On Friday, we caught a train back to London, and had to haul our luggage rather further than anticipated thanks to the fact that you can't currently get on the Bakerloo line at Paddington. You can get off the Bakerloo line at Paddington, but it's not a reversible operation.
We spent a couple of hours in the afternoon at the British Museum, looking at the Egyptian and Assyrian sculptures. It's amazing stuff - I've seen photos of almost all of it, but you can't appreciate the scale of it from a photo. After a while the crowds got to be bit too much for me, as did the tendency of said crowds to put their hands all over the exhibits. STOP TOUCHING THE 3000 YEAR-OLD SCULPTURES, PEOPLE! I really like the fact that so many of the sculptures are not roped off or walled up in glass, and keeping our hands off 'em is the best way to keep it that way.
On Saturday, we had a fancy birthday lunch at Marcus at the Berkeley Hotel. The food was delicious, but the people watching was almost as much fun. Everyone there seemed either to be regulars, or to be celebrating a birthday. There was a woman dining alone who delivered a scathing critique of the potato-fennel bread to the waiter, and was promised that when she came in next, she would absolutely not be served potato-fennel bread. (I thought it was perfectly nice potato-fennel bread.) The couple seated next to us were having an epic set of wine pairings arranged by the sommelier, and got happier and louder as the meal went on. A young man a few tables over was having a farewell meal before he went off to spend a year studying in Chicago. I wanted to go over and reassure him that you can get fancy French food in Chicago, too.
After lunch, I went back to the hotel and got gothed up for an evening at Electrowerkz, where "S.O.S. Fest" - a lineup of smaller bands salvaged from the line-up of the defunct Alt-Fest - was taking place. Electrowerkz is hidden in a side street behind the Angel tube station, and is apparently a metalworking shop part of the time, a goth club ("Slimelight") every Saturday night from 10pm to 7:30am, and an occasional pop-up restaurant and wedding venue at other times. I got there a bit before 5pm, and found the large open space downstairs occupied by folks selling band merchandise, a cocktail bar housed in a disused tube train (signed for "Upminster"), a kitchen cooking falafel and jerk chicken, and a crowd of black-clad figures swilling Strongbow cider and Red Stripe beer while the sound system wafted Fields of the Nephilim tunes over the scene.
I made my way upstairs through a maze of twisty staircases to one of the upstairs dancefloors where most of the bands were playing. I managed to catch most of The Beauty of Gemina's set. They play a very rollicking acoustic-guitar driven sort of goth, and the singer tells silly stories between songs, like about how their song "Mariannah" is allegedly about a woman who refused to marry each member of the band in turn. Even the drummer. "And he had the best chance, really, because girls like drummers, you know."
Next up were The Exploding Boy. I knew nothing about them before seeing them live at this event. They're Swedish, and they wear their Sisters of Mercy influences very much on their sleeve - to the extent that I sometimes thought I could identify which Sisters song they'd taken their drum loop from. But they played a really engaging set, enough so that I went downstairs afterwards and bought a CD from one of the guys in the band, and told him how much I enjoyed the set.
Whispers in the Shadow played a sadly short set due to technical difficulties, but were pretty fun to watch. The singer is of the dramatic hand-gestures and flinging oneself around the stage school of frontmanship, and when their sound was working properly, it was a very epic sounding mix of layered keyboards, guitars, and samples.
Turkish duo She Past Away were one of the bands I was most looking forward to. Judging by the crowd response, I wasn't alone. I'm not sure if the guys know any English other than "thank you," but they were clearly having a great time. Plus, I'd managed to wriggle my way up to the third row. Betcha I'd never have managed that at Alt-Fest.
At that point, I escaped downstairs to get some fresh air and food, and rest my feet a bit. I missed the beginning of Clan of Xymox's set, and had to watch the rest of it from the very back of a packed room. I couldn't see much, but the band sounded good, and there was lots of dancing in the crowd. My favorite moment came during the encore, when they played a cover of "Venus," and I was suddenly surrounded by a few hundred madly dancing goths shouting, "I'm your Venus, I'm your fire..." It was a blast.
There was about a 30 minute break before the last band, Pretentious, Moi?, were scheduled to play. I'd actually spotted Tim Chandler, the singer, several times over the course of the night, and kept meaning to go over and say hello, but he always seemed to be on his way somewhere or deep in conversation, and I didn't want to be THAT fan. So, he rather made my night when he bounced up to me with a huge grin, pointed at my Pretentious, Moi? t-shirt, and said, "I just keep wanting to point and squawk and shout, 'I drew that!'" Definitely one case where I'm glad I broke the "Don't wear the band's shirt to the gig" rule.
I actually missed the very beginning of Pretentious, Moi?'s set because it was in one of the downstairs dancefloors and I got lost trying to find my way there. (Seriously, I'm not sure the Electrowerkz interior obeys the ordinary rules of geometry.) But what I did catch was the highlight of the evening for me. They played two new songs - one called "Turn out the lights," and one whose title I didn't catch - which seem to bode well for the prospects for a new album.
I left at about 1am, and caught the night bus back to my hotel. Only to find the front door locked. I had to ring the doorbell and wait rather sheepishly for the night manager to let me in. I felt a bit like a teenager sneaking in after curfew, which I suppose is a fitting end to a night of clubbing.