Do you remember the Vengaboys? In my mind they were always vaguely plastic and almost not human, and released a stream of incredibly annoying songs that you desperately tried to avoid getting stuck in your head.
But I feel a little different now.
A few weeks ago, a friend from Southend discovered that the Vengaboys were playing a show at Mecca Bingo in his hometown over his birthday weekend. Problem was, his sister and their friends had already decided to throw him a surprise party the night before in their favourite old nightclub – a night that turned out to be a lovely affair that ended in a casino I think might have been made completely out of gold.
The next day, I dragged myself and my boyfriend from my friends' parents' living room carpet to go and watch a Disco Turtle parade dance its way down Southend high street. The Disco Turtle dragged us and our comedowns all over town, and by the end of that saga the thought of facing a night at the bingo followed by a Vengaboys set was almost too much to bear. What are the Vengaboys, anyway?
I texted my sister to see where she was; all I got back was:
So we sucked it up and made our way over.
The thing about bingo is – and I didn't know this until this weekend – it's fucking brilliant. Because you've got a job to do – something to focus on, something that doesn't involve the mindless drink-smoke-piss circuit – it adds a sense of purpose to your getting drunk. Which can only be a good thing. Plus, there's money to be had.
One of our friends grows her own magic truffles, and that night she bought some along. About an hour into the bingo, half our group had a nibble, just in time to feel a little sparkle for the show.
And then there they were, in all their glittering glory. They weren't plastic and they weren't vague; they were solid and so close, only about a metre away on that tiny Mecca platform, with the bingo alerts rolling over the top of their heads.
"Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!"
"We have four 50p cashline links…"
"I want you in my room!"
"You could win a few hundred £££s!"
It was fascinating. The strangest blend of sadness and delight I've ever felt. Think of the stages they must have played 20 years ago, the crowds. There was something very "disgraced actor turns to panto" about it.
That said, the crowd they were playing to that night was wild. We knew every word. We were jumping up and down and singing along. I was entranced by their choreography; it was perfect.
Suddenly I wanted to know everything about them. Who are they? Where have they been? Is this the start of a comeback, or have they been happily touring the UK's bingo halls for years? Is that sad or is it brilliant? I don't feel sad for them, or do I a little bit? Either way, look at that cowboy hat! Look at those dance moves! Listen to the songs, and their sweet, beautiful lyrics.
Let's spend the night together, from now until forever.
More photos below: