Motorheaded speakerfreak, block-rock doctor"
My breath is ragged; my legs al dente. Noodle City, baby.
Get the Flash Player to see this player.My hipster Ben Sherman shirt and extravagantly ripped Versace jeans (both bought second-hand for probably about a fifteenth of what some Chelsea toff paid for them six months ago) are soaked through and by "soaked through" I mean soaked through with fragrant sweat. The outsides of my little toes are raw and, conceivably, bleeding. I don't know. I'm shaking too much to get my boots off.
I've just come from Liverpool Street Station one of London's central and truly great Victorian-era rail hubs. Me and some club kids were there. 600 of them? 2000? Estimates vary crazily. I don't know. No one cares.
On the way down there, sitting on the District Line, I fiddled with my MP3 player, putting together a playlist. I didn't put anything special on the player. I just went through the 200-some songs in my regular workout playlist, pulling out the ones that seemed danceable. You know: The Crystal Method, The Prodigy. Fatboy Slim. Overseer. I pulled out maybe 20 or 30 songs. I figured this was way overkill. I figured, I don't know, if I'd really thought about it, at a guess, that maybe the whole thing would go on for 20 or 30 minutes. I didn't figure I'd participate for more than five. I don't know. I'm a lot more of a club kid than I was before I got to London. But, still. This was a whole other thing.
I got to the station probably 20 minutes early. I started walking around. You know, low key, surreptitious. Keeping an eye out. Looking for others. Half the fun of a flash mob is trying to spot the other conspirators beforehand.
But this wasn't just a flash mob. Oh, no.
Jacqui texted. She was hung up at a meeting in South Ken. She wasn't going to make it in time. She told me to do some for her. I told her I dance badly enough for any two people.
I texted Leslie, who'd expressed some interest. What the hell, she replied (basically), she'd be right over. She works basically next door, in Tower 42 (London's first skyscraper and for a long time Britain's tallest building) at a high-powered City law firm. I procured a massimo soya mocha from Costa Coffee, at the end of the concourse. I dumped an additional six sugars in. This would be all I would be running on. This would be my only mood-enhancing substance for a clubbing night. I was already shaking.
Leslie turned up. We skulked around. An all-too conspicuous, and large, throng of people was starting to congregate in the middle of the station. Beneath the big, Victorian clock. Fiddling with their music players. Pulling out headphones.
And then it was on us. With a shout. It started.
I fumbled with my player it had gone to sleep in my pocket, though I'd had it all queued up. I fumbled with my camera. I put the camera away; fuck it. I got the music going. I started boogying.
I turned the music up.
I turned the music up again. (And not for the last time.)
I abandoned Leslie for the centre of the "dance floor".
Yes, you read that right: Liverpool Street Station, starting at precisely 19:24 on Wednesday, 11 October 2006, was co-opted by something not too far south of 2000 people for a club space. And every single one of them serving as his or her own personal DJ.
This was MOBILE CLUBBING.
And it was absolutely the most fun I've ever had in my life.
It was certainly the best club vibe I've ever experienced. People were going crazy. There was some attempt to flash "Tune" placards and get people to get between songs at the same point, so hands and arms and cheers could go up at one time. Tuning or not, hands and cheers went up at the same time. Regularly. Loudly. Hundreds danced exuberantly and well.
The first commuter somewhere between bemused, annoyed, and terrified tried to push his way through. Then another. "Oi! Get off the dance floor, mate!" We owned the joint. Not long after, it occurred to me: there were a lot fewer people trying to push through the dance floor than on an average night at Fabric or Turnmills. This was a good club. And a great space! There was something about the towering, steepled, glass ceiling and the surrounding parapets that just set everything off. Not to mention the monstrous Departures board, beneath which we London's electric youth were shaking our bits. (Periodically you'd see some guy in a suit standing in the middle of the maelstrom, eddies of ravers crashing around him, trying to figure out the platform for his train.)
But not all the guys in suits were interlopers. Hardly. Did I mention the crowd? Fabulous. Standouts included: the guy in the rubber Richard Nixon mask, with the huge puffy headphones over the top. The cyclist, complete with clipless shoes, and a Camelbak which he was periodically sipping out of. (I saw his bike, turned upside down on the floor, rather later.) The obligatory girl with the long pink hair. The 10-year old kid who was also an accomplished break dancer. The City boy in his Jermyn Street-tailored shirt, with pink tie tied around head. Not to be left out, a City girl in her conservative skirt suit, with her mobile and security badge on a lanyard around her neck. (She was going crazy. She was going like a world champion.)
Club kids tend to be old school. So not only did many people visibly eschew MP3 players for portable CD players; some eschewed both for cassette players. I'm sure they would have had turntable decks if portable versions were available.
Did I mention the dancing? First-rate. I mean, okay, there is something slightly depressing about the realisation that people need not be dancing to remotely the same music to dance together. Something kind of modern/existential/alienation about everyone dancing to his or her own tune. (Though there were the fair few pairs of people with splitters plugging two headphones into one player, following each other around like cyber-Siamese twins.) And but anyway, believe me, we were all interacting. What was so cool is that you'd see people sort of chilling out as their playlists hit mellow bits; but then something exuberant would come on again, and they would just go crazy and everyone else would draw on the energy. You could recognise it, because you did the same thing.
Did I mention my dancing? When I came to London, I didn't dance. I didn't know how. I didn't dare. I couldn't. My transformation into semi-regular clubber has been semi-documented elsewhere. But suffice it to say this was the apotheosis. Suffice it to say that after this: I am the best dancer in London. Or, at the very least, I certainly felt like it. I've never been so unselfconscious on the dance floor. Oh, man.
Thirty minutes went by. I was having a blast. It had seemed like longer, but I was having a blast. Leslie left. I took off my sport coat, and bag and tossed them in one of the piles people had built on the floor, and were now dancing tribally around.
One or four people accosted me along the way, asking what it was all about: "Are you guys some kind of club?" Happily, I nailed my answer on the first go-round: "Club? No. Periodically, 2000 people will just spontaneously start dancing in a major London rail terminus. Surely you've seen it before? No? You must not have lived in London very long . . ." One woman wanted to know what I was listening to I told her Audio War and appropriated one of my ear buds to listen. "Wow. That's really an assault," she said. "Yeah," said I. "Hence the name."
The hour mark approached. Mein Gott! Was I still here? Ja, Ich war. Everyone counted down the last 20 seconds before the hour then went crazy in celebration, cheers rising to the roof. Periodically some person or people would ascend to the parapet just below the departure board which was mainly thronged with gawkers and raise the cheer. When Tricky Dick went up top, the place went crazy. Just apeshit.
The hour mark passed. I figured that pretty much had to be it. Right? I picked up my coat, catching my breath, sort of shaking it out. I looked around me. Very few people were stopping dancing. Very many people were continuing dancing. Fuck it, I thought, dropping my jacket again. I'm still having fun.
Somebody handed me a flyer for another club event. A totally different club event. Guys were going around handing out flyers for other club nights. Just like at a regular club night. I got like 5 flyers. Then bottles, and cans, of beer started appearing. (From where?) Bottles of wine, and plastic wine glasses, started appearing. Cigarettes started being lit. (Was that allowed?) Was any of this allowed?
Did I mention the police? I was kind of amazed they didn't show up, nor shoot anyone, beforehand, just with this suspicious mob gathering. But they sure showed up when the cheers and shouting and dancing started. And there they stood, on the stairs, in their reflective jackets, standing there impotently and reflectively. What, actually, were they supposed to do? "You 2000 clubbers there! Leave off now! Go home!" Wouldn't really go, would it? So, instead, they stood and watched.
They stood and watched as the two-hour mark approached. Two hours? Of dancing in Liverpool Street Station? I mean: really. As the two-hour mark approached, I was still dancing. Better and more energetically than before. I was going crazy some of my new music was just the bomb: Audio War, HBlockx, Overseer, Crazy Town. I was going crazy. So were the people around me. There was such a feeling of camaraderie. Everyone was just so cool. The two-hour mark came, loudly counted down. People went crazy.
I figured this really had to be it. A guy was going around with a big bin liner, soliciting empties and other rubbish. I thought this was very cool. No one could say we had trashed the place. When the two-hour mark (and its countdown) passed, I picked up my jacket and bag again, and grabbed a spare plastic carrier bag, and went around picking up rubbish. I wanted to do my bit. Before I left. I was sweating, and still sort of doing little shuffling boogie steps as I went around picking up rubbish. I did a big loop around the concourse. When I'd looped back to the area I'd been dancing in, most of the same people were there. (Including, it should probably be noted, some inordinately hot chicks.) I stopped, and sort of squinted. I queried myself. Now why exactly was I leaving? Oh, fuck it. I threw my coat and bag back down.
The three-hour mark came. I was talking to a guy on my way out:
Me: "This was the best club night I've had in months!"
Guy (deadpan): "The music was good."
Me (laughing): "Yeah, I liked every single track . . ."
Here are some of my favourite videos from the event (there were an awful lot of cameras going around), as posted on YouTube.
This is an actual produced video segment by The London Paper.
This one is good because it has music which much better conveys what the experience was like (it was only silent to the bystanders).
[Note: I've just added music ("Supermoves" by Overseer!), as you can probably hear. It will provide a nice soundtrack to the silent videos, but will turn off for this one as this link opens in the same window.]
This one captures the scale fairly well.
This one captures the vibe on the floor a bit; plus it's got the City boy with the tie around his head.
This is from one of the several Conga lines.
Another lightly produced piece but also includes music, which, again, is a much more faithful representation of how we actually experienced it.
And this one has a tiny bit of yours truly. From about 00:09 to 00:13, in the bottom of the frame, with the sleeves of my hipster Ben Sherman shirt rolled up. (Plus a bit of my head when it pans back.)
Oh, and here's an article in The Daily Mail.
If you want to learn more about mobile clubbing, check out www.mobile-clubbing.com. If you want to be alerted to future London mobile clubbing events (plus other flash mobs), get on the the London Flash Mob list.