Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
There seems to be a fancy dress party at least once a month in Brighton, and it gets harder and harder to better one's previous efforts, especially when, like me, you have a reputation for going all-out. As a self-confessed fancy dress fanatic, I have built up a decent collection of costumes and accessories over the years, and have become the unofficial wardrobe mistress to my comrades, who invariably turn to me for help when inspiration and wherewithal are lacking. So I wasn't entirely surprised when Jen's call turned out to be the first of many, meaning that my supposedly restful day instead became punctuated by a string of visitors and frantic trying-on sessions.
Luckily I had sorted out my own attire well ahead of time – I already owned a suitable wig, and had found the most perfect Karen Carpenter (Seventies era) frock on ebay. I'm really not complaining about the disruption to my envisaged tranquility, in fact there's nothing I like more than putting a costume together and watching a character come to life before me (cue maniacal Dr Frankenstein laugh). It's incredibly satisfying looking round a room full of fabulous, flamboyant, and sometimes disturbing party-goers, knowing that the credit is at least partly yours.
It turned out to be an excellent night, and most people had made a big effort to look convincingly like their chosen deceased, who included: Frank Zappa (Ant), Jimi Hendrix (David), Steve Irwin (Stewart), Dick Turpin (Matty), Janis Joplin (Jen), Mae West (Alice), Marylin Monroe (Charlotte), Paula Yates – complete with baby (Harriet), Jim Morrison (Sheldon), Random Suicide Bomber (Dave), Freddie Mercury (Ross), Jackie Onasis (Abbi), Klaus Kinski (Tim), Cleopatra (Nikki), John Bonham (Damien – who looked SO weird with long hair) and, disturbingly, Myra Hindley (Tania) - apologies if I've forgotten anyone on this weird and wonderful role-call. I did a turn on the decks – naturally playing only tunes sung by dead people - and we were also treated to some live music from Barulho, and an as yet unnamed gypsy klezmer band. Most people guessed my costume once I'd prompted them with a line or two of “Close to You” – although I did get accused of looking like some kind of Hammer Horror freak on more than one occasion, though to be fair, so did Karen Carpenter in her more emaciated periods.
Damien, Tim and Me, as you've never seen us before
Every time another costume bash comes up, and I get that giddy tingle of anticipatory excitement, I ask myself from whence this obsession of mine came. I can certainly put it partly down to my theatrical upbringing – both my parents were in professional theatre, and I used to love playing with the various costume cast-offs that made their way into the family dressing up box.
My sister Megan and I would often adorn ourselves and put on plays for our parents and their friends (who were always very good about humouring us), and so I learned from an early age how much fun reinventing yourself can be. Then along came the wonderful Mr Benn – one of my very favourite children's TV characters - whose visits to the fancy dress shop sparked no end of exciting escapades, reinforcing the idea that dressing up equals adventure.
Some of my earliest fancy dress costumes (invariably made from scratch by my talented and creative mother) included Cinderella, Pierrette, one of the Three Kings (for which I was made to black-up!) and the Queen Mother – for Charles and Diana's wedding street party. Then when my 18th birthday came up, I decided to throw what turned out to be the first of many fancy dress parties of my own, the most memorable of which include Moulin Rouge, Gay Icons, Wild West, Bitches & Baddies, and most recently, Seasick! I have thrown non-costume parties too, but I always find that being dressed up gives things a jollier atmosphere, breaks the ice between strangers, and makes the photographs much more interesting.
I'll admit that it does nettle me when people turn up to a clearly labelled 'fancy dress' party in their normal clothes. Call me a fancy dress fascist (I won't deny it), but my good friend Neel will back me up here, in agreeing that to appear at such soirées in 'civvies' is frankly impolite, it makes everyone else feel uncomfortable, and breaks the magic for those of us who like to immerse ourselves in the experience. To put it into perspective, you wouldn't turn up to a black tie ball in trainers and jeans, or walk into a historical re-enactment in modern day clothes, and still expect to be included, would you?
I accept that not everyone enjoys dressing up as much as me, and so am never offended if they choose not to come along for that reason. But, like any team game or hobby, it only really works if everyone joins in. Luckily, lots of my friends in Brighton do love dressing up (nearly as much as me), hence the regular merry-go-round of themed parties, and those inevitable 'fancy dress SOS' phone calls. Maybe it's time I started charging for my services, or at least demanding compensation of the chocolate variety – “will lend wigs for Mingles” - I like that.
Friday, January 25, 2008
A while ago I mentioned one of my new favourite bands Do Make Say Think, having just purchased their latest offering, You You're a History in Rust, which has since become one of my most consistently listened-to albums. In a similar vein to DMST are Explosions in the Sky, a Texan instrumental four-piece whose rousing cinematic style falls into the so-called 'post-rock' category. While I'm not usually inclined to pigeon-hole anything, least of all music, there has been a distinct, if accidental, movement emerging over the last ten years or so, which can be loosely traced back to quirky jazz-electro-proggers Tortoise. A refreshing contrast to much of the bland and vacuous indie bands currently invading the airwaves, the absence of any vocals makes this style of music both absorbing and anonymous, and often more deeply affecting than even the most poignant of lyrics. Like classical music for the rock generation, the listener is encouraged to drift off on personal flights of fancy, rather than being drawn vicariously into the singer’s projected experiences. I can feel myself about to launch into a major rant at this point, but will refrain from doing so, as I believe the music speaks for itself. I had originally only intended to post the above picture, taken at Concorde 2 on Wednesday night, where the afrorementioned Explosions in the Sky delivered a spine-tingling live performance to a rapt audience, from which I left feeling both bruised and exhilarated. Oh, and they also had really cool and unusually subtle band T-shirts on sale, so I bought one for Ant, as compensation for the fact that he couldn't make it to the gig, as he was in Brussels.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Monday, January 21, 2008
Last Friday was set to be my big comeback into the world of clubbing, after a protracted absence since the accident. I'd been psyching myself up all week, all month in fact, for a girlie evening of cocktails and dancing at Brighton's best retro night, Born Bad at Komedia. But my immune system had other ideas - landing me with yet another stinking cold and having to cancel my plans at the last minute. I was relieved, if a little frustrated, that said cold had conveniently disappeared by Saturday morning (why couldn't it have abated just one night earlier?!). But thankfully all hope of a sociable weekend was not completely lost - and I set about digging out my corset and stripes for a pirate-themed night hosted by swashbuckling troubadours, Piratechno. Boasting genuine pirate blood (according to my stepmother, the genealogist), my fondness for all things piratical runs deep, and I never feel more at home than with a bottle of rum in my hand, decked out in the flamoyantly theatrical clobber popularly associated with these sea-faring fiends (see previous evidence here and here). I was delighted to discover a whole room full of equally enthusiatically-garbed punters skulking around the suitably dingy back bar at Komedia, making me feel instantly at home. Being armed with a conspicuous camera in a room full of exhibitionists always seems to be a great way of making friends, so there I was - snapping away, occaisionally stopping to have a jig along with the crazy dancing wenches - utterly in my element, thinking, 'why can't every night be Pirate Night?'