Wednesday, October 01, 2014
London Loves: A Punter's AppreciationBritpop. It was, is, and probably always will be, troublesome. It was cool (really!) for a blazing few months or so in the mid-90s, before the rot set in. Then, of course, it was hijacked as ‘Cool Britannia’. And if there’s one surefire rule of cool it’s that if people start insisting that something’s cool, especially if those people are deeply uncool, then it is no longer cool. It is tainted. Untouchable. It shall never be cool again. It's taken a 20 year "anniversary” effectively sponsored by BBC 6 Music this year for there to be something of a re-appraisal of Britpop, for better or worse. Back in the mid-noughties, that reassessment was a long way off. And yet this is when London Loves was conceived, launched and flourished, as a glorious Shed Seven spinning, Bluetones blasting anachronism. How could such a thing come to pass?
Well, London Loves was never a night for the original acolytes of Britpop. It was for those of us that had missed out first time round. The teenagers of the 1990s who had devoured the records at home on cassette, poured over Select, NME & the Melody Maker in their lunchbreak, maybe even seen their idols at their first gig (me: The Bluetones, Watford Colosseum, September 1996). But they hadn’t experienced the drunken camaraderie of London’s Scene That Celebrates Itself in the early 90s, the Camden centered explosion of Britpop in 1994 or the decadent Primrose Hill set from '95 onwards. Mainly because their Mum wouldn’t let them. They were suburban kids with their noses pressed up against the glass, looking in, waiting for their moment.
By the noughties, our time had arrived. We were now in our twenties, in cheap London accommodation and, post-university, in the finest drinking form of our lives. It wasn’t retro-fuelled nostalgia... honest! We just wanted our own slice of shabby central London faded glamour. But where to go? Camden had begun to lose its shine, East London only had its original scenesters (we hadn't stolen "hipsters" from the Yanks yet) and New Cross was yet to Nu Rave. We needed somewhere accessible. Somewhere central. Somewhere with good nightbus routes...
So it was at The Push Bar on Dean Street in Soho that London Loves’ found its most celebrated home. A stone’s throw from the legendary 100 Club, it unwittingly became the most perfect venue: cramped, grotty and honest. Very honest. It harked back to the early days of Britpop, the inner circle, before the pomp, The Brits and the Class As. London Loves was a night for the original grown-up teenage misshapes, scattered across the capital. Loose connections, I came to it as a friend of a friend of a friend. It was the perfect place for us to congregate and celebrate our youth through a common musical heritage. We knew Sleeper, Supergrass and Echobelly weren’t desperately cool, but at 1am in a Soho basement bar on the wrong side of several tequila shots, we didn’t particularly care.
And at that time, British Indie Music was starting to get interesting again. Intriguing new bands like Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand and The Futureheads were beginning to emerge, inspired by the same strain of post-punk that had given an edge to Blur, Elastica and, yes, even Menswe@r (Pulp, of course, actually were a post-punk band). It all came together at the right time.
Looking back, London Loves lives fondly in my memory. It sits alongside other glorious central London indie nights such as Frog at the LA2, Play/Pause at The Albany and Send Me A Postcard, also at The Push Bar. It felt like a scene, familiar welcoming faces in intimate venues. But London Loves was always the favourite: a blur of alcohol and records, neither of which were perhaps the finest, but certainly had the desired effect. Dancing with friends, finally living out our teenage Britpop fantasies.
Eventually, London Loves moved on to the Albany for while, and then fizzled out, as these things do. The Push Bar closed forever. So did the Astoria, the LA2, Metro bar, and many other Soho late night hideaways, breaking indie hearts. Victims of market forces and Crossrail. But London Loves left a legacy. I made many friends that I still value a decade later. And it helped inspire me to start my own indie night with a likeminded friend, Rock and Roll Jumblesale. We wanted a night that was as fun as London Loves for all of our friends. There are few greater pleasures than playing music that you adore to people that you love.
The return of London Loves is a chance to relive all that fun all over again. A night of nostalgia for a night of nostalgia? Oh come now, it’s much more than that. Squeeze back into that skinny-fit band T shirt, grab yourself a pint and I’ll see you on the dance floor.
Any chance of hearing some Dodgy?