March 20, 2005

Chemical Brothers at the Brixton Academy

On the 18th I went to see the Chemical Brothers at Brixton Academy. I'm sorry to say it was enormously disappointing and I really didn't much enjoy it at all, which is a particular shame because they were really good, and the sound was excellent. The problems, related, were that the crowd were there for a gig while I was there for a dance, and that there were far far too many people. I dropped at 21:30 and again at 22:30, and by the time they'd got going at 23:20 I was hot, sweating and out of breath. Already we'd seen a guy collapse from heat, get up, collapse, get up and eventually be dragged out by his friends. I felt it wasn't likely to happen to me, but I was very hot. I was with these two weirdly behaving Indonesian women and had to leave to get some space. I sat in the balcony for a bit, flipping out while they played their best tunes, but unfortunately there was just nowhere to dance, nowhere to chat and nowhere to chill.

After the Chems I arranged to get a cab some of the way back to mine with the two Indonesians, but I stopped to give my bro a hug and they fucked off without looking back. I got the night bus instead, as Brixton to Victoria isn't a trek. I spent a few minutes chatting to some kids at the bus stop, trying to warn them off speed (while obviously rushing my nuts on E) but they seemed quite taken with it. I tried to reason with them, but they weren't having it; they seemed quite new to speed and maybe they haven't had the crushing mental breakdown that will inevitably descend if they keep doing it.

The bus ride home was actually considerably better than the gig - I had a seat to myself and just tranced out to the vehicular motion and the sounds of the gig going through my head. At 2:20am I got off at Victoria and spotted the kids from the bus stop waiting by the gated and locked entrance to Victoria Station. Feeling emotionally open and warm as I was, I invited them back to mine to wait for the first train of the morning. I hope I would've done that even when not especially high, because it turned out they were really nice kids - 18-20 years old and not an iota of surplus education between them. We had a spliff, chatted and listened to Luke Vibert. I was a little sad when they left.

Posted by Oxygenik at 4:43 PM | Comments (3)

March 9, 2005


My novelty-addicted brother, who also happens to be an endorphin addict and fitness fiend, recently took notice of a fitness trend that's growing in the USA but is almost unheard of here, although it's recently got another new evangelist, as I bought my first kettlebell. Used for over a hundred years by Russians training for fitness and power, it's gaining popularity in the States following a wiry little Russian's vigorous prosletysing, and now I suspect will take a hold in Britain too; unlike any form of repetitive exercise I have ever tried, it's fun!

It's hard to describe just why it's fun, but it is. I have, like probably more than 50% of the western world, bought gym memberships and let them lapse, or joined school gyms and stopped going. The reason: it's simply dull doing artificial exercises. Running on a treadmill is about the most boring of all! Even gerbils get bored with it. The difference between a dumbell and a kettlebell is two-fold. First, kettlebells are awkwardly shaped lumps of cast iron. They feel more real somehow than traditional western free weights. Second, the exercises seem more about the body than traditional free weights exercises. Whereas with a dumbbell you might do some biceps flexions, with the kettlebell you typically do an exercise which moves the kettlebell from one point in space to another point and involves a bicep curl at some point, although you probably don't notice it. You also don't notice the abuse your abs, lats and hamstrings are getting until the next day either!

And it's hard to put down! Well, at 16kg, putting it down is only marginally harder than dropping it, but once it's down you just want to pick it up again! It sits there on my floor and really affords itself to being picked up the same way a big red button affords itself to being pushed. As soon as your breathing calms down, you simply want to try another exercise. And there are as many as you can imagine, in addition to the myriad already invented by the masters of the sport over the years.

It's early doors yet, as they say in sports commentary, but I'm highly enthusiastic about this new development. This year one of my aims is to do something with my body and hopefully kettlebells will provide me with the means to do it!

Posted by Oxygenik at 1:51 PM | Comments (1)

March 7, 2005

Turnmills sucks, Ministry rocks

You may or may not know this, but I it's fair to say that the Britain's, and probably the world's most famous house DJ is Sasha. Together with John Digweed he defined a new sound and continues to push it forward. Over the last month I've been lucky enough to see two of his prodigies, James Zabiela and Sander Kleinenberg, at different venues in London: Turnmills and Ministry of Sound respectively. In each case I wasn't exactly looking forward to it because I really like small venues and friendly crowds, but I'm happy to say I was pleasantly surprised, if only once.

First, James Zabiela at Turnmills. To date, I've never had a good night at Turnmills, and I think unless someone is having a party there I won't be going again. The queues, even at just gone 11, are massive and the door staff are unfriendly and in some cases hostile. Despite having bought tickets we were told to wait at the end of a very long queue, which turned out the be the queue for people without tickets. The vibe in the club isn't especially friendly either; my suspicion is that it's because Turnmills is so close to Shoreditch, Farringdon and other trendy drinking spots. People go out drinking on a Friday night and when the pubs close they hit up Turnmills and keep drinking. Certainly there were a lot of beer glasses about the place - something you rarely see in a clubbers' club. There's also nowhere to relax; there's a kind of cafe-style area with lots of tables and chairs, but the air-conditioning is too strong, people are threading in between the tightly packed tables all night and the chairs simply aren't comfortable. The last thing you want to do when you come off a sweaty, heaving dancefloor is to freeze your arse off in an uncomfortable chair while a stream of people push past you.

As for the music, JZ was wicked. Sadly his set was from early o'clock to 2:30am, so the place was rammed because the drunks hadn't got tired and gone home yet; instead they were all on the dancefloor being malcoordinated and annoying, but he was nearly good enough for them not to matter. To be honest, I don't think Sasha would have been good enough to counteract the extremely strong bad vibes I was getting from the club. Despite my best efforts, I didn't even enjoy my sweeties, although I felt their after-effects on the Wednesday as usual when an assisted error at work wiped out an afternoon's work sending me into a dark grey funk. But I'd like to say one more time that James Zabiela was awesome, Hybrid, who was on afterwards, was awesome, and Eddie Halliwell whom I saw only briefly because I was pissed off (which is pretty hard on 3 and a half pills) was also awesome. It's a shame that Turnmills sucks, because that would have been an amazing night.

Next up, last Saturday, was Sander Kleinenberg at Ministry of Sound. I am extremely happy to say that this was the gig that confounded expectations and which has a place in my top 5 gigs of the last 10 years as well as one of the best nights out I've had, all in all. I don't think you can compare JZ with SK in terms of style; they are completely different, with JZ focussing on twisting the tracks into new shapes and SK aiming to augment already amazing tunes with a smattering of audio wizardry. JZ was amazing, but Turnmills took the shine off. SK blew the roof off, received a well-deserved ovation and 3 encores, and Ministry made it enjoyable! Somehow he managed to pick banger after banger after banger, no cruft no fillers, just pure musical class, and the atmosphere was so good I enjoyed it to the full.

What was so good? Well for one, the club's layout is pretty nice; bar, chillout and a few little snugs upstairs, dancefloors downstairs. The sound quality is great but canal-crushingly loud; unless you are on the podium in the middle you are never more than a few metres from a speaker stack the height of your house. The punters, too, aid matters greatly by being hugely up for it and really friendly. I think like at The Key or The Cross out in the deepest darkest edges of Kings Cross, if people are at Ministry it's because they've decided to travel out to Elephant and Castle to go clubbing, and this makes a difference. All these good things were augmented brilliantly by the fact that it was George's leaving party and Olly, Matt, Kiran, Paul, Noriko, Annie, Una, Marie Claire, Chris and Dimes all came out to dance and celebrate, and thus did George, who has only been clubbing with serious intent since Halloween 2003, get the send-off he deserved.

Finally, a mention for the staff; the search staff outside were friendly and professional, as were the security throughout the night, the bar staff and the cloakroom staff too. As a testament to the friendliness of the staff, Alky Dimes managed a discount on his triple vodka-redbull of £7 - from £15 down to £8!

Posted by Oxygenik at 1:05 PM | Comments (0)