Sunday, March 30, 2008
Weatherall at The Priory
Here's a review of Maunday Thursday's Priory with Andy Weatherall. A bit late I know, but it's been in transit.
The Priory Vs Base
The Fez, Cambridge UK
Andrew Weatherall (Two Lone Swordsmen/ROTTER'S Golf Club)
Jim Masters (Base/Hi Tek Soul)
Sam I Am, The Fish and George (The Priory)
Cambridge suffers, more than most, from it's proximity to London, and this is especially evident in it's nightlife. It's only fifty miles north of the capital, but if you compare it to Brighton, which is about the same distance away but South, then the differences become all too clear. There's a provincialism about Cambridge in spite of it's university and international student population that it's seaside cousin has long since shaken off. In fact it's maybe because of the university that things aren't more laissez faire. With this in mind, evenings like the Priory's Easter soiree featuring Andrew Weatherall as guest of honour are pretty much unmissable.
The Priory are currently three. Sam (I Am), James (The Fish) and George. They've been in existence for a good few years now and have built up their night from the proverbial party in a pub back room to hosting The Fez one Thursday a month. It's a testament to their hard work and dedication that although the night isn't a weekender, it's often packed to the rafters with a solid ensemble of regulars and reprobates for whom the third Friday of each month has become the perennial basis for swapping sick note excuses. They don't sell out on the guest front either, booking on the basis of sound musical taste rather than commercial profitability. Guests this year before Lord Sabre have been Luke Slater and Ed DMX.
Tonight's line-up is the pick of the bunch up to now though. It's the start of the Easter weekend, (no work on Good Friday), and upon entering at 10:30 it's already heaving inside. This is the situation until around an hour from the end when the crowd inevitably begins to thin out. The residents are on until AW, who takes control at around 12:15 and they set things up nicely for him, never losing the floor for a minute and building a finely constructed sonic wedding cake of a set.
AW's set was two hours stripped-down tech-house, the subtleties of which were lost on quite a few people. The problem with city centre clubs opening the night before a holiday weekend is that everyone wants to get in on the act. A sizeable proportion of the Fez's clientele were just there to extend drinking time or to get battered as quickly as possible. This doesn't apply to those dancing of course, just those wandering around like lost souls wanting it to be "a bit more bangin'." There was a groove to be jumped into and if you chose to, get lost in. I had much better things to do than trainspot, so I'm afraid I can't comment on specific tracks. Suffice to say that Andy didn't play a rockabilly set, or any Detroit electro. He was patient and kept people going, probably with one eye on Jim Masters coming on straight after. It was messy, druggy music with one foot firmly in an illegal warehouse rave. In many ways it felt a little too dirty for the Fez. Maybe that was the problem. . .
Jim Masters and the Priory DJs played out the final hour after AW stepped down. Their more uptempo and emphatic sets being met with relief by a large proportion of the crowd. This was what the hoi polloi had really come to hear: the music was more assertive and less subdued. Those who stuck around until the end said that the residents played the best music of the night with Jim Masters coming in a close second. Andy Weatherall's set was dismissed as "pretentious" by some and "boring" by others. Who was it who said "opinions are like arseholes . . ."? In any case, the bigger picture has to be taken into account here. The velocity was there to be increased and that was part of the plan. Instant gratification wasn't and it was to the benefit of everyone, whether they realised it or not, that this was the case. The night was an unqualified success in all respects except for the fundamental requirements of an efficient bar and cloakroom. These complaints may seem trite, but when the huddle around the bar is three or four deep all night because of a "staff shortage" and you've got a cloakroom populated by a human sloth, no amount of good music can placate you in your time of need. Let's end on a high though. Hats off to the Priory for improving on past line-ups and for bringing the noise back to Cambridge city centre.
Thanks to Caz Blink for the photos.