Insomniacs Ball 2009
The gritty, grey and rather grim borough of Elephant and Castle in south east London is the last place you'd expect to find a Ball, but this indie all-nighter isn't your archetypal Cinderella-style affair says Daniel Fahey.
If Prince Charming is around tonight he’s hard to spot and there doesn’t seem to be a glass slipper left by the door. But by the end of the night it sounds like one of the ugly sisters is getting her leg over in a toilet cubicle – yes, really. Instead the Insomniacs Ball has the feel of speakeasy club for alternative music lovers – a hidden haven for indie loving Londoners that live south of the river.
Held in rejuvenated art space Corsica Studios – a charmingly worn and dishevelled venue that could, with a few more gigs, easily gain legendary club status alongside 100 Club and Dublin Castle. The event pieces together some outstanding emerging talent alongside DJ sets from indie glitterati including Late of the Pier, Plugs and thecocknbullkid.
On the main stage early, Liverpool’s Wave Machines are a much smoother ride than their name suggests, producing a mixture of lo-fi disco and Athlete-style glossed soft rock. The group, who hide beneath masks of their own faces, swipe around a looming stage as they sweat through the tickling funk of new single ‘I Go I Go I Go’ which coincidently proves all too hot for two of the group, as they shed the masquerade for the remainder of the set.
It’s tonight’s headliners Infadels that really turn up the heat though creating a mass brawl of frenetic energy on what now seems like a tiny stage. Bald frontman Bnann Watts is all jumps and poses, while hyperactive keyboardist Richie Vernon looks like a released Phil Spector thwacking his way through the short set with immense pleasure. ‘Free Things For Poor People’ is catchy dance pop with a relevant social mantra for current times and new track ‘Future Gravity Boy’ is a heavy feel-good rave out. But it’s their finale, a chunked up cover of Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ that really gets the crowd bouncing - including one overexcited gentleman in a skateboarder’s helmet who wades into the audience like a G8 summit protestor.
Despite Infadels taking the witching hour slot and top billing on the posters, the music continues into the early hours with musical misfits Everything Everything leaving the crowd feeling, well, nothing nothing. The four-piece are lyrically unpalatable at times - “Who’s going to sit on your face when I’m gone/who’s going to sit on your face when I’m not there” – but there are some sonic glimmers of hope during their heavier numbers. ‘Photoshop Handsome’ is high-pitched art pop that gets a frantic bassist gesticulating angrily towards the sound engineer about his levels, while the joint-falsetto of ‘Suffragette Suffragette’ and the band’s algebraic drum sensibilities are likely to be getting deciphered by ATP fans come next year.
The Ball, like a Las Vegas casino, doesn’t have any clocks inside, but with such quality indie on show there’s no sense of the event being a gamble – many Insomniacs look like they’re having such a good time, they could’ve come in on a Friday and left on a Wednesday and not one would’ve batted a very heavy eyelid. The event has a second stage hidden through a tunnelled corridor called the Club Room; it’s just a shame that many of the sets are shamefully unattended. Many punters opt for a crafty ciggy between sets instead of moving their feet to happy-go-lucky style tracks like Destiny’s Child and Biggie Smalls from thecocknbullkid.
Back in the main room and the final live act for the evening Chik Budo hit the main stage with another captive audience. It might be tricks of the mind, but the later the Ball seems to go on, the weirder the music seems to get. With two sax players and a synth, the five-piece draw out danceable free jazz with key stabs and a throbbing base. They move around on the stage with such energy, they must’ve had a cat nap earlier in the day because the rest of the sleepless hoards are nodding along like zombies.
Then, bar a Late of the Pier DJ set, it’s all over – Cinders has long fled the Ball, the pumpkin coach is now an early morning London bus and the dawning sun is burning red ringed eyes. The Insomniacs Ball is one of the best alternative nights outside of Camden and it would be a dream if this was rolled out into a monthly event – people need too much beauty sleep for a weekly.
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