I was in London for Rough Trade's 25th birthday party. It was super-friendly and really nice; people were chatty and casual, the venue was (to my provincial eyes) unbelievably clean, airy, fresh and bright, and, all-in-all, it wasn't really a club atmosphere at all. It was more like someone at Rough Trade had totted up the figures and said, "Guys, there's no way we can afford the party we deserve," and someone else had said, "Wait, what if we do it at a club, and get whatever bands we have handy to play? We can put it on a website and fund the entire shindig off selling advance tickets to schmucks!" . Reader, I was that schmuck. And it was worth every penny.
We got in early (I think) so no queues but a bit of standing around. Can't think of many nicer places to do it, though. Clip art projections, pretty people, good music, coloured lights ... a cute schoolboy spotted my wrinkles and bounded up to tell me all about his band ("We're trying to get to more places, but there aren't many venues in Kent ...") and I strung him over for a few sentences, finding out a bit about his band ("We're a bit like Coldplay, but we've definitely got our own sound.") his bandmates ("Our drummer's fantastic, and he's a German nobleman!") before sending him off to find somebody useful to talk to ... I hope he appreciated the opportunity to practice his patter!
Around this time, half-a-dozen friends (LJ/rl/whatever) turned up, but we were too busy to say hi, holding onto our balcony view for The Fiery Furnances who made very nice music at us for quite a long time. With the exception of the lead singer (Jenni: she looks like Patti Smith! Me: She looks like Marc Bolan!) they were a little underdressed for such glamorous music, but I enjoyed them a great deal; the music was hard, stony, somewhat semiprecious, and interestingly curved and smoothed, in places worn through to show surprising constrasts of vivid colour, like half-polished corals or a gleamier bakelite equivalent.
The string quartet had me flummoxed for a bit, but it finally resolved into The Hidden Cameras so I forced my way downstairs to stare from close range. It was nice up there, surrounded by the ghostly rectangles of photo phones, duplicating and reviewing scraps of the action (hand on a fret, his mouth singing, floppy fringe over the eyes) caught in my own tiny pocket of space between well-groomed bisexual couples complaining about the sound quality (which wasn't good) and a tiny squirming horde of Japanese girls trying to manouevre their disposable camera into a position where it would see the stage. They ignored all the people yelling "play ban marriage" and the chatty crowd colonising the front so nothing would come between them and the special guests, and sang new songs sweetly, old songs faithfully, making their own bright space somewhere above, beyond, outside.
After that I'd had enough of hard sound on soft ears so I ran away to upstairs again, where Jenni had held onto her space on the rail, ably assisted by Laura ("I'm out on a wednesday, who goes out on a wednesday?") and Neil ("Oh, you're cleanskies!") and while Adam Green started on his set had a drunken ramble with Simon about whether it was him or Toby Goodshank that had been in The Moldy Peaches. (Answer: both.)
But by this time it was close to midnight, so we just had time to bid farewell to Dickon's freshly-bleached hair and run for the bus, pausing only to photograph shoes in shop windows. Jenni lamented the absence of Jeffrey Lewis all the way home (until she fell asleep).
So we left before the special guests even turned up! Though, according to Neil, you could tell from the scarfs that is was going to be The Libertines.
P.S. There's a new community for people in Oxford; it's called dreamingspires, of course!