Saturday Night: Shooting my first musical

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The Wasted Weekend begins on Friday 13 May, when I arrive at Metrovideo to pick up the Hi-8 camera. My mission: to document a return coach trip from Wandsworth's Final Frontier club to the Mecca of electronic dance music, the Omen club in Frankfurt.

Tonight, 35 techno pilgrims will dance until dawn, board the bus, drive to Germany, get changed, dance all night again, get back on the bus and drive back to London. The cost: pounds 65 a head. There are no hotel rooms, because there will be no sleep, except on the coach. Oscar shakes his head and says he can't wait to see me on Monday when I return the equipment.

Matt, the technician, gives me a crash course in professional Hi-8 technology. The camera is bristling with switches, meters and knobs. He points to them, one by one, and says: 'Don't touch that, or that, or that.' I jot down his instructions. Five minutes later I am ready to shoot my latter-day Ben Hur.

By midnight, the film crew is assembled: Joanna Peters, my producer, Charlotte Brear, our runner, and yours truly, director and cameraman. The producer and runner are dolled up in mini-skirts, skimpy tops that reveal their navels, and lashings of mascara. Have they underestimated the gravitas of this project? At least, I decide, their coquettish charms will distract attention from the idiot behind them, fumbling and squinting into the viewfinder.

In a draughty corridor, we interview Howard, one of the organisers of tonight's trip, dressed in silver hotpants with matching cap and biker jacket. What are his expectations of the Wasted Weekend? 'We're going to have a brilliant time, and end up in intensive care, I imagine.'

Jerry introduces himself as 'the ambience co-ordinator' and promises to 'sort us out later'. I test his resources by asking for some gaffer tape. With a chuckle, he produces a roll of the stuff from an ominous black bag. Griff, whom I know from the club scene, offers the first of many illicit enticements, which is politely declined in the interests of good journalism.

We trawl through the club, shooting the frenzied gyrations. In the main room, German DJ Mark Spoon, flown in specially, plays his peculiar brand of trippy techno, all twinkling melody lines and shimmering synth chords over an erratic, urgent bassline. After several attempts I set the camera's 'white balance' in the midst of cavernous darkness punctuated by the flare of lasers and vari-lites. I am starting to become quite macho about this film business, swinging the camera on to my shoulder, or cradling it to film from crotch height.

The sun squeezes through a colourless Wandsworth sky, and 37 bleached-out faces blunder on to the coach. As we pull away, the sound system erupts with a staccato flurry of bass drum beats. Uh-oh. No sleep till Frankfurt, it seems. The beers and spliffs are broken out. Slowly, various characters emerge: those who will animate the film and, we hope, give it depth and resonance.

People such as Jon and Nick, 22-year-old twins, who can vocalise the bass line, drum pattern and melody of every major techno record of the past two years. Or Frankie, a dashing 25- year-old plumber from Milton Keynes, with his girlfriend and his pal, Martin, a 28-year-old printer from Gosport.

Despite their living hundreds of miles apart, Frankie has a key to Martin's house, so he can drop in whenever he wants. They met in January at Final Frontier, and became friends instantly. 'That's what this scene's all about, mate,' says Frankie, beaming.

'How could you fail to like him?' asks Martin. 'Look at that cheesy grin.'

People such as John and Dan, from Tonbridge, and John's girlfriend, Sidhona, whose name is Tibetan for 'warm night' - an understatement, I thought, given our destination. At the back is Charlie, a 20-year-old visual-arts student from Leicester, who says she doesn't really know about the music but likes dancing and enjoys the scene.

Neil, laconic yet amiable, sporting a bleached mohican and puffing on a spliff, has come down from Edinburgh. 'This is a journey to the source, where techno originated,' he says.

While techno may be German, its mode of consumption is undeniably English. It was in and around London and Manchester that a generation first gathered in large numbers to combine Ecstasy with pumping electronic dance music, and create an unprecedented psycho-active experience.

'There is nothing like it, not even sex compares,' says John. When the music and the drugs are at their best, he says, the

experienced dancer goes on an increasingly complex journey: 'It becomes a kind of puzzle that you solve as you move.'

Or again: 'The music and the drugs combine to make a space that you explore with your body. You can actually feel the music all around you.'

As we approach our target, the pace of life seems to quicken, the beat becomes more intense. Some of those present liken the trip to a techno version of Spinal Tap, but this belies the reckless determination involved. When we hit the Omen, the energies on board are unleashed in an orgasmic explosion.

Sadly, there is no time or space to tell the whole story here, but with any luck you can join us on the Wasted Weekend soon - as seen on TV.

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