Kaput's London editor Alexander Mayor remembers the light in dark places

We are the words that move

A delightful drag act at the Phoenix, Soho. The audience has just requested ‘Waterfalls’ by TLC in the style of Sondheim.

“Oh hey! We’re in!” Doors open, suddenly, and as always, we are heading both downward and upward. But you never quite know anything really, with these nights. A name. Ish. A face (yours, mostly). A commitment to the arts/clubbing/space exploration programme of your currently visited nation.

Typically, you only really become briefly present about half way through the night/morning. You have made friends with unlikely faces. In a kitchen. A corridor. A hotel bedroom. A green room. A space in which enthusiasm is viral, energetic, all conquering. We arrive to celebrate the specific, the poised and particular… and end the night in a warm bath of the general, the shared, the pleasingly out of focus. God, I miss it. You?

The ‘current thing’ (diminish your enemy with low-ball vocabulary choices) has many tangible costs. I shan’t revisit the obvious ones here. But pedalling around my city on regular solo bike missions, past shuttered bars and pubs and clubs with reputations now frozen into stills, you confront the dynamics of the world denied you. And strangely, there’s perhaps something new to record and observe.

Slight pause. We English speakers suffer from a certain over-confidence, largely ironic given the emotionally crippled nation that bears the flag and brand name. But dive into linguistics and you soon delight in the glorious realisation of other languages’ abilities to lasso, capture and name experiences you’ve only ever felt, glancingly, piercingly and passingly. I’ve become very aware that English seems to lack words for the things that bound us together. And for those of you that love a dance, well… Tl;dr? We need new words for the fun we remember, but aren’t having anymore.

We miss bodies. We miss presence. We miss those human presents. The music was everything but it’s not enough to listen home alone, staring at Instagram bedroom gigs. Turns out it was all just a reason to be with you. You the people I didn’t know I understood, until I met you under mad plants in a Barcelona club that seemed to be all vertical ambition and a complete lack of width. Those encounters with erudite conversationalists we never set out to bump into. Nightclubs were always held together by unfocused goals and widely shared physical commitments – the very best dark matter of all.

(Note: at this point the writer finds himself descending into heartfelt, if poorly articulated academic whimsy; feel free to skip to the end).
As a population, a ‘world gang’ if you will, we’ve survived what, 250,000 years by now? Give or take. So permit a certain cocky confidence: the current enemy isn’t going to stop us dancing, even if we aren’t dancing yet (I don’t count your morning Instagram shape-throw-alongs, sorry.) How did we manage a quarter of a million years without generating a few terms for ‘hey! It’s lovely being in the same room as you strangers whose smiles are lovely and this song is nice why don’t we dance and smile in the half light?’ We miss each and every other. Each not-me-that-sustains-me. And all the things you’ll do and say, that I can’t foresee, or do without.

But your feet – they want to move. They want to drag your whole body somewhere where the people are. Inches and elbows, trashy fun and shape throws. Like those loud excitable birds, who cheerfully never got the Covid memo. Soon enough, without words, we will remember how to listen to our feet. See you out there on the floor.

(Alexander Mayor is a writer and musician based in London. His latest book + album, ‘Not From Above!’, is out now. He is currently indoors.)

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