Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dancing Questionnaire (24): Coz, Dublin

Today is St Patrick's Day, and by complete coincidence the latest respondent to the Dancing Questionnaire is Dublin-based Coz who describes himself as '39, Male, Community Radio DJ (on Near FM), Community Worker and Anti-fascist dance lover'.

Can you remember your first experience of dancing?

No, but I can recall my earliest memory of dancing. One of my paternal uncle's had a friend who was a huge Elvis fan and was known on the local club circuit (in Barnsley) for paying tribute to the King. We were fortunate as kids in the famlily to get much closer to the King than those occupying Clubland ever could have and having a mother and father who liked to sing and party in equal measure ensured we were ever present at family get togethers. Naturally, Trevor (The King) would take the stage (front room) at some point and receive the Holy Spirit (Elvis), writhing in contorted ecstasy while he moaned and groaned his way through a repertiore of The King classics. Invariably the kids in the room, who were not yet old enough to be inhbited by the presence of others were implored to provide rhythmic accompaniament by various mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles. So, there I'd be, trying for all I was worth to swing my pre-pubescent hips to the Blue Suede Shoes, Jailhouse Rock and Moody Blue... and I've been swinging em ever since.

What's the most interesting/significant thing that has happened to you while dancing?

Hmm, probably too many to settle on as definitive, but certainly one that will live with me until I die (or develop memory loss) was during a Henry McCullough gig (relatively unknown to me at the time) at the Menagerie in Belfast... just about to swagger onto the dancefloor I was stunned then hugely gratified to see him leap of the stage and whack somone with his guitar who was apparently pissing him off (I knew the protagonist and can certainly vouch for his annoying temperament). It all happened in slo-mo and the ensuing collapse of the PA and the swift ejection of the suitably chastised all added to the surreal moment... and I swear Henry still had his slippers on. Quite remarkable and all I could say to my mate for the rest of the night was, “Now that's fucking rock n roll fella!”

You. Dancing. The Best of times...

Turning 16 in 1989, leaving school and embarking on my first year at college (studying shit you'd never get to study at school) and accompanied by the very 'OST' of an emerging Manchester sound blaring out of the stacks at the Baths Hall in Scunthorpe. For the next 3-4 years I mouched my way across the dancefloors of some pretty grim northern pubs, clubs and parties while the Stone Roses, Charlatans, Happy Mondays, Soup Dragons, Blur, The Farm, EMF, et al made every one of them shine like beacons in what were invariably violent, grubby, and dirty-drug soaked nights out. Hot on their heels came Britpop, personified by the arrogance and egotism of Luke Haines (Auteurs), Brett Anderson (Suede) and Liam Gallagher. Sure, they were mostly aresholes then (and some still are) but my God did they make you feel like there was more to life! And of course, there was and still is. Being young, embarking on life's meandering path and all accompanied by some fantastic anthems... well, I couldn't help but dance.

You. Dancing. The Worst of times...

If I can't dance to it I'm just not dancing... unfortunately that basic standard doesn't apply to a lot of others. The worst offenders? Clearly the pill popping, 2 left feet owning and chequed shirt wearing white (invariably) boys from the estates, whom you'd think would be saved by the simplicity of repetitive beats. But not for some lads (and lasses)... the dance scene undoubtedly brought some Halcyon moments (and still does), but these were often accompanied by some less savoury sites of wide-eyed astonishment. Unfortunatley I joined them on far to many occassions.

Can you give a quick tour of the different dancing scenes/times/places you've frequented?

As a young teen it revolved primarily around the informal self made nights that we created either at people's houses or off the beaten tracks of our estates (local woods were always popular, where you could build a fire from the pallets of the nearby Asda and drink/sniff glue/smoke blow without worrying about being seen by all and sundry). Music was provided through 8-12 battery ghetto blasters and was usually hard rock in them days (ACDC/Maiden/Crue/RATT/G'n'R), with a liberal dosing of punk (Clash/Pistols/Tenpole Tudor/Jam/Stiffs) and something a little bit more commercial (Housemartins/Smiths/New Order/Erasure)... and we pretty must just threw oursleves around whichever house/field/wood we were occupying at the time. Once the doors of pubs and clubs were thrown open to me (at far too early and age it must be said) I entered the world of commercial dross in most cases (chart topping hits and the like) and where girls played second fiddle to the music. Still. I managed to stumble upon the odd decent 'alternative' night/club for a dismal northern town, who regaled me with new and unkown sounds (Joy Division/Wire/Chumbawamba/CRASS/Cure/Television Personalities) that at the very least didn't seem to require any particular knowldege or skill related to fancy footwork. Again, throwing myself around a lot seemed to be the order of the night (or day).

Cue 'baggy' and Acid House and all of a sudden everyone's getting on the nouveau retro bandwagon and suddenly you not only needed to look good on the dancefloor but you needed to know the moves to... needless to say I just kept throwing myself around a lot. It didn't seem to matter... 25 years on and such club nights as Bop Yestrum in Belfast prove that you can play whatever the fuck you like and the primary desire for most people is to just throw themselves about a lot.... while I could always generally find a beat to bop to, the only one I could never get and will probably always regret was the smooth moves of the Northern Soul scene... making a bit of a comeback as a slight post-script to the Acid Jazz scene in Belfast in the mid 90s I was always envious of those old enough to have made sojourns across the country to the Weekenders/All Nighters around legendary places like Wigan Casino. Nothing delights me more than watching the effortless shuffles of those adept at moving to a classic Northern Soul number.

And in the 15 odd years since I've gravitated from one alternative disco/club/shebeen to the next... and pretty much still do. Too cynical to ever become truly immersed in a scene/place I've always thought of my dancing experiences as like brief flirtations, where I get to dip my toe in and feel the beat for a while, but I'll never make a mistress of ya! And having lived in Ireland for the last 20 years many of those 'alt' nights/places have included experiences you wouldn't just tell anybody about... particularly the Rozzers! These days, most dancing takes place at any gig I'm fortunate enough to get at where the cool factor hasn't induced everybody into a steady sway at best. No Means No being a more recent example of how gigs should be enjoyed by a crowd.

When and where did you last dance?

Funky Seomra (pictured below) at the RDS in Dublin – a regular monthly night of dancing with a strong emphasis on the absence of alcohol and the rewards of physical expression. Daunted on arrival, but soon realising it was really a night for 'alt festival' goers without the tents, field, cider, rain/wind/sun/, cheap burgers but still plenty of 'free spirits' trying to commune with their inner child. Despite my inherent cynicism I embraced it whole heartedly and danced my ass off to some real classics (Yeke Yeke/Insomnia/Blue Monday)... so much so I might just do it all again on Paddys Day, which will be a significant achievement in Dublin when drinking till you die appears to be a minimum expectation.

You're on your death bed. What piece of music would make you leap up for one final dance?

Soooo many, but truth be told it'd be a toss up between RATMs Killing in the Name Of and System of a Downs BYOB and Band of Horse's Funeral . I reckon that in most cases I feel like trashing whatevers around me when 2 of these songs are on and given I'd be on my deathbed I might just get away with it on this occasion! The thirds seems apt...

All questionnaires welcome, just answer the same questions - or even make up a few of your own - and send to (see previous questionnaires).

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