The last time I was in central London, I was sniveling and shaking on the top deck of a tour bus with my girlfriend's family, as rain pissed down on a predictably grim January afternoon. As we hovered in traffic outside parliament, half- blinded by the flash of 30 simultaneous iPhone camera shutters, I remember looking up at the whole ridiculous edifice—crumbling piece by gothic revivalist piece into the Thames—and thinking: London, you are ridiculous and shit.
In the intervening six months, feeble beams of light have penetrated my black, black heart, because I love London again. There's not any one factor that's easy to pinpoint, it's complic…no, why lie? I went to see Carl Cox play a set in the House of Commons last night and it reaffirmed that joy and happiness are possible in this city.
It crossed my mind upon arrival that there was a lingering chance the whole evening might be an elaborate prank. I mean, the concept had the quintessential prank-ish mixture of the plausible and the utterly fantastical. Disclaimer: not the part about Carl Cox playing a set in aid of the wonderful Last Night a DJ Saved My Life foundation, which seeks to raise money and awareness for children in conflict zones the world over.
He's very much that sort of bloke, really. The type of A-lister that thinks nothing of devoting his time to good causes in unlikely venues. Though hardly Tiësto at Thorpe Park, I still decided to adopt a quizzical, half-a-wry-raised eyebrow expression until I got through the Area 57 security on the door, until I was sure that the event was—you know—actually real.
Clouds of austere, sensibility suited, utterly interchangeable looking middle aged people were milling about the cavernous lobby, as you might expect. Were they here for Carl's set? They didn't look like they were here for Carl's set. Luckily I managed to cling on to a cheerful woman in one of the foundations T-shirts, who gave me directions. In mere moments, with minimal effort, I managed to forget these very simple, very cheerfully given instructions. After tying myself in convoluted knots and stumbling through dead ends and corridors leading back into corridors, which in turn lead face-first into dead ends, I eventually started to discern the strains of house music.
Finally, coming up to the events entrance, I glanced to my left. It looked like a room of expensively dressed technocrats were settling down to dinner after a long sweaty day trooping the corridors of power. This only hardened my suspicions. The contrast was too perfect, too well scripted, too "rejected premise for a Good Charlotte video." Those damnable kids and their bleepy music!! Surely not? Surely, this was a set up?
But, walking through to the events entrance, it became apparent. It was real. There was Carl Cox standing in a gazebo. There were a collection of exceptionally prim, terrifyingly young looking special advisor types nervously gripping beers. There were, truth be told, a decent amount of perfectly normal, perfectly un-political people, here in expectation of a night of good music in aid of a good cause. I talked shop with a selection of other media representatives. We all nodded sagely and agreed it was "weird" and "surreal." There were platters of finger food, and I spilled the contents of a spring roll down my shirt. It was shaping up to be a memorable evening.
We ended up milling about in the aforementioned gazebo, which perched on the edge of the embankment. I ended up chatting to three very pissed recruitment consultants, who shall remain nameless—apart from you 'Hench Tom', if that is your real name! They were all very excited to see Carl and by the fact that I was (a) called Francisco, and (b) ginger. Things were spicing up now.
The non triple A-list star of the night was 19 year old Holly Louise, who became the first woman to DJ in the House of Commons after winning a nationwide competition organized by the foundation. Her half hour set was punchy and accomplished despite, as she told me, "absolutely bricking it" before hand. She needn't have, no-one present would have possibly guessed it was her first time playing live.
After Holly's set, you could sense the thin crust of expectation in the room. The potent combination of backbench MPs, excitable SPADS and sweaty media representatives made for a unique atmosphere. It felt slightly like a teenage anxiety dream where you turn up to school, only realize that it's a nightclub, no, a gazebo in parliament, and your parents are there, but they're somehow not your parents because they're sincerely losing their shit to techno and letting you drink brews, and dad's got his tie round his head. Or something like that.
After a few more lukewarm bottles and small talk, it was time for the big man himself. And he didn't ease himself in. Banger after banger, rising and rising through the thin plastic roof and along the overhanging terraces. Tory backbencher Geoff Smith (apparently a big raver in his youth) looked caught in the grips of a manic, delirious happiness. Surprisingly, none of the "big beasts" made it down. There was no sign of Chukka Umunna, who's made quite a song about his DJing past. Keith Vaz apparently showed up, so I guess the world is still spinning on its axis this afternoon.
Look, there is nothing bad to say about watching Carl Cox play in aid of raising money for child refugees. Only a man with an aorta of clay would snipe about that, very niche, very worthy experience. Yes, it was great. It was obviously great. The oldies banquet next door even lodged a noise complaint, which put the icing on the "mid-2000's music video tropes" cake. As the evening wound casually to a halt, the last of the chicken skewers were shamefacedly devoured, the last of the mini-lemonade bottles slipped into jacket pockets, one thing was clear: house, even in one this old, is still a feeling.