-an-o.” It was a classic confrontation between young and old; freedom and restraint; hedonism and joyless authority and the 29-year-old Chilean represents everything the Ibicenco police were trying to stamp out. That moment turned him from a star into an icon.

In the past twelve months Luciano has gone from underground hero to bona fide A-lister purely by refusing to compromise. Unhappy with his old management, he left and – with new label partner An Reich – created Cadenza booking agency. Like everything else in Luciano’s life, Cadenza (the label he started four years ago) has a newfound sense of purpose. They’ve released their first two LPs and expanded their roster. As well as running the agency Luciano and An have taken Cadenza’s successful residency at Berlin’s Panoramabar global, establishing nights in Paris, Madrid, Italy, Bucharest, Barcelona and Moscow.

In the midst of all this, while the rest of the world was moving to Berlin Luciano packed his bags to take his young family to Geneva. “It was hard for my career, it would have been easier to stay. But you have prove you have the strength to fight, to re-build your life,” he says.

Lest anyone mistake this move for a retreat, he’s thrown himself into DJing. As Cocoon and DC10 resident he was the biggest star of the Ibiza season – tirelessly igniting the terraces every Monday. Plus he racked up the air miles playing in different country, or two, every weekend. “It’s scary. Sometimes I wake up and have to turn on the TV to find out what country I’m in,” Luciano says.

Describing 2007 as “exhausting and beautiful,” he is eager to keep pushing in 2008. “We’re touring Japan, Malaysia, India… I don’t know if they like techno in India, we’ll find out,” he laughs. It’s a safe bet that if they don’t yet, they will by the time the Luciano is through with them.

An Reich says simply, “He seduces people with music,” and this was the year the world fell under his spell.

Last Exit To Brooklyn DVD review

Originally published on www.filmexposed.com

Last Exit To Brooklyn DVD
Cast: Stephen Lang, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Peter Dobson, Burt Young

Last Exit To Brooklyn is set during the Korean War, in the early 1950s. The first characters you see are a trio of soldiers, cock-of-the-walking their way back to barracks after a night out. For a few, deceptive seconds this might be a war film, in the conventional sense. Then the real soldiers, fighting the real war, bowl on screen: a gang of roughneck wops, spoiling for action. A brief, brutal, beautifully choreographed beating later you’re in their world, to stay.

Based on the novel by Hubert Selby (who also wrote Requiem For A Dream), the film is a raw, artful, unsparing look at raggle taggle Brooklyn life. The endless parade of soldiers who straggle through the film getting mugged, propositioned, beaten up, or otherwise damaged in their exchanges on this lawless patch are stand ins for the audience – sucked into a world that is short on narrative arc and long on impulse, where the only constant is violence. At the centre of this universe of quicksand is Tralala (Leigh), a mouthy hooker with a finely tuned survival instinct, and her occasional partners in crime, Vinnie (Dobson) and Sal (Stephen Baldwin). Their buddy, Harry (Lang), is a shop steward, and head of the strike office, making free with his union expense account as the community struggles through a long strike against the bosses of the local metalworks.

Though a stunningly filmed late-night clash between police and strikers provides the visual epicentre of the film, social issues never eclipse the individual. Rather, the big picture stuff (war, labour disputes, family relationships) is backdrop to the intensely felt experiences of the characters. In sharp contrast to films that look back at the ‘50s through a spyglass of modern mores, Last Exit is perfectly self-absorbed. When shop boss Harry falls hard for a fey, selfish little queen called Regina (Bernard Zette) it would be easy for the film to make a statement about contemporary sexuality, or life in the closet. But it doesn’t, because the point is not what we think of Harry, but how he feels. Instead of glib commentary, there is real pathos. A theme that is repeated in the subplot of transvestite Georgette (Alexis Arquette) and her unrequited love for good-looking thug Vinnie (ringleader of the tormenters in the opening scene). Any kind of vulnerability can be fatal in Last Exit’s testosterone-fuelled landscape, especially for dainty queens, which makes Georgette’s flirtation watch-through-fingers stuff.

Frankly, it’s a miserable film. Yet so lovingly shot and acted you can’t help being drawn in. These are characters so small, sharp, closed and ugly they wouldn’t ever get an airing elsewhere, but the strong cast (including an excellent young Sam Rockwell) render them painfully alive. Leigh, in particular, pulls off an extraordinarily difficult role with power and panache. They elicit compassion when they shouldn’t and they provoke empathy at the unlikeliest moments. And while they’re trapped, you can leave, which gives this film its lingering, bittersweet edge.