Saturday Night: Smashing] Where trippy meets dippy

Alix Sharkey
Friday 14 October 1994 23:02

IT IS London's fabbest, silliest, unlikeliest and most exhilarating Friday night, as for weeks I have been telling anyone who will listen. 'But what's it like?' they ask. The name says it all, I reply, with a shrug. It is . . .

Smashing] As camp as Christmas, the venue is Eve's, an original Sixties night-club on Regent Street once frequented by Christine Keeler, with low lighting, red and gold embossed wallpaper, wrought- iron railings and red velvet banquettes. A proper night-club, where you can sit and drink at a table, and chat someone up] The coat-check festooned with fairy lights and fake foliage, the ceiling dripping with pink plastic robes and supported by a pair of fake palms, it is probably the last example of vintage club kitsch anywhere in the capital, and National Heritage should list it immediately as a site of great cultural importance.

Blimey] These kids are saucy little rascals and pretty, too, but not painfully, tediously so. Sexy is as sexy does, and if you mix the yobbish bonhomie of Loaded with the prick- teasing perkiness of Glamour, you will get something like the spirit of Smashing] The gender energy is a 50- 50 mix, with neither holding sway. Consequently, all is in flux, with hormones surging all over the place. Not that anybody is into channelling energies or any New Age bollocks down here, mate. Sod that, it's a disco, not a yoga class. Just the right side of reckless, awash in daftness, fuelled by flirtation but a long way from mere frivolity, that's Smashing]

Flippin' Ada] What a dance floor] Perspex squares, blue, red, yellow and white, strobe-lit from underneath, with hydraulic gears that transform it into an elevated stage for the inimitable cabaret acts that appear around 1.30am. Illuminated dance steps bring a smile to the moodiest mug, and when you feel a bit tipsy you notice a kind of rainbow smear on everything, and everyone looks so fabulous yet anonymous, like they are all dancing on Ready Steady Go. They strut, they stomp, they stagger, they pogo and pout, they wiggle their bums, as the moment demands. And the music?

Bloody Nora] Bowie's 'Queen Bitch'; the Beastie Boys' rap cacophony; the Barbarella theme song; the Happy Mondays' narcoleptic white funk; or the Smiths' 'Panic', dissolving into throbbing acid house. What kind of music do they play? The only kind] Indy rock? James Last? Grunge? Sammy Davis Jnr? Sixties soundtracks? Si, si, senor. Glam? Punk? New Wave? Disco? Pinky and Perky? Tick them all off, and anything else that comes to mind. Do your bowels clench at the sound of Weller's warble? Mine, too] But don't worry, a good record will be along faster than you can say: 'Sham 69? Puh-leese]'

Crikey] Meet your fab hosts, Matthew, Martin, Michael and Adrian, whose various musical and aesthetic preferences clash and mutate in this kaleidoscopic jolly-up. Oh, what a life of human waste] Mods, rockers, skins, trannies, beatniks, disco queens, hippies, dippy chicks, old school trendies, all the nightlife gangs are welcome. 'That was the original idea,' says Matthew, who won't stand for any nonsense. 'Smashing] is not a spectator sport, it demands your complete involvement. I give 'em three songs, and if they're still standing there agog, I show 'em the door.'

Cheeky] The vibe is whatever brings people together. Some trawl and troll through the dancers, loose and floppy, gently disrupting them with the idiot grin of universal love. They do it in a caring, sharing, giving kind of way, getting pushed and shoved from group to group, until eventually the individual dances go mushy, the cliques disband, and everybody sways in unison, singing along to the choruses in a dream space somewhere between football terrace, girly teen mania, youth club disco and loved-up rave party. It is tricky, this kind of mob surrender - you can fall on your arse, get a cigarette burn or a fat lip. But it is worth it. 'I love a bit of rough and tumble,' says Matthew, and we all agree.

Gordon Bennett] It took nearly three years, but finally people are tuning in. 'Oh, so it's not about retro, or fashion victims, or punks, or gay disco . . ?' No] It's a knees-up, a laugh, a place that deliberately dodges the kind of snappy style-press definitions that other clubs fall over themselves to attract. It is this irreducibility, this refusal to categorise itself for the media, that makes Smashing] so vital. Defying all definitions, Smashing] can exist as 'a thousand different things to a thousand different people', as Matthew puts it.

In a time of factions and fragmentation, Smashing] is a small miracle of omnificence on Regent Street, a celebration of union through diversity, a glittering ray of hope on an otherwise gloomy horizon. We can say all these things about Smashing] and still not define it, so perhaps the last word must go to Matthew: 'It's a big tumble-dryer of a disco, with all the colours and whites jumbled together; we just chuck it all in, and press 'spin'.'

On Fridays, Smashing] is at Eve's Club, 189 Regent Street, London W1. A film about Smashing], A smashing night out, will be screened on 7 November, BBC2, 8.50pm.

(Photograph omitted)

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