CLUBLAND Children of Albion Rovers Club Nite Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Thursday 02 January 1997
Once upon a time Rebel Inc was a shoestring lit mag with attitude. It published a legendary "interview" with Irvine Welsh and its editor Kevin Williamson, both fuelled by E. It staged live, semi-legal events in a ramshackle Unemployed Workers Centre set to a pumping soundtrack of Roots and Jungle. The magazine sold bucketloads and the events packed out. Then came Trainspotting, and suddenly Rebel Inc books dragged a struggling Scottish publisher into hipdom, with the Children of Albion Rovers anthology showing off not just Welsh, but a whole crop of disparate writers nestling in the underbelly of something that doggedly refuses to become a Scene.
Three years on from the Unemployed Workers Centre, the most corporate building in town was filled on Monday night with People Who Live Here - a classic maverick contradiction, and one that worked brilliantly. Seeing a swanky theatre space deformalised into a blissed-out dance zone was a treat. The cream of local DJs could probably have filled the place by themselves, but the main event was readings by Welsh and Paul Reekie, the joker in the Albion Rovers pack.
Reekie's early performances are the stuff of legend, and one might be forgiven for lumping him in with a host of literary pretenders, but listen hard and you'll see a true classicist at work, with references to his European forebears pouring out of every line. The attention Reekie is at last receiving - threatened lawsuits notwithstanding - is a rich reward for someone for whom the phrase "Been there, done that" might have been invented. His contribution to the anthology Submission, from which he read, is one of the most brilliantly honest pieces of writing to come out of anywhere for years. Read anything of his you can get your hands on, but see him, too. Make him a star.
Seeing a potential Booker Prize winner mixing up and getting down to some crucial drum 'n' bass in an unashamedly chilled fashion isn't an everyday occurrence, yet for Irvine Welsh it's just happy, hedonistic business as usual. The story he read is a grotesque first-person narrative of one man's attitude to an overweight wife who loses her legs, causing him to miss the football. "The only thing you need to know about the guy in this story is that he's a cunt," said Welsh. And it was so. Bitingly funny, Welsh at his best crosses the boundaries of political correctness with two fingers in the air, and seeing more than 300 clubbers - along with the odd bemused interloper - rapt at every word, before partying until the dry ice set the fire alarms off, was an extraordinary experience.
Of course, it's all been done before. The current crop of club culture crossovers are just the bastard offspring of the poetry 'n' jazz scene scuzzed up with the wisdom of first-generation punk. And, like its blueprint, it blows hot and cold. In short, when it's done well, as on Monday night, it's immense and inspiring. When lesser talents jump the train, though (to stretch a jazz metaphor), it stinks of self-indulgence and conceit. That'll come, but for now there's a home team here to be proud of.
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