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Hussey's Riot: 'B-Club'

Just when I hate London, when I see it as a focus less nowhere this city offers something. It was the B-Club that gave London it's chance last week, an event that to begin with I felt was an aimless (perhaps heartless is the word) night attended by fashionista shells, those vanilla souls in hipster disguise. It wasn't actually and because of this unusual night I got a treat. London showed me one of its hidden places, a jewel normally swept back in its grey folds...the Temple Room of the Andaz hotel.

I suspect it is a room with a history, or rather a blurb. Something that would start 'modelled on the infamous Rosicrucian chapel in the Lieder Chateaux...'. If you can be fucked look it up but put it like this the room is a rock star, a mini Masonic temple set with a throne at either end, a huge golden sun that stares down from the ceiling while marble columns and black wood line the walls. The decor is as heavy and rich as treacle covered ingots and there are no windows, that's what really does it. The void feels buried in the building, lightless and deep, an organ almost. This expensive gloom gives it edge but it has more than that; the Temple Room has cool. Something about it (the glowering leather perhaps, the sanguineous whorls in the stone) nears tacky yet compels. Forget freemasonry, that's all skulls and networking, rather you can imagine genuine, A-list debauchery in this room.

As I sat in it's heavy atmosphere I concocted a vision. Under that cosmic ceiling I saw Sixties Mick hoovering at coke octograms while Keith spanked Anita within their fragile borders. In truth I sat and gazed at the sulphurous space as very little happened. Two boy-a-rexics set up microphones at one end of the room, the occasional member of the public stood at the door and retreated. An hour and ten minutes later the room finally filled with the unliterary crowd. Unliterary? How can you tell? For a start there were suspiciously few overcoats and very little rosacea. Rather the dark corners were filled with the cheek boned and fractionally over dressed, people to be legitimately resented, people that if unchecked might cite The Kite Runner.

What was this night? I am not against glamour but The B-club was apparently a book night for the not quite beautiful. Or at least not as beautiful as the models they hang around. Editors, photographers, runners with expensive haircuts, beauty's middlemen it seemed. In front of magic mirrors this lot would be in trouble.

Anyway as you can tell I was in a foul mood and to be fair not everyone looked like depressing husks, just a fair proportion. Weirdly I had in fact had an objectively excellent week. Everything -money, love, creativity- was in its right place but still I was miserable. This proves at last that I am a big fat bi-polar nutjob. There. Everybody happy?! Any one offended by this article can fuck off; I'm dealing with torture chambers of the modern mind here.

Besides there is a nasty truth to arty events, particularly bookish ones. They begin always with internal orgies of assessment. Am I cleverer than these people, a brighter soul? Any member of the audience that has ever written a line will have a brain foaming with fear and snobbery, writhing with thoughts just like those that make up the first half of this piece. The only way rescue the crowd from themselves is to start the show.

A jolly young man jumped on stage, dressed in the pyjamas from the Aquafresh advert. It turned out he was the hotel's first ever 'Reader in Residence'. Yes select a book from the book 'menu' and this sleepy young thing would come and read to you in your room.

'Actually if you're nervous, if its your first time,' he whispered 'we can do it down the phone.'

He began reading from the airporty wedge in his hand. Jackie Collins it said in big reflective letters. When I used to work in McBooks (Waterstones) in the last century it was ironic cool to utter the words 'J.C. is the new Dickens', referencing either Cooper or Collins. At the time I was far too busy doing mind squats under Dostoyevskys and Dos Passos. Had I missed out? Quite possibly. Pyjamas read out a glorious excerpt about some postmenopausal hyper bitch called Miss Black. She devoured bellhops and buttered toast; she was devoted to yoga and detached in luxury hotels. By the time Pyjamas left the stage Miss Black wasn't only J.C.'s heroine but mine too.

Next one of the boy-a-rexics shuffled up with his six string. He looked as resentful as I was to be there with a bunch of sell outs, but he was going to sing at us so that made it ok. In a Dylan coo he started with a song so earnest and over written it contained the repeated line 'I was talking to the guy with a mouth like an ass-hole! I was talking to the guy with a mouth like an ASS! HOLE!' Well talk to someone else I was thinking, but his second and third song had something. Intricate lyrics and tunes, images of cottages by the sea and none of that fake retro anger. He won me over and the rest of the audience too. There was even a little pause before the rush of applause, a sure sign that a rare thing had happened. An impression.

Suddenly there was a noise at the top of the marble stairs. Very late a bunch of grandad's in denial (skinny jeans, square glasses) walked in, 'sorry mate-d' their way to the front and occupied the circle of poofs in front of the stage. The Dylan boy didn't let it break his spell though, even as they chatted and popped bubbly with the two teenage models in their creaky thrall. That is a boy to be watched we all thought as he walked off. What next I wondered as I eyed up the geezers and their girl sherbets? I was already slightly annoyed, the performers were excellent and seemed determined to shake me out of hate and back into humanity. Sometimes you want to be left acid, I thought, but another reader was already approaching the mike.

To my amazement Emo Phillips took the stage.

'Hi.' said Emo.

It turned out to be a debut novelist from Middlesborough; he just looked a hell of a lot like Emo Philips. Wearing naff facemasks drawn with felt tip, with a single elastic bands punched in at the ears he read from his book. Once again it was annoyingly charming. The characters were called Adam and Eve, had a mask each and they lived in Middlesborough. They went to discos, had wanks in the attic and lusted after over gelled boys. One line had Eve pilled-up and getting 'tingles' to the music even though it was 'only Tina Turner'. Which, annoyingly, made me laugh.

The night finished with a set from Buster Shuffle, a ska band so bloody likeable I felt almost furious. Even the granddads got up and boogied, bumping against their wiggling models. Dancing? Dancing at a book night? Had these people no idea? Where was the nasty free glass of wine, the coughing fits during coma inducing readings? Clearly the organisers had no idea how to stage a proper, boring literary event. This was all far too much fun.

I decided to remove myself quickly before my funk lifted but I would have to say get yourselves down to the next B-Club although there was one thing to complain about. During the final act, a book swap where (you guessed it) the audience swap books, the organiser charged over and did me. Before I knew it my copy of The Shooting Party, Chekhov's only full-length novel, was clawed from my hand and replaced by, shock horror, a Dover Thrift Edition of Gulliver's travels. A heist! It was like swapping a Faberge for a Mini-Egg but it happened so quickly I didn't have time to complain.

The cheek of it, I thought, as climbed those marble stairs and left the exquisite Temple Room. Yes I will be back B-Club, but watch out. I may be less miserable but someone else will be going home with bloody Gulliver's Travels.

LINKS:
The B-Club: ...
The Singer: ...
The Reader: ...