"...and what did you do then, Uncle Tom"
"Well, I hung around outside the French Institute and tried not to look like a pervert who was there solely to check out Gallic girls who I was old enough (theoretically) to be teaching.
Eurodisco pounded in the background as the sun went down, and tanned youngsters who were loitering around, taking long drags of cigarettes with exotic names. Gauloise, Gitanes.
The air grew colder as I watched the record store man pack up.
A barbeque pitched up white grey smoke into the pink sky, as the throng milled and dissipated around it. Overall, the event had the feeling of a casual society mixer, or maybe a very laid back, slightly-cool-but-not-too-cool upper sixth form disco. It would have been insufferable if there wasn't a thick line of people snaking up the marble stairwell, past a looming nude statue. Knowing the line was there, and what the line led to, was the reason we were here in the first place. John & Jehn were on tonight. Each slow step upwards, as security let ten people at a time into the cinema, was a step forwards, towards righteous excitement.
Or at least I thought it was. The event was running seriously late, and instead of John and Jehn, I got the second act on the bill, Krystle Warren. And she was good value, with just an acoustic guitar she tore through a set. Obvious lazy comparisons to Ani DiFranco's guitar style and easy charm onstage will abound with her, I'm sure. But there are worse people to be compared to, worse things to do than own a cinema of people with a perfect ease and mellow charm. Her story songs were a suprise treat, and the crowd were very receptive. Later on, I was to find out just how receptive a crowd could be.
A word on the venue, quickly. If you have a carpeted cinema, in the warm summer months, and stage lights that the air conditioning weren't designed to cope with, and a full house, you're going to have a lot of heat. It's the sort of thing planners of events inadvertently overlook in preference to the solid logistics. That was the case as John and Jehn took the stage. And if you add heat to students... well, strange things are afoot in the circle K.
"This song is about anal sex. It's called Black Train".
That's a hell of a way to introduce yourself onstage, isn't it? From the lips of a beautiful, tall French woman wearing a short shift dress, I could almost hear the sound of denim tightening across the auditorium as the words were uttered.
The heat was getting intense now, the kids had gotten up from their stuffy seats and were dancing in the aisle. It was very 1950's, with a tang of retro rebellion to it. Jehn urged them forward to get a better view, and suddenly the front of the venue packed out tight with a swinging international audience of beautiful young things shaking their stuff. It got hot, damn hot. John rolled up his sleeves and wiped his brow. Jehn's hair stuck to the side of her face when she switched to from keys to rocking out with a bass. And the band played hard and fast, driving the kids wild. As a London show, some might say this would rate as a one of a kind event.
But all good things come to an end, and after a barn storming Make your mother proud, they vanished into the night. The crowd spilled out into the bar, into the cool night air, to a DJ downstairs. The techno made more sense now. And we drank, and we danced, and we talked, and we all went home."