Disco fever is back
Sequins, satin, sparkle and glitter balls. Disco nouveau is here and it's time to party
This year will be remembered as the point when it all went a bit wrong, frankly. So it’s odd that for most of the year, the club scene has been dominated by the fingers-in-the-ears, hands-in-the-air decadence of disco.
After years of being relegated to the office party and hen nights, disco has shimmied her way back up to the top of the cool kids’ party playlist. Blanketed in glitzy memories of Studio 54, disco provides the perfect antidote to the all-pervading grimness of the life ahead. “When times are good, you could argue that people get turned on by darker, edgier music, such as drum’n’bass or electro,” says Jim Stanton, who started the iconic Horse Meat Disco in Vauxhall, south London. “As soon as life gets harder, people look for something more uplifting, which is where disco comes in — it’s an escape. The first big-haired disco moments happened in America during the 1970s, when there was a depression caused by an oil crisis.”
Many of the tunes played are comfortingly familiar from the first time around, which makes the trend much more accessible. Whereas “cool” music scenes are often the preserve of kids taking drugs in dark corners, disco is camp and bright and sparkly and opportunist. Anyone can shake a tail feather to the anti-ageist, happy-go-luckiness of a disco tune.
The revival started at Glastonbury, with Horse Meat Disco’s NYC Downlow bar in the Trash City field. The tent, which from the outside looked like a 1970s back-alley dive, had transvestites hanging out of the second-storey windows and commanded a three-hour queue to get in. Once inside, to a soundtrack of sparkly, hip-bumping disco, a giant mirror ball twirled as men, women, boys, girls and everybody in between channelled the spirit of the disco divas of old. Then a truly “Oh, my” moment, as the crowds parted and six trannies — in heels, in the mud — broke into a formation dance known as the electric slide. You don’t get that at your average German techno night.
Horse Meat Disco’s Glasto moment was proof that the glittery disco bandwagon is back in town. Fashion agreed, as the trends stomping down the A/W 2008 and S/S 2009 catwalks proved. Sequins, satin and sparkle, jump suits and hair you could hatch a mirror ball out of — they’re all there. As for the girls in the new Gucci perfume ad — these, ladies, are your dancefloor inspiration. Wear the look at Disco Bloodbath, in London, or Disco Friction, in Manchester, and you’re there.
While we’re all familiar with the works of Abba and the Village People, DJs Todd Hart, of Dalston Oxfam Shop, and Dan Beaumont, of Disco Bloodbath, are digging a little deeper in the record box. “People want something a bit more challenging, to be exposed to music they would never normally hear,” Beaumont says. “That electro sound that seemed so fresh at clubs such as Nag Nag Nag has now moved so far into the mainstream, a lot of people are looking for an alternative.” Enter the sounds of “disco nouveau”.
“Bands such as Glass Candy, Chromatics and Fan Death are seeing a surge in popularity,” Stanton says. “Their sound combines elements of pop and elements of disco — they are uber-cool and appeal to the masses.”
Fan Death are the Canadians Marta Jaciubek-McKeever and Dandilion Wind Opaine. With their music reworked by the producer and DJ Erol Alkan, they are styling it at the front of the disco-nouveau pack. Their debut single, Veronica’s Veil at Chanel’s S/S catwalk show in Paris.
As for the “everybody gets it” appeal of the sound, Andy Butler, from Hercules and Love Affair, the poster band for disco nouveau, explains: “Disco often flirts with other musical styles, so no matter what genre you’re into, there’s a disco song for you. If you rock, there is rock. If you like rap, you’ll find a disco rap track. If you like it a little bit Latin, there are some Latin monsters. And,” he concludes thoughtfully, “the best thing about all disco is that it makes you want to boogie.”
There’s the rub. Or should that be the bump? Despite the doom and gloom, the solution is out there in a nightclub near you this new year. Do a little dance, make a little love and get down tonight.
THE BEST DISCOS TO BRING IN THE NEW YEAR
- Horse Meat Disco at Cargo. Jonny Woo guests. cargo-london.com
- Good Times Live at the Forum. With disco-nouveau pioneers Crazy P. normanjay.com
- Wig Out! at the Royal Court. Cabaret with DJ Boogaloo Stu. royalcourttheatre.com
- Elton John at the O2 — 17,000 join Elt for this one-off. theo2.co.uk
- Murderdisco at the Hope. Tiny venue, bumping and grinding obligatory. myspace.com/murderdisco
- Disco Friction at Joshua Brooks. A disco DJ-off. joshuabrooks.co.uk
- Chibuku at the Barfly. Fancy dress and 1980s disco. chibuku.com
- Basement Boogaloo at the Canal House. Disco jock extraordinaire Greg Wilson graces this shindig. myspace.com/ basementboogaloo
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Disco fever is back