Imagine if this had happened before YouTube. Before Facebook. Before Twitter. Before camera phones.
If you told people what happened, they wouldn’t believe you. And then you’d start to question yourself. What did I see? What did I hear? What did I do? What The Fuuk Was Going On?
Much of Welcome To The Dark Ages now seems to be a Greatest Hits package. The ultimate fan treat. Aspects of Bill and Jimmy’s previous work sampled, twisted and reworked into something new. Something The 400 would love.
We saw echoes of Bill’s NOTICEs and his soup kitchens. Badger Kull was simply a next level version of The 17. In fact all of the volunteer jobs were. The bass rumbles upstairs in The Florrie hinted at Jimmy’s experiments with weaponised sound – there was definitely a frequency oscillator set up along with a note warning the operator to not attempt to find the resonant frequency of the room. The People’s Pyramid is a reboot of a project from the 90s. The Great Pull North married the original Rites of Mu on Jura with Bill’s workmanlike, DIY approach – the footage of him preparing bishop hats from cones is among my highlights. They painted Ford Timelord – although not their Ford Timelord – just like in The White Room. And guest stars. They’ve always liked their guest stars. From the ambushing of Sam Fox, Whitney and Petula, through ABBA, The Shangri-Las and Big Ben and finally the in the flesh Gary, Glenn and Tammy, The JAMs have stalked, sampled and seconded their heroes. The accidental revealing of Jarvis via the hymn book didn’t diminish what was a truly remarkable performance. The fact that he got the gig because he rang them at the exact moment they were considering the guest vocalist only adds to the glorious haphazard nature of the event. Jarvis played a blinder and I’m glad I got the chance to thank him personally later on at The Invisible Wind Factory.
The choir were stunning, just stunning, particularly considering how little time they had to prepare. Where there 17 of them? I need to check.
Prior to Justified and Ancient, the procession of volunteers had a triumphant tone. This was our event. Look what we’ve put on. And 5 foot 5 inches is the perfect height for a coffin.
Oliver went to a whole new level in ‘the church’. The Callenders presented a whole new paradigm for death and I for one am a believer. They were so good I was shocked to discover that they weren’t actors. The South West are blessed to have those two to conduct their funeral arrangements.
The triptych to accompany 2023 was as good as icon-rich, post-political, experimental cinema gets. The volunteers who ‘performed’ alongside were heroic. Having read the book, I really do need to see the film.
And hymn number one, Don’t Be Afraid was a communal experience to rival any in my lifetime.
Did I join a cult? Definitely.
Did I cry? Like a baby.
Did I fear for my life? Maybe once or twice.
Was it magic? Undoubtedly, in Alan Moore sense of creating something out of nothing.
The hour or so we spent outside The Florrie seemed throwaway at the time, but gathered together in our skull greasepaint, chatting to new friends about this and that was also a time I’ll look back fondly on. The 400 were conceived in a Bombed Out Church, but they came of age that afternoon.