It's been an odd, doomy week for me. B is still, obviously, in my thoughts and me and TSB have been making arrangements to attend his funeral next week. That'll involve a train ride Up North, the second this month. First was a work-related trip up to Manchester on Thursday, back yesterday. Not bad because I was staying with my sister and caught up with her, my brother-in-law and all the little nieces and nephews. The eldest is just old enough that he's becoming fascinated with the concept of older people having family relationships other than parental ones: he's intrigued that his mother is also my sister, just like he's got sisters. His younger sister's disbelieving that such a thing is possible.
So that was nice. The trip back was annoyingly sluggish, because of scheduled work going on blah blah fishcakes, meaning I had the equivalent of the Slow Train To Euston via Birmingham International. I did, however, have a carriage almost entirely to myself and could stare out at the darkening countryside and imagine myself a lone survivor of some Terry Nation-penned catastrophe... I dozed off (which I usually do on trains) and woke to find the train was motionless with complete blackness outside, no lights at all. I'd no idea where we'd stalled or whether there was now a delay. Eerily disorientating.
Of course, it didn't help that I was nearing the end of Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer-winning The Road, a beautifully-written but terrifying piece of postapocalyptica. There's a lot of it about at the moment, what with Dead Set and now Survivors. I guess the recession causes one to consider other scenarios of civilisation collapse, from nuclear holocaust to plague to zombies. As I've remarked before, I find myself drawn to these doom-laden tales and in a weird way they're perversely comforting. The Road, however, is just so unremittingly (for the most part, anyway) bleak that I think that sense of bleakness (struggling to survive in a blackened, lifeless, cannibalistic world of grey ash and dead bones) suffused me for a while, mixing with the more particular ache of B's death.
Anyway, I'd planned to return to London by tea time so there'd be the option of Duckie. Slightly torn between the urge to cocoon at home with TSB (even short trips away make me feel like that) and the desire to get out of the house but be somewhere familiar surrounded by The Gays. A hot bath and the reflection that That's What B Would Want Us To Do saw us tending toward the latter. B not having been unacquainted with excess (wonderfully so), I suspect this won't be the last time he'll be invoked as rationale for getting out and partying.
To be frank, it felt a little like a post-apocalyptic version of Duckie, too. Some of that's undoubtedly carry-over of my general mood but the club itself was the sparsest I've seen it for a long while: Amy remarked on the credit crunchiness of the "smattering of applause" which greeted her appearance onstage and assured us we wouldn't be asked to dig deep for more. Just as well, really, in the case of the first act, Ruby Somethingorother (Nesk? Nesh?), a well-proportioned woman in a black satin basque and marabou-trimmed robe. She came on the strains of the Kaiser Chiefs' Ruby and... well, she walked around a bit, grinning. That was largely it. She said stuff that wasn't quite funny enough to be comedy, wasn't developed or engaging enough to be "character" and wasn't weird/unusual enough to fall into the Intriguing Duckie Oddities category.
What she did do spectacularly well was misjudge both audience and host to the point of alienation. Firstoff, she referred to Amy as the "compere" (to which Amy took exception) then made some half-cocked jibe about preferring male comperes and wondering whether Amy was a man in drag. That didn't go down well. She then started hassling a man in the front row, asking what he did for a living (worked in a museum bookshop) and taking the piss out of the fact that he had ginger hair and wore glasses. Not a great move, given that
a) the guy in question was really rather cute,
b) within the particular geek-chic beardygay demographic which attends Duckie, ginger hair and glasses are not only not automatically seen as bad/sad/undesirable, they're frequently fetishised as being especially sexy
c) Amy's partner is a bespectacled redhead.
So. All things considered, a bit rubbish really; she really lost the crowd. A less polite audience would've booed her offstage (as it was, there was a fair bit of disgruntled not-quite-booing at a couple of points). She wasn't called back to take her applause. Gareth and I wondered whether her act would've been successful in any sort of club setting, gay or straight. It just seemed weak and lacking in substance and, where audience banter was concerned, verging on nasty.
(I should say also that there're no photos of this week's Duckie. I brought my Good Camera along and stupidly left the detachable lens at home. D'oh!)
The second act was better (they'd have been hard pushed to be worse): Stewart Somethingorother (neither act is named on the Duckie website, hence my uncertainty), a naggingly familiar-looking chap who's apparently played guitar as part of David Hoyle's act in the past. He came on in a sort of genderqueer early Bananarama drag, full slap, cap, shirt, baggy slacks and really rather lovely shoes. A kind of mimed finding a guitar, licking it and starting to strum chords. Eventually, he became entangled in the flex, fell over and lay still - only to be dragged offstage by a menacing, portly chap dressed like a football hooligan and snarling song lyrics at the audience. All a little bizarre but at least interesting to look at and deserving of applause.
Thank Gawd for the Readers Wifes. They pretty much saved this week's Duckie: almost despite myself, I ended up jumping and air-punching to the likes of Laid and He's On The 'Phone. Bought tickets for their New Year bash and am in the process of enjoying their annual CD mix.
Oh, and Maur Valance was there, so I got a chance to congratulate her for winning the Femme Realism prize at Liverpool Is Burning. She's lovely.
"Destructors" would, I think, be a fitting description of the last hour or two of KUNST, a couple of Fridays ago. This was my second time (the first being the fabulous night featuring Our Lady J's debut solo performance) and I'd made a token gesture toward the Narnia/History of Art dress code by wearing a black shirt and spidery jewellery, gingering up my beard and sticking a large dressing over one ear. I was Vincent Van Goth, ho bloody ho. No, no-one else got it either but I did receive several concerned enquiries as to my aural health. Halfway through the evening, I got pissed off with hearing everything in mono and ripped the dressing off. Shame sunflowers were out of season.
In the event, the couple of punters who actually paid any heed to the dress code went as Narnians, specifically the White Witch. Our lovely host, Dusty Limits, had gone pale and witchy too (not to say a tad consumptive):
KUNST is, I'm coming to realise, more cabaret-heavy than either Duckie or Vauxhallville. I liked Miss Leggy Pee, who showed us her puppies:
She later did a couple of really rather cute Doris Dayesque lip-synched duets with her little old man-puppet:
There was also a rather pleasing operatic version of Psycho Killer
and some excellent poetry from Salena Godden (seen here with truly goddess-like sun-disc balanced on her head):
Nathan Evans did his Queen puppetry striptease:
It's a clever act but I've seen it before at least twice now and I agree with Gareth that some of the trampled-upon rights mentioned in his critique seem to date faster than others in terms of audience response.
For me, however, the oddest part of the evening was the finale, a live last-ever-performance (well, before they return to the US, I don't think they're splitting up) from KUNST's resident house band, Holy Ghost Revival. Apparently they traditionally come on and play toward the end of each KUNST but presumably Our Lady J took their place the last (and first) time I was there.
I guess I found them odd because it all seemed really un-Weimar Cabaret somehow. It wasn't bad, necessarily - there was something quite exhilarating about all that rawk 'n' roll energy - but it did seem to go on about twice as long as it should've done. When Dusty Limits called for a lock-in and an encore, I found myself thinking, "couldn't we just have the DJ back, playing music I actually like?" It was all a little bit jarringly hetero, too, but queered up a bit by Dusty's tales of snogging various band members, reenacted for us onstage.
Here's some pics:
I dunno, though. I don't really understand the appeal of that sort of rock/metal interface; it really has always seemed to me a peculiarly heterosexual thing, the straight boys' opportunity to strut and revel in glitter, spandex, tight leather and big hair while aggressively proclaiming their rampant desire for the ladeez. I was slightly surprised, at one point, to find myself mouthing the words despite not remotely recognising the tune (or even a tune): it was a cover or a part-sampling of Like A Prayer, probably my favourite Madonna song.