Saturday night’s Not Part of NYE at the Dancehouse Theatre, Oxford Road, was a disappointment. Although the organisers may been good naturedly providing a venue for Manchester’s unsigned music, theatre, comedy and film makers, they basically failed to provide for anyone who wasn’t a performer or related-to/friend-of/fucking a performer. I was there with friends to see the Hatstand Medicine Band after a cracking experience with the folk train - and for once in my cynical life approached an evenings entertainment with high hopes and good make-up.
Perturbed by the strange sweaty bar, and confused by why it was so packed, my companions and I brought ourselves drinks and entered the main auditorium. Seated comfortably we caught the tail end of a compère. Then the reason for the bar being so rammed was revealed - despite no other indication - we were informed there was no drinks to be had in the auditorium. Without complaint we left and went looking for the art.
First I should make it clear that my buddies and I are all veterans of many an art opening - I have got drunk in galleries almost as many times as I have visited galleries. It’s not big or clever - but it’s an unacknowledged fact that art exhibitions nearly always go better with a glass of wine on hand. The art works were pretty desultory, illustrative teenaged things which would be instantly, laughingly rejected from Amelia’s Magazine. I did spot some rather attractive looking canvases on the other side of the room, but before I could investigate I was asked to leave because of the offending glass of wine I was holding.
Without a mutter of dissent we agreed to shuffle off, but before we were even half way to the door the messenger was accusingly carping about “being shot” - I have no idea if I said anything to this apart from perhaps attempting a placating smile. The messenger then produce a pure bred cubic zirconia gem of a comment - “You understand we have to be careful with such beautiful art works...”
My rights to being an art critic may be self proclaimed, only based upon a paltry four years in academia - but if I can be trusted to stumble about the Royal Academy with a glass of bubbly, with trust fund chinless-wonders galavanting about to the left and right, we can be trusted by the temporary exhibition in a rehearsal room at the Dancehouse.
At this point it became apparent that the only place you were allowed a beverage in an open container was the bar area, but not once did anyone mention this. I know it may be a condition imposed by the venue - but it should have been made clear when we brought the tickets, or at least some prominent signs, not by grumpy and misleading attendants.
We wandered into the second auditorium to see , what turned out to be rather sexist, short film, and made the rookie mistake of sitting near the front. Without warning a stand up comic appeared and promptly took cheap, lazy shots at everyone near the front. The next guy, St Joseph, was a real mixed bag. His anecdotes were overly drawn out and laboured, although the occasional bizarre ranty gem did appear. I have a theory that he needed the impetus of hecklers to riff off, at the end basically inviting heckles which did not appear - apart from my valiant defence of the cute girls who work in Rusholme Lidl which spurred him onto a rather eloquent soliloquy about a strange women who works in Morrisons in Didsbury...
Wandered back to the main auditorium for Trudy and Judy, which similarly was at moments hilarious and others painfully laboured.
I know this must seem rather rabid and cruel, but I lack the generosity that the organisers of this event seems to expect from it's audience. I approached the evening with, for me, an unusually positive attitude and was rather disappointed.
There should be a place we new acts can take place, but if you are going to charge so much and hype the event up in such a way there should be better organisation and, dare I say it, some scraps of customer service. Although the staff were only rude a few times, combined with a few pathetically low quality and pretentious acts, it combined to something which was mostly an rather unpleasant evening.
Luckily, despite feeling fatigued by the near constant drivel and shuffling from room to room without the comfort of booze, the last act really pulled out the stops. Despite uneven and uncomplimentary mixing, Dr. Butler’s Medicine Hatstand Band were great. They have brilliant stage presence and were, as they were with the Folk Train, a joy to behold and be-ear.
Additionally, to rescue what could have been a dire waste of eight quid the compère who welcomed them onto the stage and demanded encore was the most charismatic and amusing comic I witnessed that evenings, despite rather shambolically seeming to have a rather lose grasp on what exactly was happening. I didn’t catch his name, but he was a charming fella with a luxuriant head of ginger hair. What’s his name?
What am I trying to get at? Essentially I don’t like anything that tries to be too smugly cool and inclusive. The Impressionists may have been rejected from the Salon, but that does not mean that everything in the Salon des Refusés should share their notority.
Also, the Dancehouse may not be the best venue for this type of event. If there had been a more liquid supply of booze things would have slipped along more smoothly. I would have had much more fun, and been much more forgiving, if this event had taken place in a squat or similar type of venue.