Bob’s Cabaret/Area 10 BIG PARTY

Absolutely amazing. Don’t know where to start. Fragmented memories.

For a start, the event had expanded to fill all the areas available in the old Timber Yard. There were many rooms with many things happening. The largest space, into which we entered had a boat built in the middle, and was surrounded with sculptures and installations, ranging from exploded piano’s (the strings of which were still tuned and could be played with two bolts), shiny geodesic domes.

In the Bob’s Cabaret area at the back was the usual spread of sofas and a bar and a mini stage had been built.

In the office space a toybox had been spilt on the floor and all the light up toys were spread around for everyone to play with.

Behind the office space a room with Resonance FM djs and vjs live mixing ambient sounds with hypnotically messed up footage of Peckham’s shopping centre.

Out in the yard was a large bonfire surrounded by many large welded or concrete sculptures (a rather fantastic skyscraperscape that had been flooded by rain earlier that day).

Back inside was a dark room with phosphorescant wall. A light would come on periodically, and if you stood still against the wall while the light was on, then moved away you could see your shadow remain on the wall, like Hiroshima. Further back, a live band played more instrumental, and the glow in the dark room, with black lights and suspended from the ceiling fluorescant photocopies.

A child’s shoe hung from the ceiling, kicking me in the face as I emerged back into the main space and hit the bar for some more wine. High in the air a chilean band played latin american beats.

On the platform above Bob’s Cabaret a lunatic was let loose with a chain saw, cutting down the barriers around the platform, until, in a moment of distraction he let the roaring chainsaw touch the ground, snapping the chain which flew off into the crowd. Luckily no one was dis-membered. The lunatic continued to smash up the platform, using his hands, feet and tools. Climbing up to the platform a woman stood with an axe, chopping at an old log, muttering something under her breath over and over.

Then outside a drumming circle grew, people finding anything they could to make a noise, drums, plastic barrels, clapping, breaking sticks, smashing bottles. The fire stoked up, and the crowd gazing into the flames. Inside, people rubbed the crotch of Yoshi’s legs statue, as the extractor fan blew the legs around in a crazy dance, not unlike Yoshi’s. Yoshi loaded the fire again and again. A fragment of memory: Dave from MeanTime radio, seen through licks of flame, holding a child’s bicycle above his head, about to sacrifice it, while a chorus of Don’t Do it comes from all around. He puts the bike back around his neck, where he wears it like jewellry. The drumming intensifies.

A naked man appears, with a video camera, filming everything. Someone says – he is filming everything but himself, and he is the most filmable thing there. Back in Bob’s Cabaret, the naked man climbs onto the stage and announces that he is holding his favourite CD player, which he throws onto the ground, smashing it. He has a poem written on his hand, which he does not read.

I find myself on the demolished platform, with a hammer, banging out furiously the rythmn to The Harder They Come, along to the CD. This resonates around the warehouse. I think this is the loudest noise I have made for a few years. Time for more wine.

On the prow of the boat in the main room I can observe most of the event. The crowd is not massive. I think that it is competing with Reclaim the Future in Tottenham, not to mention the every saturday clubbing of London. Still this is something special. Not just banging tunes, but interesting, scary, engaging objects and people. Looking down I notice that most people look confused, or are they just utterly munted? I am offered a lift to RtF in Tottenham by someone I have been talking to for a while in the Resonance FM room. I find out that RtF has been under seige by a gang and decide not to go. The man kisses me on the cheek and hugs me. I don’t really like the feel of stranger’s beard against my face… It is the second time he has kissed me tonight…

He leaves, my friends and family leave, but I want to stay. I visit the door. Things are a little tight on the door. They aren’t letting anyone in, but there is a small queue outside just in case. They should let them in. Then out of nowhere a clown on stilts, bare chested and painted white is striding around the arena, chased by a blue stripey faced clown. They set off smoke bombs. The door staff aren’t paying attention, and smelling the smoke, freak out and start to call the fire brigade. It is part of the art I shout. Keep your eyes on the road if you are driving this thing. The clown on stilts is climbing up the wall, the blue striped one climbing up the clown on stilts.

Out in the yard I get a strong feeling that the drumming circle could use another drummer, and break a long stick with which to beat a plastic barrel. I don’t know how long I do this for. A while. Then the drumming gets a little too controlled, and back inside to see what is happening now, and refill my belly with more wine, and possibly find a spliff to wash the evening down. I succeed in my mission, and now find myself warbling along with some guitar players, and firing a laser through a slinky secured to the ceiling. This is getting a bit lost really. I decide to leave. But I can’t without going for another look around. In the ambient room with live musicians I find Dave from MeanTime radio who has been trying to leave for about three hours. I decide that neither of us can leave, and remove him from his posse so we can duet on the exploded piano for a bit longer. But the fun is fizzling out. The police have arrived to stop the drumming. Everyone has to come inside, the fire is burning out. Time to leave. 5:30. Respectable. It went on till 8 when the police kicked everyone out.

That is it. What happens to Area 10 next? The final Bob’s Cabaret is on Thursday. I will have to miss it. They will surely end with a bang. But perhaps not. There is hope that the lease will be renewed, and a new season will begin in November. There is also a rumour that the timber yard is going to be pulled down and a car park for Peckham is built in its place.

Originally published in the dear departed Guilfin site.

Bob’s Cabaret (Area 10 – London: Thursday 19th Sep, 2002)

I entered Bob’s Cabaret this week to find the proverbial hive of activity, as the artists gear up to the big party on Saturday. A lot of building was going on last night in the main space. For the first time it was all lit up. No fumbling through the darkened hall to find the secret back rooms.

Bob’s Cabaret celebrated Chilean National Day last night mainly with music. Sofa’s had been moved around into a circle and people were playing guitars. More of a house party atmosphere a result. Some poetry readings. All punctuated by the sound of circular saws, welding, and the occaisonal hoot from Ron’s toybox in the other back room.

Saturday’s party looks like it is going to be very interesting. They have built a giant boat in the middle of the large warehouse room and a lot of instalations are around the outside. Some big metal sculptures have been built out the back, and there is a lot of wood waiting to be burnt on Saturday night. Rumour has it that some people are planning a mini demolition of part of the structure, though whether the lease will be renewed or not may effect whether this happens. Bob’s Cabaret is listed as a participant in the party, not as an organiser. They don’t yet know what will be happening, but it sounds like the usual risky, potentially scary and thought invoking stuff. Or perhaps just a chilled gig.

Peckham will sorely miss Bob’s Cabaret. Next Thursday’s is the last one, possibly ever.

Insecure at Bob’s Cabaret (Area10, Peckham, Thursday 5th Sept 2002)

It has become a habit for me to go down to Bob’s Cabaret, experience the “art”, but have to leave early, feeling a bit downcast because I ain’t doing anything so creative or expressive as these people. That is my own insecurity.

The cabaret starts with some pleasant classical guitar. Unbeknownst to me in another room, something else is going on, and crowds of people appear after this.

A siberian man strips down to his trousers, casts his arms into the air, starts to spin and wail at the same time. Performance dance, or wanky posing? I don’t know, but some of the other folk at Bob’s Cabaret seemed to think the latter. They started shouting arty things like “Something”, “Nothing”, “Everything” and smashing bottles against the wall and throwing large bits of wood. The performer continued his own cacaphonics until breaking point and he shouted “Fuck you very much” and walked off.

Considering previous occurences at Bob’s Cabaret, and the embracing of disruption by a number of those involved, I was unsure whether this was planned, or just the attention seeking of one or two at the expense of another performer. I suspect there are one or two people who think that everything they do is art, including being brash and rude in the middle of other peoples’. How is the audience supposed to understand this? Drawing on my own insecurities and inferiority complexes I try to incorporate some sanity into my interpretation, but should I rather go to the thing in itself and judge the disruptors as a hatful of arseholes? Could I in these circumstances even begin to consider creating something? Seems a bit isolating to me, contrary to the spirit of the hopeful Area 10 press release.

That over, a film show began, slow motion film of the clouds and the moon, accompanied by a rather operatic singer.

They finish and a man and women in Aztec dress enter the room, with insense burning. She is wearing a giant feather head-dress. He carries a large floor standing drum. He explains they will perform Aztec healing music, and I feel the need to be healed. He begins to drum, she wafts insense in the faces of the gathered crowd, before entering into a spinning, leaping dance. It does feel quite healing. It is healing for the heart he says. He leaves the drum to join in the dance himself and they are spinning in unison, turning each other like cogs. From what I know about Aztec religion it is all about rebirth, the world and society returning from oblivion through the self-sacrifice of a god. I hope there is no self-sacrifice tonight…

At the end of the Aztec performance, the siberian leaps on to the stage and asks for the drumming to start again “and we will see what happens”. Again he starts wailing and leaping. Now I wonder if this man strives for attention too. In his own way he is acquiring anothers performance as his own. Perhaps the hecklers were right. Or perhaps it is all “art” existing in its own exclusive space.

This over, the heckler from earlier is the “resident poet” and starts his rant. Still undecided I decide to leave. I don’t need to hear this man anymore.

Walking home I am insecure as to whether I should have left, insecure that I might be walking away from something interesting, insecure that I can’t do this stuff, insecure that I am being dragged away. So much bloody insecurity. It’s a Thursday night. Sort it out….

Bob’s Cabaret (Area 10 – London: Thursday 22nd Aug, 2002)

Found out that last week, after I left there was some nudity. Why is this night on a Thursday – I want to stay all night, but can’t. Argh.

Anyway, last night there was some improvised dance, with a strange scary ranting man and a deckchair (I fear he may take his art to far – but perhaps that is what he wants us to think). There was improvised classical guitar from Miguel which recieved a standing ovation (way better than his eclectic and overlong electric guitar rendition last week). There was a duo who played an african instrument sent through a wah-wah pedal, and an electric guitar, who were fantastic. Some sort of film show which didn’t really work. And then we had to go. Damn working life!

Such a good vibe down at the cabaret – you really owe it to yourself to take Friday off work, and hang out at Bob’s till the sun rises on Friday morning!