Thursday, 12 June 2008

Taming the Wild

Despite his best efforts to suppress a grin he couldn’t help it. He felt for all the world like Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever. Even though he’d never seen the stupid film all the way through, he knew what it was about: working-class guy forgets all his troubles when he’s on the dance floor.

His madness on the homemade dance floors that were living-room carpets had initiated the comparison from his parents back home. At an early age, at any family gathering, he’d be the first to attempt to move his body to whatever music was playing. Even though his mum was hopelessly rubbish at keeping time, his dad was musical: guitar, piano and singing were always present at weekends.

Even the Bee Gees soundtrack his mum kept playing and singing was in his head.

Fucking disco is shit anyway.

Shaking Staying Alive out of his head, he began selecting what to wear. Army trousers were the norm, along with some boots: his trusty steel-toed DMs – not that he had any other shoes with him here – and a black t-shirt and jumper.

T-shirt selection for a night out was an art in itself. Context was everything. The wrong t-shirt would send out the wrong signals: too bright meant cock-rock; too dark meant Goth. He decided to play it safe with the black Metallica tee emblazoned with skulls. Now the army trousers: green or urban-camo? Had to be the urban-camo in this dark city; no wonder Black Sabbath were formed here. Pulling on the black and white trousers he’d acquired two weekends ago at the market, he wondered what The Wild would be like.

He was excited at the prospect of a nightclub playing the music he loved.

The only nightclubs he’d been to before coming to university played pure unadulterated mindless shit. There was no other word for it. In his mind, if it wasn’t made using drums, guitars, bass, and vocals – it wasn’t music. And he wasn’t averse to telling everyone that.

Being opinionated was what kept him going, and partly what drew him to the heavy-metal subculture, more importantly though, it was the sense of being different. Metal fans think of themselves as a different collective outside the mainstream. Observing it, cynically commenting on it, but not going with it. Questioning, intelligent, and non-conformist: that was how he saw himself.

It could be that, or the fact I love playing guitar he mused.

Anyway moving on: chains. As Tony Manero ritualistically put his gold chain around his neck, so he had his: one chain for the keys, and another for the wallet. He attached the chains to a key ring, and then the clip to his belt. One of the chains had his keys and another his wallet. He then put his keys in his back pocket, then his wallet in the pocket on his right thigh.

He’d often been asked about the chains. It was a style and fashion thing undoubtedly. Alternative-heavy-metal-grunge or whatever you want to call it brought together a diverse set of people: from the dyed-styled hair of the Punk, and the black-make up of the Goth, to the baggy jeans of the Skater.

But overall his way of dressing was a communication to other metal fans. It created a sense of belonging: something he wanted and needed more than anything. Going to university had opened his world. He hated being at home, and university was a chance for him to explore. He could be anything for anyone. He was free.

That’s is. He was ready. He was going to tame The Wild. He allowed himself to grin again at the thought: Taming The Wild – I’ll have to use that in conversation tonight. It better be as good as those guys said it would be.

Locking his door, he walked out of the purpose-built student accommodation into the night air. It was cool and dry. It’s always cold up north he thought. Then corrected himself – I’m in the Midlands – not the north. Such a Londoner! He stroked his month-old goatee as he approached the group of people dressed in dark colours gathering next to the pub.

He recognised the ginger hair of the girl he’d chatting to previously – she ran the whole thing, and was smiling and talking to everyone. Like a black-clad mother hen he thought. There were a few other people whose faces he recognised. Everyone’s new, so everyone’s friendly – it’ll all change in a year or so.

A blonde longhaired bloke in tight black trousers made a joke about the crowd being a “Motley Crüe”. What a twat – he’d even used his fingers to make the quotes sign. A couple of the others even laughed. They must be tipsy already. Fucking pissheads.

He was teetotal. No not for fucking religious reasons – that’s what people usually thought – but partly because he didn’t like the taste of alcohol, and partly because the music was all he needed. And it gave him a slight feeling of superiority when he spoke to people…

With a quick glance over everyone, the ginger girl began leading them on a walk through Birmingham. The Wild was calling.

He found out the ginger girl was called Helen. She explained that The Wild was the only decent club in Birmingham. There were a couple of others, but they “didn’t stay true to metal’s roots” and “weren’t making enough money anyway”. As he heard more about how the club’s Saturday nights attracted in excess of two hundred metal fans, he began to realise that tonight could be a turning point.

Walking through the city on a Saturday night he observed the different groups of young people: shirts, trousers and black shoes on the trendy guys, and very little on the slutty trendy women apart from fucking awful perfume. He feigned a coughing fit as he walked by a group of girls, who proceeded to turn their noses down at their “Motley Crüe.”

The next group were the Asians. Facial hair sculpted carefully, dressed in brands like FCUK and Dolce and Gabbana. He fucking hated them. Not so much for their flashiness and brash behaviour, but more for the way they hated him for listening to metal.

At least there’s a range of people in a big city – imagine what it’s like up north?

He began to hear the regular thump of a bass drum. Not the usual boom of standard house music (designed especially for people who have no clue how to dance) but the throb of a double bass beat which was the exclusive reserve of metal. He actually felt his heart skip.

Through a deserted shopping centre, there it was. The pink neon lights naming the club were a clear declaration to anyone not appreciative of metal: Fuck off. There was a noticeable collective intake of breath from the Freshers. He queued up with the rest of the “Motley Crüe” and took stock of the bouncers.

Bouncers at other clubs were sharp dressed, suited and booted, clean shaven nasty blokes who would take advantage of their position to shag some woman in an alley. At least that’s what the rumours were about the bouncers in the shitty club back home. But these guys were something else. One had shaven head with a tribal tattoo sliding itself like a plant along his scalp. The other had a long goatee. Both were dressed in black – but not a suit – boots, army trousers, and bomber jackets.

And they were built like brick shithouses.

He heard them chatting quite genially to Helen; that was strange! Then he realised Helen was a “regular” and had probably brought several groups of Freshers to the club. It made him feel comfortable that she knew them. Early arrival also meant no queuing outside. As he was searched, he received no questions about his chain, or the fact he was wearing boots, or the fact he wasn’t wearing ‘trousers’. In fact, he felt as if the bouncers would question anyone who was dressed in the uniform of a trendy.

As he paid his entrance, he could hear the music more clearly. Walking forward, he ascended the steps, feeling as if he had been swallowed into the belly of a beast with a metal tune for a roar.

Inside it was a revelation. It looked and felt like a normal nightclub: mirrors, carpets, bars, loud music, but that’s where the similarities ended. Although it wasn’t full, there were metal-heads everywhere.

He was in his element, no doubt about it.

Turning round he saw the dance floor. The dry-ice machine hissed loudly, as the DJ proudly announced in a thick Brummie accent “Welcome to The Wild – and welcome to all the Freshers”. A slightly drunken cheer went up from Helen’s group.

“Here’s something to get the night started” the dry-ice machine hissed again, and the high-pitched strains of “Blackened” by Metallica started to emerge from the speakers. Even in the hot atmosphere of the club, goose pimples rose on his arms.

He felt himself walk onto the dance floor alone, almost in slow motion. Everyone else was either getting a drink or trying to pull. But he knew his purpose.

The dance floor was his.

Good tune, followed good tune, followed good tune. He had found his home. That night he left the dance floor only three times for pints of water. When the lights finally went up to signal the end of the night, he grinned. The hand shaking, and several compliments he’d received about his dancing during the night had earned him a nickname from the other Freshers: “Duracell Bunny”.

It was only as he left he began to reflect. Maybe the reason Asians looked down on him back home was because he was free to express himself however he saw fit. Free to listen to the music he wanted to listen to, and dress the way he wanted to dress.

He loved metal because he was angry. Angry that Asians let themselves be constrained by their shitty narrow-minded backstabbing culture. Angry that they felt they had to dress the way they did, and listen to generic “R’n’B”. Angry that they saw it as their duty to call him a “coconut” (brown on the outside, white on the inside) and exclude him just because he didn’t behave like a fucking sheep.

But right now, with the steam from his sweat rising off his shaved head in the cold Midlands air, he had experienced freedom.

Chuckling to himself he continued indulging his thoughts: I was the only brown person in that club and I tamed The Wild – not bad for a so-called “fucking Paki”.

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