” Attention! Are you in the London area next week? Specifically Monday the 2nd March?
Would you like to come to an exclusive concert, from JARV IS…?
With DJs from 8 till late and a turbo sound system?
If you’re interested I’ll send you a text in a minute.
But you gotta move fast ‘cause tickets go on general sale at 10 am tomorrow morning.
Make your mind up.
This event is strictly for the headstrong.
See ya there…”
I was in the work bathroom when I dialled into the number on Jarvis Cockers Instagram post that was most likely made on Microsoft Paint. So I was understandably praying for an answering machine. Which it was – phew!
I was meant to be going with the same girl I got too pissed with at The Growlers, but tickets had sold out before she managed to grab some. Problem one.
I was then upgraded to Daft Bastard 2.0 when I analysed the Instagram post after the frantic rush of getting myself a ticket and saw the hashtags #housemusicallnightlong and #theraveison. I, therefore, proceeded to tell the whole office that I’m a big man and was going to a rave on a Monday night.
Here’s a lesson for you. If you want someone to join you at an event, don’t play it cool and say you’re going anyway and they’re welcome to join. It doesn’t work and you end up standing at the back of the crowd on your own with two bottles of beer in your hand. (Although I did manage to share a swift cocktail at Eastcheap Records, my new favourite bar, with her and her two friends beforehand. We exchanged an awkward peck on the cheek and I ran off into the night saying ‘fuckin idiot’ to myself)
So there I was, going to what I thought was a #housemusicallnightlong rave, on my own.
Nope, when I entered Steel Yard I was informed by the LPs at the merch stand that House Music All Night Long was actually the name of his new single… Tit.
I work my way to the back of a motionless crowd, listening to what reminded me of my dad’s Haçienda classics CDs. Then, a raspy Yorkshire accent blasts out of the PA ordering everyone into the main hall to watch the world exclusive showing of the House Music All Night Long video.
The video is littered with kitchen appliances sliding across the screen with the same animation skills as that PowerPoint presentation you made in Year 7. It features multiple Jarvi.. (is that the plural?) almost silhouetted on coloured backgrounds like the old iPod adverts, but you can just make out the folds of his signature suit.
It also had the delightful sound quality of a bent auxiliary cable with only one thread of the wire grasping on before it snaps- and then chucked underwater. But it was a world exclusive, so I appreciated the style they had gone for.*
Jarvis faded onto the stage to ‘Sometimes I Am Pharoah’ led by a smoke cloud which he remained enshrouded in for the rest of the show. He faced the back of the stage grasping a handheld mirror I’ve only ever seen in horror films to look at us through one eye.
It’s the spookiest introduction to a gig I have ever seen.
The dark, two-note bass accompanied by long, screeching violins and echoed vocals with a detuned chorus effect set an octave lower, laid the scene of an afterparty gone horribly wrong – but one of those you kind of enjoy at the time.
Then, after the song, we hear a northern ‘ey up London’ and the darkness is immediately lifted and I’m pulled out the trance I didn’t even know I was in.
We then brush over Coronavirus, the fact that they’ve not played in a while and proceeds to feed the crowd sweets; telling one punter “Shut up ‘n’ ‘ave a sweet” – I like him already.
Every song they perform is preceded by an inspirational dialogue that warmed my heart. I didn’t take notes on any of these because I was self-conscious, but what he said just made sense.
‘You’re in My Eyes (Discosong)’ brought out all the stops with the lighting which I must say was absolutely incredible throughout the night, so congrats to whoever was directing the spotlight. They had the most beautiful disco ball I have ever seen, it filled the room as if it was polished daily.
It was either before or after ‘Children of the Echo’ where he addressed the power of social media in uniting everyone that night, but that we also needed to escape the algorithm (or something like that).
‘Must I Evolve’ brings the ominous cloud back over the audience, like when you’re midway through a brilliant sex dream and a zombie walks in and suddenly you’re in a corridor on your own and unable to run.
It’s at this point in my write up that I realise I can’t really remember the music and that I was more focused on his messages. Which I have evidently also screwed up on, but bear with me, there’s more gold on the way. Do you really want to hear me use a thesaurus to describe how the guitar sounds anyway?
“That feeling of enjoyment you get when you know you’re making mistakes, when you’re fucking things up, but embrace it anyway. That enjoyment that lasts 5 minutes before you have to face the consequences. Yeah? This song is that” – Homewrecker! With saxophones and everything.
Jarvis is genuinely funny. But there’s a problem with that and it’s not his fault.
Being funny on stage seems to coax the terrible heckles from the most under qualified joke tellers in every crowd. Y’know, the ones that are trying to impress their girlfriends with a huge applause from the rest of the audience, but instead get dismissed with silence and the performer talking over them.
Yeah, that happened quite a bit.
But anyway, I found this funny: Steel Yard is situated in an archway under Cannon Street and we were interrupted by a train passing over the top.
He paused to let it stop. And then remained paused.
“Bear wi’ me, I lost my train of thought”
HAHAHaha ha ha ha. Okay, I’d had a few beers at this point.
We finished on ‘Cunts Are Still Running the World’ which, to my appeasement, united everyone. And the disco ball came out again.
The band then left the stage for a solid two seconds before returning.
‘Swanky Modes’ was exactly that. Until he fell off the stage; but even then, I guess.
‘His ‘n’ Hers’, a Pulp cover, was the glorious finale. The bouncy bassline brought out a kneejerk in even the most rigid of partygoers (aka me) and you forgot we ever had the spooky tones throughout the show. And it enlightened you. You realise that everything will pass. Your fears, your troubles and everything.
Yeah, I didn’t stop on the beers.
He then jumped down to some audience members to ask what they’re frightened of. One answered ‘spiders’, the other screamed ‘Brexit’. All whilst the bass plodded on quietly in the background.
Jarvis reassured us that these will pass if we unite and face them (I guess the ‘unite’ reference was more towards Brexit).
“Hang around with good people, do good things and good things will happen” and the audience erupted.
All the singers and instruments crash back in to complete the song and, in unison, the evening.
So much so that I was gonna awkwardly hang around for no particular reason – I quickly binned that idea.
I joined the girl who was meant to come with me back at Eastcheap Records and she asked, “how was the gig?”
I truly realised at this point that I had forgotten why it was incredible. It just was. You couldn’t put a finger on it and I still can’t (har har made you read to here to be horribly disappointed), but maybe that’s the whole point.
It wasn’t just a ‘gig’, it would be doing the performance a disservice to rate it on only that. It was much more. It had the same positive energy and solidarity as a protest against Trump or climate change, and both of those are something you have to experience yourself.
Let’s be honest, his voice is arguably terrible, and his knee bops and random hip thrusts are questionable, but if you asked me if you should go and see them live, I’d answer “I dunno, I can’t remember it”
P.S. I always try and learn something from moments and here’s what I noted down immediately after the show.
If you put yourself out there, there will always be one fan.
Make what you will of it.
* remember the terrible sound quality of the world exclusive of House Music All Night Long that I shrugged off as experimental? He actually apologised for leaving the robot effect on the speakers while it was playing. I can confirm, it was just shit quality.