Oxjam: Fatboy Slim, Dalston Oxfam Shop, London

 

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The Independent Culture

When I walk in, The Clash's "Rock the Casbah" is shaking a rack of very serviceable shoes. And, standing by the secondhand books as the crowd dance, I'm fascinated by Jaws star Robert Shaw's forgotten 1960s career as a respected novelist. Others are leafing through the vinyl, much as they would on any other day in this East End Oxfam shop. Except that it's well after hours, and a paying audience are in the humid, sweatbox atmosphere for Fatboy Slim. The noise travels up Dalston's high street, and a little boy looks in the misted window, mouth open at the incongruous scene.

It's the first night of the fifth year of Oxjam, a nationwide month of gigs ranging from buskers to Brett Anderson. Like the seven-inch singles Blur and the Arctic Monkeys have released in Oxfam shops in recent years, they're supporting a hip high-street institution and unimpeachable charity. Inside Fatboy Slim, aka Norman Cook, is in his trademark Hawaiian shirt, conducting the crowd and mouthing along to the music. Cook's days as Hove's premier international chart act on his beloved, local label Skint during the Big Beat dance boom were a continuation of Britpop in their superficial, lagered-up, past-recycling, brilliant excitement. His ability to move a crowd, from a quarter of a million to tonight's couple of hundred, remains.

The secret is a lack of interest in dance snobbery, offering the broadest church of what's good, and will make everyone move. The Clash's rebel rock is soon followed by five seconds of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean", which is then buried in the substructure of a mighty Giorgio Moroder synth-line. The Tupac-sampling "Kalifornia", from his 1998 No 1 album, You've Come a Long Way, Baby, becomes part of this total dance music. An echoing, isolated soul voice is sped to the point of hysteria, but look elsewhere for introspection. "Telstar" becomes the Darth Vader theme, and Keith Richards's "Satisfaction" riff gets the biggest cheer, as it feeds into Fatboy Slim's funk monster "The Rockafeller Skank". Cook has always been humbler and more idealistic than the monolithic, brand DJs who dominate big dance events now. The man on stage grinning to his own music believes in untainted hedonism. An Oxfam shop suits him better than a superclub.

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